Well, now it’s official.
Stanford head coach David Shaw confirmed today at his weekly press conference and in the official depth chart that Kevin Hogan will start at quarterback on Saturday when Stanford takes on Oregon State.
“As everybody knows, Kevin Hogan will start at quarterback for us…. Over those [last few] games Kevin Hogan has shown a lot of promise in practice, which is why Kevin began to play.”
This is a fairly unique situation for Stanford. As one of the writers pointed out during the press conference, very rarely do you see a team with as good a record as Stanford has switch quarterbacks for performance reasons. However, these last few weeks, Shaw has been very impressed with Hogan’s progression through practice, and combined with some subpar play by his predecessor Josh Nunes, that has made Hogan the starter.
The big impetus for Kevin’s ascension to the starting role, though, is his newfound command of the offense. His shoulders dropped”—Shaw said, emphasizing that Hogan really started to make progress in understanding pass protections, run blocking and audibles in practice recently. Now, in Shaw’s estimation, Hogan has command of about 80 percent of the offense. The rest, Shaw thinks will be offset by Hogan’s extreme athleticism.
Though expected since Saturday’s win over Colorado, this is big news for the Cardinal offense. Hogan led four consecutive touchdown drives and six consecutive scoring drives in relief of Josh Nunes on Saturday, providing the spark Stanford needed to pull away from the Buffaloes. Now the question is whether that spark will ignite Stanford’s offense for a brutal three-game home stretch. It’s certainly a sign to hear players on the defensive side, like senior linebacker Jarek Lancaster, speak highly of Hogan.
“The boy can sling it, as we saw last Saturday. I don’t see that changing…. At spring ball it was really hard to tackle him…. It’s exciting to see him play.”
Hogan’s offense should be running at close to full health this week. Sophomore wide receiver Ty Montgomery came back from a leg injury to play against Colorado. Though he didn’t start, Montgomery’s extensive playing time with Stanford’s big lead is definitely a sign that the coaches aren’t too worried about him aggravating his injury.
Shaw said that Montgomery is improving health-wise, and was better Monday than on game day. However, Shaw announced that senior Jamal-Rashad Patterson will start at wide receiver. Additionally, Montgomery will probably not see time at kick returner for the foreseeable future, as Stanford’s priority will be to get him back in the flow of the regular offense.
The only key injury left on the offensive side is Andrus Peat’s finger situation. Shaw announced last week that Peat was unlikely to play after picking up the injury at Monday’s practice. Peat did travel to Colorado, but did not play in the game. For this week, Andrus is playing a lot better. He practiced Monday night in a soft cast and was able participate in contact drills.
“Andrus isn’t a guy who shows a lot of emotion,” Shaw said, “but he smiled Monday night and said he couldn’t wait for practice tomorrow…. He’s excited to get going. It feels a lot better.”
Hogan isn’t the only freshman whose role is continuing to grow every week. One of the biggest surprises of the midseason has been the ascent of true freshman Alex Carter to the starting cornerback role. Shaw has been as impressed as anyone with the young corner’s skill set.
“Quick, fast, explosive, aggressive, tough, great ball skills, he’s grown every single week and he’s still growing,” Shaw said. “He’s kind of what you want out there as a corner…. He’s just got more size and weight than those other guys. When he comes up and hits you, he lets you feel it.”
Carter forced a fumble against the Buffaloes on one of the hardest tackles of the season, and his and the rest of the defense’s play will be key over the next few weeks if Stanford wants to win out and take the Pac-12 championship.
However, much of the pressure is going to sit squarely on the shoulders of the offense and Hogan. As Shaw said, “We needed that extra bit of efficiency we were not getting,” and for Stanford to meet its goal and make it to Pasadena, Hogan will have to provide it.