STANFORD -- The most likely candidate to become the next Ty Montgomery is, well, Ty Montgomery.
No player on Stanford's roster made greater progress at this time last year -- during the buildup to the Fiesta Bowl -- than Montgomery, a receiver who was completing his freshman season.
His stellar play in practice led to a breakthrough performance against Oklahoma State in which Montgomery caught seven passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
One year later, as Stanford prepares to face Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Montgomery is searching for his December mojo after a disappointing fall.
He was the Cardinal's top receiver until suffering an early-October knee injury. Montgomery returned for the stretch run but played sparingly and finished with just 23 catches.
"Missing as much of the season as I did," he said, "I definitely want to make a statement. I need to prove something to myself."
The December lull has done his knee well.
Stanford took a week off after the Pac-12 championship game, then held two light workouts last week during final exams. With bowl practices ramping up, Montgomery feels fresher and faster -- close to his pre-injury form.
But he isn't the only receiver hoping to climb the depth chart during the Rose Bowl workouts. Redshirt freshman Kelsey Young, who averaged 10.4 yards per touch (runs and receptions), has staked a claim for more playing time, as well.
Defensively, linebacker James Vaughters has made the most of December with "a series of really good practices," coach David Shaw said.
As Montgomery proved last year, the Bowl Championship Series depth chart is written in pencil, not ink.
"Ty was not a huge part of our game plan," Shaw recalled. "But he blossomed in those practices before the bowl. Anybody can play."
The Cardinal is expected to sign one quarterback, Ryan Burns, of Ashburn, Va., who will join presumptive 2013 returnees Kevin Hogan, Josh Nunes, Dallas Lloyd and Evan Crower.
Stave threw for 1,104 yards before breaking his left (non-throwing) collarbone in late October. He hasn't been cleared for full contact but told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he'll "keep practicing and preparing like I would play."
Stave's replacement, Curt Phillips, led the Badgers to a 70-31 victory over Nebraska in the Big Ten title game.
Wisconsin's other option is Danny O'Brien, who started the first three games but was benched in favor of Stave.
The honor instead went to Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
"An interesting tidbit," Shaw said after noting Ertz's statistical advantage over Eifert in all major receiving categories.
ROSE BOWL: Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), 2 p.m. ESPN