Oct. 24, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Expect to see more of quarterback Kevin Hogan, who saw increased action for Stanford in its 21-3 victory over California in the 115th Big Game on Saturday.
Hogan, a sophomore, threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo, and carried the ball twice for 13 yards. Hogan made his collegiate debut against Washington, with one play, and was in on two against Notre Dame. He played in five against Cal.
The style - a quarterback who comes in for specific packages, including an assortment of running plays - may sound familiar.
"It's kind of like having a Tim Tebow," fullback Ryan Hewitt said.
To which Hogan replied, "That's a pretty big compliment, I'd say."
"We're going to create packages just so he can keep getting the ball," said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football.
"It's tough for a defense, especially because we've shown that he can throw the ball and he's not just a running threat," Hewitt said. "Defenses don't really know how to key their personnel against him. It's a good changeup."
The genesis of Hogan's action came while simulating mobile quarterbacks on the scout team last year because of his running ability.
"We've known Kevin can run and throw, but we weren't going to put him out there until he was efficient in that role," Shaw said. "In the week leading up to Notre Dame, it was like, `He's getting it." He's making good decisions."
"The one play he ran against Washington was the one play he had run consistently and ran properly. So, we gave him the chance. For guys like Hogan, their litmus test is practice. If you can do it efficiently in practice, not just once, but 4-6 times a week. We'll give him that opportunity.
"Kevin's excited about that package expanding," Shaw said.
"We come up with them every week," Hogan said. "We'll stay primarily with the ones we've been working on since spring ball. But based on the different looks, maybe something new will come up."
However, it's crucial that teams respect Hogan's arm, so that the run will be there.
"He's got a strong arm," Shaw said. "It's not a Wildcat. This is not a running back, this is a guy who can run and pass. Those are things that we can take advantage of as an offense."
Shaw wouldn't identify Josh Nunes' primary backup - whether it's Hogan or Brett Nottingham, who has played in one game in relief of Nunes.
"Brett's ready to go if we need him," Shaw said. "I would love to get Brett in the game."
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Stepfan Taylor remains underrated on the national scene despite closing in on his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and threatening Darrin Nelson's school career record for rushing yards.
"The people that talk about him the most are the NFL scouts," Shaw said. "He just gets yards, in a Maurice Jones-Drew type of a way where you say, he's not as fast as this guy, or not as big as this guy, and you look at the production -- at the way he gets production -- there's not a whole lot of spread runs.
"On his touchdown run (against Cal), we didn't even block the backside defensive lineman. He made him miss, and made the linebacker miss and ran for a touchdown.
"What I really love about him, is there's no one thing that he does well -- he does everything well: draw, zone, gap schemes, powers, counters, it doesn't matter. Pass blocking. I think he's the best pass blocker in our conference."
"Also the unassuming way he goes about his work adds to how special he is."
Hewitt said Taylor doesn't need much to find a hole.
"It's great, because I know if I can get my guy out of his way, and give him an extra yard on the edge, he'll make something special happen," Hewitt said. "It's happened time and time again."
Nunes offered his thoughts on another aspect of Taylor's talent -- his durability.
"The guy's a workhorse," Nunes said. "We know we can rely on him any point in the game. He always gives everything he's got. It's a testament to the work he does in camp and summer workouts. He's a guy who always spends extra time in the weight room."
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Hewitt says he has been recognized for his bit part in the ESPN's Jon Gruden's QB Camp episode featuring Andrew Luck last spring.
In the show, Gruden dissects a late interception thrown by Luck against USC in 2011 on a routine play called "Spider 3 Y Banana," a short pass to the fullback - in this case Hewitt.
Luck ignored an open Hewitt and tried to throw to a secondary receiver, only for the throw to be intercepted and returned for a touchdown to give the Trojans the lead in a game that Stanford would eventually win 56-48 in triple overtime.
Said Hewitt, "A couple random people have seen me in airports and stuff and said, `That's the spider guy!'"
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How good was the Cardinal defense on Saturday, in holding Cal to 217 total yards, including only three on the ground?
"Instead of two guys playing great, we had nine," said Shaw on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "It was impressive. We had a couple of guys play about their best game - Chase Thomas was phenomenal. I don't know if I've seen him play like that for 60 minutes."
Shaw went on to list guys like Alex Carter, Henry Anderson, Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley, Jarek Lancaster, James Vaughters.
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In evaluating the play of quarterback Nunes (16 of 31 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown and one interception) Shaw put some of the fault on his receivers for some of the misplays.
"Josh played good, but he can play better," Shaw said. "We're making too many mistakes in passing game on the road that may look like the quarterback's fault. But dropping passes is inexcusable and we've got to run routes at the proper depth. Even so, Josh has got to be ready for it. If a guy's not where he's supposed to be, Josh has got to be ready and take off. If you're not at the proper depth, you don't get the ball."
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Sophomore receiver Ty Montgomery has missed the past two games with a leg injury, however he seems to be getting closer to returning to action.
"We had a short practice (Monday) and he went through the practice and did well, he made it through," Shaw said. The next few days will be big for him to see what volume. Can he come in and play a lot, or can he come in and play a role? Or is it better to put him back on the shelf. I won't know that until we see him practice in the next few days, and see how he feels afterward."
Asked to evaluate Montgomery's play before the injury, Shaw said, "Highs and lows.
"You see the talent. He's running by everybody that we've played. He's dropped a couple of balls, but he's made a lot of plays.
"He's on that cusp of being a really good football player. And we have to remind ourselves all the time that he's just a sophomore and there is a lot of growth that needs to happen with him. But we think he's on the right track. We're going to keep giving him opportunities.
* * *
There was an unusual play in the Big Game in which Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor seemed to be looking to pass the ball out of the Wildcat formation and instead scrambled to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Was it a pass?
"There was a lot of improvisation there," Shaw said. "If you go back and look at it, nobody was going out for a route."
Because of a defensive look, Taylor changed a play, but the call was miscommunicated to his teammates, Hewitt said.
* * *
Of the outstanding group of freshmen offensive linemen, Joshua Garnett "has made the biggest jump lately," Shaw said.
"At 320 pounds, he's fast and athletic. He doesn't have all of it down just yet to just go in and play. So, we can use him in spots and get him experience - we're doing the same thing with the two tackles (Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy). They're steadily getting better and we're pushing them every week to have the urgency that you can't just coast. They've got to push it."
* * *
When guard/tackle David Yankey went down briefly, "There was a collective silence on our headsets," Shaw said. "Except for (offensive coordinator) Pep Hamilton, who said something I can't repeat."
Shaw described Yankey's injury as "just a bruise. He'll be ready to go," when the Cardinal plays host to Washington State on Saturday in a 3:15 p.m. game at Stanford Stadium.
* * *
Trent Murphy made it, but Thomas was left off the list of semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Trophy, awarded to the nation's top linebacker, to which Shaw expressed disbelief for Thomas' omission.
"He's playing as well as anybody in the country," Shaw said.
The coach went on to illustrate why by describing a play Thomas made in the Big Game.
"That was the best ice pick spin move I've seen in college football," Shaw said. "That's an NFL specialty pass rush that a lot of guys can't do. To be able to set up a tackle up the field, do a complete 360, get by him and propel yourself to the quarterback in two steps and accelerate, and blow the guy up - a lot of guys can't do that."
* * *
True freshman cornerback Alex Carter made his first start and performed well, making four solo tackles and holding his own against the Cal outside receivers.
"He's the guy when he came in, we truly believed he was going to be special," Shaw said. "But as a freshman you never know.
"He's under 10 percent body fat. His vertical jump is 40, he broad jumps 10 feet, and he runs in the 4.4 range. Those are NFL combine numbers. And then you say, `Wow, he's 17.
"We knew that he was going to be able to do something special for us, but there is so much feel at corner. He picked it up extremely well and will probably get a second start this week. We think he's going to be a very good football player. He's on that track right now."
* * *
Hewitt, who has the longest hair on the team, was influenced in his look by his father, Keith.
"My dad had a long ponytail," Ryan said. "I saw pictures of it, and felt like I might as well give it a try."
Does your dad still have a long ponytail?
"No, he's bald."
* * *
Stanford still can accomplish its goal of winning the Pac-12 North title and advancing to the conference championship game, but the Cardinal must improve, Hewitt said.
"We aren't nearly as good as we can be," Hewitt said. "That alone should drive us. We haven't come close to putting together four quarters of good football. I don't think we can become complacent, but I don't think we need to even worry about that. We're still striving to be as good as we can be."
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Carter grew up in Ashburn, Va., but was aware of Stanford at a young age and actually made a decision to come to The Farm when he was in middle school.
"I sat down with my parents one day and talked about what schools I wanted to go to," Carter said. "I said I wanted to go somewhere warm. That left Florida, Texas, and California."
"Well, you have to have a good education."
"Stanford has a pretty good education," Alex said. "I'll go there."
Carter said he never considered Notre Dame, where his father, Tom, starred at free safety before embarking on a nine-year NFL career as a cornerback.
"Too cold," said Alex, who enjoyed the experience of going against his father's team two weeks ago.
"My entire family came and wore Notre Dame stuff, except my mom," Alex said. "She wore Stanford."
* * *
His father may have been cheering for Notre Dame, but he offered a non-Irish opinion to the game's controversial finish, when Taylor was ruled down short of the end zone on a fourth-down run in overtime.
Alex relayed Tom's reaction: "He said we were robbed."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics