Spring Game Report: Passing Offense

Evan Crower's strong performance in the spring game was partially overshadowed by David Shaw's post-scrimmage revelation concerning presumed No. 2 signal caller, fifth-year senior Josh Nunes. Shaw said that Nunes, who has been sidelined by an unspecified shoulder or elbow injury suffered during a workout prior to spring, may not be healthy by the time Stanford opens up fall camp,
As a result, Crower could be elevated to second string sooner than many expected.
"Evan's got to prepare like he's the No. 2 quarterback," Shaw said. "Josh Nunes' situation is not a short-term deal. He may or may not be back for training camp. Hoping that he comes back, period. But we'll see. He's got another doctor's appointment coming up and we'll see where he is. But it's been great to see Evan get in there and take command as a quarterback in there. That's been good to see."
"With (Josh's) injury, the thought was always he'll be right around training camp, maybe a week in to where he can really start throwing. We'll see where it all goes. I'll know more after his next doctor's appointment."
There was ample opportunity for both Crower and starter Kevin Hogan to display their passing talents in the spring game. Cardinal signal callers combined to attempt 62 passes.
Starter Kevin Hogan completed 14-23 passes for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He started slow, missing on a few passes, including one over the middle that was nearly intercepted by Shayne Skov, before settling down and connecting on some nice throws.
"(It was) a slow start for Kevin," Shaw said. "And then (he) just settled in. I teased him, I said ,'You started in the doggone Rose Bowl, you can't be nervous about the spring game.' He kind of looked at me and he smiled and he settled in and got back in rhythm. He made a couple of nice deep throws, which were great.
"There was one, the miss to Ty (Montgomery) in the second half was completely my fault. We should have tweaked that drop. The drop and route did not marry up, once again, completely my fault. But I thought everything else after those first four throws or five throws, he was on and did very well."
Meanwhile, the busiest quarterback on the roster was Evan Crower. Crower and the second team offense received substantial playing time in both the first and second halves, and Crower completed 26-35 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
"Evan Crower did a great job today," Stanford quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Mike Sanford said. "He really did a nice job moving the chains and leading this offense. He had a really good spring and I thought he capped it off with a really good performance."
Crower has played well in all of the open scrimmages this spring, consistently throwing the football accurately and on-time.
"It's been really encouraging because his best play has been in the open practice, move-the-ball live situations," Sanford said. "That's when you want to play well. You want to show it off when people are actually watching the games, because football is a sport that's made to be played with people watching and it's made to be when you have 11 guys playing 11 guys, and that's when he's most comfortable. He had a nice spring. He was not perfect, far from it, he has a lot to work on, but he had a nice spring."
Added Shaw: "He felt like a college football quarterback out there (in the spring game) and that was exciting. I thought he did very well."
A Lloyd package?: Last year, before taking over for Nunes as starter, Kevin Hogan got his feet wet in college football in a read-option type package designed to take advantage of his mobility. Could a similar assignment be in store for Dallas Lloyd this season?
"That's part of what today was for Dallas, to get him out there and get him hit," Shaw said. "He was the only quarterback that was live today, so we let him get bounced around a little bit. He's an excitable kid, an energetic kid and if he could develop a role like that, it would be great. If we could take some hits off of Kevin, that would be great. That's part of what today was about, to see him go out and do that, and I thought he did a pretty good job."
Receivers shine: If there were any questions about Ty Montgomery's health or mental state heading into Saturday's spring game, they were likely answered by the rising junior's performance.
Montgomery caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, and also beat his man deep on several occasions. He looked explosive and fast in gaining yards after the catch, and didn't drop a single pass.
"Ty Montgomery is our No. 1," Sanford said. "There's no doubt about it. He's done a good job playing football, had a bunch of catches, quietly just did his job at a really high level. He had a nice touchdown catch (today)."
The best play of the spring game came in the first half courtesy of freshman receiver Michael Rector, who made a 44-yard diving, juggling catch off a deep ball from Hogan.
"It was a double move, a deep one," Rector said of his circus grab. "(Hogan) just did a really good job going through his reads and then he got the ball up. I went and jumped up against (Kyle Olugbode) and I reached out for the ball and we kind of both touched the ball at the same time and it bounced up and we both fell. I was just fortunate and blessed enough I was able to react to that and come down. I was on the ground already and I saw the ball, kind of reached out and was able to pull it back in."
Rector caught one other pass for an eight-yard gain and exploded for a gain of 11 yards on an end-around, capping off a strong spring ball for the freshman from Washington.
"I thought Michael Rector was great today," Shaw sad. "That speed, you can't duplicate that speed. We need that speed out there."
Freshman receiver Kodi Whitfield might not be as much of a deep threat as Montgomery or Rector, but could the most versatile and best route-runner of all of Stanford's receivers. On Saturday, he made three catches for 18 yards, including one impressive grab on a pass that was behind him.
"He's just kind of a plug and play guy," Sanford said. "He can play all three positions that we have at receiver. And he's been really good."
In an interesting twist, the two leading receivers in the spring game were walk-ons: Jeff Trojan, who caught a game-high six passes for 41 yards, and Jordan Pratt, who hauled in five balls for a game-high 78 yards.
While Trojan's consistent play has been a story all spring, Pratt has also progressed well, Shaw said.
"I think the whole second half he's been very good," Shaw said. "He's another one of those guys that I think has kind of crossed that barrier of okay, I feel comfortable if we need to put him in the game. He knows what to do, he can go out there and make plays. Once again he went out there and blocked, which is so much a part of who we are. The receivers that go out and be physical help a lot."
Tight end question marks: If Stanford's receivers earned an "A" for their impressive performance in the spring game, the performance of the tight ends has to be graded as "incomplete". Freshman Luke Kaumatule, the subject of much hype over the past few months, made one reception for 10 yards, but also dropped a few catchable passes. Redshirt junior Davis Dudchock, meanwhile, made five catches for 39 yards. Freshman Chris Harrell added a single reception for five yards.
The complete tight end picture for 2013 won't be complete until the three touted incoming freshmen tight end recruits (Austin Hooper, Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada) arrive on campus in the fall. There will be ample opportunity for each to break into the Card's rotation.
"We've got three freshman tight ends coming in and we're going to see how ready they are to play," Shaw said. "I thought Luke Kaumatule did a good job today at the point of attack. And Davis Dudchock had a nice today as well catching the ball from the tight end position."
In an ideal situation, Shaw said that the passing game would take advantage of Stanford's newly realized depth at receiver and talent at tight end rather than relying too heavily on either position.
"We have a better opportunity to be more versatile, very similar to what we were in the Orange Bowl year to where we can go with two tight ends or three tight ends but we can also go with three or four receivers," Shaw said. "In a perfect world that's where I would love to be. We used to talk when I first got here, we used to talk about our games feeling like a hockey game. I want line changes. I'd love to throw our big jumbo personnel out there, extra tight ends extra tackles, and the next play might be 5 receivers. The next play might be three backs, just to utilize the personnel that we have, and just put those guys out there to make plays for us."
Passing game personnel updates: Receiver/running back Kelsey Young was held out of the spring game with a minor hamstring injury. Young should be back at full strength soon.
"Honestly if we were playing a game he'd have played," Shaw said. "He was a little disappointed because he was ready to go, but I didn't need to see Kelsey go today."
Nunes (upper body) and running back Remound Wright also missed the spring game. Wright's injury is minor, while Nunes' health outlook is uncertain.
Michael Rector was a strong candidate to contribute last season as a true freshman before sustaining a partially torn PCL in his right knee during camp. He said that he didn't return to full strength until midway through his freshman season.
"I wasn't really back feeling mentally and physically up there until about halfway through the season," Rector said. "Then we had a conversation about what we wanted to do and we just figured that it was best for myself and for the team to redshirt that year and hopefully get even better and come back this year."