A Brutal Week

Dr. Dan Garza

It's not an easy time at Stanford. Dr. Dan Garza, a man who truly embodied the school's spirit of innovation, has passed away at a young age. Here are the nuts and bolts of Wednesday's news, along with head-turning new nuggets from practice.

A Tragic Loss
Dr. Dan Garza, a pioneer in concussion research at Stanford and the medical director of the San Francisco 49ers, died on Tuesday night. A report from the university confirmed the news.

It had already been a rough week for Stanford football before the horrible news hit Wednesday night. Suddenly, the Cardinal's loss to Utah and a poorly-timed deluge of injuries didn't seem so important anymore.

Garza, who embodied Stanford's spirit of cutting-edge innovation through his research on the prevention of traumatic brain injury in athletes, was only 43 years old when he passed away. He attended a Cardinal football practice just a few weeks ago.

"Dan Garza was very dedicated to sports medicine, to teaching human physiology and to his research to improve recovery and treatment outcomes for athletes," said Dr. William Maloney, the chairman of Stanford's department of orthopedic surgery. "He was persistent in his desire to find solutions to one of the most concerning areas in our field: the prevention of concussions and head trauma. We are saddened by his loss and the loss to our profession."

Garza had teamed with Dr. David Camarillo at Stanford to conduct extensive studies on the risks of concussions by fitting Cardinal athletes with high-tech mouthpieces that measure the impact and frequency of collisions. He advocated educating athletes and parents about the potential for injury at the youth sport level.

Just four months ago, Garza and Camarillo joined The Bootleg Radio to detail their groundbreaking work. True to his thoughtful form, Garza brought a 49ers t-shirt as a gift to the recording studio. He graciously delved into the fascinating details of how Stanford football players have become active participants in the quest to understand concussions and brain trauma in sports.

"It starts with coach [David] Shaw and you don't get individuals like him in many places," Garza said in the interview, which is embedded below. "He brings to the team the spirit of Stanford, which is innovation, research, and intellectual curiosity."

Luck, Rice, Willingham All On Playoff Committee
The committee that will determine the four-team field for the new college football playoff in 2014 will feature three members with Stanford ties. Oliver Luck (Andrew's father), former coach Tyrone Willingham, and former provost and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will all be part of the 13-person committee. Rice spoke at length about her football background Thursday, even bringing up interesting tidbits of Stanford trivia: As provost, she hired Willingham in 1998 and was on the committee that interviewed Denny Green and Pete Carroll, both of whom were finalists for the Cardinal head coaching job, in 1988. Green ended up getting the job.

When a reporter asked Rice whether he should refer to her as "Professor" or "Former Secretary," she responded with a laugh: "Just call me Condi."

Practice Notes
  • Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson tweaked a leg muscle, and Shaw is uncertain whether or not he'll be be available for the Cardinal's Saturday showdown against UCLA. "He's working through it, he saw the doctors today," he said. "Not too bad, but he's gotta be able to swing through [kicks]." Stanford should have more answers regarding Williamson's status by Friday. Conrad Ukropina, who's been kicking well at practice, is the team's back-up option.

  • Shaw was thrilled with how Stanford practiced on Wednesday, the final fully physical practice of the week. Since the Cardinal has reached the midpoint of the regular season, Thursday sessions will become less grueling to allow players to better recuperate between games. "It went really well today," Shaw said. "Great, great effort today. They understand what it takes, how we have to play, how we have to practice. They know that we'll take care of them coaching-wise come Thursday, so they got after it today."

  • Luke Kaumatule is again "a day better" at defensive end after his position switch from tight end at the start of the week. "The bottom line: It's high effort," Shaw said. "It's exactly what we need. Right now, we anticipate him getting some playing time."

  • Shaw also provided more insight into the struggles of Stanford's other reserve defensive linemen, who just got more competition for playing time in the form of Kaumatule and outside linebacker Blake Lueders. No. 43 is expected to contribute at defensive end against UCLA this Saturday. "[We] haven't seen the consistency [from them]," Shaw said. "That's what it takes to get on the field and give us some significant minutes... Right now, Luke's doing just as well as the guys who have been there all year, so it looks like he's going to get some playing time."

  • When Kaumatule moved to defensive end on the depth chart earlier this week, Aziz Shittu's name dropped off the document entirely. There's been speculation that Shaw is maneuvering to motivate the sophomore, who was one of the nation's highly-touted recruit coming out of high school in the Central Valley. But Shittu has averaged only a couple snaps per game. "He's in there to spell," Shaw said. "He's not to the point where we put him out there and leave him out there. He goes in when somebody's tired, and it's usually when two guys are tired, because we've got a good little rotation with three guys on the outside, and if we've got two guys who are gassed, that's when Aziz goes in... Between Luke and Blake Lueders, I think we've got a pretty good handle on helping those guys out."

  • Nose tackle David Parry (lower abdominal issue) practiced full-go. "It was good," Shaw said. "He knows Wednesday is his day. We treat him on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. He gets a lot of work in Wednesday, minimal -- but good -- reps on Thursday, and get him ready for Saturday."

  • Shaw said that Francis Owusu and Barry Sanders have very similar roles right now. "We're going to give them a few plays a game just to ramp up their experience level," he said. "Both are very talented, good football players. At some point, hopefully Francis will get his hands on the ball."

    David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.

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