Stanford mailbag

John in Phoenix writes: Can you discuss Stanford's QB situation? The recruiting class looks incredible but with Andrew Luck gone, the unknown factor will be the QB position for next year. Will it be Brett Nottingham or one of the other upstarts? Excited about next season, but nervous about the uncertainty at the most important position.

Kevin Gemmell: David Shaw has said that his quarterback competition has already begun, and will likely keep going well into fall camp — and could be up in the air until the week before the season opener. You have to think that Nottingham has some sort of slight lead because of his No. 2 status last season and the fact that he has a little game experience. But there are some very talented quarterbacks who have been waiting to get their shot. Whoever starts, the fact remains that they will be a first-year starter, prone to mental mistakes and "what-was-he-thinking" moments. It's all part of the learning curve — especially in a pro-style offense that relies so heavily on proper calls and reads at the line. I'm not expecting out-of-this-world quarterback play next season. But the guys on the roster are talented enough that I'm also not expecting a horror show under center.

TJ in San Francisco writes: So, I'm really excited about the recruiting class, but I have to ask — what's with signing so many O-linemen in one year? Not that I'm complaining, but I've never seen or heard of anything like it. Is it just that we didn't expect to get them all or is it part of a plan?

Kevin Gemmell: Shaw talked a little bit about the depth issue in the two-part Q&A I did with him last week. Something else to keep in mind is that really, really good offensive linemen — who also meet Stanford's academic requirements — don't come around too often and in such numbers. Shaw and his staff identified this group more than a year ago, targeted them and have been giving them the hard sell for the last year and change. He and his staff knew that it's a rare occurrence to have this many elite linemen — who are also academically eligible — in one recruiting class. The fact that they were able to nab so many of them is really quite extraordinary.

Paul in Stanford, Calif. writes: This 2012 haul is pretty impressive for the Cardinal. Who do you expect to make an appearance next fall? Do you think this O-Line will make it easier to grab a star QB next year?

Kevin Gemmell: A coach I used to cover once said that "the further you are from the center, the better chance you have to play as a freshman." Meaning, offensive linemen and quarterbacks usually aren't ready to play as true freshman while wide receivers and running backs usually are. I don't think that's the case with this class. I think it's very possible that we could see a couple of the linemen step in and compete for playing time right away. When I talked with Shaw about the class, he seemed very excited about some of the wide receiver prospects — Conner Crane, Kodi Whitfield, Dontonio Jordan and Michael Rector. I think Noor Davis might get some time at linebacker and wouldn't be surprised to see Alex Carter break his way into the rotation at cornerback.

Fleecemonkey writes: Is David Shaw a better recruiter than Jim Harbaugh? And how good will Stanford's running game be the next couple of years? Very good? Great? Elite?

Kevin Gemmell: His classes certainly rank higher than Harbaugh's, so if that is your measuring stick, then the answer is yes. But Harbaugh certainly gets a great deal of credit for finding the guys who didn't receive high marks and turning them into fantastic football players. Shaw closed on a lot of great prospects this year. But that's all they are at this point — prospects. The real measuring stick is what he does with them once he gets them in a Stanford uniform.