STANFORD -- What little suspense there was regarding Stanford's immediate future at quarterback ended Tuesday when redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan was named to start against 13th-ranked Oregon State on Saturday.
Hogan directed five touchdown drives after relieving season-long starter Josh Nunes late in the first quarter at Colorado last Saturday. But why make the change for such a critical Pac-12 game to a guy who essentially got his first extended playing time against the defensively challenged Buffaloes?
"Because he's ready," Stanford coach David Shaw said.
Shaw said Hogan's performance against Colorado, in which he completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns and ran seven times for 48 yards, was reflective of what he's seen in practice of late. He believes Hogan's dual-threat capability as a passer and a runner will give No. 16 Stanford the extra dimension it needs for its tough finishing schedule -- the final home game of the year against the 7-1 Beavers, followed by road games against Oregon and UCLA.
"Culminating with the last two weeks of practice, Kevin has shown us a lot, and on game day -- as we all saw -- he really took the bit and played extremely well," Shaw said. "Not perfectly, mind you. He's a redshirt freshman, and he still has a lot to learn, but athletically, he gives us something special."
The coach said Nunes, who started Stanford's first nine games and guided the Cardinal to a 7-2 record despite mixed personal results, took the news as well as could be expected. While acknowledging that Hogan has absorbed no more than roughly 80 percent of Stanford's playbook, Shaw said the pluses outweighed the minuses in terms of making the offense more efficient and unpredictable.
"He's shown us he can handle enough of our game plan that we won't have to change what we do," he said. "We're just going to try to play to his strengths."
Hogan, a 6-foot-4, 224-pounder out of McLean, Va., was low-key about his promotion, maintaining he hadn't told anyone but his parents.
"You always prepare every week to play, regardless of whether you do or not," he said. "I'm not sure when my breakthrough was, but I just feel a lot more comfortable out on the field, and my teammates really helped me out by doing their job, which helped me do my job."
"It was a combination of the nature of the game and the desire for us to take some of the load off of him," the coach said. "He has been carrying the ball a lot. I don't know where he ranks across the country, but he's No. 1 in the conference for touches, and we don't run a lot of sweeps with him. It's mostly between the tackles."
Taylor needs 318 yards to break Stanford's career rushing record of 4,033 yards set by Darrin Nelson between 1977 and 1981.
"We've put a lot of money and time into it, and we've had some experts advising us," he said. "So hopefully, it holds up. Regardless of how soft it might be, it's leaps and bounds better than it was a year ago, so you're not going to find me complaining. The effort we put into it really has paid off."