2002 Overview: Quarterbacks

The focal point of the new Buddy Teevens offense is the quarterback, and that makes this most visible of positions all the more scrutinized this year. Here is a detailed look at each Stanford quarterback, with notes from progress in the spring and this training camp, including quotes from Offensive Coordinator Mike Sanford.

This is overall a young group, with a variety of strengths, challenges, styles, sizes and experience levels.  The killer is that when Chris Lewis is subtracted (i.e. the situation for BC in the opener), there is not a soul in this unit who has taken a snap under center in college.  Tyrone refused to let Ryan Eklund take a snap last year when Fasani was hurt and Chris Lewis was the starter, so here we are...

Depth Chart

#10 Chris Lewis
#11 Kyle Matter
#14 Ryan Eklund
#12 Trent Edwards
#13 David Lofton

My take: Chris Lewis is recognized as the clear starter on this team, and he has been since Randy Fasani took his final snaps in the Seattle Bowl last December.  Sure, Chris has had the benefit of several starts in each of the past two seasons, amounting to a full season under his belt.  But he still has had the on-and-off again label and repetitions with being the #2 guy.  This spring and training camp are now the first times he has reaped those benefits, and it has paid off.  He is throwing better and more consistent deep balls, and his mastery of decision-making in checking off his receivers is rising.  I don't know how good he can be, though I do think some people have been a little over the top in their posts on the message boards in this off-season.  The Big Game was a big concern for me last year, when Chris put up yards but flat-out made a lot of bad throws and bad decisions.  Stanford can't afford for that against a Division I opponent outside of Big Yawn...

Kyle Matter came into the spring with a big boost in his arm strength after some very serious strength work in the winter, which helped to partially remedy his biggest handicap in his redshirt first fall.  He can throw a longer ball now, but for the really deep routes he still is forced to use his body like a spring, crouching down low to the ground in a long throwing motion.  We will see if and when that comes back to haunt him and Stanford.  The good news is that his accuracy, which is probably the best of these five QBs, has not suffered.  Kyle has particularly had some major progress in this fall training camp.  His comfort level and decision making are taking off quickly, albeit with some periods of mistakes mixed throughout.  The last week of camp with Lewis sitting out was an even greater maturation experience.  He is growing up in a hurry, and I honestly think he can execute most of this offense pretty well...

Ryan Eklund has made some tangible strides this fall, but I think he has clearly been passed by Matter in this camp.  The good news for Eklund is that he is legitimately bigger, and he has shaken my one great beef I have had with him for the previous two years - his 'deer in headlights' reaction in practices.  Too often I saw Ek freeze when trying to process his receivers on the fly, with defenders coming at his face.  And that was predominately an observation when Tyrone's conservative defense was in place, seldom bringing the kind of pressure that today's Stanford defense brings every down.  So this is really good news, and it makes me believe that if Ryan is now at that mental stage where he can react at game speed, he could do some things in games for Stanford.  On top of that, note that Ryan's best throws are absolute works of art, better than the top end of any other QB on this team.  But his spot behind Matter is more about how low his mistakes can be, rather than how high his highlights can be.  And the mistakes he make are just too much, compared to Kyle Matter.  Over the course of thirty passes in a game, I would say Matter will be safer than Eklund, and produce fewer INTs or fumbles.  If he can eliminate his low end problems and convert more of his high end stuff, he could be something.  I just don't know if and when he gets there...

Trent Edwards came in with every accolade and expectation imaginable, and he has delivered on his strengths: mechanics and poise.  He has all the bravado and confidence to help enable his technical merits to come to the forefront, and in passing drills he can look as good or better than any other QB on this team.  So why is he not pushing Eklund or Matter right now, which is what many Stanford fans have either wanted or hoped?  The answer is pretty much mental at this point.  He just does not have down the mental presence and awareness yet to be able to handle the speed of the college game.  That is an adjustment in progress right now.  Unless he makes that transition soon, I think it will take a big injury (or injuries) to get him playing this year.  And I would not have said that a couple weeks ago...

David Lofton is a darned good quarterback, folks, and that surprised me.  I had bought into the public conception that he must be slated for a position change to play at the Pac-10 level.  And though his mechanics lag well behind Trent Edwards, I don't think they lag what any of the very good QBs possessed at Stanford in the last decade when they set foot on campus.  But David can throw a pretty good ball.  Remembering that he has not played quarterback all his life, you wonder how raw he may still be, and thus how much upside we are talking about.  But with Trent getting the nod, in my mind, right now ahead of him in this class plus two QBs the two prior years ahead of him, will David be able to get to that upside soon running the scout team?  Then it's a question of his patience versus other opportunities on the field...

Coach's take:  from the lips of Mike Sanford...

"Chris Lewis has made a ton of progress in this camp, with his decision making and his mechanics.  He really is very much improved.  Where he needs to get better is the quickness with which he makes his decisions.  Chris also has a long stride, and I want to see him taller in the pocket.  Finally, he needs to continue working to the goal of being completely familiar with absolutely ever detail of the offense.  Total mastery.  And he is on his way there, just not yet."

"Kyle Matter has taken the opportunity he has been given this past week, and really been great.  He has improved his decision-making and his accuracy, as well as the quickness of his throws.  He really has improved a lot."

"Ryan Eklund, he can improve.  He has a ton of natural ability and is really very bright.  What he needs to improve now is the quickness of his feet.  I also want to see him line up his feet in the direction that his body is aimed, which he doesn't do right now."

"Trent Edwards has to be ready this week as our third quarterback.  Ideally we would like to redshirt him, and he would like to redshirt, too.  We will see how situations play out for that, though.  He is already improving his throwing mechanics since he arrived here.  What I love about him is his aggressiveness - he is so unafraid to make the tough throws, and he goes after them as soon as he sees them."

"David Lofton saw a lot of improvements during the early parts of these practices.  His challenge is that now that he is seeing less reps, it is hard for him to work on fundamentals.  He is very athletic and very strong.  David also throws the best deep ball of anybody on this team."


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