It wasn't too long ago that the USC Trojans were atop the college football world. Pete Carroll and his coaching staff easily snatched up all the top talent in Southern California, then greedily ventured out across the United States to sign still more four- and five-star caliber players. One star-studded class followed another, and for a stretch of five or six years in the last decade, the Trojans were almost always the most talented team on the field.
In most cases, it's a good thing to be overflowing with talent. Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason had no trouble rotating eight different linebackers last season, and Pete Carroll happily split carries between Reggie Bush and Lendale White during USC's glory days, even though either would've been the feature back at almost any other school in America.
It isn't always that simple, though. There can only be one quarterback, after all.
After Andrew Luck departed for the NFL following his Heisman-winning 2011 season (well, we all know he should've won it), David Shaw held a six-month audition to find his replacement. The battle quickly narrowed down as Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes emerged as the front runners with a young kid named Kevin Hogan slated as the third-stringer. Nunes won the job at the outset, eventually lost it to Hogan, and Nottingham transfered to Columbia. Things have a way of working themselves out.
With the recent commitment of 2014 recruit Keller Chyrst and the reported interest of 2015 recruit Josh Rosen, two of the most sought-after prep quarterbacks in America, there has been some rumbling in Cardinal corners that Stanford just might have too many great quarterbacks. Can this be?
Before we move forward, it should be noted that Chryst's commitment is not binding and Stanford hasn't even offered Rosen a scholarship. For our purposes, though, let's assume that both enroll at Stanford -- a not unlikely scenario.
Starting with this fall, let's take a look at Stanford's quarterback situation over the next several years:
|2013||Hogan||Dallas Lloyd, Evan Crower, Ryan Burns|
|2014||Hogan||Burns, Lloyd, Crower, Chryst|
|2015||Burns||Lloyd, Chryst, Rosen|
It's obviously foolish to project the starting quarterbacks four and five years from now, but just for the sake of argument I've assumed that these players will develop at the same rates and that the older player will start. Additionally, I've given each player a four-year clock regardless of any redshirts.
The first thing that jumps out here is Ryan Burns. Remember him? When Hogan takes his Stanford degree and heads to the NFL following the 2014 season, Coach Shaw will face another decision: Burns or Chryst? If the loser of that battle chooses to look elsewhere for playing time, the depth chart above will suddenly look a whole lot different. If not, Shaw will have the luxury of perhaps the best back-up quarterback in the nation.
As we look farther into the future, we see Chryst and Rosen would have only one year each as starter. Is this likely? Can we really expect that either would sign on for this?
Of course we can, and here's why. Even if both Chryst and Rosen accept scholarship offers to Stanford, there's no guarantee that the depth chart will evolve as I've predicted. In fact, it almost certainly won't. Some players get injured, others exceed expectations, still others fall in love and forget which end of the football is up.
And here's the most important factor. Each one of these players -- Burns, Chryst, and Rosen -- has always been the best player on his football team, probably even the best player in his league. And because the teenage boy is nothing if not confident, each one believes that will always be the case. Ryan Burns arrived in Palo Alto last month no doubt believing with every ounce of his being that he will eventually succeed Hogan, but Chryst certainly believes the same thing. Rosen has already made it clear that Chryst's commitment in no way diminishes his interest in Stanford.
So there is a strong possibility that Stanford will include a top quarterback in three consecutive recruiting classes. If that happens, Coach Shaw will have to decide which of these great quarterbacks is most fit to lead his team into battle. And that's a good problem to have.