It’s a slow time of year in college football. Spring practices are over, the NFL draft has come and gone, leaving four long months before college football returns to our television screens. We’ll take a look at some questions facing each Pac-12 team over the next couple of weeks. Next up: the Stanford Cardinal.
How does the offense move on without Christian McCaffrey?
Thanks to McCaffrey’s decision to skip the Sun Bowl, Stanford got a glimpse into what life would be like without him and the results were mixed. With quarterback Keller Chryst on the field early in the game, the signs were encouraging. McCaffrey’s replacement, Bryce Love, caught a 49-yard touchdown pass on the game’s second drive, but Chryst was injured on the next drive and the offense failed to score a touchdown the rest of the game. Love has the ability to become an all-conference caliber player, and between running backs Cameron Scarlett, Dorian Maddox and Trevor Speights there is enough talent to expect at least one of them to develop into a reliable second option by the fall. McCaffrey’s production obviously won’t be replicated by one player -- or maybe even two -- but coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren have strong enough track records to assume they’ll find a way to evolve effectively.
In 2012, Shaw memorably claimed that the class of offensive linemen it signed had a chance to be one of the best in college football history. Sure enough, OT Andrus Peat became a first-round pick, OG Joshua Garnett won the Outland Trophy and also was a first-round pick and OT Kyle Murphy was a sixth-round pick. All three of them played as true freshmen. Incoming freshmen Foster Sarell and Walker Little will arrive at Stanford with similar expectations and it would be a mild surprise if either of them uses their redshirt. With Stanford’s consistent reliance on packages featuring extra offensive linemen, there is a more clearly defined path to playing time for non-starters, but both of them should be in the mix to start as well.
How quickly will news come about QB Keller Chryst’s status?
Had Chryst not injured his knee in the bowl game, Ryan Burns would have been expected to seek out a transfer destination for his final year of eligibility. However, with Chryst’s availability for next season a bit muddled, Burns ultimately decided he would finish his career at Stanford. It’s unclear to what degree Chryst’s injury factored into Burns’ decision to stay, but the injury does prevent much clarity about who will begin the year as the starter. In March, Shaw said Chryst was on schedule to be a “full-go for training camp,” but rehab schedules certainly can change. The Cardinal open the year early -- Aug. 26 in Australia against Rice -- which means any delay in Chryst’s timetable would make it difficult for him to be ready for the opener. If he’s unable to go, Burns likely will be the starter. However it’s worth noting the staff has been impressed with K.J. Costello, who might be further ahead of where both Chryst and Burns were at the same stage of their careers. Would Stanford consider going with Costello instead of Burns? It’s possible.