NCAA FB

Special teams showing up big for No. 5 Stanford

Share This Story

   
 

STANFORD, Calif. (AP)

(Eds: With AP Photos.)By ANTONIO GONZALEZAP Sports Writer

Stanford special teams coach Pete Alamar approached star linebacker Shayne Skov before a recent game to deliver some upsetting news.

With Skov playing so many snaps on defense, coaches needed to find a way to give him more rest. So they decided to slice Skov's time on special teams in half.

''I said, `Hey, I've got to take you off one team. I'm going to take you off punt and leave you on kickoff coverage,''' Alamar said. ''I thought he was going to cry.''

Skov's reaction epitomized the way Stanford players treat special teams - as a blessing, not a burden.

From projected All-Americans and NFL draft picks to backups and fringe freshmen, Stanford's special teams unit is an all-encompassing club. The mix of talent also is a big reason the fifth-ranked Cardinal (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) are still undefeated entering Saturday's game at Utah (3-2, 0-2).

Last week, Washington outgained Stanford 489 to 284 yards. The Huskies had 30 first downs, while the Cardinal finished with 14. And yet Stanford still won 31-28.

The difference? Special teams.

Ty Montgomery racked up 204 yards returning, including going 99 yards untouched for a TD on the opening kickoff. He also returned another 72 yards late in the third quarter to set up the winning score.

''We know how important all three phases are. When we say all three phases, we mean all three of them,'' said Montgomery, who is averaging 33.5 yards per kickoff return, third-best in the nation.

The unit's success has been on both sides of the return game.

Stanford is allowing just four yards per punt return, tied with Oregon for second-best in the conference and 24th in the nation. And the Cardinal are giving up 18.5 yards per kickoff, ranking second in the Pac-12 and 20th in the nation.

Jordan Williamson is 9 for 11 on field goals, the highest percentage of the redshirt junior's college career. The misses came from 52 and 51 yards.

The Cardinal blocked two punts in a 42-28 win over then-No. 23 Arizona State on Sept. 21. Perhaps Stanford's lone lapse on special teams this season came last week, when Travis Coons ran 19 yards run on a fake punt that extended a touchdown drive for Washington in the third quarter.

''It doesn't necessarily spread the message that it's important as much as it does reinforce it,'' Alamar said. ''They know it, but it's good to see it.''

Stanford coach David Shaw said he's always placed an importance on special teams. The difference this year is the same players who started as freshmen on special teams are now some of the best players in the conference.

Skov, Trent Murphy - a possible first-round pick next year - and A.J. Tarpley all start at linebacker and play key roles on coverage or return units. Shaw said he has never asked players to sign up for special teams. He just posts the depth chart, ''and they go to work.''

''It's the biggest yardage switch in the game. Why wouldn't you want your best playing on it?'' Shaw said. ''Special teams, in particular the coverage teams, are about running and hitting. You take your best guys that can run and hit and put them out there. At the same time, we don't worry about, `Oh, what if a guy gets hurt?' No, the guy plays football.''

For some players, special teams is a way to find their niche or get their first chance on the field.

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Ronnie Harris, redshirt junior linebacker Joe Hemschoot, fifth-year senior linebacker Jarek Lancaster and fifth-year nickel cornerback Usua Amanam are some of Stanford's special team aces. But none of them start on defense.

Redshirt freshman Barry Sanders - son of the Hall of Fame running back - is returning more punts, including a shifty 29-yarder against Washington. Highly sought-after freshman wide receiver Francis Owusu made two tackles against the Huskies after Amanam was shaken up.

''It's where you could say you prove yourself a little bit,'' Tarpley said. ''You don't have to master an entire defensive scheme to show that you have the athletic ability to play BCS football. And for me, that's where it all started.''

And for a select few, maybe where it continues.

Shaw said one of the other reasons he puts top players on special teams is to get them ready for possible NFL careers. Not only to build experience, but also to showcase their versatility.

''If you're not a top-10 pick, you're playing special teams,'' Shaw said. ''That's a question most scouts ask, `Does he do anything on teams?' If you say no, they kind of roll their eyes.''

---

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

Tagged: Stanford, Washington, Shayne Skov, Ty Montgomery

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash