K-State, Stanford both send untested QBs into opener
STANFORD, Calif. -- Kansas State and Stanford both enter the season with inexperience at quarterback. Wildcats starter Jesse Ertz and Cardinal counterpart Ryan Burns have combined for one career collegiate pass.
Burns, though, has one big advantage that Ertz doesn't heading into No. 8 Stanford's opener at home against Kansas State on Friday night. He can just give the ball to Christian McCaffrey.
"I don't expect to put the whole ball of wax on his shoulders and have him win the game for us," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I expect him to play his role as I expect everybody else that steps on the field to do their job and let the other guys around them do theirs."
Burns beat out Keller Chryst for Kevin Hogan's old job despite having thrown just one pass in three seasons at Stanford. He must fill a big void as Hogan was the winningest quarterback in school history and led the Cardinal to three Rose Bowl trips in his four years as a starter.
He has a dynamic offense around him led by McCaffrey, last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up when he broke Barry Sanders' record by gaining 3,496 all-purpose yards. Throw in fifth-year receiver Michael Rector, deep threat Francis Owusu and tight end Dalton Schultz, and Burns will have plenty of help around him.
"We all feel extremely confident with him in at quarterback knowing that he knows all the plays, knows all the checks," McCaffrey said.
Ertz earned the starting job for the second straight summer. He tore his ACL on the first play of the season last year and left for good one play after that.
He has yet to throw a pass in college and lacks many proven options at the skill positions. Junior college transfer Byron Pringle will give a boost to a receiving group that has only one player (Deante Burton) with at least five career starts.
Here are some other things to watch when Kansas State visits Stanford:
WILD CAFF: McCaffrey did it all last year, rushing for 2,019 yards, adding a team-high 45 catches for 645 yards and being a dynamic returner. He even threw two TD passes. McCaffrey is adding another role this season after short-yardage ace Remound Wright graduated after running for 24 TDs on 217 carries the past two seasons. McCaffrey will get a chance to pad his TD numbers by getting some of those carries close to the goal line.
"He can do anything on the field, so you just have to be aware and be up for the challenge," Wildcats safety Dante Barnett said.
NEW LINE PART I: Ertz will have an inexperienced line protecting him. RT Dalton Risner (13 starts) and RG Terrale Johnson (four starts) are the only players with starting experience coming back. Redshirt freshmen Scott Frantz and Tyler Mitchell man the left side and C Reid Najvar has played just four career games as a reserve.
"It's not necessarily the most desirable thing, but I like the way they have come along and progressed," coach Bill Snyder said.
NEW LINE PART II: Stanford also has had to retool its line this season after losing three starters from a year ago. RG Johnny Caspers is the only starter back in the same spot as he was a year ago, with LT Casey Tucker moving over from the right side. RT A.T. Hall, C Jesse Burkett and LG David Bright fill the other three spots.
PLAY WRECKER: The Wildcats had 38 sacks last season, including 9 1/2 from DE Jordan Willis, who has caught the eye of Shaw with his strong play on tape.
"He's one of those guys that when you watch him, you earn respect," Shaw said. "No matter what game you put on, he hits the quarterback."
DEFENSIVE DEPTH: Stanford played most of last season with just three healthy defensive linemen. This year that will be a much deeper position with DT Harrison Phillips coming back from a knee injury and DE Dylan Jackson emerging as a starter along with returner Solomon Thomas. Shaw said he plans to rotate six players on the line. Eric Cotton, Jordan Watkins and Luke Kaumatule should keep the starters fresher.