August 10, 2010

Playing in space

Quick Q and A with Chase Thomas and Tyler Gaffney. And below are coach Harbaugh's post practice comments.

How has the change to linebacker been going so far?
Right now coach Fangio is really helping me out a lot, me and Keiser both. And I really think it will play out to benefit. I think it will help both of us to use more of our skills and get us to make plays in open space.
I am just learning all I can right now and trying to catch up. Coaches have been helping me out a lot.
What are you working on the most right now?
Playing in space, probably my biggest concern I have right now. Been working hard on my hips and getting more fluid in those. Being able to flip and turn to the ball. I think the off-season program really helped me out with that and I am confident I will be fine once the season starts
Lot of new faces in the lineabcker unit, who do you see the LB'ers shaping up?
I think we will be one of the strongest units on the field next year. We want to take that responsibility and be that stepping stone for a great defense. We want the defense to count on us to make plays when something goes wrong. Shayne, Keiser and me all played a significant minutes last season. And we have all the confidence in the world in Owen that he will perform wherever he is at.
And the new guys, Blake Lueders and Alex Turner, they have really jumped into the playbook and have bought into what we are doing here.

Stanford has gone from an underdog to a favorite, who has that affected the team's mindset?
All that is going to do is make us prepare harder. Like you say we aren't going to surprise anyone, not going to sneak up on anyone they are going to know what we are bringing to the table every day. And we know any given day you can win a game and any given day you can lose a game. We have to go into every game with the mindset we have to win this game, every game is a playoff game, if you lose you go home. We are trying to win the Pac-10.
How has the competition been so far this summer?
We are all going to give our best, whether it is one guy, two guys or three. I think we are solid, don't get me wrong Toby was great, but we are going to try and not let that stop us in what we want to do.
All of you bring uniuqe talents to the fight
I think we all have our strengths, some similar, some not. It's going to be hard pick one strength and put it out there.
Do you have sense on how the coaches plan on replacing Toby, what are they looking for??
I think they are looking for outcome, who is going to be the biggest threat. The guy who is going to bring the most to the table. Other than that I don't think anyone is going to be able to replace Toby.
What are you working on this camp?
I am going to work more on knowing the playbook inside and out. I came in last year a little late, I had an injury and it was hard to catch up with everybody. But I think now I am right on track.

Jim Harbaugh's post practice comments-
It was good, it was a good practice. It was nice being able to work with the young guys. A good three-hour practice with them. It's that principle of first learning you want their first learning to be really good, because that's what they're going to remember the best. They had a lot of good one-on-one time with our coaches and now they have a lot of good tape to go watch. So I was impressed. There was a ton of good things in the morning, awful lot of guys were impressive this morning. Guys like Anthony Wilkerson, Blake Leuders. Devon Carrington was very impressive. Barry Browning was impressive. Kyle Olugbode was impressive, David Parry was impressive. Ricky Seale and the quarterbacks were good, too. Nottingham and Daniel both did a very nice job. There was a lot of highlights that stood out from the morning practice. It didn't feel like a first practice from the first-year guys. It looked like they were really up to speed on what they were doing and it's a good looking, different looking class that we've ever had here.
With Toby gone has this become Andrew's team? Do you sense he is ready to lead
There's no question he's a part of this team and a big part of this team. He was in a leadership position last year and I don't think it's that much different than what he did last year from the quarterback position. He knows that the spotlight's on him in a lot of ways and he's prepared himself for that.
On Owen Marecic going two ways
If there's anybody who can pull it off, it's Owen. We've said this before, but we think he's the perfect football player. He just does so many things right and I think he's trained himself for this. He worked intensely this summer. They tell me he would work out in the morning and then come back and work out again in the afternoon for two or three hours. He's embraced it, he's committed to it. We know it has its perils and its merits, and we'll monitor it as it goes.
On the rationale behind the freshmen practicing separately from the veterans
A: there's 35 of them, it's a big group. It was a class where we pretty much had a guy at each position. Secondly, just the principle of first learning, I'm excited about this class and I think there are some guys who can contribute right away and I want their first learning to be a lot and have a lot of reps and not just have to watch it but actually do it themselves. And I also want them to be up to speed by the time we hit the sixth practice. I think there are some guys that have a chance to be incorporated into the two deep.
So on the sixth practice you will bring some of those guys into the main practice?
We'll do this for five practices and then at practice six we'll all be together. At least by the time we get to six, we can incorporate some of those young guys in the two deep; perhaps, perhaps not. They for sure won't slow us down as much because they will have gotten a lot of reps themselves. And from there, whoever is practicing the best will be the starters and in the two deep but I think it gives those guys more of a chance to get in to the lineup because we really think some of these guys really have the ability to do it.
What is the plan for the tailback rotation
Right now, since the three young guys were going this morning so they got a ton of reps, Wilkerson and Ricky Seale and Andrew Stutz. And then Gaffney and Jeremy Stewart and Stepfan Taylor and Usua Amanam in the later practice. All of them got good reps. We'll see. Right now we're just rolling through and letting them compete and give them all a shot.
Will Alex Loukas get enough reps at quarterback along with safety to compete for the #2 QB job?
I think he will. Our plan right now with him is to go offense one day, defense the next, the same thing we're doing with Owen. And then the days he's on defense we'll take him during the special teams period and make sure he doesn't lose a day of quarterback. He looked really sharp today throwing the football. I thought Alex threw the ball today as well as I've ever seen him throw it.
Who among the veterans stood out today?
It was a high number of guys. When the veterans were practicing, the tempo noticeably went up. The coverage was extremely tight. I thought Sherman and Gatewood did a nice job. Johnson Bademosi looked really good. The safeties looked really good, Delano Howell is in great shape. The two outside 'backers looked terrific. Shayne Skov made a bunch of good plays. Luck was extremely sharp. It was a really good first practice and it gives us something to watch and then build on.
How good of a player can Shayne Skov be?
He's got a great teacher in Vic Fangio. He has a ton of talent. He got great experience last year. The thing for him is he has the tools and we're trying to make him into a carpenter. He's on the right path and we have high expectations for him for tomorrow and the next day, and we'll just take it one day at a time, but he looks good.
Griff Whalen was just put on scholarship right?
Griff will be on scholarship for the fall, and he earned it. I'm excited about that. Nathan Whitaker also was put on scholarship last spring.
What number are you at right now?
Any other potential walk-ons about to earn a scholarship?
I'd give a high 90% possibility for Zach Nolan. I think he's definitely going to be a guy who, if he continues to do a good job, will be on scholarship in the next couple of weeks.
On a timeline to form a running back rotation
Sometimes you say eight practices in, but it's not like the quarterback position. I think it will be one of those things with who is practicing the best and most consistently and who's picking up the protections, holding onto the football. Some of that will be determined when we start bumping and scrimmaging. But I think you can assume right now that Jeremy Stewart probably has a little bit of a lead there to be the starter. Then Gaffney and Taylor are in the rotation. Then we'll see about Wilkerson and Usua, how many touches they get, but both of them looked pretty good today.
When will you start whittling down the depth chart where it's not all equal reps across the board for the QB's.
We are trying to get where we do this camp to where the two and the threes get as much work as the ones. But Loukas, Nunes, Picazo are all going to get equal reps right now.

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