Sitting at 4-3 on the season, 2-3 in the Pac-12, and having lost three of its last four, Stanford stands in a very precarious position. Head coach David Shaw has decided to make a change.
Naturally, he’s decided to shake up the most important position on the field — the position that has the most impact on every game and can completely change the trajectory of a season.
Shaw wants to see what a new quarterback can do.
Stanford announced earlier this week that junior quarterback Keller Chryst will be taking over for senior Ryan Burns as Stanford’s starter at quarterback.
“We need more production from the position,” Shaw said, explaining his position via the team website. “That’s our challenge as coaches going forward — to support Keller and for the guys on our team to support Keller. We have a lot of confidence in what he can do.”
Up to this point in his junior season, Chryst has thrown only 18 passes, completing seven for 63 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He did see some action in his sophomore season, playing in four games, completing 5-of-9 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, but other than that, he’s been a very limited player for the Cardinal.
He’s a 6-foot-5, 236 pound quarterback from Palo Alto, Calif., and perhaps the most insight we can get into Chryst’s potential is the hype he had as a recruit.
Chryst was a big pickup for Stanford on the recruiting trail. As a 2014 recruit, he was ranked as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country as well as the No. 51 recruit overall in his class. He was a Top 10 recruit from the state of California and had some impressive offers. Along with Stanford, Arizona, Georgia, Pittsburgh and USC had offered him.
The commitment to Stanford over Pitt was especially notable because Chryst’s uncle, Paul Chryst, was the head coach at Pittsburgh at the time. Obviously, Chryst is with Wisconsin now, but at the time it was a big deal that Shaw and the Cardinal were able to break those family ties to land one of the top quarterbacks in the 2014 class.
To continue to put Chryst’s importance in perspective, he was Stanford’s second-highest rated 2014 recruit, only behind five-star strong-side defensive end Solomon Thomas.
It’s no wonder that Shaw is displaying faith in him despite his limited action so far for Stanford. Despite the fact that his first game as starter will be on the road at Arizona (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12).
“He’s been in raucous environments and he’s been on the road,” Shaw said of Chryst. “It would be one thing if he was playing his first game, period. He’s been in the fire.”
Stanford is sending Burns to the bench after a few very underwhelming games in a row. Of course, he isn’t the only reason that Stanford has been struggling on offense — six points in a loss to Washington, 16 in a loss to Washington State, 10 in a win against Notre Dame and only five in a loss to Colorado — but as the quarterback goes so goes the offense.
Against Washington, Burns threw for only 151 yards and a touchdown. He threw a touchdown an interception against Washington State and hasn’t thrown a touchdown in Stanford’s past two games, but he has thrown four interceptions. Perhaps most worrisome for Stanford is the fact that Burns’ poor play has made it easy for defenses to focus in on all-star running back Christian McCaffrey, which has in-turn stifled his play. McCaffrey hasn’t rushed for or caught a touchdown since Week 2 against USC.
The evidence points to Stanford needing a shake up, because at the very least Arizona is going to be wondering what exactly Chryst brings to the table for the duration of a game. And if the Wildcats are spending time worrying about that, perhaps they’ll spend less time focusing on McCaffrey and the rest of the offense.
Of course, there’s no guarantees. But if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, Shaw at the very least has proven that he has his wits about him.
His team needs a change. Maybe it’s a change of attitude and at the very least it’s a change of personnel, which can change the whole makeup of a game. It can change the whole makeup of a team.
“They’re both great people,” sophomore wide receiver Trenton Irwin said of his two quarterbacks. “Sometimes you just need a change. We’ll see where it goes and have fun with it.”