NCAA

Post-Luck era begins in Bay Area football

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Post-Luck era begins in Bay Area football

SAN FRANCISCO -- The buzz in the Bay Area is shifting this fall with Andrew Luck long gone.

The first evidence of that came Monday when Stanford, California and San Jose State players and coaches gathered in front of fewer writers and even fewer cameras in downtown San Francisco for the annual Bay Area luncheon. The rest will sink in when fall practices begin later this week and games kick off next month without No. 12 stealing the spotlight.

Stanford has a quarterback competition that could take just that long to resolve. Cal is moving back into remodeled Memorial Stadium - and might need every day left for construction to be completed - after calling the Giants' AT&T Park home last year, and Mike MacIntyre is trying to take the next step in transforming San Jose State from laughingstock into legitimate winner.

"This is the best and worst time for a football coach," said Stanford's David Shaw, the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year now entering his second season at the helm. "The best because we all have the same dreams and aspirations of what our teams can accomplish, but then the worst because we can't see them for another few days. It's driving us insane."
RELATED: Cal roster 2012 schedule

Maybe this season more than most.

A year ago, the Bay Area's college football landscape - always second fiddle in one of the most booming NFL markets - saw a rare spike because of Luck, such a driving force in the sport that he created a frenzy just by showing up at the last media day with his signature scruffy beard shaved off. Now the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up is preparing for the pros after the Indianapolis Colts drafted him No. 1 overall, leaving a gaping hole back in the Bay Area to fill.

Shaw is still no closer to reaching a decision on Luck's replacement. He said he will take the quarterback competition between Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes all the way up until the opener against San Jose State on Aug. 31 if neither creates any separation.

He still wanted to make it clear that the Cardinal are taking aim at a third straight BCS bowl behind a bevy of running backs led by Stepfan Taylor, most starters returning from the league's second-best scoring defense and a more settled coaching staff than a year ago when he took over after Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers.

RELATED: Stanford roster 2012 schedule

"There was a lot of hype surrounding a single player last year, which was much deserved," Shaw said. "But at the same time, we feel like we've got some guys coming back who are some pretty good football players. We believe we're going to be the team we've always been up front. We believe we're a physical run team."

What kind of team Cal is might be the biggest mystery.

Jeff Tedford, entering his 11th season in Berkeley as the Pac-12's most tenured coach, needs a turnaround season after finishing 7-6 and 5-7 in the last two. If nothing else, maybe a change of scenery will do some good.

Construction workers are putting the final touches on a 321 million renovation to historic Memorial Stadium before the Sept. 1 opener against Nevada. After a year of playing home games at San Francisco's waterfront ballpark, which had horrible sightlines and quiet crowds most of last season, the Golden Bears are hoping for a boost in the new digs.

Or, as Tedford put it, "We get to move home."

"There's going to be so much anxiety, so much adrenaline, so much going on," Cal senior defensive back Josh Hill said. "We just can't wait. We can't wait till practice. We can't wait for that first game. Can't wait."

The talent should be there for the Bears.

Keenan Allen headlines an athletic offense he led with 98 catches for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns last season - even admitting Monday he played the final three games with a cracked rib - and should be one of the top receivers in next year's NFL draft. His return should do nothing but help quarterback Zach Maynard, who made strides late last season after transferring from Buffalo.

With games at Ohio State and Southern California in consecutive weeks in September, Cal's schedule will not do the Bears any favors this season. Then again, it also provides an opportunity to return to the national stage - if successful.

"That's why we're doing this," Tedford said.

Expectations have certainly changed in the south bay - there actually are expectations now.

RELATED: San Jose State roster 2012 schedule

After going 1-12 in 2010, MacIntyre and the Spartans are coming off a 5-7 season in which they were in contention for the Western Athletic Conference crown after a thrilling 28-27 victory over Hawaii on national television Oct. 14. While three straight losses followed, San Jose State stayed close in every one, showing real progress in MacIntyre's second season.

How the competition among Dasmen Stewart, Blake Jurich and David Fales at quarterback shakes out will go a long way to determine the Spartans' season. At the very least, they won't be the only program with a new starting quarterback on opening night at Stanford Stadium.

"It will be an interesting dynamic because you really won't know what their strengths are exactly," MacIntyre said. "They lost a phenomenal quarterback, but the guys they have there aren't slouches."

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

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USASTI

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

LOS ANGELES  — Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett caught two touchdown passes apiece from Sam Darnold, and No. 6 Southern California extended its winning streak to 11 games with a bruising 42-24 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

Darnold went 21 of 26 with 316 yards passing for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who snapped their three-game losing streak in this California private-school rivalry. USC racked up 623 total yards and won the first Pac-12 game of the new season by beating the hard-nosed Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) at their own physical game.

Ronald Jones II rushed for 116 yards and scored a touchdown in his ninth consecutive game as USC excelled at Stanford's traditional strengths, running the ball for 307 yards and controlling both lines of scrimmage. Turnovers and penalties by the Trojans kept it fairly close, but freshman Stephen Carr added 119 yards rushing, and Jones cartwheeled into the end zone with a clinching 23-yard TD run with 4:15 to play.

Keller Chryst passed for 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Bryce Love had a 75-yard TD run among his 160 yards rushing for the Cardinal, who hadn't played since their season-opening win over Rice in Australia last month.

After a scoreless third quarter, USC made a 90-yard scoring drive capped by Mitchell's second TD on a feathery 11-yard TD pass by Darnold with 9:42 to play. Stanford stayed close with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside's TD catch with 6:41 to play, but Jones' incredible second TD run capped a smooth 75-yard drive in USC's 11th consecutive win at the Coliseum.

Stanford had won eight of its last 11 meetings with USC in a dominant stretch that began with its historic 2007 upset victory at the Coliseum.

After USC scored 49 points in its season opener, Darnold's offense again was in fine form from the start. USC scored four touchdowns on five lengthy drives in the first half, with Darnold hitting Burnett for two of his three TD passes.

USC moved 74 yards on two plays late in the half to take a 28-17 lead on Burnett's leaping 25-yard TD grab.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: That 62-point performance in the season opener Down Under was impossible to replicate against a top Pac-12 defense, and the Cardinal's offense will know it must add versatility to the attack. Stanford's defense also had big problems at the line of scrimmage, and that isn't a problem with which the Cardinal have much experience.

USC: This talent-laden offense has appeared to have the makings of a juggernaut so far. Darnold returned to 2016 form with a smooth, poised performance against a vaunted conference opponent, while the Trojans' receivers appear to be much more reliable than coach Clay Helton feared. USC's defense also stepped up after halftime and shut down one of the Pac-12's best.

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal's three-game stretch away from home to open the season concludes at San Diego State.

USC: The Trojans welcome Texas to the Coliseum for a meeting of two powerhouse programs.