Stanford Football: Tavita Pritchard

Top 5 position battles to watch: RB

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
The countdown of Stanford's top 5 position battles concludes.

No. 1: Running back

[+] EnlargeBarry Sanders
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesBarry Sanders will be trying to take over at RB for Stanford.
Who to watch: Remound Wright, Barry Sanders, Ricky Seale

Outlook: The last time Stanford didn't have a 1,000-yard rusher was 2007. Richard Sherman led the team in receiving yards, current quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard led the Cardinal to a memorable 24-23 win at USC, and Jim Harbaugh was in his first year as head coach. Since then, Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney have combined to average 1,452.2 yards rushing a year.

Only Gerhart's 2008 season -- when he ran for 1,136 yards -- came out of relative obscurity. He ran for just 140 yards on 12 carries the year before.

If another Stanford running back is to keep the streak of 1,000-yard rushers alive, he'll have to follow a similar path. Wright, Sanders and Seale are all vying for the starting job, but it's likely, due to their varying skill sets, that 2014 will be more of a running-back-by-comittee scenario.

Among the three, Wright got the most work last season, but his 20 carries for 102 yards in mostly mop-up duty weren't enough to lend much insight into how he'd be as a feature back. Sanders was the most sought-after recruit and arrived with a lot of expectations because of his famous father, but he had just five carries for 42 yards. It was clear the coaching staff was impressed with his playmaking ability because he was used to return punts, but he didn't get many opportunities to makes plays in that capacity. Seale, who will be a senior, is probably a step below the other two based on how he has been used during his career, but a strong spring could change that.

The countdown
No. 2: Backup quarterback
No. 3: Center
No. 4: Safety
No. 5: Fullback
Stanford coach David Shaw's decision to promote Lance Anderson to defensive coordinator should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

If there is anything Shaw has shown in his previous hires, it's that he likes to promote from within and strives to have continuity within the program. Choosing Anderson to replace Derek Mason, who left last week to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, fits the mold established with his initial coordinator hires of Pep Hamilton and Mason and last year's promotion of Mike Bloomgren.

The only coordinator hire that came from outside the program in Shaw's tenure was when he named current Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver the co-coordinator with Mason in 2011. Tarver was at Stanford for just that season, in which Mason still served as the play caller.

Shaw and Anderson are the only coaches who remain from Jim Harbaugh's initial staff at Stanford in 2007. Both made the jump with Harbaugh from the University of San Diego.

In all likelihood, this move was at least a year in the making. Anderson reportedly turned down the chance to become the defensive coordinator at South Florida a year ago under Willie Taggart, another former Harbaugh staff member, to remain at Stanford. It was clear then that Mason would land a head-coaching gig sooner rather than later, which makes it reasonable to assume Shaw and Anderson discussed the possibility that he'd be the eventual replacement.

That's roughly how it played out when Bloomgren was elevated from offensive line coach/run game coordinator when Hamilton took the offensive coordinator job with the Colts. In fact, Shaw and Bloomgren discussed the potential for that to eventually happen before he hired him in 2011.

With Anderson's promotion official, Stanford still has three spots to fill on its staff.

In addition to Mason, Shaw needs to replace Mike Sanford, who left to become Boise State's offensive coordinator, and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski, who will serve as Mason's defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.

Tavita Pritchard shifted from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach immediately after Sanford left, which means the Cardinal is currently without coaches for its running backs, inside linebackers, defensive backs and does not have an official recruiting coordinator.

Cardinal shuffle coaching staff

January, 29, 2013
As expected, Stanford head coach David Shaw looked internally to find his new offensive coordinator -- promoting offensive line coach and run game coordinator Mike Bloomgren to the spot vacated by Pep Hamilton.

This is not only the smart move, it's also the right move. Bloomgren already played a huge part in the play calling and devising the overall game plan. As the run game coordinator, much of what Stanford has accomplished the past two seasons on the ground has been by his design. His promotion ensures continuity within Stanford's pro-style attack that isn't particularly flashy, but coupled with a punishing defense has proven to be quite effective over the past two years.

And you can't argue with Bloomgren's results in both the running game and as a position coach -- working specifically with the interior line. In 2011 -- Bloomgren's first year -- the Cardinal ranked 18th nationally in rushing offense, totaling 210.6 yards per game. That number slipped in 2012 as the Cardinal only averaged 174.3 yards per game (48th nationally). However, part of that can be explained by losing Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin and Coby Fleener to the NFL. Luck's reputation as an in-game playcaller and what he did for the running game is well known.

This year, under Bloomgren's tutelage, four of the five offensive line starters earned all-league honors. David Yankey was an All-American and the Morris Trophy winner and as a unit they helped Stepfan Taylor to his third-straight 1,000-yard season.

The move makes way for running backs coach Mike Sanford to take on a bigger role in the offense as he assumes the job of quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. Sanford is one of the bright, young offensive minds in the conference, so it will be interesting to see what he does with the passing game next year. The Cardinal lose five of their top six receivers (including backs and tight ends) from the 2012 unit -- so this will no doubt be an area that is heavily scrutinized heading into spring and fall camps.

Sanford's move allows Tavita Pritchard (remember him, USC fans?) to move over from a defensive assistant to running backs coach.

“Tavita Pritchard is one of the brightest young coaches I have ever been around,” said Shaw in a statement released through the school. “He has been phenomenal helping Derek Mason on defense. He was instrumental to the turnaround of our program when he was our starting quarterback and a team leader. I’m excited to have him back on our offense coaching the running backs.”

With continued collaboration in the play calling and game plan between Bloomgren and Shaw -- and we can now assume Sanford will play a larger role as well -- we shouldn't see any real deviation from what the Cardinal want to accomplish on offense in 2013.


Shaw Plans To Remain At Stanford
Adam Schefter has the latest on coach David Shaw, who plans to remain with Stanford despite major interest from the NFL.


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