By Joseph Beyda
Head coach David Shaw hinted at injury news on two fronts after the preseason No. 11 Cardinal wrapped up its first practice of fall camp on Monday afternoon.
Shaw first provided an encouraging update on star wide receiver Ty Montgomery, whose recovery from an offseason surgery on his right shoulder was expected to cost him the season opener as of two weeks ago. The outlook has grown rosier since then; the senior said he hoped to be ready for the Aug. 30 showdown with UC-Davis at last week’s Bay Area College Football Media Day, and Shaw called Montgomery’s practice “phenomenal” on Monday.
Shaw said the coaching staff won’t have to be cautious with Montgomery until the team first practices in pads later this week. As long as no tackling is involved, Montgomery will still be able to fall and go up against press coverage in drills.
On a more somber note, however, Shaw announced that junior defensive tackle Ikenna Nwafor would likely retire for medical reasons.
After redshirting as a freshman, Nwafor played in three games last season before suffering a foot injury that sidelined him for the rest of 2013. Nwafor, one of the most athletic defensive line recruits to come to the Farm in recent years, was jogging during spring practice and was expected to be ready for training camp.
“It’s sad, with the ability that we believe that he has,” Shaw said. “But he’s also pre-med, and he’s got a bright future outside of football.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren confirmed that senior Kelsey Young was the early favorite to start at running back, though he said he didn’t expect any of his backs to get more than 20 carries on a regular basis. Also in the mix are junior Barry J. Sanders, fifth-year senior Ricky Seale and senior Remound Wright, who will miss the first week of training camp due to a disciplinary issue.
Young, previously known as Stanford’s jet sweep specialist, turned the most heads during the spring by demonstrating his abilities as a straight-ahead runner.
“Every single one of them got better,” Bloomgren said. “[Young’s] production, his explosion, is out of sight…But we’ve got 28 more practices before we have to play, so we’ll see where that goes.”
Young’s Spring Game came to an early end when he strained his right elbow, but he said Monday that the injury healed within a couple of weeks.
According to Bloomgren, new running backs coach Lance Taylor is fitting right in on the Cardinal staff.
A former receiver at Alabama, Taylor overlapped with Bloomgren for a season during his three-year stint with the New York Jets from 2010-12. But Bloomgren noted that Taylor’s contributions have already extended past the practice field.
“It’s awesome having his family here; they had a new baby over the summer, so it’s just another great addition to our neighborhood,” Bloomgren said. “That’s what you have to remember: As coaches, we don’t just work together in a submarine 19 hours a day. We do go home and get time off and we’re together again, so you better like those people.”
Shaw and his staff will be filling several positions on the depth chart during camp, but they won’t be seeking a replacement for Shayne Skov ’13 as the team’s pregame motivational speaker.
“I think what Shayne did was so special — I hate to put somebody in there just to have somebody,” Shaw said. “It just means I, really, have a little bit more time to speak.”
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.