Stanback eager to compete
DAVE BOLING; STAFF WRITER
RENTON – Adding another free agent to a Seahawks roster already bulging with wide receivers doesn’t exactly require the breaking into regularly scheduled programming to report the news.
But Isaiah Stanback is not just another Kole Heckendorf or one of the other hopefuls in the gang of 15 receivers suiting up these days for the Seahawks in offseason training sessions.
Yes, Stanback faces odds as long as many of the others, because the team might keep only five or six when the season rolls around.
Stanback is a story for now, though, because he’s coming home as an evolved player and because he offers some physical attributes that coach Pete Carroll sees as extremely rare.
As coach at USC, Carroll watched Stanback when he was a promising recruit from Garfield High School, and Carroll sweated out a narrow win in 2006 when Stanback quarterbacked the Washington Huskies against his Trojans.
When Stanback was cut by New England recently, Carroll wanted to take an even closer look at how far he’s come in his conversion to wide receiver. On Tuesday, Stanback was on the field with the Seahawks, trying to acclimate to a new team and scheme.
“I’ve had great respect for his ability, his all-around athleticism,” Carroll said. “He has terrific speed and explosion.”
Stanback’s speed has attracted coaches for years. He once placed fifth in the Pacific-10 Conference 100-meter finals. Surely, it was a factor when Dallas used a fourth-round draft pick on him and envisioned him as a secondary-stretching wideout.
But Carroll tossed out an intriguing teaser when asked about Stanback on Tuesday.
“He can offer some help to do some things if we needed it at the quarterback spot to salvage a few situations,” Carroll said, adding that he was “anxious to see what he offers us.”
The Hawks already have three quarterbacks on the depth chart, but Carroll’s comment suggests that he might see Stanback as a possible “Wildcat” quarterback on occasion.
Stanback also has shown that he can return kicks in the league.
But he knows that if he makes the team, it will be in the primary role as receiver. And, in that regard, he’s still on the steep part of the learning curve.
“It’s taken some time, and I’m still learning, obviously, and I’ve still got a lot to learn,” Stanback said. “I’ve tried to pick up as much as I can along the way from the coaching staff and guys I’ve played with … trying to get better every day.”
It might seem that all of his experience at quarterback would aid his transition to receiver, but Stanback said there’s been surprisingly little carryover.
“It’s a totally different perspective on the field,” he said. “You’re not in the center of the field anymore, you’re on the outside looking in. The defenses don’t look at all the same. There really isn’t a lot of correlation.”
When Stanback entered the league, he was getting over foot surgery, and he has had a shoulder injury to overcome as well. In two seasons with Dallas and last season in New England, he has appeared in 16 games, catching five passes and returning 14 kicks.
As he’s discovered, even the best speed doesn’t always translate to getting open as a receiver.
“Footwork,” he said when asked about the most important part of his new position. “There’s so much technique to learn about being a receiver, and it’s based on what the defense presents. There’s a lot of thinking. There’s footwork and timing and learning the relationship with the quarterback. Most of the best receivers who played the game haven’t been the fastest guys.”
To find himself out of work and then suddenly land with his hometown team was surreal, he said.
But he doesn’t have time to celebrate. He said he’s spending long days studying the playbook to learn an “entirely new system.”
What he is not bothering to study is the length of the depth chart. Or the odds of his hooking on with the Seahawks for good.
“It’s competition,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s six other guys or 20, it’s the same thing, coming out and doing the things you’re supposed to do. Whoever can do the most to help the team win are the ones who are going to stay around.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com