Hewitt tops my list as most important player

Over on the Pac-12 blog, Ted Miller and I have been breaking down the most important player (quarterbacks excluded) from each team in the conference.

Stanford is up today. I tinkered with this idea in a top-10 list back in February and had fullback Ryan Hewitt at No. 2. Well, I've changed my opinion. If I could go back, I would flip Stepfan Taylor and Hewitt. And here's why.

The Cardinal are extremely deep at running back. Taylor is a fantastic back -- and the best of the group without a doubt. But I have the feeling that if he went down with an injury, the Cardinal could absorb the loss with the rotation of Tyler Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, Ricky Seale, Barry Sanders, etc.

If Hewitt went down, there are other fullbacks behind him, but none as versatile or dynamic.

Here's what I had on Hewitt in the Pac-12 blog today:

He does so much for Stanford that few people realize his impact. Sure, it would have been easier to pick Taylor or Chase Thomas on defense or budding wide receiver Ty Montgomery. But when Hewitt is on the field, Stanford can run any number of formations with the same personnel group because Hewitt is so versatile. Here's how much Stanford loves to use fullbacks -- they have four of them on scholarship. I haven't checked, but there can't be that many teams that carry four scholarship fullbacks. And Hewitt is at the top of that depth chart. He won't run for 1,000 yards. But Taylor probably will again -- and Hewitt will be a big reason why. You take him out of the offense and the Cardinal lose one of their most under-appreciated, yet most important weapons.

I think whoever wins the quarterback spot is going to rely heavily on short-yardage passes, at least until they fully grasp the offense. That means a lot of tight ends underneath, a lot of running back swings and a lot of Hewitt coming out of the backfield. He catches everything (I don't recall any drops) and by my count he had a 94 percent catch-to-target ratio. That's the kind of consistency and reliability the new quarterback is going to need.