STANFORD -- Make no mistake, even with the late-season change to redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan at quarterback, Stanford's offense is going to remain heavily rooted in its power-running game.
But with 13th-ranked Oregon State visiting Stanford Stadium on Saturday, it is perhaps the most opportune time for Cardinal coach David Shaw to make the switch.
The Beavers, ranked fifth nationally against the run, won't be able to just load up the box to stop tailback Stepfan Taylor. Hogan is a dangerous enough runner to keep defenses more honest, and he will allow the Cardinal to pass more off play-action fakes.
"They have the capability of doing a little more option-type stuff with (Hogan)," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "He presents a little different kind of problem from what we've seen in the past."
Hogan is a more gifted runner than passer at this point in his development, although he has shown a deft touch and strong arm. He is particularly adept at throwing on the run.
But it's the running threat that has made him No. 1 over season-long starter Josh Nunes and backup Brett Nottingham.
"He can eat up chunks, and he can run by people," Shaw said. "To have a quarterback who cannot just scramble for a first down but scramble for an explosive play is huge."
How much running or throwing on the run out of play-action fakes will Hogan do? That's something Oregon State has to be wondering.
Last week against Colorado, Hogan came off the bench to pass for 184 yards and run for 48, including two runs exceeding 20 yards. Sixteenth-ranked Stanford didn't really power up the run against the Buffaloes, with Taylor carrying just 10 times for 43 yards during the 48-0 romp.
Hogan's dual-threat capabilities are what attracted Stanford to the quarterback two years ago, when current offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton was recruiting on the East Coast.
Hogan wasn't exactly a big secret. The 6-foot-4, 224-pounder was ranked among the top 15 quarterbacks in the country as a senior at Gonzaga College Prep in Washington, D.C., by most of the top scouting services. He was regarded as athletic but raw until his final year in high school, when he directed a 21-14 victory over powerful DeMatha, which had shut out Gonzaga for three consecutive seasons.
What impressed Stanford's staff the most, however, was how Hogan performed in adverse weather while at Gonzaga, a school located just six blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
"We knew he was a smart, sharp, tough kid with good physical tools and high GPA and test scores," Shaw said. "But when we put the film on, we noticed that he played almost his entire senior season in mud on sloppy fields. It seemed like it rained every game. but it never bothered him making cuts or throwing. He would never slip and fall."
Then it became a matter of interesting Hogan in then-coach Jim Harbaugh's program. A die-hard Washington Redskins fan who never really considered West Coast schools, Hogan was zeroing in on Virginia and Vanderbilt.
"I actually wasn't planning on coming out to visit, but my parents told me it was a great school," he said. "So I came out, and within an hour, I was convinced this was the place I wanted to be. I was a pretty late commit as far as quarterbacks go, but thank God I waited."
Hogan committed to Stanford before knowing Andrew Luck had decided to return for another season. When Luck returned, Hogan sat out as a redshirt. He considers that a blessing.
"It just made me really happy to know I was going to be able to learn from a great player like Andrew," he said. "It really made my acclimation to college football a lot easier being able to learn from him. He taught me how to manage games and be a leader."
Off the field, Hogan doesn't cast the presence of a leader. He is quiet and a bit shy, but in a positive way.
"He's just so cool," said receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson. "He's like the Most Interesting Man (in the World)."
Shaw thinks that's just the nature of backup quarterbacks.
"Sometimes they don't let their entire personality out unless they're the starter," he said. "We'll see Kevin let his personality out a little bit more in the next couple of weeks."
If his game follows suit, Stanford's offense could find a higher plane for the stretch run.