WITH E.J. SMITH out for the season because of an injury, Casey Filkins takes the lead role in the Stanford ground game going into Saturday night's Pac-12 contest against Oregon in Eugene.
Against Washington last week, Filkins rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries in his first start and caught two passes for 29 yards. A bobble on a pass-play that resulted in a red-zone interception tempered Filkins' performance somewhat, but David Shaw felt good about handing the reins to the 2019 Gatorade Oregon high school player of the year.
"He's got the ability to be fast, quick, and explosive," said Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. "He's got vision. He's got balance to change direction and make people miss. He gets yards after contact.
"He's a talented young man who is only going to get better. There's a lot more on his shoulders, but I know he's more than capable."
Filkins returns to his home state where, as a senior at Lake Oswego High in 2019, he rushed for 2,500 yards on 315 carries and scored 37 touchdowns. He led the Lakers to a second consecutive Class 6A state championship game appearance. In 2018, Filkins was the state Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year and state championship game MVP.
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A WEEK AGO, Smith felt he soon would be back on the field. But those plans must wait until 2023.
Smith, a junior, rushed for 118 yards on 11 carries and scored two touchdowns in the opener against Colgate, scoring on an 87-yard run on the season's first play from scrimmage. Against USC, he ran for 88 yards on 19 carries and scored a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury that will now cost him the season.
"He's a special young man and a special football player," Shaw said. "He was really coming into his own. The future's bright, and we still expect him to be the special player that we envision and he envisions. It's just not going to happen this year."
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Stephen Herron and Kendall Williamson on the tackle against USC. Photo by Jim Shorin/ISIphotos.com.
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WITH THE LOSS of guard Branson Bragg, who retired for medical reasons, and of tackles Myles Hinton and Walter Rouse because of injury against Washington, the Cardinal offensive line had a much different look than anticipated before the season.
Tanner McKee was sacked eight times and, combined with three turnovers, Stanford struggled to score against the Huskies.
On Tuesday, Shaw described the status of Hinton and Rouse as "questionable" for Oregon. If they can't go, the line would be (from left tackle to right tackle): Barrett Miller, Jake Hornibrook, Drake Nugent, Levi Rogers, and Connor McLaughlin.
Jay Symonds could be out as well, which would put sophomore Shield Taylor on top of the depth chart at fullback.
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SHAW EMPHASIZED THAT protecting the quarterback is a team responsibility and should not be put fully on the backs of the offensive line, but rather the tight ends, running backs, and the quarterback himself too must be accountable.
"It's on all of us, protecting the quarterback's a group project," Shaw said. "When Tanner's clean in the pocket, he's special. I said it after the game, I believe even more now after watching the film, is there were five big-time NFL throws on that film. Amazing throws. Throws guys on Sunday make.
"We keep him clean, give him an opportunity to get it out, he's as good as anybody in college football, one of the best."
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Michael Wilson. Photo by Bob Drebin/ISIphotos.com.
MICHAEL WILSON had six catches for 176 yards against Washington and scored on a 78-yard fourth-quarter touchdown play.
His performance reinforced the idea that Stanford's passing game can be lethal if McKee has time to throw. Stanford hasn't played its best game yet, Shaw said, but the potential for great things is out there.
"That's constantly what we're trying to pursue every day, individually and as a team," Wilson said. "For myself, how good can I be? What is my maximum ability? What is my potential when it's realized to its fullest? And we're still yet to find out what a complete game looks like for our receiving corps.
"When Tanner has time to throw the ball, he can put it on the money. This is just another opportunity for us to show what we can do as a receiving corps. If all four of us (Wilson, Elijah Higgins, John Humphreys, and Brycen Tremayne) can play at our top ability, I don't see us being able to be stopped by anyone in the country, because I have that much confidence in all of our receivers.
"We've just got to continue to work every day in practice and build confidence not only in each other, but in the coaching staff and Tanner. Eventually, the lid's going to pop off and we're going to put the country on notice."
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SINCE 2010, the Stanford-Oregon series has been one of the most entertaining in the country. Stanford leads, 7-6, in that span, with games helping regularly determine the Pac-12 North Division title.
Last year, Stanford beat the No. 3 Ducks in overtime, 31-24, at Stanford Stadium.
McKee threw a TD pass on an untimed down at the end of regulation to tie the game and another on the opening possession of overtime. McKee came back after leaving for a play on the final drive of regulation with an injury to tie it on a 2-yard pass to Higgins after a holding penalty by Oregon in the end zone extended the game one play.
McKee then gave the Cardinal the lead with a 14-yarder to Humphreys in overtime. Stanford then forced Oregon QB Anthony Brown to throw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-8 to seal its fourth victory against an Oregon team ranked in the top 10 since 2009.
This will be the 10th anniversary of another epic Stanford-Oregon matchup. Against the No. 1 Ducks on Nov. 18, 2012, Kevin Hogan, in his first start, found Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone with 1:35 left to send the game into overtime. Jordan Williamson kicked a 37-yard field goal at Autzen Stadium to win it. The momentum propelled Stanford to its first Rose Bowl victory in 51 years.
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Kendall Williamson and defensive backs. Photo by Bob Drebin/ISIphotos.com.
SAFETY KENDALL WILLIAMSON, working toward his master's in sociology, likes to be ultra-organized. With the beginning of the fall quarter on Monday, he described his strategy for time management.
"I like to plan out my schedule for the entire quarter, usually toward the start with all the meetings, practices, class, sections, and all that type of stuff so that I know where I need to be at pretty much every single point of the day. Also, so I can block off my free time to figure out when I can do homework, when I'm going to watch film, and all the other things I need to do.
"It's definitely a little bit more hectic, but after a couple of weeks, it starts to calm down a little bit."
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WILLIAMSON DOESN'T MIND 8 p.m. start times, because it gives him more time to prepare. On the other hand, Wilson said he doesn't like waiting around so long throughout the day.
Shaw also is not a fan of the 8 p.m. kickoffs.
"I'd love to live in a world where we cap start times at 7 o'clock," Shaw said. "Cap them at 7 o'clock on the weekends and 6 o'clock if you're playing on a Thursday night.
"It's really difficult for college students coming back at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning, to have an opportunity to get some rest and get some schoolwork done. These are student-athletes, they have other responsibilities. And, for the road team on these 8 o'clock start times, I think it's unfair."