CardinalSportsReport - Shaw Signing Day review: Offense
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Shaw Signing Day review: Offense

A few hours after the final Letter of Intent from Stanford's 2016 recruiting class arrived in the Cardinal's football offices, head coach David Shaw met with the media to review the incoming freshmen.

Here's a position-by-position look at Shaw's comments, starting with the offensive side of the ball.

QUARTERBACK

On the heels of a 2015 recruiting cycle in which Stanford did not sign a quarterback, the position was a significant priority in 2016. And the Cardinal ended up signing one of the nation's best in Rivals100 standout K.J. Costello.

"You look at the quarterback of the future in K.J. Costello," Shaw said. "I'm very excited about his potential. We did not take a quarterback last year so this was vital for us. We earmarked K.J. about a year and a half ago as our guy. I'm real excited that he was able to follow through and stay with us this entire time. It's been a battle because he's a great player. We knew that a lot of schools were going to go after him. But thankfully to K.J. and his family that this was a place that he wanted to be."

At one point in his recruitment, Costello intended to graduate high school early to get a head start on his Stanford career. Those plans were quashed, however, by the school.

"Stanford University wants guys to finish their high school," Shaw said. "Finish out their last quarter, their last semester at high school. We bring guys in (over) the summer. We've proven over and over again that's enough time to get freshmen ready to play if they are ready to play. For us, the quarterback position, we haven't had a true freshman play for us. We'll see how things go."

Shaw didn't rule out the possibility of Costello playing in 2016, but noted it might be an uphill battle.

"We have a great quarterback competition and there's a lot of information that needs to be digested at the quarterback position so without saying that K.J. is definitely going to redshirt or that he's definitely going to play, it's going to be tough to play as a freshman. But at the same time his long-term prognosis is pretty doggone good. You never say impossible (that he'll play as a true freshman). You say unlikely. Part of it is the mental aspect of it - it's probably the biggest part. But at the same time to physically prepare for playing college football as a quarterback, that pounding that quarterbacks can take, you want to make sure the guy is physically ready as well.

"K.J. is very bright. He's going to pick up the system I'm sure as well as anybody that we've had. But at the same time I don't want to put that much pressure on him to say, 'You're going to get it as a freshman,' where we haven't had a guy that was ready to play first year. But once again... long-term wise I'm not going to speed up K.J.'s progress. His progress is going to be whatever his progress is, and when he gets to that point where he's ready to play he's going to be outstanding."

With Costello likely headed for a redshirt year, Stanford's quarterback competition figures to prominently feature Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst. Shaw has no intentions of naming a starter until late in training camp.

"With one guy two years in and one guy three years in they're in the meat of the offense," Shaw said. "They get it. Both guys can go out there and operate the game plan. To what extent? We're going to find out. We're going to give them a great opportunity this spring to really get out there and play but in training camp we're going to overload them. We're going to see how much they can take. And then before we play a game we'll back off and see how it goes. You guys know from a few years ago I'm not going to give you daily or weekly updates. It's just not going to happen. It's going to be a long-term project before we either, one, announce or a starter or No. 2 say. 'Hey, you know what, we're going to play two quarterbacks.'

"Only these guys' production will bear out exactly what we do and exactly when we make that decision. But I don't anticipate it happening before 10 days before we play the first game."

OFFENSIVE LIVE

Henry Hattis
Henry Hattis ()

Stanford reloaded its talent stock at several positions in the 2016 class, but perhaps nowhere more than along the offensive line. The Cardinal inked five scholarship offensive lineman and a walk-on in Matthew Gutwald who was offered by a number of Power 5 programs.

"Talking offensively, for us it starts up front," Shaw said. "Our big guys, we have five scholarship guys coming, they termed themselves at the Fat Five. And I'm real excited about these guys - very diverse, from a bunch of different places, but the same kind of guy. I'm very excited about Matthew Gutwald joining that class today. I'm really excited about what this group is going to be able to do over the next few years."

"We can see now these guys are going to mature and they're going to be our extra offensive linemen and our tight ends and our ogre position. You can see that those guys are going to develop into what we need them to be."

While the Cardinal's incoming crop of linemen figures to fill spots at tackle and guard, there isn't an obvious center candidate in the bunch. But that doesn't necessarily mean the class won't end up producing one.

"None of the guys we have in this class have played center," Shaw said. "When you look at Dylan Powell, he looks like he could play center. I think Coach Bloomgren has done a great job of finding some of those guards that could have that ability so that at the very least they're an emergency center. So even if we don't teach them the position, just teach them how to snap so he has that in his pocket down the road. So once he knows the offense and if there's a spot for him to play at center and we can slide him in, that would be great. We've done that with Jesse Burkett as well, who had never played center before he got here. Now he's in the depth at center and will be in the competition to try to play this year."

SKILL POSITIONS

Kaden Smith
Kaden Smith ()

Stanford's 2016 class includes multiple running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. Shaw thinks the collection of talent checks a lot of the important boxes.

"Versatility at running back," Shaw said. "I'm so excited to bring in two guys that are tough, physical inside runners as well as being able to have the speed and athleticism to get back outside.

"Versatility at the tight end position. Guys that are athletic, guys that are physical, guys that are tough, guys that are smart. The trends in football go back and forth and now to have bigger receivers, red zone threats and downfield threats. Bringing in two bigger receivers in this class, I'm very excited about that - big targets for the quarterbacks on the outside."

The most highly touted and heavily recruited of Stanford's incoming skill players is Texas tight end Kaden Smith, who turned down offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Texas in signing with the Cardinal. Unfortunately, Smith suffered a knee injury in December that will sideline him for several months. It's still unclear whether Smith will be healthy enough to play as a true freshman.

"There's a possibility (he'll be ready to play in 2016)," Shaw said. "You hate for things like that to happen but it happened at a time where legitimately he's going to be relatively healthy at some point in training camp. And we'll see. If it's wise, and I talked about it with him and his family on our home visit - if he's healthy and ready and it's wise then great, he's ready to go, let's go. If he's not, beautiful, we'll continue to have him work out and get stronger and bigger and get ready for the next year. But he should be, if he stays on schedule, somewhere around training camp being ready to go pretty full go."

Whenever Smith is ready to return the field, he'll do so facing justifiably high expectations that accompany a player with his recruiting profile. According to Shaw, Smith has some qualities that resemble a few of the Cardinal's former stars at the position.

"He's got some aspects of him that remind you of Zach Ertz as a route runner," Shaw said. "So quick and explosive and great change of direction for a guy who is still relatively tall. And then you hate to say he's got Coby Fleener speed, but you see him open up and run and run by guys and make big plays down the field. If you want to combine two guys, that's a great combination. Our hopes for Kaden in the future are really, really high."