Luck dominates Stanford's spring game
All those wondering what might change after Stanford's offseason coaching shakeup were given an emphatic answer Saturday.
Apparently, not much.
Andrew Luck threw for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a familiar performance for the Heisman Trophy runner-up, leading the Cardinal to a 42-3 rout of the White in Stanford's annual spring game.
''There was a lot of points on the board, so I guess it worked out,'' Luck said, chuckling.
A clear, sunny day at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Park was a showcase for Luck and new coach David Shaw.
This spring has been a transition for both of them since Jim Harbaugh left to coach the 49ers, and the game was the first chance to see what the offense would like under the new coach-quarterback duo. Turns out, it was almost a complete duplicate of the one Stanford used during last season's incredible run.
And Luck looked more comfortable than ever.
Luck finished 16 for 22 passing and led the Cardinal to TD drives on all four of his possessions. He also found a new favorite target in tight end Zach Ertz, who caught all three touchdown passes and finished with 64 yards receiving.
''I think a little bit of it was feeling each other out, seeing where this team's going to go,'' Luck said. ''The spring provides a good base of something to work on for this offseason, for this summer, for training camp. Guys are starting to step up and they realize it's going to take a lot more work to be a good team.''
Expectations will certainly be high come fall.
Luck returns at quarterback after putting off being the NFL draft's likely No. 1 pick and several starters are back from a 12-1 team that finished fourth in the final AP poll, the school's best ranking since the unbeaten 1940 team finished second. Stanford is almost certain to be a preseason Top 10 pick and, along with Oregon, a favorite for the inaugural Pac-12 title.
''We want to start where we left off and improve,'' linebacker Shayne Skov said. ''We want to be the best, and we weren't last year. So that's our goal.''
One of the biggest things Shaw wanted to accomplish this spring was putting his stamp on the program.
That transition from offensive coordinator to coach has only been smoother with Luck's return. Shaw has asked Luck to have more input on the game plan and even play calling.
He also expects Luck to be involved in more coaches meetings and play a more active role in implementing the offensive schemes. All that was on display for the first time Saturday - albeit against the second-team players - and was deemed a success.
''That is a huge key,'' Shaw said. ''We're asking Andrew to take the next step. We're asking him to be the player that he was last year and even more of a leader and even take more control of the offense.''
About the only other change in the spring game was Shaw's selection of the teams.
Instead of dividing starters like Stanford did under Harbaugh, Shaw decided to have the starters face the second unit so players could see action with their usual squads. Starting linebacker Chase Thomas and tight end Coby Fleener were the only notables held out of the game, both for ''precautionary reasons,'' Shaw said. He did not disclose their injuries.
The game wrapped up Stanford's 15-allotted spring practices, and Shaw was pleased with what he was able to accomplish in a limited time.
''We have a lot of confidence,'' Shaw said. ''We're not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination. But I like that guys are playing with confidence, and Andrew has a lot to do with that.''