The first part
of The Bootleg's Stanford offensive development report focused on
the necessary increase in mid-game production that quarterback Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal staff must help generate in 2013. Whether Stanford is up to that challenge will be determined in large part by the offseason progress
of key up-and-coming players, rising stars who will be expected to fill the voids that Zach Ertz, Stepfan Taylor, Drew Terrell, Jamal-Rashad Patterson,
and Sam Schwartzstein have left.
The sobering reality is that 82.5 percent of Stanford's pass
production graduates this June. The Cardinal racked up 2,802
receiving yards last season, 2,312 of them came courtesy of
seniors. Furthermore, tight ends Ertz and Toilolo amassed 93 of the
Farm Boys' 240 catches and 1,291 of 2,802 reception yards. Both
stalwarts are among the troops leaving to pursue careers at the next
level, so there's a looming production void at tight end that the
Stanford coaching staff must address.
Speed and Power: Kaumatule Filling Tight End Shoes
The brain trust's favorite option right now is incoming sophomore
Luke Kaumatule, whose six-foot-seven inch frame oozes with
"His size definitely makes him an asset," Stanford offensive
coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. "He has to get better from a
technique standpoint. He needs to keep working with Shannon Turley
in the weight room, keep doing all those things regarding
flexibility so he can generate the power necessary."
The staff has been impressed with Kaumatule's soft hands
and savage football instincts, a combination that prompted them to
move the Hawaiian over from defensive end when he first arrived on
campus last year. But replicating Toilolo's and Ertz's run-blocking
efficiency is the one vital goal for his development, and it's
something that Stanford is confident will happen with work in the
coming months before the 2013 season kicks off.
"With Luke's speed and size, he's always been good about being
violent. He likes that part of the game. What he's got to get better
at is the one-on-one block at the point of attack," Bloomgren
explained. "He just needs the 1,000 reps that we're going to give
him time and time again in spring ball. He needs to be a touch
lower. He needs to get better with his hands and targets."
A Cajuste Boost?
There's been plenty of speculation that receiver Devon Cajuste
or fullback Ryan Hewitt could shift back to tight end in 2013. Both
players, after all, were initially recruited to The Farm at that
position. At this point, though, the plan is to keep both at their
current spots -- though Bloomgren acknowledged that further
development could change that blueprint.
"Now, there may come a time when Devon's body just decides it's no
longer going to be a receiver," he said. "If he gets over 240, 245
pounds, then he's going to fall into that role of a Coby Fleener.
He's going to have to do some of that wing blocking, and Fleener
even did some stuff at the point of attack."
Though he is bulking up, Cajuste currently only weighs in a tad over
220 pounds, a figure which makes his 6-4 height a "mismatch waiting
to happen" at the receiver position, according to QB/WR coach Mike
Sanford. Still, Bloomgren says he can see Cajuste following
Fleener's trajectory toward the tight end position.
"Coby was really a glorified receiver, especially if you watched him
early in his career. He didn't do any blocking at the point of
attack early in his career," Bloomgren said. "But by the end,
especially with Zach hurt and Levine banged up, he had to block at
the point of attack and he did a nice job. It's just a natural
progression for those guys, to start doing more and more in-line
Cajuste's situation is especially promising because of the stellar
run blocking he displayed on the perimeter in the second half of the
2012 season, which included excellent work during Stanford's two
touchdown drives early in the Rose Bowl.
"Devon loves blocking," Bloomgren said. "Whether it was cracking
down on a linebacker or blocking a defensive end to get a toss play
started, he does that stuff so willingly and he's such a tough kid.
You talk about him and Ty Montgomery out there as receivers, they
can get those hits on safeties."
The U Tight End: Hewitt's Plan, Dudchock, Frkovic
Meanwhile, Stanford has been so thrilled with Hewitt's work at
the fullback spot that they intend to keep him there, though the
staff understands that necessity may occasionally force him out of the
"[Hewitt] does so many great things for us at fullback that we
really don't want to move him," head coach David Shaw said.
Of course, the bruising Braveheart warrior has shown the ability to
be effective in the passing game, particularly on short play-action
passes to the flat. Though his receiving production dropped from 34 catches
in 2011 to 14 receptions in 2012, it kicked back into gear when
Hogan took over at the quarterback position in November.
A promising trio of incoming freshman recently signed with the
Cardinal at the tight end position, but the likelihood Eric Cotton,
Greg Taboada, or Austin Hooper are physically ready for significant
offensive contributions next season is slim. Shaw expects them to
provide depth at special teams, while fourth tight end recruit Kevin Palma will at least begin his Stanford career at linebacker.
"We're going to get through spring with some smoke and mirrors,"
Bloomgren said of his offense. "Hewitt can play some of that U tight
end like he's always done, but the big thing is we've got guys who
have got to come and get better."
One of those intriguing players is Alabama native Davis Dudchock,
whose playing time dropped precipitously in 2012 after a 2011 season
in which he saw action due to the Ertz and Toilolo injuries.
"We really hope [Dudchock can develop to contribute]," Bloomgren
said of the 6-foot-4, 242-pound incoming senior who turned down
offers in the Southeast to come to Stanford. "He is a guy who has
proven that he can catch the ball well and catch it in traffic. He
runs routes well. He has to get better at those blocks, but he can
do it. He can have a role as a U tight end in our offense without
The staff is also excited by incoming sophomore Alex Frkovic, whose
6-foot-5 size makes him another candidate to contribute at tight
end. He missed 2011 with an injury, though, making development
Tracking the Big Boys Up Front
The group of starting Farm Boy hogs will stay mostly intact with the
exception of Schwartzstein's center position. Because of the
responsibility assigned to the "quarterback of the offensive line,"
a veteran is expected to take that spot. Kevin Danser or Khalil Wilkes, who competed
with Schwartzstein for the center job in the two seasons prior to
2012, is favored to shift over from one of the guard
positions to snap the ball. That would allow left tackle David
Yankey (a fantastic pull-blocker) to move back to his natural guard
position, or potentially open up a guard spot for incoming
sophomore behemoth Joshua Garnett.
Stanford's line shuffling
decisions will play a large role in determining whether or not
tackles Andrus Peat or Kyle Murphy will start in their second
seasons. More on that matter will be known as spring development
takes its effect.
Meanwhile, the depth of Stanford's offensive line is
packing on the muscle to see more future playing time.
While Peat, Murphy, and Garnett stole the show in 2012, a crop of
other youngsters has yet to see playing time. Guard Johnny Caspers,
tackle Nick Davidson and center Graham Shuler, each decorated members
of the 2012 recruiting class, have strengthened their frames.
Caspers and Davidson, who arrived on campus last year at 287 and 282
pounds, respectively, have both added about 20 pounds of muscle. The
early-morning grind of 2013 winter workouts is now taking its toll.
"When you have those 300 pound frames at your first 6 a.m., it's not
a lot of fun," Bloomgren laughed. "And it probably wasn't a lot of
fun for those guys, but they didn't let us see it."
The two offensive linemen in Stanford's 2011 recruiting class,
tackle Brendon Austin and guard Kevin Reihner, have also been making
"It's been about polishing technique for me," Reihner said. "On top
of that, [it’s] getting stronger, working on all the small things, especially
my hands. The coaches really preach that."
Gaffney's Return: Running Back and
As of last week, Sanford said that Anthony Wilkerson was the leading
candidate for the Cardinal's top running back spot, in large part
because of how well he ran the ball in the Rose Bowl. Tyler Gaffney's announced return from professional baseball, though, arms
Stanford with another enviable combination of strength, speed, and
polish at the position. Assuming Gaffney can shake off the rust
associated with 13 months off the football field, Stanford will
possess an embarrassment of riches in the backfield whose
development will be closely tracked once spring competition begins.
Ricky Seale, Remound Wright and Barry Sanders will all be in the
mix, while fullbacks Lee Ward and Pat Skov may also get extended
looks if Hewitt does indeed occasionally shift over to tight end.
And while tracking Stanford's off-season development at tight end will
certainly be intriguing, the reloading job at wide receiver is every bit as
vital. The team's slew of departures (and recent history of inconsistent performance at the position) suggests that Ty Montgomery
must deliver a bounce-back junior campaign after only hauling in 26
passes in 2012. Terrell and Patterson are both graduating, so plenty
of spots on the Cardinal perimeter are in flux.
As mentioned, the staff sees Cajuste as a legitimate downfield
threat who can also be effective moving in motion to block. Incoming
6-foot-4 freshman Francis Owusu has the potential to be the best
true freshman wide receiver on the West Coast, but the Farm Boys are
counting on a quartet of relatively inexperienced sophomores to flesh out their
passing attack -- on top of Kelsey Young, whose role looks to expand in 2013, of course.
Shaw praised Michael Rector, Conner Crane, and Kodi Whitfield for
their drive thus far in winter workouts. Sanford also expressed
enthusiasm about the improvement of Dontonio Jordan, the fourth
receiver in the 2012 recruiting class. Rector, who spent much of
this past redshirt campaign battling back from an early knee injury,
has the speed the staff is looking for in a deep threat. The coaches
regard Whitfield as the best all-around receiver of the group, while
Crane's 6-foot-4 height and work ethic make him a darkhorse candidate for
"Conner's the kind of guy who runs routes for hours every day in the
summer," Sanford said. "He's really hungry to improve."
In the end, much of the receiver competition will follow a similar
Stanford theme: the player who blocks most effectively should have a
big leg up.
Development Report, Part 1: Winning the Chess Match
Development Report, Part 1: Interior Line (DT)
Development Report, Part 2: Exterior Line/LB
Development Report, Part 3: Secondary
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Football Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him
out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMLombardi.
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