Bye week grades: coaching staff

September, 27, 2011
9/27/11
10:00
AM ET
The 1oth and final report card of Stanford's bye week (which spilled over into this week).

THE COACHING STAFF

Grade: A-

Summary: Few, if any coaching staffs, entered the season under a brighter spotlight than David Shaw & Co. With the outspoken Jim Harbaugh leaving the Cardinal for the San Francisco 49ers, the questions loomed. Can Shaw match Harbaugh's fire? What about the offensive line? The wide receivers? How is he going to hold all this together?

Since this blog officially went online a few days before the San Jose State game, I've made no secret that I'm a Shaw fan. And I make no apologies for it. He's a splendid coach. I got to see first hand when he was at the University of San Diego what he can do with an offense and I've enjoyed following his career. He's innovative, a heck of a schemer and he hasn't altered his football principles simply because of who he has under center.

Run the ball, stop the run. Everything else will fall into place.

I like the schemes from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. The three tight-end sets have been a pleasure to watch. The way they are motioned out or used in conjunction with the jumbo blocking packages is some of the most innovative football I've seen in the last half decade.

I was curious how a co-defensive coordinator system was going to work with Derek Mason and Jason Tarver. To date, the duo seems to be clicking on all cylinders. The Cardinal have never trailed in a game.

And I think the job that Mike Bloomgren has done with the offensive line in the first three weeks has been stellar. There are gains, both measurable and immeasurable, with a unit that had the most question marks before the first game kicked off.

Lance Anderson (outside linebackers), Ron Crook (tight ends/tackles) and Randy Hart (defensive line) must feel like the luckiest guys in the world to have some motivated players in their position groups.

And Brian Polian (special teams/recruiting coordinator) has assembled one of the most steady and reliable special teams units in the country.

One thing does concern me. As we know, the Cardinal have had trouble in the first half of all three games -- be it missed assignments or missed opportunities. But even more concerning is that no one seems to have an answer. An unofficial poll of about 15 players over the last three weeks has yielded, essentially, the exact same response: "I don't know. I can't explain it."

That's all well and good against the San Jose States and Dukes of the world. But the time will come this season when the Cardinal are going to have to play a complete game, or the nation's longest winning streak will come to an end.

But so far, so good.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive line

Offensive line

Linebackers

Running backs/Fullbacks

Tight ends

Wide receivers

Secondary

Special teams

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