On the heels of three straight BCS bowl appearances, Stanford's roster is full of experienced at talent at nearly every position. Despite its consensus top-10 preseason ranking, however, there are several areas of uncertainty on the 2013 roster.
With the start of spring ball just days away, Cardinal Sports Report will examine five questions facing the Stanford football team.
Spring Ball Question No. 5: Quarterback Opportunity
Josh Nunes will return to Stanford for his fifth and final year of eligibility, but he won't be able to participate in spring ball due to a workout-related injury. That leaves plenty of opportunity and reps for Stanford's healthy quarterbacks: Kevin Hogan, Dallas Lloyd, Evan Crower and David Olson.
Spring ball won't determine Stanford's quarterback for the 2013 season - that's a position sure to be occupied by Hogan - but it could give an indication about the future of the position beyond Nunes and Hogan.
"The two of those guys (Dallas Lloyd and Evan Crower) running the show for those freshman scrimmages, the sophomore scrimmages for the bowl preparation, I was really impressed with what those two guys did in moving the chains and just being efficient," Stanford quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford told Cardinal Sports Report last week. "It's an exciting group of young quarterbacks in addition to Kevin Hogan and Josh Nunes coming back for his fifth year."
Still, the quarterback position's first priority will be the development of Hogan.
"Kevin needs the most reps. He needs to become a master in this offense," Sanford said.
Inserting Hogan into the starting lineup in place of Nunes energized Stanford's offense in a major way in 2012, but there's plenty of Hogan to work on this spring. First and foremost, as is the case with any quarterback in the Card's sophisticated pro-style system, accruing additional knowledge about the ins and outs of the offense will be a priority.
"He played in some really, really good football games, big games, some of the biggest games in the history of the program here," Sanford said. "He played well, he played adequately. I think he never really had a chance to catch his breath and say, 'Hey I'm going to master this offense. I'm not just going to play well in this offense but I'm going to be a complete master of every detail of this offense, not just what I have to do or not just my read, but understanding and appreciating the structure of the defense and how to attack those different looks that the defenses give you. So I think just his mastery of the defense.
"And then I think the biggest thing this spring and going into fall camp we want to see him develop into a complete leader of the offense. He has the field credibility now to be able to take over this offense and say, 'Hey, I'm going to coach you guys in the offseason when the coaches aren't around. I'm going to run these practices.' He has that field credibility but he's going to have to earn that right to lead in this offseason as a sophomore."
While Hogan will receive the bulk share of the reps, there will plenty of opportunities for the other quarterbacks on Stanford's roster.
"I think you're going to see really the smallest group we've probably had in spring practice in quite a while, so there's going to be a lot of opportunity to get reps," Sanford said.
Though he still has work to do as a pocket passer, Dallas Lloyd is a dynamic athlete who impressed in scout team scrimmages as the season progressed. Lloyd's athleticism could make him a valuable asset in certain offensive packages in the near future, but developing Lloyd into a pocket passer might take longer.
"The thing I think with Dallas Lloyd that I believe he can do, I believe he can become a pocket passer as well, in addition to his abilities as a runner," Sanford said. "That's going to take some time. He's going to develop that. He's going to be coached hard, but he's an exciting player."
Entering his third year in the Cardinal program, spring ball isn't quite make or break time for Crower, but a strong spring would go a long way towards cementing his status as at least a viable backup quarterback moving forward.
In 2014, with Lloyd's development still uncertain and Nunes graduated, there will be a need for a backup quarterback, and a then-fourth-year junior in Crower could be a candidate, though incoming freshman Ryan Burns will certainly also be in that mix.
But in the meantime, there will be plenty of reps to go around to the players currently on the roster. And, Hogan's continued growth and the development of underclassmen (by football eligibility) Lloyd and Crower will be of great importance to Stanford football moving forward.