Stanford's wide receivers find themselves in an unfamiliar situation entering the 2013 season. In contrast to past seasons, when a number of proven, NFL-caliber tight ends roamed The Farm, the receivers will be the featured attraction in the passing game this year.
They're not backing down from the challenge.
"I think as a room you recognize that," junior receiver Ty Montgomery said. "It's something a lot of people are talking about. But I think we come out here with an attitude every day to just be the guys to make the plays in passing game when it does come our way. If it's not going to the tight end, we step up, we make the plays and have the quarterbacks trust us."
Montgomery has made plenty of plays so far in fall camp. He's cemented his position as one of Stanford's starting receivers.
"Honestly the guy that's really just stood out in a big way is Ty Montgomery," said Mike Sanford, Stanford's quarterbacks coach. "He had a good spring but he's having a great fall camp."
"He's got the speed, he's got the intent, he knows what to do now, he works extremely hard, he's worked on his craft more than just working out," Stanford head coach David Shaw added. "He's worked on the specifics of the position. He's a lot more confident in everything that he does. He's learned how to catch the deep ball. That's been a process for him, not having a high school quarterback. With the arms that we have here, that's something that you have to learn how to do and he's got a lot more comfortable doing that, so he's got all the tools to play well at this level and the next."
Montgomery, who was limited by a partially torn PCL last season, will be joined in the starting lineup by a fellow former class of 2011 recruit, Devon Cajuste. Cajuste isn't as fast as Montgomery or some of the team's other receivers, but has a huge frame and good hands.
"Devon's had some very good days," Sanford said. "I think the thing for him is just how big he is, how physical he can be. And I think the two of them are leaders not only of the pack but of the position and hopefully develop into leaders within the offense."
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is pleased with what he's seen from his starting receivers.
"First off, as the running team that we are, you need the guys out there to be able to block," Hogan said. "Being able to do that, they can be out there for run plays and then we're able to incorporate the passing game. Off of that they're unbelievable receivers. They run great routes, they're fast, big, physical, hard to bring down. So (I'm) looking forward to big things from them."
The position isn't bare beyond the starters. Redshirt freshman Michael Rector "has shown blazing speed," according to Hogan, and could provide a deep threat the team has lacked in recent years.
"He's running great, catching the ball really well," Mike Sanford said. "As soon as he gets up to speed in lining up consistently he'll be in a good place."
Sophomore Kodi Whitfield and redshirt junior Jeff Trojan might be the best route runners of the group.
"Jeff Trojan has been very consistent just like he was in spring catching the ball really well," Sanford said. "I think Kodi is having a better camp than he did spring, so that's been really nice to see, especially these last three or four days.
"Kodi Whtifield has had a really good couple of days. Kodi has come out here with something to prove and that's been really encouraging."
While he's not yet being discussed as a member of the receiver rotation, true freshman receiver Francis Owusu has opened eyes.
"Francis is special," Mike Sanford said. "I'm really excited about what he can be. He's learning every day, but he's a book worm with football. He's doing a great job in meetings, taking great notes. He's got some physical gifts that few have out there. (I) love that kid. He's picking things up faster than I thougt he would. He's really exciting."
Hogan also gushed about the former Oaks Christian High School standout.
"He's going to be a great player," Hogan said. "He's huge and he's fast. You look at (Francis and he's) a big physical receiver, but he's running by defensive backs right now. He's still learning the offense as everyone was at that point, but he's going to have a bright future."
Stanford has yet to decide whether Owusu will play or redshirt this season.
"We always tell all our freshmen to come in and compete to play," Sanford said. "The biggest thing is on special teams and I think he's doing some really good things there, just working his tail off. If he finds a role on special teams then of course we'll play him and he'll have to work himself into the rotation at receiver, and by all accounts his physical attributes should certainly put him in that position. He just has to continue to learn."
Lloyd progressing: While his athleticism was always evident, redshirt freshman Dallas Lloyd struggled throwing the ball at times last season, his first since returning from an LDS mission trip. The dual-threat signal caller has improved his passing, Sanford said.
"He's gotten better," Sanford said. "He's throwing the ball better. He's doing a good job. He's really good in the huddle too. He commands the respect of his teammates and commands the huddle in a really good way. I think so far you can tell he put a lot of work in the offseason and he's starting to show it."
There's a chance Lloyd could see the field this year in various packages designed to take advantage of his athletic gifts.
"We'll see how that goes, how that develops," Sanford said. "We're working a lot of things right now. We're working different personnel groupings. There's always going to be something that we try to hold for the opener. I think he's doing some really good things to hopefully put himself in position to play for us."
Burns Report: Touted true freshman Ryan Burns will most likely redshirt this season, but Stanford is pleased with his progress in camp.
"Ryan's doing well," Mike Sanford said. "He's a freshman quarterback and his head is spinning like all freshmen quarterbacks are, especially in this system. But he's got some arm talent and he's obviously a guy with great stature. He's got a lot to to learn, he's got a lot to grow, but there are some really positive signs."
"He has a great arm," Hogan said. "He's still learning the offense like Francis Owusu is, but he's a big, athletic kid. He's going to be great. He's putting the ball right on the money and I'm excited for him."