STANFORD -- One week into training camp, no position on the Stanford depth chart is more competitive than nickel back, where the list of candidates runs eight deep.

That's more than the number of players dueling to replace linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, combined.

Jordan Richards, one of the top safeties in the Pac-12, has taken reps at nickel.

So has presumptive starting cornerback Wayne Lyons.

"It's a revolving door,'' coach David Shaw said.

Resolution is essential. In the Pac-12, where the spread offense dominates and four-receiver formations are the norm, the nickel back is as important as any traditional position on defense.

The Cardinal lined up in nickel on 70 percent of its snaps last season, usually with senior Usua Amanam serving as the fifth defensive back.

"Especially in this conference, it's vital,'' Richards said. "You really need two or three guys to know what they're doing (at nickel). We're all competing.''

Zach Hoffpauir and Ronnie Harris are the best bets to replace Amanam.

  • The assistant coach in charge of sorting through the options at nickel is a newcomer, Duane Akina.

    Akina spent the past 13 years at Texas under then-coach Mack Brown before joining the Cardinal in March.

    "Mack and I had multiple long conversations,'' Shaw said. "He said (Akina) was one of the best coaches he's been around.


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    "He's very similar to (former secondary coach) Derek Mason. The guys know he cares about their success. They feel that passion.''

  • Shaw had little reaction to the landmark ruling against the NCAA on Friday in the Ed O'Bannon case.

    Judge Claudia Wilken, a Stanford alum, ruled that major college football and men's basketball players are entitled to compensation of at least $5,000 annually for the use of their name, image and likeness. A trust fund will be established, with the money available upon the expiration of eligibility.

    "It's what we all expected; it's been coming for six months,'' Shaw said. "The next step is to what happens with the NCAA rules and regulations. I'm curious to see what happens next.''

  • Stanford held the first of two public practices Saturday morning. The workout had limited contact and no scrimmage, but it featured another first-class performance by defensive end Henry Anderson. "We don't have an answer for him,'' Shaw said.

  • Clarity is emerging at several positions:

    As expected, Johnny Caspers is the front-runner at right guard. Blake Martinez has been impressive at inside linebacker. Kyle Olugbode, of Bellarmine College Prep, has the lead at free safety. And Austin Hooper, of De La Salle, is expected to start at tight end.

  • Dalton Schultz, the No. 1 tight end recruit in the country, will likely redshirt, Shaw said.

    Visit Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com.

    or 408-920-5716.