There was big news at Stanford head coach David Shaw’s weekly press conference on Tuesday. Sophomore Kevin Hogan, who has seen a few snaps at quarterback over the past few weeks, will see significantly more playing time moving forward.
Earlier this season, Shaw proclaimed that he didn’t believe in rotating quarterbacks. But now, after current starter senior Josh Nunes’ struggles and Hogan’s continued development, Shaw felt that he had to do something.
This is beginning to feel like the beginning of the end for Nunes’ tenure as the Stanford starting quarterback. When asked if he could see a situation in which Hogan could earn the starting role with continued good play, Shaw simply said “yes.”
It’s a dramatic shift from the rhetoric heard earlier this season, and turned heads all around the program. Shaw’s most jarring point was that Nunes and Hogan are now competing for every play in practice. Whoever runs a play better in his practice reps will run that play in the game.
For this week, Shaw thinks this will lead to somewhere between 12 and 20 snaps for Hogan. Shaw also hopes to include some combination of short stretches of plays and full drives for the sophomore signal caller.
Nunes didn’t seem visibly shaken by the move when speaking to reporters yesterday, but he is always fairly calm during these sessions. He reiterated that he needs to be more consistent, a constant message from week to week by the quarterback.
Lost in this new battle is Nunes’ main contender from August’s training camp, Brett Nottingham. The redshirt sophomore has been pretty much an afterthought for most of this season. When asked about how Nottingham has looked at practice during the season, Shaw simply said that he’s looked “fine,” followed by a long silence before the next question.
Another freshman seeing his playing time rise recently is offensive tackle Andrus Peat. The true freshman Peat played almost every play of the second half against Washington State at left tackle, with junior David Yankey in at left guard.
However, this ascension took a blow Monday night, when Peat injured his finger at practice. Shaw’s initial prognosis is that Peat will not play against Colorado, but nothing is official yet.
But there is good news for Stanford on the injury front. Sophomore wide receiver Ty Montgomery is continuing to recover from his lower leg injury. Shaw did say that he probably still won’t know if Montgomery will play until Thursday, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign.
Besides the injuries, Stanford’s biggest concern this week is with the altitude at Colorado. Boulder is located at over a mile above sea level, presenting a challenge this Stanford team hasn’t faced since 1990.
Shaw related his memories from that 1990 game, which was shockingly close for Buffalo fans. Stanford led 14-0 early and then 17-14 in the fourth quarter against the sixth-ranked Buffs. However, thanks to two questionable calls on fourth down, Colorado scored to win the game with under a minute left, a reminder that Stanford has had officiating issues for a very long time.
Shaw, in addition to his experience back in 1990, does have a significant amount of experience coaching at altitude. As a member of the Oakland Raiders coaching staff, he traveled to Denver every year to face the division rival Broncos.
Contrary to what many people would think, Shaw told reporters that the biggest challenge for players at altitude is the first quarter and half of the game. Players struggle to get used to the shortness of breath, but once they do, it usually isn’t a huge issue. Shaw plans on rotating players more than usual very early in the game to combat this problem.
One of the Stanford players at the press conference, junior offensive guard Dillon Bonnell, is very familiar with altitude issues. Bonnell grew up about one hour outside of Boulder and played his high school ball up in the mountains.
In his opinion, the altitude shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the Cardinal. He believes the effect is felt more strongly when a team that practices at altitude plays at sea level. For the first time in his life, Bonnell will truly find out what it’s like to visit home as the low-altitude opponent.