Stanford Moves On After Andrew Luck [71 Days of Summer]
Andrew Luck has been touted as the best quarterback to come out of college since John Elway, another Cardinal graduate. Head Coach David Shaw’s big argument about why Luck was the most outstanding player in the country was the control Andrew Luck had over the offense. He changed plays at the line of scrimmage and made a lot of decisions before snapping the ball. Why even bother with an offensive coordinator?
Luck had 713 completions in college, good for 67% and threw for 9,430 yards and 82 touchdowns. That’s a lot of stats to accumulate in three years of playing. I don’t even think that Luck got as much credit as he deserved in college because of a lack of a rocket arm. He rarely stretched the field vertically but he was so accurate underneath and on middle routes.
If Luck was so instrumental in the offense this could be a rough transition. At the outset I would say that the transition for Stanford would be easier than many people expect simply because they run a lot more than people think. People think, “Oh, they have Andrew Luck, they must throw it all the time.” In actuality, Stanford had one of the most bruising ground games in the country. They use their tight ends in the run and heavily in the pass game while sometimes having seven down linemen in short yardage. Stanford is the rare team that creates mismatches with size.
Football Outsiders likes to use the production a given quarterback provides to his offense as a way of measuring the ease of transition. Oregon, not surprisingly, has one of the lowest productions to replace, and thus, the easiest transition (40.5%). On the flip side, the Baylor Bears was the most quarterback dependent team (65.4%) and thus will have the hardest time transitioning away from Robert Griffin III. Stanford hits exactly in the middle with a score of 57.4% (an average production for a quarterback).
The transition from Harbaugh to Shaw was a smooth transition as very few changes were made, if any. Stanford has lost only three games in the last two years, and as Brian Fremeau points out, 17% of their drives lasted ten plays or longer. How well Stanford does this season will be a good gauge of how much of the last few years of success was due to Luck and Harbaugh, or the new Stanford way of football. The quarterback race is between Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes, and Robbie Picazo. Whoever wins, will be one of the most watched quarterbacks next year on a team that has an outside shot at a conference title.