Stanford spring football predictions: No. 4

We continue our list of five predictions for the second half of Stanford's spring practice.

No. 4: Backup quarterback competition begins

With Ryan Burns sidelined for the first half of spring football due to disciplinary reasons, Evan Crower was able to strengthen his grip on the backup quarterback job behind starter Kevin Hogan.

When the second session begins on March 31, Burns must take advantage. It's the last stretch of football the Cardinal will have before highly-touted freshman Keller Chryst crosses the street from Palo Alto High and ultimately becomes Burns’ biggest competition.

Pending a serious injury or some sort of breakout season that ends with Hogan leaving early for the NFL, he still has two years left as the team's starter. And since Crower is from the same class, the starting job in 2016 figures to be a competition between Burns and Chryst.

In the short term, establishing himself as the primary backup to Hogan would help Burns' longterm development. He'll take more first-team reps, he could see the occasional mop-up duty and obviously would be in position to play if something were to happen to Hogan. Being the backup didn't work out for Brett Nottingham, who backed up Andrew Luck in 2011 as a redshirt freshman before being beat out by Josh Nunes and Hogan the following season, but it would still an advantageous position to be in for two seasons before 2016.

Burns arrived at Stanford the No. 4-ranked pocket passer in the nation in 2013, and, at the time, received the highest scout grade (85) ESPN had assigned to a Stanford recruit dating back to 2006.

His suspension doesn't help his pursuit of the backup job, but he's a talented player and should make the backup quarterback competition worth paying attention to the rest of spring and into fall camp.

Chryst is the same caliber recruit. He was the No. 3-ranked pocket passer in the most recent recruiting cycle and the No. 3-ranked player overall in California.

On signing day, Cardinal coach David Shaw spoke glowingly of Chryst, whose father is 49ers quarterback coach Geep Chyrst: "There are things you can teach playing the quarterback position and things you can't. You can't teach 6-4, 235 and athleticism that can throw the ball 70 yards. You just can't teach that stuff. You see a young man with ability and physical tools and toughness. Best thing for us is that we don't feel the need to rush his development."


No. 5: Whitfield will emerge at safety