Stanford head coach David Shaw wants to be very clear on this point: Kevin Hogan is not a quarterback playing a Wildcat package. He's a quarterback playing quarterback.
"We stay away from the word Wildcat," Shaw said. "I think that's so specific to a running back and so specific to what we did [last year] with [Tyler] Gaffney and what we've done a couple of times this year with Stepfan [Taylor] and Anthony Wilkerson. This is completely different. He's in there to play quarterback."
You might have noticed the last few weeks Hogan stepping in for Josh Nunes a couple of plays at a time. This doesn't mark a specific change in philosophy. Shaw was adamant in the preseason about not wanting a two-quarterback system. Rather, this is a chance for the Cardinal to explore more options on offense.
And why not? The Cardinal rank fourth in the conference in total offense, averaging 381.7 yards per game. They are sixth in rushing offense and ninth in passing offense. Three of Stanford's top four receivers aren't receivers. Seven of Stanford's 10 passing touchdowns have come from tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo and running back Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinal have a very traditional offense, but they go about running it in an non-traditional way. So they are experimenting with ways to open things up a little more.
Enter Hogan, who has carried the ball three times for 18 yards and has thrown one pass, a 9-yard touchdown to Toilolo last week. His specific package is option-read, and Shaw to expect more of it.
"We really could see more of it," Shaw said. "I was a little tongue in cheek [in the preseason]. What I didn't want to do was have two quarterbacks rotating in to run the same offense. That's what I didn't want. But as far as having packages -- a Kevin Hogan package for a specific group of plays; and trying to make that as versatile as possible so there is enough running and passing, he's not just going in and doing one thing.
"There are some things that he can do and help us with. I think that's great. To me, that's not playing two quarterbacks. Rotating quarterbacks, I think that's hard on everybody. But when a guy has a specific package to get ready for -- particularly being a young quarterback -- I think that helps him get a foothold and a good start to his career."
This also raises the question of whether Hogan is next in line behind Nunes. Shaw was non-committal when asked if Hogan or Brett Nottingham was his backup. The question posed to Shaw was "knock on wood" if something happened to Nunes, who would start?
"Let's just keep knocking on wood," Shaw said. "Brett's ready to go if we need him. If that did happen, we'll see. But hopefully we won't see."
Hogan said he was thrilled that his first career touchdown pass came against Cal.
"It was exciting, especially in The Big Game, first time getting the opportunity to throw the ball," Hogan said. "... it was an exciting feeling."
Shaw first concocted the idea to use Hogan in this capacity last year. Whenever the Cardinal were prepping for a team with a running quarterback, it was Hogan who got the nod to run the scout offense.
"On our team, you have to earn the right to get on the field by practicing well in practice," Shaw said. "We've known Kevin can run and throw, but we weren't going to put him out there until he was efficient in that role, so we've been working it."