Aug. 13, 2010
So much of Stanford's proud football history can be traced back to the quarterback position.
Beginning with Frankie Albert, who quarterbacked the "Wow Boys" to a perfect 10-0 record in 1940 and continuing with All-Americans Bobby Garrett, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, Mike Boryla, Guy Benjamin and John Elway, Stanford's contributions at the quarterback position over the years are woven into the essence of the program.
Only time will tell if Andrew Luck will join Stanford's pantheon of all-time great signal callers, but after an impressive rookie season in which the Houston, Texas native broke the school's single-season freshman passing record while leading the Pac-10 Conference in passing efficiency, he is well on his way to building an impressive resume that will surely stand the test of time at a quarterback-rich school.
Luck, who was at the helm of the highest-scoring offense in school history last season, set a Stanford freshman passing record with 2,575 yards. He completed 162 of 288 passes with just four interceptions to lead the Pac-10 Conference in passing efficiency at 143.5. He also ranked second among conference signal callers in total offense (244.1) and was fifth in passing yards per game (214.6). His 2,929 yards in total offense ranked fifth on Stanford's single-season charts.
Only an injury in the final regular season game against Notre Dame which forced him out of the Sun Bowl, stood in the way of Luck cracking Stanford's top-10 single-season list. His impressive rookie campaign garnered consensus freshman All-America accolades and plenty of praise from his head coach, who knows a thing or two about the position.
"He's the best quarterback in the country," said Harbaugh towards the end
of last season.
Picazo, who joined the team as a walk-on last fall after a record-setting career at Tesoro High School in Las Flores, Calif., gained enough confidence from the coaching staff to be elevated to No. 2 on the Sun Bowl depth chart behind senior starter Tavita Pritchard. Nunes, a four-star recruit out of Upland (Calif.) High School, is a strong-armed quarterback whose size (6-4, 205) gives him a strong presence in the pocket.
Waiting patiently in the wings is freshman Brett Nottingham, who was ranked among the top prep quarterbacks in the nation last year at Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif.
Junior Alex Loukas, who sat out last season after suffering a knee injury in spring practice, is the only other player on the roster besides Luck with game experience, having played in eight games as a reserve during the 2008 season. However, he worked primarily at safety during spring drills, but his knowledge of the system and athleticism he brings to the position has not been forgotten among the coaches.
Stanford returns its top two receivers from a year ago in senior Ryan Whalen and junior Chris Owusu, who combine to form one of the best receiving tandems in the Pac-10.
A dependable wideout who has led Stanford in receiving each of the last two seasons, Whalen caught a team-high 57 passes for 926 yards and four touchdowns last season, averaging 71.2 receiving yards per game (5th Pac-10). He enters his final campaign with 99 career receptions for 1,445 yards and five touchdowns.
A big-play threat, Owusu led the team in touchdown receptions last year with five and finished second in receptions (37) and receiving yardage (682). He averaged 18.4 yards per catch, which was the highest average on the team among receivers with 10 or more receptions. While Whalen and Owusu are clearly established in starting roles,
establishing quality depth at this position is high on the list of priorities.
Five players-senior Doug Baldwin, junior Griff Whalen and talented young receivers Jamal-Rashad Patterson, Drew Terrell and Jemari Roberts-will compete to establish a hierarchy behind the two incumbent starters. Baldwin has an edge in game experience, having appeared in 31 games, including seven starts, over the last three seasons. He played in seven games last year, catching four passes for 76 yards, and led the Cardinal in touchdown receptions (4) and yards per catch (14.4) as a sophomore in 2008.
Sophomores Patterson and Terrell saw limited time last year as rookies, while Roberts will be looking for his first game action this season. Griff Whalen has made tremendous strides over the last two seasons after making the team as a walk-on in 2008.
Stanford is well-stocked at tight end, a unit that was one of the best in the Pac-10 last season.
However, the Cardinal will be hard-pressed to replace Jim Dray, especially in the running game, where his blocking ability earned him a ticket to the NFL as a seventh-round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals. One of the most physically imposing units in the conference, all four of Stanford's tight ends listed on the depth chart stand at least 6-6 and average 253 pounds.
Junior Coby Fleener (6-6, 244) looks to have the inside track on the starting role after catching 21 passes for 266 yards (12.7) and one touchdown last season. A hybrid tight end, Fleener combines wide receiver speed and athleticism along with prototypical size required of the position.
Senior Konrad Reuland (6-6, 257), who caught six passes for 142 yards (23.7) last season, gives the Cardinal added size and experience. Redshirt freshmen Zach Ertz (6-6, 249) and Levine Toilolo (6-8, 263), who were listed among the top-five recruits in the nation at the position coming out of high school, have all of the trappings to be significant