Stanford spring football predictions: No. 3

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

No. 3: Hogan takes the next step

Yesterday, we addressed what's going on behind starting quarterback Kevin Hogan on the depth chart. Today, it's time to address what lies ahead for Hogan, who is entering his redshirt junior season.

Expectations for the Virginia native were exceedingly high heading into 2013 after he stepped in to the starting role in Week 10 the previous season and led the Cardinal to five straight wins against ranked teams, including No. 2 Oregon on the road, UCLA in the Pac-12 championship and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. His name regularly came up in preseason Heisman chatter and was mentioned alongside some of the top quarterbacks in the country.

Hogan certainly deserved a lot of the credit for the Cardinal's late-season surge, but, looking back, the external expectations that came as a result were too much, too quickly. When he didn't perform at an All-American level last year, there was a sense that he didn't play like he should have. That's completely misguided. There are several ways to measure his play that indicated he was actually better as a sophomore (improved QBR and traditional quarterback rating, more yards per attempt, less sacks per attempt, etc.).

And while it's fair to say Hogan didn't take a significant step forward in his development, it's tough to measure how much that was impacted by not having tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, both of whom left for the NFL.

He's not going to magically turn back into the Heisman candidate he was once perceived to be based on anything that happens in the spring, but it does figure to be an important stretch. With essentially the entire receiving corps returning and little experience back at running back, Stanford will likely be more reliant on the pass next year.

There won't be wholesale philosophical changes -- the Cardinal still wants to be a power running team -- but throwing more makes sense. To what degree will be interesting to monitor, but for him to go from the 21.1 pass attempts he averaged in 2013 to, say, 25 in 2014 feels about right.

With a more stable situation at backup quarterback, it also wouldn't be surprising if the play-calling incorporated more designed runs for Hogan. That's what originally earned him playing time, but was shelved at times a year ago.


No. 4: Backup quarterback competition begins

No. 5: Whitfield will emerge at safety