The Stanford football team caught its first break of the 2011 season with the weather Monday, as new coach David Shaw was able to watch his squad practice in near-perfect conditions.
The Cardinal will need plenty more breaks to go their way if they plan on duplicating their 12-1 campaign from last year that was capped by an impressive 40-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
The first step toward repeating last year’s success begins with spring practice, and the Cardinal started a stretch of seven practices over 12 days Monday, the second session of spring practices for Stanford this year that will culminate in the Cardinal and White game at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on April 9.
“We’ve had good practices,” Shaw said. “But as I have said before, we’re not out here just to be good.”
Taking over for Jim Harbaugh, who accepted the coaching position for the 49ers in January, Shaw has the unenviable task of taking over for a very successful coach. But Shaw, who served as the offensive coordinator at Stanford under Harbaugh, knows this team better than any outsider coming in would have. Plus he has Andrew Luck coming back for his senior season instead of heading for the NFL along with Harbaugh.
“It helps,” Shaw said of knowing his players and their capabilities.
Shaw added he knows where the team was already strong and where it needed to focus on to improve. “We’ll get there,” he said.
Shaw will spend the next six practices putting his mark on this team before the spring game. Shaw will then have five months to prepare for his coaching debut on Sept. 3 against San Jose State, the Cardinal’s home opener.
Stanford travels to Duke the following week before opening Pac-12 Conference play at Arizona on Sept. 17. Stanford’s conference home opener comes against UCLA on Oct. 1.
But the game Stanford clearly has circled on its 2011 schedule falls on Nov. 12, when defending
champion Oregon comes to The Farm. The Ducks were the only team to defeat the Cardinal last year and likely denied Stanford a shot at the national championship game. The Cardinal finished No. 4 in the nation after last year’s final poll.
But even though Shaw is a first-year coach, he knows better than to look past any team in the newly formed Pac-12, which will add Utah and Colorado, and that is one of many things, along with the goal of winning the conference this year, that he is instilling into his team.
“We definitely want to be the first champion of the Pac-12,” Shaw said. “That is one of our goals. That starts at practice.”