NCAA

Stanford's Shaw using lessons from Gruden with McCaffrey

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Stanford's Shaw using lessons from Gruden with McCaffrey

Editor's note: The above video is from Nov. 11, 2015.

Christian McCaffrey had the kind of season you dream of last year as a sophomore for Stanford. The jack of all trades running back set a new NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards, which led him to being named the AP College Football Player of the Year and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. 

His head coach David Shaw knows the payer he has on his hands. Instead of staying content, Shaw will push his star. 

"I think when you have a great player, the last thing you want to do is pump the brakes," Shaw said at Pac-12 Media Day on Friday.

Shaw learned this lesson when he was the Raiders' quarterbacks coach in 2001. At 36 years old, Rich Gannon had one of his best seasons of his career. Instead of sit back, head coach Jon Gruden continued to push Gannon.

"When I was in Oakland we had Rich Gannon, and Rich at a later stage of his career had really hit his stride. He was one of the best players in the league. He was league MVP, all‑pro, Pro Bowl, led the team to the Super Bowl.

"One of the things Jon Gruden said about having Rich when Rich was really playing well, the natural tendency for a coach sometimes is to say, okay, he's okay, I've got to worry about everyone else, and Jon said it's the exact opposite," Shaw remembered. 

Gannon followed his 2001 Pro Bowl season with an even better performance the next year year. In 2002, Gannon was named an All-Pro for the second time in his career and won his first MVP. He also led the Raiders to the Super Bowl, but lost to Gruden's Buccaneers. 

"When you've got a great player, you have to challenge that great player, you have to push that great player, because he'll push the rest of the team, and that's what we did with Andrew, that's what we're doing with Christian," Shaw said about McCaffrey's upcoming season. 

McCaffrey is already near the top of the list for Heisman odds for this season, and has been named to multiple watch lists for the top awards in college football. Can he handle an even larger workload this season? Shaw has no doubts in his horse.

"We're going to put more on his shoulders because he can handle it. We're going to push him harder, push him further, and see if there's more that he can do."

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

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USATSI

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

SANTA CLARA -- Quinnen Williams proved Monday night that he can talk a big game, even if he doesn’t play one.

The Alabama defensive tackle, whom many project to be a top-five pick if he leaves school for the 2019 NFL draft, didn’t exactly show out in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium. The redshirt sophomore finished with just four total tackles (three solo, one assist) and 1.5 for loss.

Williams went relatively unnoticed in Clemson’s 44-16 rout, except for this first-quarter stop that showcased his power.

Williams, who entered the game tied for second on the Crimson Tide with eight sacks this season, didn’t register any noticeable pass rush -- to be fair, no one on Alabama did -- as the Tigers handily won the title.

Still, Williams wasn’t that impressed by what he saw from the now-national champions.

“They really didn’t do anything that caught us off guard,” Williams said. “We knew everything that was coming. They ran zone. They ran go routes, 50-50 balls.

“[Clemson QB] Trevor Lawrence threw the ball, and it looked like he put it on the money. He didn’t drop dimes, none of that. He threw it up, and the receivers made plays. All the respect to the receivers.”

While Williams later called Lawrence “good,” his comments were reminiscent of his pre-Orange Bowl words on Kyler Murray, when he smartly stopped himself from criticizing Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Williams showed no such restraint this time, and while you could chalk it up to the hurt of losing a national title game, NFL teams surely will ask him in pre-draft interviews about how he'll handle such situations.

As for his NFL draft status, Williams didn’t want to say much, claiming he really hadn’t thought about the possibility of turning pro after the season.

“I don’t know yet, man,” he said. “I got to go home, watch this film first, get with my teammates and let them know, man, everything.”

New Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, whose team has been linked to Williams with the No. 4 overall pick in numerous mock drafts, saw the defensive tackle in person Monday. Whether he liked what he saw or heard remains to be seen over the next three months.

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

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AP

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

SANTA CLARA -- The Clemson Tigers came into Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship with a shorter list of 2019 NFL Draft talents than their counterparts, the Alabama Crimson Tide. But not if you ask some notable alumni.

To Houston Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the next wave of NFL stars are Tigers.

“The way they prepare here at Clemson, the strength and condition program, Joey Batson and Larry Greenlee do a good job of getting those guys ready for the next level," Hopkins told NBC Sports Bay Area after Clemson's stunning 44-16 blowout win in the title game at Levi's Stadium. "I think they’re definitely ready for the next level."

Clemson has produced 29 picks in the last five NFL drafts. The last time the program didn't have one of its players called come April was all the way back in 2002.

Watching with former Clemson stars Deshaun Watson, Vic Beasley Jr., Mike Williams, and Tajh Boyd, Hopkins witnessed one of the greatest teams in college football history. The 2018 Tigers accomplished a feat 121 years in the making, becoming the first FBS football team to go 15-0 or 16-0 since Penn in 1897.

“To me, it means a lot. I’m from Clemson, S.C., so to see this team do what they did … I think they are (the greatest ever)," Hopkins said. "I think they can be one of the best teams ever. Do it again next year, for sure.”

The last statement is what means the most to Hopkins and everyone else who once wore a Clemson Tigers jersey. Coach Dabo Swinney took to the podium immediately after the win and said he'll soak it all up now, but he'll get back to film Friday and start preparing for next season.

“I think this is the next dynasty," Hopkins said. "Deshaun Watson started it by winning a national championship here. I think those guys are going to continue it.

"I think they’re gonna be here next year and the year after.”

That's not hard to imagine, either.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence wowed with his precision passing, throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His top target, Justyn Ross, made one-handed catches as a recently turned 19-year-old and finished the night with six catches for 148 yards and two TDs.

Clemson made its fourth playoff clash with Alabama look easy. The biggest names in the NFL know, too, that these could be the next stars of not only Saturdays but Sundays before we know it.