This man will replace Andrew Luck at Stanford

This man will replace Andrew Luck at Stanford

From Comcast SportsNet
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- There will be no hiding from Andrew Luck's legacy this season. Every time Josh Nunes walks into the Stanford football offices he will see the trophies Luck helped win. When he runs through the Stanford Stadium tunnel for the first time as the starting quarterback, No. 12 jerseys will be littered throughout the crowd. And if he reads the record books, there's one name dominating the top. "It's the biggest shoes I think you could have to follow," Nunes said. Cardinal coach David Shaw announced Tuesday that the junior quarterback beat out sophomore Brett Nottingham, ending a lengthy and close competition to replace Luck, the NFL's No. 1 overall pick and two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up. Shaw informed both in his office before the morning practice. "Over time, Josh has been the most consistent," Shaw said. "Make no mistake. This is not about wild plays, it's not about doing something outside the framework of the offense. This is about consistency. This is about executing the plays that were called. It's not about who hasn't played well. All of our quarterbacks have competed. All of our quarterbacks have approached this with a workmanlike attitude. But Josh has been the most consistent over this time." Experience is still a major concern. No. 21 Stanford will open the regular season against San Jose State on Aug. 31 with a quarterback who has thrown all of two passes and completed only one -- for all of 7 yards -- in his college career. Both also came two years ago. Nunes (pronounced Noon-es) also will have little time to transition. After playing Duke the following week, a monumental matchup looms against top-ranked Southern California at Stanford Stadium on Sept. 15. "The great thing is the path has been laid for how to be a successful quarterback here at Stanford," Nunes said, referring to Luck's career. "So, really, it's just following that pattern and emulating the kind of player that he was and the kind of person that he was here. I also got to realize I'm not Andrew Luck, and by no means am I trying to be exactly him. I'm trying to come out here and run this high-powered offense that we got and get it to the playmakers that we got." Luck left Stanford as the school's leader in touchdown passes (82), completion percentage (.670), passing efficiency (162.8) and total offense (10,411) -- among other marks -- despite playing only three seasons. A year after rolling past Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl, Luck didn't quite have the finish he had hoped. Stanford lost 41-38 in overtime to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2. Replacing Luck is a task even Shaw had to address the first day of spring practice. "I told them all flat out: Don't try to be Andrew Luck because you can't. It's impossible," Shaw said. "I don't know there's a guy in the nation right now, young or old, that's where Andrew was when he left here. So for us it's about managing the game." While Luck is replacing four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts, Nunes is facing a task equally daunting in the college ranks. Nunes missed most of last year with a right turf toe injury and never saw game action. The native of Upland in Southern California played in four games in 2010. He worked with the first-team offense in Stanford's spring game and started last Sunday's scrimmage, and coaches believe his knowledge of the playbook and game management top Nottingham's strong arm. Nottingham replaced Luck in six games last year, finishing 5 of 8 passing for 78 yards. The quarterback, who played at Monte Vista High School in San Francisco's East Bay, was not made available by Stanford to speak to reporters. A message left at his parents' house seeking comment also was not returned. Shaw wouldn't commit to Nottingham being the backup, insisting redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan will continue to challenge for the spot. But he said the months-long competition made each quarterback and the team better. "It's a very good thing," Shaw said. "If I had to make this decision the first week that would have meant that we didn't have competition. We had a serious competition." Former Stanford tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Griff Whalen, both rookies along with Luck in Indianapolis, said they had just one preference for the next starter. "Whoever wins us games," said Fleener, drafted 34th overall. "They're not throwing me balls, so it's whoever wins games. I'm a Stanford fan forever." Whalen also recognizes the parallels for Luck and Nunes as they try to replace such standouts at quarterback. "It's going to be tough because, whoever it is, is going to be in a similar situation to what Andrew has here," Whalen said before the official announcement. "The important thing is to go one day at a time and focus on the things you can control." While there is no bigger hole to fill than replacing Luck, Stanford has built depth over the last two seasons -- both of which ended at BCS bowls -- and Shaw refuses to call this a rebuilding year. Stanford has a talented mix of tight ends and running backs, including back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher Stepfan Taylor, one of the Pac-12's top defenses and the league's Coach of the Year. The program also has a proven record recently of overcoming key losses, including 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart and coach Jim Harbaugh before last season. If Nunes can be a steady hand at quarterback, perhaps there's no reason Stanford should slip. "Being behind Andrew Luck was pretty much the biggest blessing I think you could ever ask for," Nunes said. "I learned a lot from him and I feel like I'm ready to lead this team."

Quick Links

Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

On Monday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that even though there have been a lot of changes to his team’s defense, there would be no grace period for them to gel and start playing effectively.

“We have a new defensive coordinator, new defensive line coach, new secondary coach,” said Gruden. “We have some new players on defense, some free agent acquisitions, some draft picks. They’re going to have to learn on the fly and learn to play together, which is going to be the biggest challenge for us.

“I don’t think patience is in the dictionary here in D.C. We have to be good now.”

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The defense had plenty of issues last year. They were 19th in points allowed but 28th in yards and 20th in opponents’ passer rating. The unit saved its worst for the most critical situations, finishing 26th in red zone defense and dead last in third-down conversion rate.   

The organization responded by promoting Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator, hiring the well-regarded Jim Tomsula to coach the defensive line, and by bringing in some more talent. Their top two draft picks, DE Jonathan Allen and OLB Ryan Anderson, should contribute to the defense right away. D.J. Swearinger was signed as a free agent to man the free safety spot while Su’a Cravens moves from linebacker to play strong safety. Free agents Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should bolster the defensive line along with Allen.

Cornerback Josh Norman likes the changes and is confident that the team will do better.

“We will be [good]. Fixed points, will be,” he said. “We’ve got guys that’s capable of being that, of doing that. They will do that and we will be better. We’re definitely not going to have the product that we had last year, that’s for sure.

“We’ve got . . . edge rushers out here that’s pretty darn good. We got some guys in the draft that’s going to help us out. In the secondary as well, we brought guys in that’s going to fill that void for us.”

MORE REDSKINS: OTA practice observations 

In addition to drafting Anderson, the Redskins hope to have OLB Junior Galette healthy and contributing to the pass rush this year. He has missed the last two seasons after two Achilles injuries. The last two seasons that Galette played he had double-digit sacks each year and he was out participating in team drills yesterday, a good sign that he is on the road to good health.

“We’re going to be a whole lot better than we was last year,” said Norman. “The stuff they have us going, the scheme we’re going to be playing in is going to fit to what suits us, what we’re most capable of doing. I think it’s going to be a lot different result, the product on the field.”

A better defensive product on the field will almost certainly lead to a better overall Washington Redskins team. They will need to be better to keep up with what looks to be an improved and very competitive NFC East.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

Quick Links

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

There’s no denying what T.J. Oshie has meant to the Capitals over the past two seasons; his goal production spells it out quite clearly. Since 2015, in fact, Oshie’s 59 tallies are second to only Alex Ovechkin’s 83. So, yeah, he’s a critical part of Washington’s potent offense. Oshie’s coaches and teammates also laud the impact his energy has on the ice, bench and dressing room. But that doesn’t mean Oshie is a slam dunk to be back in red next season. He’s going to be expensive to re-sign and the Caps don’t have a lot of room under the salary cap ceiling.   

Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Oshie?

Sorenson: This is an easy one. Yes, yes, yes, yes. I love spending other people’s money!  Absolutely the Capitals need to find a way to make this happen. T.J. Oshie has a young family who loves it here in the DMV, and I would imagine that a longer term deal would trump any kind of short term money another team may offer. In the past, the Caps have been loathe to offer contracts longer than three years, but they did it for two cornerstones on the blue line three years ago in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, who were also unrestricted free agents at the time. Oshie reached career highs in goals in both of his years here in Washington (26, in his first year, 33 in his second), but I believe the intangibles he brings are just as valuable. Oshie is a guy who is almost always smiling, he loves hockey, loves his teammates, and seems to find joy coming to the rink every day.This is an important perspective to have in this day and age when professional sports quickly become a pressure-filled business. Oshie also helps draw some of the attention away from the other stars on the team, which means that pressure is spread around more equally, which is better for everyone.

RELATED: Why the Caps will not trade Alex Ovechkin

El-Bashir: Let’s weigh the pros and cons. (When considering this season’s stats, remember Oshie missed 14 games). First, the pros: As I mentioned in the intro, Oshie is the second best goal scorer on the Caps. He’s integral piece on the league’s third-ranked power play (7 ppg) and can be dangerous on the penalty kill, as well. He brings it every shift of every game. In fact, I’d argue that no Cap plays harder on a nightly basis. Oshie does the small things, too. He ranked first among Caps forwards in blocked shots (50), second in takeaways (49), third in hits (95) and third penalties drawn per 60 minutes (1.14). In the playoffs, Oshie’s 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) were second only to Nicklas Backstrom’s 13. Now for the cons: Oshie, at age 30, ain’t getting any younger. He was one of five 30-somethings to hit the 30-goal plateau last season (out of the 26 players who netted 30 or more goals). Additionally, the miles on Oshie’s generously listed 6-foot, 189-pound frame are hard miles and his injury history shows that he tends to get banged up and miss games. Considering all the above factors, here’s my take: if the plan is to contend next year, the Caps need to figure this one out, even if it means he’s the only UFA they retain and it forces a tough decision with regard to another player (or even two). The free agent market does not appear to be a great option and no one currently on the roster is ready to replicate Oshie’s production.    

Regan: If there was no such thing as a salary cap, absolutely they should re-sign T.J. Oshie. The Caps searched for years for a top line winger to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and Oshie was the best answer this team has had since Mike Knuble. But there is a salary cap and Washington is going to be up against it. Oshie has made it clear he wants to stay, but there is no way Washington can afford to pay him anywhere close to what he can command on the open market and every player has that point where there is just too much money left on the table to ignore. If you can somehow make the numbers work, I am all for it, but I also do not think the Caps should handcuff their entire offseason plans so they can re-sign a 30-year-old winger who surpassed 30 goals for the first time in his career in a contract year. You always have to overpay for free agents and honestly, if you give Oshie something like a five-year deal for $6 or 7 million per year, I have a hard time believing he will still be living up to that contract in years four and five. If there's any way to bring him back for a reasonable number, do it, but I am not about to get into a bidding war for him.

Previous questions: