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Ryan Burns, Keller Chryst are Stanford's two big options to replace Kevin Hogan

STANFORD, Calif. -- Ask either of the two candidates for the Stanford starting quarterback job a question about their biggest similarity, and the answer isn't a typical one for the position.

"We both like to hit people," Ryan Burns said. "I like hitting people, Keller [Chryst] likes hitting people -- as you can see on the film from last year. We like to get down and dirty a little bit."

The film that Burns is referring to from last year is a play from Stanford's win over Arizona, when Chryst pancaked a Wildcat defense back to spring Christian McCaffrey free for a 25-yard gain.

At that moment, it was clear that Stanford wouldn't be deficient at the quarterback position once Kevin Hogan graduated -- at least in the physical realm of the equation. Both Burns and Chryst check in at 6-foot-5 and about 235 pounds, figures that resemble those of former Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, whose frame serves as David Shaw's prototype for the position.

"[Burns and Chryst] love to run the ball, they love to be physical," Shaw said. "They just want to be one of the guys, which I love about them. They don't want to be these pristine china dolls that no one touches. Both guys played other sports, and both guys took on tacklers in high school."

Even with speedy weapons like McCaffrey and Bryce Love filling up highlight reels, Stanford still takes pride on being a bruising football team at its core. It is, after all, one of the few remaining programs that employ a fullback. And it appears that the physical mentality has extended to this next generation of the quarterback position.

"It's the way Andrew felt, and it's the way Hogan felt," Shaw said. "So it's really nothing new."

Memories of Luck laying out USC cornerback Shareece Wright after a fumble immediately come to mind -- the future No. 1 overall draft pick showed linebacker potential on that play. Hogan was cut from a similar cloth: He set the Stanford career rushing record for a quarterback behind a scrambling style that was unafraid of contact.

Now, as Burns and Chryst battle for the starting job, they're trying to emulate their predecessors. When the two watch film to learn the Stanford offense, it's almost always video of Luck or Hogan.

"We watch their base, their release, everything about their game," Chryst said. "Both Andrew and Kevin were the standard."

The ideal goal for Stanford's new quarterbacks, then, is to reach a state of hybrid excellence -- one that incorporates the unique strengths of both Luck's and Hogan's games into one player.

And along those lines, mastery of Stanford's large playbook will be the ultimate determinant of their battle to start. Shaw insists that the competition between Burns and Chryst remains evenly matched -- the Cardinal have a bye week immediately after their Sept. 2 season opener -- and he wouldn't rule out the possibility of it extending into the season. He says the coaching staff will only make a decision after scouring troves of offseason film to evaluate which quarterback is the best decision-maker.

"We may play them evenly, we may play one guy more than the other, or we may play one guy the whole game," Shaw said of Stanford's opener against Kansas State.

The new quarterback will be primarily responsible for managing the Cardinal's impressive stable of offensive skill position talent, which includes McCaffrey and Love while extending to dangerous targets like tight end Dalton Schultz and receiver Michael Rector.

"It makes it easier because you know that you don't have to do it all yourself," Chryst said. "You can trust everyone across the board. I think it's cool that we're all so talented. It's just our job to tie it all together."

And if that task ever requires some extra physical oomph -- say, a jarring block -- Stanford knows that it's set with its two options under center, both of whom seem willing to give fullback a try in case quarterback doesn't work out.