Recruiting vital to life after Luck

One of the greatest eras in the history of Stanford football is coming to an end. Soon, the Stanford Cardinal will have to adapt to life after Andrew Luck.

But don't tell that to head coach David Shaw -- whose era as Stanford's front-man is just beginning. He's hoping that Luck's departure isn't the end of an era, but the start of a Golden Age for Stanford football.

"I don't think in terms of one season," Shaw said. "I think in terms of era. I would love for this to be the era where Stanford football stays toward the top of the NCAA. Stanford football is one of the best programs in the nation and one of the best academic institutions in the world. There is no time in recent history where there has been a top five academic school and a consistent top five football school. That's our goal. Our goal is to break the mold. Our goal is to try to, in some way, shape or form, affect college football. To raise the standards."

With Luck at the helm, the standards -- and expectations -- were never higher. Luck's laundry list of accomplishments is as rich as Stanford's endowment. But many are wondering if Stanford will come back to Earth after Luck joins the NFL stars.

You can argue that no player in the country brought his team to higher levels of success than Andrew Luck. Without him, the Cardinal are a pretty good Pac-12 team, but they're probably not repeat participants in a BCS bowl game if he's not under center. So the challenge for Shaw and his staff is to capitalize on Luck's success and try to turn Stanford into a brand name for football, as it is for academics.

"The No. 1 thing with recruiting is winning helps," Shaw said. "When you win and win a lot, the awards come. And that's great. The best thing that we do is our guys promote Stanford University extremely well. Every time they are in front of a microphone, every time they are in front of a camera, they are great examples of what we're looking for in student-athletes."

Who knows what next season will bring. Maybe Brett Nottingham is the next Andrew Luck. Studying behind the greatest quarterback in school history certainly couldn't have stunted his growth as a player. Nottingham showed a pretty good arm in his few appearances this season. And the extra bowl practice while Luck is sucking down rubber chicken dinners on the awards circuit is going to pay off significantly.

Stanford runs an offensive system that is pick-your-poison. With the right ingredients, the next guy up can have a lot of success (though few will fully comprehend the offense the way Luck did). Plus, a pro-style system is appealing to a lot of quarterbacks who think they have what it takes to play in the NFL. Scouts, at least the ones I've talked to over the past decade and a half, prefer pro-style quarterbacks.

It's fair to expect a drop-off in the post-Luck era -- and the loss of David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin, Coby Fleener doesn't help the offense much either. But Luck pointed the Cardinal in the right direction. He brought national attention to a football program just a few years removed from a one-win season.

The key to continuing that success, Shaw said, is recruiting.

"We're going to recruit as hard as we can recruit, and the guys who can do well here, they are out there, we have to find them, show them this place, and let them know this is what they are looking for," Shaw said. "This is a world-class education with a top five football team.

" ... Every year there has to be 20-25 tough, high-character guys that can be great students here and great football players," Shaw said. "We've got to find them."