After practicing through the rain during the previous week, the Cardinal football team was finally blessed with clear, warm weather for Saturday’s open practice to kick off the week leading up to the Cardinal and White Spring Game. With the sun came a chance for the offense to redeem itself after being dominated by the defense on Thursday, and redeem itself it did behind the arm of freshman quarterback Ryan Burns and the steadfast downfield running of junior running back Kelsey Young.
“That’s what you want in the spring,” said head coach David Shaw. “You want one side doing really, really well, then you want the other side battling back. It shows the guys have some fight in them, and it was nice to see the offense come back today.”
Admittedly, with the rain having been a significant factor in the previous week’s practices, the 8-2 victory in the short-yardage drills for the defense on Thursday was likely to be expected with the slick ball and wet, slippery ground. On Saturday, however, with regular backup quarterback Evan Crower out with a deviated septum, Burns was given the opportunity to take the reins of the offense after having been suspended for the first session of spring practices.
With starting quarterback Kevin Hogan having some accuracy issues during the short-yardage drills, Burns was solid in his first action in front of an audience this spring, helping lead the offense to a 4-2 victory with some impressive passes into tight spaces to keep the chains moving after having had a disappointing practice to open the spring session. However, Shaw characterized Burns’ performance on Saturday to be merely “functional” and mentioned that there were still steps that the young pocket-passer needed to take in order to become a “serviceable quarterback” moving forward.
“The biggest overall goal [for Burns] is to be efficient,” Shaw said. “You can’t miss an audible, you can’t miss a run check, you can’t miss a read. Forget about knowing everything. We don’t need him to know everything. We just need him to be efficient.”
Burns and Hogan got some help on the receiving end from freshman wide receiver Francis Owusu, who was fantastic in picking up yards after the catch as he showcased his physical play and his speed.
In addition, Young showed himself to be adjusting to becoming a downhill runner very well after he spent last season predominantly taking end-arounds as part of the “Wildcat” formation. On Saturday, Young showed a great ability to pick up yards after contact while running up the middle and consistently surged forward for seven or eight yards at a time. With junior Remound Wright sitting out for the spring session due to a disciplinary issue, Young will look to receive more carries through the remainder of the spring and will be competing with Wright, along with Ricky Seale and Barry J. Sanders, for the lion’s share of the carries come the fall.
“You see [Young’s] speed and explosiveness — he’s hard to tackle,” Shaw said. “In Francis Owusu, you’re talking about a guy that runs like his brother [Chris ‘12] but is about three inches taller and is about 15 pounds heavier…he broke some tackles today and he can get up to speed. He’s hard to bring down, so those are young guys who we’re looking to get more involved in the offense.”
Freshmen tight ends Eric Cotton, Austin Hooper and Greg Taboada also continued to take larger roles moving forward and played with the first-team offense on Saturday, with junior Charlie Hopkins moving onto the second-team offense for the drills to end practice and catching a late touchdown pass from Burns.
The Cardinal and White Spring Game will take place this coming Saturday at Stanford Stadium at 1 p.m.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.