Pac-12: Johnny Caspers

Q&A: Stanford OC Mike Bloomgren

April, 9, 2014
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STANFORD, Calif. -- With just one practice remaining before Saturday's spring game, Stanford associate head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren is confident the Cardinal has taken significant strides towards replacing several pieces that left the team following last season.

[+] EnlargeMike Bloomgren
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsStanford OC Mike Bloomgren is pleased to see the progress his QBs are making this spring.
Bloomgren took some time on Tuesday and told ESPN.com some of his major impressions up to this point.

With QB Evan Crower limited in the second session [deviated septum], what kind of progress has redshirt freshman QB Ryan Burns made working with the second team and how has Kevin Hogan looked?

Bloomgren: It's been a little trial-by-fire for Burnsy a little bit, jumping in there with the second group from the time he got back last Monday. And our defense is not the easiest one to jump in there against and try to decipher everything they're showing you. He's done a much better job. Every day he's gotten better. We've gone from a week ago to not being able to take the center-quarterback snap to start a play to now where we're doing that consistently well. As far as No. 8 [Hogan] goes, No. 8's been great all spring with very, very few exceptions. Leadership has been great, the way he's seeing and thinking this game right is outstanding. The things he's doing with us from a protection standpoint, getting us in the right protection, making the right adjustment to routes and is just throwing the ball really well.

RB Kelsey Young looked really good in the open scrimmage … has that been a consistent thing?

MB: I think that might have been Kelsey's best day. It's great to see it. He's taking steps every day at the running back position. The thing that you saw was the explosive runs and the consistent runs out of Kelsey, which was great to see ... the leg drive and the way he was finishing runs was outstanding and the things that's he's doing is getting better at protection every day.

What has the transition been like for Young converting back from wide receiver?

MB: When you talk about what Kelsey's done for us, Kelsey's always been an explosive runner. We've loved getting the ball in his hands, whether it was on a speed sweeps or on a screen, but the thing he wasn't the master of was running the ball from seven yards behind the quarterback, and it's taken a lot of work and he's seeing things really well. He's slowed his footwork down. I'm really pleased with how he's coming along.

The offensive line is going to look a lot different, but are you confident it will still be a very good unit?

MB: We're breaking in four new starters, and I don't know if I've ever been a part of doing that before. I wouldn't say for a second that it's been easy, but it's probably been easier than any other four you could break in. The five guys we're working with right now -- being those five guys from the class of 2012, [RG] Johnny Caspers, [RT] Kyle Murphy, [C] Graham Shuler, [LG] Josh Garnett stepping in besides [LT] Andrus [Peat] -- and then you've got people working in that are doing a great job. Brendon Austin, when he's healthy has been really good, playing the best football of his career.

Are there inherent advantages of those guys all being from the same recruiting class?

MB: Absolutely, but again, we've always had that regardless of class. Our offensive line has been so tight. I don't necessarily think it's just a product of them being in the same class.

How has the group of young tight ends developed?

MB: Austin Hooper has really stepped up. Unbelievable job at the Y position. Eric Cotton is doing some unbelievable things as a movement tight end, whether it's lining up extended and running great routes or sticking his face in there doing a great job in the run game. Then you have Greg Taboada still learning, and he's learning a lot, doing great things. When Greg knows what to do, he's really hard to stop.

What are you looking forward to getting out of Saturday's spring game?

MB: It's just another chance for us to go out there in our stadium, to put on our gear [on] and go through the motions and exercise playing a football game. Whether you're talking about X's and O's, we'll probably be limited in terms of what we do, but I want to see us go out there and put our best foot forward and play incredibly hard and finish the plays.
Stanford right tackle Cam Fleming became the school's third player in two days to declare for the NFL draft, the school announced Tuesday.

Like guard David Yankey, who made himself eligible yesterday, Fleming broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2011 to block for quarterback Andrew Luck. An Aeronautics and Astronautics major, Fleming was a fixture at right tackle the last three seasons and was named second-team All-Pac-12 this year.

With Fleming's departure, Stanford will have just one starter back on the offensive line next season -- rising junior left tackle Andrus Peat, who is considered a potential high first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

While replacing that many players would usually seem like a tall task, the situation at Stanford could be different.

Kyle Murphy, a highly-recruited player from the Class of 2012, figures to have a leg up over Brendon Austin to replace Fleming. In fact, all five projected starters on the line are from the same class.

After the Cardinal inked seven offensive linemen that year, coach David Shaw made a bold prediction on national signing day.

"This could be one of the best offensive line classes in modern football history," he said.

How's that for high expectations?

Of course, there's still a lot of time between now and the season opener against U.C. Davis on Aug. 30, but there's a good chance the line, from left to right, will look like this: LT Peat, LG Joshua Garnett, C Graham Shuler, RG Johnny Caspers, RT Murphy.

Fleming's announcement comes just hours after teammate Ed Reynolds also announced he would leave early for the NFL.

Yankey's departure not a surprise

January, 13, 2014
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Stanford left guard David Yankey's decision to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft ranks right up there with the least surprising declarations of the offseason.

Yankey could have easily justified a jump to the NFL after last season, when he was a consensus All-American and named the Pac-12's most outstanding offensive lineman. Instead, he returned for what most assumed would be one final season on the Farm.

[+] EnlargeDavid Yankey
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergAfter a 2013 season in which he was named a consensus All-American and the Pac-12's most outstanding offensive lineman, David Yankey is headed for the NFL.
It's a decision the Stanford coaching staff saw coming years in advance. If not for an injury in 2010 -- when he became the first Stanford offensive lineman in 10 years to play as a true freshman -- he'd already be out of eligibility, and it became clear early on in 2011 to offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren that Yankey was destined for the NFL.

There were times that season when Bloomgren, now the offensive coordinator, had trouble finding Yankey on film. It wasn't a bad thing, either. It was because Yankey, in his first year as a starter, played so similarly to junior right guard David DeCastro that it was easy to confuse the two. That's high praise considering DeCastro was a finalist for the Outland Trophy that season and the first offensive guard taken in the 2012 NFL draft (No. 24 overall to Pittsburgh).

How the Cardinal moves on without Yankey appears to be fairly clear cut.

Rising junior Joshua Garnett, who started in place of Yankey at left guard against Washington State and saw regular playing time this season in Stanford's formations that utilized extra linemen, should have an easy transition into the starting lineup. Whether that's at Yankey's left guard spot or at right guard, where Stanford loses Kevin Danser to graduation, remains to be seen.

Johnny Caspers was listed as Danser's primary backup this season and will likely enter spring practice as the favorite to replace him.

The Cardinal will also have to find a new starter at center with Khalil Wilkes out of eligibility and potentially at right tackle as Cam Fleming has yet to announce publicly whether he'll return for his final season of eligibility or enter the NFL draft. The deadline to declare is Wednesday.

Kyle Murphy would likely have the edge over Brendon Austin at right tackle if Fleming leaves, and the center competition will start with Graham Shuler and Kevin Reihner.

Left tackle Andrus Peat, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection this season, is the only starter guaranteed to return from an offensive line that ranked seventh nationally in fewest tackles for loss allowed per game (4.14).

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