No. 16 Stanford using bye week to rest, recruit
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) David Shaw had to search through his practice plans from 2011 to determine how he wanted to approach Stanford's two-week stretch between games.
Forgive the coach for needing a refresher. After all, it has been three years since Stanford had a full bye week - and this season it actually has two.
The Cardinal had a couple of extra days off before and after a Thursday night game each of the past two seasons, which Shaw called ''fake byes.'' Coming off a 35-0 win over Army on Saturday, the next game for No. 16 Stanford (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) is at Washington on Sept. 27. Stanford also has a bye Nov. 8 between games against Oregon and Utah.
Shaw said he has shortened his practices this week from what he did in 2011. He also will have his defense face a scout team mimicking an up-tempo offense to prepare for Pac-12 opponents and put underclassmen through a scrimmage before giving every player the weekend to get away from football.
''As a coach, I've learned to be a little more lax with giving some guys some time off,'' Shaw said. ''Because when I played, it was the old 11-week season. Now you're playing 12 games in 14 weeks, and hopefully you play more. It's taxing.''
Shaw is planning to go on a recruiting trip to Southern California for the second straight week. He will send his coaching staff on recruiting trips, too.
Other than that, he said it is business as usual on The Farm and he wants to use this week as he would any other - as a chance to clean up mistakes and improve.
Shaw said he is mostly pleased with Stanford's start, though he'd obviously love to be undefeated. The Cardinal crushed UC Davis 45-0 and lost 13-10 to USC before overwhelming Army - all at home.
Among the things that have stood out through Stanford's first three games:
DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: Losing star linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, free safety Ed Reynolds, defensive end Ben Gardner and coordinator Derek Mason hasn't slowed down Stanford's defense this season.
Stanford has two shutouts in its first three games for the first time since 1949, and the Cardinal rank No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (4.3 points) and total defense (204.3 yards) per game.
Shaw credited new defensive coordinator Lance Anderson for keeping the momentum Mason and Vic Fangio had going before him. He also mentioned inside linebackers A.J. Tarpley and Blake Martinez, defensive end Henry Anderson and strong safety Jordan Richards as key cogs in the unit's transition.
''The best thing about this defense, to me, is that it's hard to say who the best player on the defense is,'' Shaw said. ''It's hard to say who the heartbeat of the defense is.''
NEW LOOK O-LINE: The offense's inconsistency can be traced in large part to the new offensive line, which features four new starters alongside left tackle Andrus Peat. Shaw said Peat and right tackle Kyle Murphy have been exceptional, and the three younger players in the middle - left guard Joshua Garnett, center Graham Shuler and right guard Johnny Caspers - just need more experience playing together.
RUNNING BACK COMMITTEE: Shaw has said since the Rose Bowl that he would go with a running back-by-committee approach this season to replace 1,700-yard rusher Tyler Gaffney, and he's not backing off that statement now.
The quartet of Kelsey Young, Barry Sanders, Remound Wright and Ricky Seale has, like the offense, produced mixed results. While it's a small sample size, Stanford is averaging 158.7 yards rushing after running for 207.4 yards per game last season.
Sanders and Young have been the Cardinal's top carriers. Sanders, the son of the Hall of Fame running back with the same name, has 142 yards rushing on 18 carries; Young has 122 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Shaw said rotating running backs is not having a negative effect on the offensive line or the running backs. Instead, he said both just need to be more consistent.
''It's not as much jelling between those two as you would say a quarterback and receiver that need to get used to each other,'' Shaw said. ''They've got to make the holes where the holes need to be, and the running backs need to be on their tracks so they can get to the holes.''
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP