In a nutshell
When asked about the quarterback position during a May interview with Sports Illustrated senior sports writer Pete Thamel, head coach David Shaw responded definitively, “For me, it is settled. All the guys know Keller is the quarterback. He’s set to come back healthy in training camp, so we don’t expect any changes.”
Over three months later, senior Keller Chryst has not only returned to the practice field but has finally taken command of the offense, participating in full team runs for the past couple weeks during practice and cementing his starting position within the offense.
The coaching staff is hoping that with consistency at the head of the offense, the performances will follow. After a disappointing last season on attack in which Stanford ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in points per game, the Cardinal have made elevating their offensive game a priority during the offseason.
Much of the blame for the lackluster performances fell on the quarterback position, and not all of the criticism was unwarranted. While averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground–good for fourth in the conference—Stanford was handicapped by its inability to generate production through the air, ranking dead last in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game.
The struggle really reared its ugly head during the season-defining losing streak in the middle of the season against last year’s conference champion Washington Huskies, unranked Washington State and the streaking Colorado Buffaloes.
However, unlike last season, Stanford is not juggling a quarterback competition through the summer, as senior Keller Chryst has returned to full strength and participated in full-sprint team runs for the past two weeks. By all accounts, Chryst will be the starter when the Cardinal coincidentally square off against their last regular season opponent, the Rice Owls.
“[Chryst’s] not limited at all,” head coach David Shaw said after practice on Aug. 17. “He’s been able to run full speed. He’s been banged around and has had no setbacks. He feels great.”
Behind Chryst, the Cardinal have two viable candidates for backup in fifth-year Ryan Burns and sophomore K. J. Costello. While Burns has experience under his belt as the starter at the beginning of last season’s campaign, the senior ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game and never truly showed the capability to lead the Stanford passing attack with consistency, throwing three touchdowns and two interceptions in his first three appearances.
Costello, on the other hand, promises huge potential as a former California all-state, five-star recruit quarterback from Santa Margarita High School. “He’s got all the tools. He learned a lot this past off-season and had a really good spring ball,” said head coach David Shaw of his sophomore quarterback.
After not seeing game action during his freshman year at the Farm, Costello could be a surprising factor this season if Chryst does not manage to heighten his play after finally taking control of the starting spot.
Beyond the returning core, Stanford does not have any other quarterbacks who are likely to see the field this season. However, other than the three aforementioned quarterbacks, incoming five-star recruit Davis Mills out of Duluth, Georgia will likely redshirt this season and familiarize himself with the complicated Stanford playbook.
Ryan Burns – After battling for the starting position and edging out Keller Chryst last fall, Burns ultimately couldn’t keep the position due to his inaccuracy through the air. Despite starting 3-0 on the season and defeating USC, Stanford never hit the 30-point mark with Burns leading the offense and were ultimately outmatched by a dominant Husky defense that held the Cardinal to only 6 points by stunting the running game.
Consequently, Burns will most likely play second fiddle to Chryst–barring any unforeseen circumstances–as the Stanford offense aim to fight off another season of doubts as to who owns the starting position.
Keller Chryst – The Palo Alto native now has the spotlight as the commanding starter and leader of the Stanford offense heading into next season. As the starter, the senior signal-caller will not only have to elevate his performances from last season but also pick up the slack for the offense that is attempting to replace the absence of stud running back Christian McCaffrey.
After taking the lion’s share of the starting position at the end of last year, Chryst helped steer the Cardinal to a five game winning streak to close out the regular season and showed progress and glimpses of potential down the stretch. Chryst found the end zone through the air twice in the last two games of the season with the last one coincidentally being a walloping of the Rice Owls—Stanford’s first opponent of the 2017 season.
K.J. Costello – Costello’s addition as the youngest in the quarterback trio will be interesting if Chryst doesn’t get off to a great start. The redshirt freshman was an excellent pocket passer and deft leader of the offense at Santa Margarita and ranked as the nation’s second best pro style quarterback out of high school by Rivals.
While Costello is young and thus has not had ample time to develop in the Cardinal system, his talent and raw potential is through the roof and could provide an unforeseen spark if necessary this season.
Davis Mills – The incoming freshman will most likely redshirt this season and thus not see game action, but the recruit generated a lot of buzz in his hometown, leading Greater Atlanta Christian to three regional titles while himself earning the title of All-State three times in addition to being a 2017 U.S. Army All-American.
Mills will spend the majority of the season assimilating to the collegiate level and the Stanford program but will be an exciting prospect in the years to come.
Others: Brent Peus, Jack Richardson
Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.