After Luck, Stanford thin at quarterback position


After Luck, Stanford thin at quarterback position

Aug. 16, 2011
STANFORD (AP) -- Brett Nottingham and the rest of Stanford's backup quarterbacks figured out how to impress the coaching staff by the end of the first fall practice.All they had to do was mimic Andrew Luck."Because if you're following Andrew, you can't be doing anything wrong," Nottingham said, chuckling. "It's tough to follow him at any point and then ever be in trouble."Easier said than done.If anything were to sideline the Heisman Trophy favorite for more than a few snaps this season, the Cardinal would be in serious trouble. The other quarterbacks on the roster have attempted a combined two collegiate passes, and there's not a clear front-runner to become Luck's eventual successor.New coach David Shaw made it a point in his first team meeting to call out three key areas this year: offensive line, defensive line and backup quarterback. The latter has easily been his most difficult challenge."The hardest part is not trying to hold them up to Andrew's standard," Shaw said. "It's too high. We have to kind of take a deep breath when Andrew comes out and adjust our expectations."The three-man race to be Luck's backup is one of the most unsettled situations on a stacked Stanford team.Nottingham, a redshirt freshman, is competing for the job along with redshirt sophomores Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo. Nunes' one pass for 7 yards is the only completion any of them have.Not that there wouldn't be a significant drop-off behind Luck.With so much of the offense revolving around Stanford's standout quarterback, the Cardinal are merely trying to close the gap between starter and backup. The goal is more to offset an in-game emergency than a season-ending injury, which would derail any championship hopes this season anyway."If Andrew breaks a shoelace, it could be in the middle of the fourth quarter in a must-win situation," Shaw said. "Whoever that guy is that steps in, he's got to have the confidence of the huddle and of the coaching staff."Right now, nobody other than Luck commands that attention.The three have all split time behind Luck after more than a week of training camp. Shaw doesn't expect to name a winner until the first week of the season, which begins at home against San Jose State on Sept. 3.For the players, the daunting task of replacing a quarterback that was the NFL draft's likely No. 1 pick can be a painful and frustrating one. It does, however, have its perks this season: the three backups all have a chance to learn from Luck in the film room, weight room and on the field."I might be annoying him a little bit with so many questions," Nottingham said. "I've been trying to pick his brain and find out what he does when no one is looking that makes him so successful."Of course, sometimes observing Luck so often only shows how much they have to improve."He's so technically sound, not just physically," Picazo said. "That's what makes him so good. Just being able to watch him on film and in person, watch his drops, watch his reads, watch how he affects safeties. Just watch it and do it however close to it as you can."Shaw isn't preaching patience with his backups, either.Although Luck is the most solid starter at his position in the country, the unthinkable is always one play away. Luck has spoken only kind words about his backups, saying all the things starting quarterbacks always do.Luck took out an NCAA insurance policy that could protect him for up to 5 million, and his family also bought private insurance that could cover him for millions more should an injury occur. Stanford is still searching for its own fallback plan.Even if it's hard to imagine cashing it in this season."We kind of view him as Superman. He seems like he's indestructible out there," Nottingham said. "But at the same time, you got to approach every day as if you're going to be the guy. You have to prepare, because if you get thrust into playing, you can't just be a deer in the headlights."

Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears


Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears

BERKELEY  — Two days before California plays its second game in less than a week against a well-rested USC team, coach Sonny Dykes was still trying to figure out why the Golden Bears were put in this position.

The quick turnaround and short week following Friday's double-overtime win against Oregon forced Cal to condense its normal schedule, something that wouldn't bother Dykes so much if there weren't so many other factors involved.

The Bears already had to trim a day off their regular routine because Thursday night's game is on the road. On top of that, several Cal players are in the middle of midterm exams, reducing their availability for practice even more.

It's a topic that Dykes has been simmering over for a few weeks now and one he wasn't ready to back off of Tuesday.

"When you sit down and look at the schedule, clearly it's not ideal," Dykes said "It's one of those deals where you just go, 'How in the world did this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?'"

Cal (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) was coming off a 12-day break when it beat Oregon in Berkeley on Friday night in a game that lasted nearly 4 ½ hours and didn't end until almost midnight local time. The Bears ran 118 plays offensively against the Ducks, which Dykes said was the equivalent of playing two games.

On the other hand, USC (4-3, 3-2) hasn't played since thumping Arizona 48-14 on Oct. 15.

While some team would have had to play the Trojans coming off a bye, Dykes can't understand why the Bears were selected to do it on short rest — and on the road.

"We've had to make a lot of schedule changes and do a lot of different things out of the norm," Dykes said. "It's one thing to do it on six days' notice. It's another to do it on the road. But our guys have handled it well."

The Bears shortened their work week to try to get everything in.

Players were given Saturday off but were back on the field Sunday afternoon. Cal practiced on its normal day off, Monday, but several players were unable to attend due to academic responsibilities.

"The challenge you always face is making sure that you balance keeping them fresh with getting enough reps and developing your young players," Dykes said. "Just teaching them all the things you need to teach them about your opponent in a limited amount of time. We've got to balance getting some work done but at the same time making sure we're fresh."

Cal's players don't seem bothered by the quick turnaround.

Defensive back Cameron Walker and left tackle Aaron Cochran said the short week means more emphasis on studying USC and doing extra film work.

Quarterback Davis Webb, on the other hand, doesn't think it will be much of an issue at all.

"It's a challenge but I think it's a mindset at the same time," Webb said. "We understand that's how the schedule rolled for us this year and there are no excuses. We have to play a tough team on Thursday night and we look forward to the challenge. If you don't know the game plan and what they're going to do by Thursday then you're in trouble."

Giants catching prospect Garcia relishing reps in Arizona Fall League


Giants catching prospect Garcia relishing reps in Arizona Fall League

After being selected in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, catcher Aramis Garcia quickly opened eyes with his power. Garcia totaled 15 home runs between Rookie Ball and Short Season Single-A in only 28 games after the draft. 

The next year, Garcia equaled his 15 long balls and spent the majority of his first full pro season at High Single-A. He also improved overall as a hitter, raising his 2014 slash line of .225/.301/.343 to .264/.342/.431 in 2015. The next climb up the farm system ladder was set in place, until it was gone with an excruciating injury. 

Garcia's 2016 season was limited to 47 games played as he sustained a facial fracture in May while sliding into second base. In an attempt to break up a double play, Garcia took a knee to the face. The injury kept him out until the end of July.

When the chance to play in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions arose, Garcia jumped at the opportunity. 

"First thing I did was call my parents and let them know," Garcia told on Monday. "I was just really excited for getting the opportunity to play against guys who are extremely talented and obviously make up for reps, which are extremely important."

Garcia never did exactly find his rhythm after the injury and finished the season batting .257/.323/.340 with two homers in 41 games. In the first half, the 23-year-old hit .298/.359/.369 compared to a lowly .200/.273/.300 in the second half. 

The catcher known more for his offense than defense, is off to a slow start at the plate while facing some of the top prospects in baseball. Throuh six games, he has gone 3-for-17 at the plate, good for a .176 average. But, Garcia acknowledged he's focusing heavily on his defense in the AFL. 

"I feel like when somebody tries to steal on me, I tend to take it a little bit personally," he said. "It's definitely something I take pride in, something I work on hard every day. There's a little routine I do with receiving and footwork, things like that every day."

Behind the dish, Garcia caught 38 percent of base runners looking to swipe a bag on him last season. Through his three years in the minors, Garcia has erased 34 percent of base stealers and owns a .993 fielding percentage.