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Cardinal set for season opener against San Diego State

Posted August 28, 2018 by in

August 28, 2018

Notebook: San Diego State
Cardinal set for season opener against San Diego State

By Mark Soltau

STANFORD, Calif. – Healthy, 10 pounds heavier and preparing to complete his human biology degree in December, Bryce Love can’t wait for Friday night’s 6 p.m. PT season opener against San Diego State at Stanford Stadium.

After a record-shattering season that saw him slash and dash for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns and become just the 10th unanimous All-America in program history, Love put an NFL career on hold and returned for his senior season for three main reasons: to expand his game, help No. 13 Stanford accomplish big things, and prepare for a future career as a pediatrician.

Last year’s Doak Walker and Lombardi Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up, Love has improved his body, hands, blocking and mind. He’s added muscle to help his durability and pass blocking, spent hours catching passes from quarterback K.J. Costello, and studied the offense to learn why plays are called and what parts of the defense they are trying to exploit.

“Coach (David) Shaw has preached the versatility aspect,” Love said Monday.

Even when injured, Love was nearly unstoppable for opposing defenses in 2017. He surpassed 100 yards rushing in 12 games and set an FBS mark with 13 bursts of 50 yards or longer.

The mere threat of Love catching short passes in space should make defenses think twice about jamming the line of scrimmage, creating more opportunities for his teammates.

“I just want to be able to contribute more and help the run game,” he said. “Just try to make the matchups tougher.”

Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, is committed to helping Love become a complete player. He will also use him wisely.

“While we want to feature what we believe is one of the best players in college football, we don’t want to wear him out,” said Shaw.

Love attended summer school and is on track to finish his degree in 3¼ years, a remarkable accomplishment combined with football. He has dreamed of becoming a physician since he was young and has chosen pediatrics.

“I’m definitely passionate about it,” he said.

In last year’s 20-17 loss at San Diego State, Love motored for 184 yards on 13 carries. He produced scoring runs of 53 and 51 yards and set up a field goal with a 47-yard scamper.

“I just want to be the best teammate I can be,” said Love. “I just want to win games.”

Depth Chart: True freshmen Thomas Booker (defensive end) and Michael Williams (wide receiver) are listed on the depth chart.

Also appearing for the first time in their Stanford careers are: fullback Houston Heimuli; quarterbacks Davis Mills and Jack Richardson; wide receiver Osiris St. Brown; tight end Tucker Fisk; center Drew Dalman; defensive backs Stuart Head, Paulson Adebo, Obi Eboh, Treyjohn Butler and Noah Williams; linebackers Andrew Pryts and Gabe Reid; defensive linemen Dalyn Wade-Perry, Ryan Johnson, Bo Peek and Dylan Boles; and long snapper Kyle Petrucci.

Injury Update: Free safety Malik Antoine, center Jesse Burkett, cornerback Alijah Holder, inside linebacker Jordan Perez, outside linebacker Curtis Robinson and strong safety Brandon Simmons will not play Friday due to injuries.

Holder, who grew in the San Diego area, could be available next week against USC. Burkett is making steady progress and could be ready soon.

At the Helm: Costello will make his eighth start at quarterback and is 4-3. He’s the fourth different first-game starter in as many seasons for Stanford. Previously handling the duties were Kevin Hogan in 2015, Ryan Burns in 2016 and Keller Chryst in 2017.

“I like where K.J. is,” Shaw said. “He’s ready to play.”

Dynamic Duo: Senior wide receivers JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin have been models of consistency for the Cardinal offense. Last year, the acrobatic Arcega-Whiteside led the team in catches (48), yards (781) and touchdown receptions (9), tying a school post-season record with three scoring grabs in the Alamo Bowl against TCU. He has caught two or more passes in 12 consecutive contests.

Last year, the sure-handed Irwin excelled in third-down situations, extending many drives. He hauled in 43 passes for 461 yards and two scores and has at least one grab in 29 straight games. Irwin also contributes on special teams. He returned eight punts for 61 yards and was often the first player down on punt coverage.

TOP TACKLER: Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke recorded 94 tackles last season, third-highest on the team. They are the most by a Stanford returnee since 2008.
Shaw said Okereke raised his level of play about mid-season.

“He’s not reacting, he’s anticipating,” Shaw said.

Okereke worked hard in the spring and stood out during fall camp. Shaw believes he has a chance to become an elite player this season.

Redshirt Rule: Shaw is pleased about the new NCAA rule allowing players to compete in four games without losing a year of eligibility.

“I think it’s changed us more than them,” he said. “There’s no longer a redshirt program. There’s a constant improvement program. More than anything, it’s changed our outlook of a freshman. Those last four games are a great opportunity for those guys.”

Captains: Arcega-Whiteside, Costello, Love, Alameen Murphy, Okereke and Simmons have been named teams captains this season. Murphy and Simmons were also captains in 2017.

Scouting the Aztecs: Rashaad Penny, the nation’s leading rusher last year with 2,248 yards, ran for 175 yards against Stanford – the most it surrendered. He was a first-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks, but junior Juwan Washington is ready to step in. He powered for 759 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017 for the run-oriented Aztecs.

Three-year starter Christian Chapman returns at quarterback. Underrated by many, he is athletic, accurate and hard to bring down.

Defensively, San Diego State is tough, aggressive and physical. The unit is led by end Chibu Onyeukwu, tackle Noble Hall, linebacker Ronley Lakalaka and defensive backs Parker Baldwin and Tariq Thompson.

The Aztecs were 10-3 last season and are seeking their third Mountain West title in four years.

Come Join the Band: At least 10 Cardinal players have musical talent, and several play multiple instruments. Adebo, Fisk, freshman quarterback Jack West and sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson play guitar; junior wide receiver Harry Schwartz plays bass, violin and drums; Boles plays alto, tenor and baritone saxophone; St. Brown plays piano; junior wide receiver Donald Stewart plays drums; and Schwartz, Boles, Parkinson, Heimuli and Fisk play the ukulele.

For direction, they can turn to senior fullback Reagan Williams and freshman running back Cameron McFarlane, who compose and produce music.

Creative Handles: Five players are easy to find on Twitter: Ryan Beecher (@thatboybeecher); Frank Buncom (@BeastNamedFrank); Alameen Murphy (@KingLeonidus23); Foster Sarell (@thebigfozbear); and Brandon Simmons (@DoltForTwo).

Fun Fact: Junior tight end Kaden Smith is an accomplished juggler.

Extra Points: Stanford will have 28 players with dual numbers this season. Notables include Love and Okereke (No. 20), Costello and Antoine (No. 3), and Buncom and Connor Wedington (No. 5) . Shaw cited Buncom and running back Cameron Scarlett as two of the most improved players on the team . Competition continues at left guard, where junior Devery Hamilton and sophomore Foster Sarell are battling for playing time . Dalman and senior Brian Chaffin are currently running first and second at center . Stanford held a mock game in the stadium last Friday . Since 2008, the Cardinal has captured 10 straight home openers . Shaw is 14-0 at home against nonconference foes, and Stanford has claimed 19 in a row on its home turf . Stanford (9) and San Diego State (8) have appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. They are the only teams from California to accomplish the feat . Since 2011, Stanford leads the nation in sacks with 289 . The Cardinal has forced a turnover in 11 consecutive contests.

Quotable: “About a quarter-and-a-half in, I’ll kind of learn where we are.” – David Shaw

— #GoStanford —


About the Author

Alforde Joaquin

ALF’s passion for shooting and editing has earned him several awards including an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2006 for Videography. He was also a nominee for the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Videography. A 6-time Emmy recipient for five different categories: Director/Producer, Videography, Editing, Feature Segment and Sound Mixing, Alf has produced over 1,000 video segments and is committed to developing GetSportsFocus as one of the best sports video magazine on the web.