STANFORD, Calif. — Our Kevin Dukovic was at Stanford practice on Friday to (sort of) go behind enemy lines to see how the Cardinal is preparing for Northwestern. Here's his report:
- First of all, a bit of injury news: Stanford's top wide receiver, senior Devon Cajuste, is questionable for the game with an ankle injury. Stanford coach David Shaw has said he expects Cajuste to play against NU, but his status is still up in the air. As Stanford's primary deep threat last season Cajuste scored a team-high six touchdowns and at 6-foot-4 he was a mismatch every time he lined up in the slot. Even if Cajuste plays, he won't be 100 percent. Also, Stanford's other deep threat Michael Rector might not start because of a suspension he suffered in camp. This matters because...
- When asked what worries him most about Northwestern's defense, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan said his focus has been on the secondary. "They really work together well," Hogan said. "Whether it's the safeties coming up in the run game and the corners replacing over top, or the corners trusting their technique on the outside and sticking true to the scheme, they do a really good job."
- Scheme-wise, Hogan said Northwestern's defense reminds him of Oregon State's in the Pac-12. But the best comparison, he said, is Michigan State, whom Stanford played in the Rose Bowl two seasons ago, and who employs a similar "quarters" defense to Northwestern's.
Stanford football coach David Shaw didn't know Thorson was starting until I told him 15 minutes ago. Maybe I should've kept my mouth shut...— Kevin Dukovic (@kdukovic) August 28, 2015
- Shaw on preparing for Northwestern starting quarterback Clayton Thorson — who he apparently did not know was starting roughly 24 hours after the announcement: "It's impossible, because it's all theoretical. The biggest thing for us is knowing our responsibilities, and being ready to play our defense no matter who the quarterback is. We have strengths that we want to play to, we have things that we know we can do."
- Shaw said he hadn't handed out gameplans yet on Friday — though presumably by now he has — but said that last week, he and his staff dedicated one period of practice per day to preparing specifically for Northwestern.
- Shaw said Northwestern's offense didn't have a direct comparison to anything he's seen in the Pac-12, but compared some of Northwestern's quick screens to what he's seen from Oregon.
- Shaw noted that Stanford is very used to preparing for offenses similar to Northwestern's in the spread-heavy Pac-12. "We prepare for it every single week," Shaw said. "And our guys know, the biggest thing is, you've got to get up quickly and line up. The biggest thing is being ready for how fast the tempo is, and make sure we know our responsibilities."
- Shaw also noted that he and his staff rotate defensive backs in and out regularly, which should help Stanford's defense cope with the expected heat on Saturday.
- Shaw said there is an "academic component to this game," and thinks that academic comparable schools should be playing each other regularly. (In related news, Northwestern and Stanford all but cancelled what was originally supposed to be a six-game series.)
- The Cardinal leave for Evanston on Thursday, which will give them two days to adjust to central time. That should neutralize any supposed disadvantage Stanford would be at due to the 9 a.m. PT kickoff.
-Stanford released its depth chart for Northwestern on Monday (below). The major takeaways are: Rector is not listed as a starter at WR so expect Hogan to lean heavily on highly touted tight ends Austin Hooper and Dalton Schultz in the passing game; top DE recruit Solomon Thomas will start in his first collegiate game and is worth keeping an eye on; the cornerback spot opposite Ronnie Harris hasn't been decided yet, so look for Thorson to target that side of the field often; and the starting punter/kickoff specialist still hasn't been named.
— Stanford Athletics (@GoStanford) September 1, 2015