As the embodiment of a football program that plays things close to the vest, David Shaw doesn’t like to give much away. Details regarding the depth chart, player injuries or points of emphasis in practice might as well be locked away in Fort Knox because Stanford’s head man will not budge an inch.
But, when it comes to Stanford’s early Week 2 bye, he isn’t afraid to let his thoughts ring loud and clear.
“It’s hard,” Shaw said of the Cardinal’s early bye week. “That’s my subtle way of saying I don’t like it this early…You can’t just give the guys the whole week off because we just started. So we have to work. We have to push ourselves early in the week.”
“But, you look at the calendar and we’ve got 11 straight weeks,” Shaw continued. “So we can’t kill them this week because we’re not going to get another break. So we’re going to work hard early in the week and then we’ll tail off at the end of the week and give the guys a couple days off.”
In an effort to find this balance between getting players critical reps during this infant stage of the season and making room for valuable rest, the Cardinal will continue with full-on practices until Wednesday before taking time off starting Thursday, allowing some players to spend time at home and assistant coaches the opportunity to disperse across the country to recruit. Come Sunday, the team will reconvene and launch into its traditional game week routine in preparation for the arrival of the Trojans on Sept. 17.
“When we come back that Sunday night for the USC week, we’ve got to be ready for an 11-week grind,” Shaw emphasized.
On Monday, Shaw also revealed that defensive lineman Harrison Phillips, who injured his knee against Kansas State in his first game back following a season-ending ACL tear at Northwestern in 2015, suffered no ligament damage and will return this season, though his availability for the matchup with USC remains “doubtful.”
When Phillips went down against Kansas State, fans in attendance at Stanford Stadium got to see the latest innovation from the Cardinal’s medical staff: a pop-up tent on the sideline to provide a measure of privacy for injured players undergoing examination. After much conversation amongst members of the Stanford athletic department over the years, the tent, which instantly collapses when not in use, made its official debut last Friday.
“A couple of other universities have used it and I think it’s great as a far as keeping the privacy of the young man,” Shaw remarked. “You hate to see those things get on TV where a guy has facial expressions because he’s in pain…Thankfully our training staff pushed for it, our doctors were in favor of it and [Athletic Director] Bernard Muir signed off. I think it’s been great.”
According to Shaw, Phillips, though avoiding surgery, will probably be out for a few weeks before returning to game action. In his place, fifth-year senior Jordan Watkins, who put together a breakout game against the Wildcats with 2 sacks, one of which resulted in a safety, will likely get the starting nod at defensive tackle.
In addition, sophomore running back Bryce Love continues to work his way back from a leg injury that kept him out of the Cardinal’s opener. No final decision on Love’s availability for the showdown with USC will be made until the middle of next week.
While most Cardinal fans, players and coaches experienced the agony of standing by for eight months before the return of gridiron action on The Farm, the wait for real football was much longer for sophomore inside linebacker Sean Barton. Years longer.
Barton, originally a member of Stanford’s 2013 recruiting class, delayed his enrollment for two years while serving an Latter Day Saints church mission in the West African country of Benin. After redshirting last season, reacclimating to football and learning the Cardinal’s defensive scheme, Barton was ready for his key role against Kansas State.
“It had been four years,” Barton noted of the last time he played in a real football game. “I was anxious and excited and had a lot of adrenaline.”
Barton’s pregame nerves, though, soon gave way to an outstanding performance on the field. For his contributions on Stanford’s coverage units, Barton, along with punter Jake Bailey, was named special teams co-player of the week.
Moreover, Barton also saw ample action at inside linebacker against the Wildcats as part of the Cardinal’s deep rotation at the position, finishing the game with 2 tackles. Partnering with experienced fifth-year senior Noor Davis in the middle for much of the game, Barton also views the depth at inside linebacker as a major asset for this year’s defense.
“It’s definitely a positive,” Barton said of the depth. “There are so many good players that it’s just lifting the competition. Not only that, we’re a really close group, we’re all friends and we share anything that we learn to help each other get better.”
Barton also credits the time he spent in Benin for helping him mature and mentally prepare to become a key contributor in only his second year in the Stanford program.
“I think living on your own in a third-world country like that you kind of learn to do things on our own, be responsible and figure things out instead of relying on others,” Barton said. “I think that translates directly to football with different weaknesses you have. Instead of waiting for other people to point them out, find them yourself and work on fixing them yourself.”
Following the bye week, Barton and the rest of the Cardinal will return to action against USC on Saturday, Sept. 17. The game will be televised nationally starting at 5 p.m.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.