No Gerhart, but plenty of Luck for Stanford
STANFORD – Stanford sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck engaged in a variety of football activities as he continued to find ways to improve after a successful freshman year. One of the more peculiar was his work on something Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh called eye discipline.
Luck received training from Stanford wide receiver coach Pep Hamilton and offensive coordinator David Shaw to help discipline eye movement pre-snap and post-snap.
“They put me in position to make my eyes look at the right things,” said Luck, the Pac-10’s top returning quarterback in terms of passing efficiency. “I think I’ve improved from playing last year, through spring and training camp.”
Luck completed more than 56 percent of his passes last season in leading the Cardinal to their first bowl appearance in eight years. A broken right hand forced him out of Stanford’s 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.
Luck will be the centerpiece of Stanford’s offense when the Cardinal open the season against visiting Sacramento State on Saturday. Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart, who set the school record with 1,871 rushing yards last season, runs in the NFL these days. Luck will be called upon to take more offensive responsibility.
“I think as the returning starting quarterback I will naturally evolve into more of a leader,” he said.
The starting running back remains undetermined, though Harbaugh has at least four to choose from, including returning backs Jeremy Stewart, Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney. Luck is the team’s leading returning rusher.
Stanford has four of its five starting offensive linemen back, along with three-year starting fullback Owen Marecic, who will also start at inside linebacker for the Cardinal.
“I can get into the rhythm of the game a little bit faster,” Marecic said. “Like in high school. I like being on the field and I just have to maintain focus and mental discipline.”
Sacramento State, meanwhile, plays Stanford for the first time in football but there’s some familiarity. Hornets coach Marshall Sperbeck spent 15 years at Foothill Junior College, just across a freeway from the Stanford campus, and Sacramento quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson made his college debut against Stanford when he played at UCLA in 2007. Running back Curtis Shaw is a Washington transfer.
“There was some good and some bad,” Sperbeck said after the Hornets’ final scrimmage. “We had a chance to look at some of our young guys. I thought both sides of the ball did some nice things at times but there were other times that could have been better.”
The Hornets finished strong last season, winning three of their final four games. Bethel-Thompson appeared in six games, starting two.
Sacramento State’s running game will be bolstered by the return of redshirt junior Bryan Hilliard, the team’s leading rusher in 2007 and 2008. He missed last year following shoulder surgery.
“They do things that will put pressure on the defense,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve done a nice job of building the roster to become more athletic.”