Football preview: Quarterback

Aug. 25, 2016, 11:06 p.m.

This is the fifth of a 12-part preview of the 2016 football season.Part 1 focused on the running backs and fullbacks. Part 2 featured a roundtable on the offense. Part 3 focused on the tight ends and receivers. Part 4 focused on the offensive line.

In a nutshell

In David Shaw’s words, “the quarterback’s job is to deal the cards.” With a pro-style offense like Stanford’s, the quarterback needs to make good decisions and think quick, but at the end of the day, as Shaw sees it, his most important duty is to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers and lead the team down the field.

Granted, that’s an easy statement to make when you have the dealers that Shaw has had over his tenure at Stanford. After long reigns at the helm from both Andrew Luck and Kevin Hogan, the next Stanford quarterback will look to make his mark in Cardinal lore as the season begins in just a week.

For the time being, that quarterback will be senior Ryan Burns. Shaw made the announcement just yesterday, saying that while Burns and junior Keller Chryst have been “mostly neck-and-neck the whole way,” Burns has been “just a little bit ahead.” Burns will get the start against Kansas State, marking Stanford’s first game without Kevin Hogan under center in three and a half years.

But the battle is far from over. As opposed to the start of the 2012 season, when Josh Nunes was named the outright starter over Brett Nottingham, the opener will see both Burns and Chryst taking snaps. Even as Burns has started to take a majority of reps in practices, Chryst will be involved to some capacity. Given how late into camp the announcement came, it’s certainly possible that Shaw may change his mind as the season goes on, but for the time being, Burns will be leading Stanford’s first drive of the year.

Having questions at the quarterback position is an unfamiliar spot for Stanford, and given the player Hogan became last season, the comparisons are surely forthcoming. But to Shaw, such comparisons aren’t worth making.

“We only gave Kevin what he was ready for, and it’s the same thing here, we’ll give these guys what they’re ready for,” Shaw said about his two quarterbacks. “Thankfully they’re ready for quite a bit. You’re talking about a fourth-year senior and a third-year junior. Both these guys have been around this offense for quite some time now.”

For both Burns and Chryst, as well as freshman phenom and third-string quarterback K.J. Costello, the pieces surrounding them are plentiful. Whether it’s a pitch to junior Christian McCaffrey or sophomore Bryce Love, or a deep throw to fifth-year senior Michael Rector, there are a lot of ways that the Cardinal offense can dazzle. But it starts with a capable quarterback who can deal the cards. But with an offense like Stanford’s, it’s easier said than done.

“I’m three years in and and I’m just getting comfortable,” Burns said. “That’s the kind of offense we’re in.”


Football preview: Quarterback
Junior Keller Chryst will see action in the season opener against Kansas State on Sept. 2, head coach David Shaw said. (BOB DREBIN/

Who’s returning?

Ryan Burns — Burns’ starting nod is a meaningful one, and it certainly demonstrates the improvements he’s made since arriving to The Farm. Since his days of running the triple option at Stone Bridge High School in Virginia, Burns has learned a lot in the shadow of Kevin Hogan. He’s completed just one pass in his Stanford career, against UC Davis in 2014. Last year, he came in in four games, rushing 4 times for 13 yards. But if the touchdown pass he threw to sophomore Trent Irwin in this year’s Spring Game is any indication, Burns has quite some talent as a pure passer, and he’ll certainly have chances to get his arsenal of wideouts involved.

Keller Chryst — Chryst is, in a lot of ways, pretty similar to Burns, both in terms of skill set and build (both are listed at 6-foot-5, while Chryst is listed at 236 pounds, compared to Burns’ 232). Last year, he came in just a bit more than Burns, and certainly got to pass more as he completed 5-of-9 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. He also delivered a pretty memorable block in Stanford’s game against Arizona, highlighting his tenacity and reputation as a pretty physical player. And while he isn’t starting against Kansas State, Shaw knows he’ll do what it takes to make the Cardinal better.

“He’s a great teammate,” Shaw said of Chryst. “He understands the coaching decision, but he also knows he’ll have a chance to influence the game, and he’s excited about it. He should be—he’s earned it.”


Newcomers to watch for

K.J. Costello — The jewel of the 2016 recruiting class and perhaps the quarterback of the future for Stanford, Costello will get to watch from the bench for at least one year. The high school standout set 19 school records at Santa Margarita Catholic. He was one of the Cardinal’s earliest commits, which is certainly a sign of his excitement for the organization. The excitement definitely goes both ways, as Costello’s size, accuracy, strength and quickness make him a sensational player to keep an eye out for.


After a rocky start to the 2015 campaign, Kevin Hogan (middle) led the Cardinal to the No. 3 spot in the final AP poll. (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily)
After a rocky start to the 2015 campaign, Kevin Hogan (middle) led the Cardinal to the No. 3 spot in the final AP poll. (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily)

Key departures

Kevin Hogan — Hogan played himself into Stanford history over the last few years, gaining a reputation for tremendous leadership and big plays. It worked out well for Hogan, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs and remains in the mix for backup quarterback. But it certainly leaves a void for Stanford. The memories of Kevin Hogan will remain with Stanford fans for a long time: the perfect record against UCLA, the drive against Notre Dame last season. And Burns, Chryst and Costello will look to continue the lineage of strong Stanford quarterbacks this year.


Projected depth chart

  1. Ryan Burns
  2. Keller Chryst
  3. K.J. Costello

Others: Brent Peus, Jack Richardson


Contact Sandip Srinivas at sandip ‘at’

Sandip Srinivas '18 is the Football Editor, a sports desk editor and a beat writer for men's basketball and football at The Stanford Daily. Sandip is a sophomore from Belmont, California that roots for the San Francisco Giants during even years and roots for Steph Curry year-round. He is majoring in Symbolic Systems and can be contacted via email at sandips 'at'

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