STANFORD, California — Most of the position battles are settled, and the biggest question No. 11 Stanford had entering training camp — the status of top playmaker Ty Montgomery — has been answered.
Cardinal coach David Shaw said team doctors have medically cleared Montgomery to play in Saturday's season opener against UC Davis. He said Montgomery will have no limitations on where or how much he plays, not even with a big home matchup against No. 15 Southern California looming next week.
Montgomery, the team's leading wide receiver and an All-America kick returner, had surgery on his right shoulder in February after playing with the injury part of last season. He also hurt a knee in the Cardinal's loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, an injury Montgomery called "minor."
Shaw said doctors cleared Montgomery to play Monday, which is about a week earlier than expected. He had been held out of contact drills during training camp, and while Shaw has repeatedly praised Montgomery's abilities in practice, the team has been waiting for doctors to decide his availability for games.
"It's what he's been waiting for, it's what he's been training for," Shaw said. "He's just attacked the rehab in such a way that it's gotten him back a little earlier than we anticipated, and he's ready to go."
Montgomery is coming off a breakout season as a junior, leading Stanford in receptions (61), yards receiving (958) and touchdown catches (10). He also had 1,091 yards and two TDs returning kicks.
Shaw said Montgomery will not return every kickoff or punt this season, and it's likely he will not get many repetitions against UC Davis, which is expected to be a typical tuneup game for the two-time defending Pac-12 champions.
But just having Montgomery on the field before facing USC will ease the pressure on an offense that is integrating four new starters on the line and a new running back.
"I don't think any of us doubted that Ty was going to play," quarterback Kevin Hogan said. "He's been looking unbelievable all camp since the first day. You didn't notice any kind of rust at all, which is kind of scary. He's just such a great playmaker in all aspects of the game. We can put him in the backfield, out wide and he has that ability to change the game at any point."
The rest of Stanford's reshuffled roster also is coming into focus. Among the remaining position battles that have been settled — or are close to being settled — entering the opener are:
RUNNING BACK: Stanford listed redshirt junior Kelsey Young as its starting running back on the depth chart. Barry Sanders, Ricky Seale and Remound Wright are all listed as No. 2. But Shaw said he will stick with a running back-by-committee approach early in the season as he has done in the past — until or unless a clear-cut carrier emerges.
"They say that I'm No. 1 on the depth chart now but that can change at any moment," Young said. "It actually makes me even more motivated because I know that my job can be taken at any moment because there are so many guys that are really good that are in that running back room."
LINEBACKER: Junior Blake Martinez will take over Shayne Skov's position at inside linebacker next to fifth-year senior A.J. Tarpley, but don't expect him to paint his face or sport a Mohawk the way Skov did. Martinez said he painted his face a couple times last year but "wasn't feeling" the look. "That was all Shayne," he joked.
Kevin Palma is listed as No. 2 behind Martinez, while Noor Davis is behind Tarpley. Redshirt junior Kevin Anderson also will make his first start at the outside linebacker spot vacated by Trent Murphy.
TOO CLOSE TO CALL: Blake Lueders and Aziz Shittu are listed as co-starters at one defensive end spot, and Ronnie Harris and Alex Carter — who has been an exceptional starter most of the past two seasons — will share snaps at left cornerback for now. Carter missed spring practices with a hip injury and just got cleared to practice less than two weeks ago, and Shaw said Harris has earned the starting nod for the opener based on what he did throughout the offseason.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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