Andrew Luck is gone. Now Stanford football moves on looking for a new signal caller. As training camp approaches, the one great question many will focus on will be who emerges at quarterback for the Cardinal.
Officially the competition is down to four players: Josh Nunes, Brett Nottingham, Kevin Hogan and Evan Crower. That said, barring injury or something else, this QB battle is between Nunes and Nottingham.
Nunes is a red-shirt junior who is 1-2 for seven yards in his career. Nottingham is a redshirt sophomore who earned the backup role last year, as much because of an injury to Nunes during camp as anything. Nottingham was 5-8 for 78 yards and a touchdown. There is not a lot of experience to choose from.
“It is truly up in the air,” offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said this spring. “One of the things that is tough about a quarterback competition is you never get an opportunity to evaluate the guys in a true game-like pressure situation.”
That is a key for the coaches because of what they want in a quarterback. Stanford is going to be more concerned about the quarterback that can run the offense as it is supposed to be run as opposed to any great measurable a quarterback can provide.
“We are looking for our quarterback to manage our offense but still at the same time be able to capitalize on opportunities to hit big plays in the passing game,” Hamilton said. “When I say manage our offense, I am not talking about just from the standpoint of being extremely conservative and not trying to make a play. Managing our offense entails a lot more than just making a good decision in the passing game. You have to be able to manage our run game, be able to get us into the right play at the line of scrimmage, be able to recognize defensive fronts and coverages and understand that our goal with every play call is to not waste a play.”
Nottingham looked sharp in his limited play last season. In the open practices it would certainly appear that he would be the odds on favorite to win the quarterback derby. But what fans (or media) can not see is how the quarterback is managing what continues to be a very complicated offense. That is the X-factor that could determine the starter even if fans think it should go another way. That is also a main factor in why some of the underclassmen likely will not be starting day one.
Another reason for not announcing favorites before camp is what happens if there is an injury? Last year, Nunes got stepped on during practice one day. He missed a little over a week. That allowed Nottingham to step up and take the backup role. Should the same thing happen this camp, it would be a lot easier to sell to the team and the fans that there is not a step down to the remaining healthy quarterback.
All eyes will be on the rotating quarterback situation from day one. The coaches don’t seem like they are going to be in a hurry to announce a starter soon. But both Head Coach David Shaw and Hamilton have hinted it will likely happen in the second to third week of camp.
“I think between now and the second or third week of training camp we should be able to have a better sense of who is going to be ready to take on that tall task,” Hamilton said.