Stanford quarterback battle narrowing

So far, the quarterback competition at Stanford is going as head coach David Shaw has planned: Five men enter, two men leave.

The original five — Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes, Robbie Picazo, Kevin Hogan and Evan Crower — all entered spring drills with, according to Shaw, an equal chance to be the guy replacing Andrew Luck.

As the spring session winds down in the next few weeks, Shaw said he believes that Nunes and Nottingham have separated themselves from the pack of five.

"We've got a couple of good, viable candidates," Shaw said. "It's not like no one has played well and we can't make a decision. Both (Nunes and Nottingham) have played well. But no one has separated themselves just yet. The positive is we have a couple of good options. Thankfully we have a little more time to see who separates themselves."

If you're a Stanford fan, this is a very good sign. The last thing you want to see at the end of spring practices is a quarterback competition going into the summer that still involves five quarterbacks. That's a recipe for chaos and an indication that there is still no direction. It doesn't appear this is the case.

No one, Shaw included, expected there would be a starting quarterback by the end of April. But the hope all along was that two -- possibly three -- players would emerge to take the competition to the next level when the Cardinal start camp in the summer in preparation for the 2012 season.

Nottingham, who was the backup to Luck last season, appeared in six games for the Cardinal, completing 5 of 8 passes for 78 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown strike Coby Fleener in the season opener against San Jose State. Picazo was the only other quarterback on the roster to throw in a game last season, completing 3 of 3 balls for 15 yards. Drew Terrell's lone pass -- the heralded one-handed catch by Luck -- wasn't enough to earn him a spot in the arms race.

Nunes was originally penciled in as Luck's backup last season until a turf-toe injury sidelined him for most of fall camp and a good part of the season. In an interview last week, Nunes said he was feeling 100 percent and the turf toe was no longer an issue.

While it's in vogue at some schools to use multiple quarterbacks, Shaw reiterated that the practice is not an option for him.

"The quarterback position is unique because if you were talking about another position, two or three guys can compete for another spot, and we can rotate at outside linebackers or running backs or receivers," Shaw said. " But we're not going to rotate quarterbacks, so you don't want to lose a single rep. You want to jump in there when you get an opportunity so it is competitive."

All of the above quarterbacks were outstanding high school players. Nottingham was a four-star recruit from the 2010 class and Nunes ranked 137th in the 2009 ESPNU 150 list -- coming in as the 12th-ranked quarterback in the nation.

Hogan and Crower were both three stars. Hogan was mostly sought after by the ACC and Big East while Crower was wooed by the Pac-10/12. Picazo joined the program as a walk on after setting a slew of records at Tesoro High in Las Flores, Calif.

"All of these guys are leaders in their own right," Shaw said. "It's hard to be the overall, true leader that you want to be when you're not a starting quarterback. So there is some jockeying there."