There was zero hesitation from Stanford head coach David Shaw when he was asked if wide receiver Griff Whalen is playing the best football of his career.
"Absolutely," Shaw said. "Absolutely."
As Andrew Luck's wide receiving corps continues to thin amid injuries, Whalen has been the one steady performer over the past month and a half. Even before the Cardinal lost tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Chris Owusu, the former walk-on had been putting up career numbers.
Whalen got off to a sluggish start in the first quarter of the season, catching just nine balls for 101 yards with no touchdowns through the first four games. He also caught just 56 percent of the balls thrown his way.
But over the past six games, Whalen has been solid and reliable, catching 36 balls for 540 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he's catching the ball 76 percent of the time he's targeted during that stretch. He also leads the Cardinal in total catches with 45 for 641 yards.
"The last month of the season we've leaned on him more and we've put him in positions and he continues to impress us," Shaw said. "Even against guys that are considered better athletes and faster and bigger. The guy just gets open and catches the ball."
Whalen has already surpassed every career mark he had going into the season. It's too bad he can't play Oregon every week (though his teammates probably wouldn't want that) because he always seems to bring out his best games versus the Ducks.
Receptions: Previous high 5 vs. Oregon. This year, 9 vs. Oregon.
Receiving yards: Previous high, 78 vs. Oregon. This year, 107 vs. Oregon.
Touchdowns: 1 (and the only one for his career heading into the year) vs. Oregon. This year, 2 vs. Oregon.
Long: Previous high, 27 vs. Cal. This year, 32 vs. Washington.
"He's always made plays over the last three years, really whenever he's been called upon as a reserve receiver or put into games for a specific reason," Shaw said. "He came into training camp and had as good a training camp as he's ever had. He's been confident. He's made plays in every game. It's one of these deals where every single time we need something, he's the guy that comes through."