Andrew Luck, 2011 Maxwell Award winner
Stanford is headed for the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State on Jan. 2. Widely regarded as among the most anticipated of all of the bowl games, it will be QB Andrew Luck’s final game as a collegian.
Luck has had a brilliant and record-setting career. Winner of the 2011 Johnny Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards, and twice the Heisman runner-up, he should be the first name called in the 2012 NFL draft.
His three-year stats are mighty impressive: 9,083 yards passing on 66.4 completion percentage, 80 touchdowns, only 21 interceptions, 8.8 yards per attempt, along with 960 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
Which brings us to this: After the Fiesta Bowl, who will take over as Stanford’s next QB?
Brett Nottingham: 91 TD passes in HS
Brett Nottingham would appear to have the inside track to succeed Andrew Luck under center for Stanford.
Nottingham will be a redshirt junior in 2012. He was recruited to Stanford by Jim Harbaugh after a stellar high school career at Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif.
One of Nottingham’s high school teammates was Cardinal starting TE Zach Ertz, he of the sure hands and a TD catch every five receptions. In 2008, Ertz was a senior and Nottingham a junior at Monte Vista. Ertz caught 12 touchdowns from Nottingham, as the duo was an unstoppable red-zone combination.
Nottingham threw for more than 7,400 yards and 91 touchdowns in high school. Even after Ertz graduated and moved on to Stanford, as a senior Nottingham completed over 70 percent of his passes for almost 4,000 yards, 45 touchdowns and an eye-popping 10.1 yards-per-attempt average.
Nottingham was rated the fourth-best pro-style high school QB by rivals.com. He originally committed to UCLA, where his father, a physician, had done a residency. Both of his sisters have attended UCLA as well.
A 4.0 student in high school, Nottingham was also recruited by some Ivy League schools, but he chose Stanford.
Nottingham has good size and speed. He is listed at 6’4” and 215 pounds, and his fastest 40-yard dash is a solid 4.7 seconds.
He did not see any action in his freshman year, 2010. He has appeared in six games during the 2011 season, with more than 40 snaps, completing five of nine passes for 78 yards, including a Luck-like 39-yard touchdown strike to TE Coby Fleener against San Jose State.
Robbie Picazo: bested Matt Barkley in HS
Robbie Picazo is the other Stanford backup QB who has played in 2011.
Picazo (6’3”, 205 pounds) had a spectacular 2008 senior season at Tesoro HS in Southern California, where he threw for more than 2,700 yards with 33 touchdown passes, just six interceptions and 8.9 YPA.
The Orange County Register named Picazo its 2008 Offensive Player of the Year—ahead of some guy named Matt Barkley.
A lights-out student (4.5 GPA, 2160 SAT), Picazo chose Stanford over Princeton. He walked onto coach Jim Harbaugh’s team in 2009, saw brief action in one game in 2010 and played in one game in 2011.
A third QB on the roster is Josh Nunes, who—like Nottingham and Picazo—will be a redshirt junior in 2010.
Nunes (6’4”, 208 pounds) was Luck’s primary backup in 2010 and saw limited action in four games, but did not see the field in 2011.
At Upland High School in Southern California, Nunes had 54 career TD passes and threw for more than 6,300 yards.
Nunes has run a 4.8 in the 40 and has a 30-inch vertical leap. Like Luck (co-valedictorian of his high school), Nottingham and Picazo, Nunes was a top student in high school, with a 4.6 GPA.
The good news for whoever succeeds Luck is that the offense will return a number of key starters. Most importantly, offensive linemen C Sam Schwartzstein, RT Cameron Fleming and LG David Yankey will all be back.
In the backfield, RB Stepfan Taylor (1,177 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011) and FBs Ryan Hewitt (five touchdown catches out of the backfield) and bruising blocker Geoff Meinken will return.
The receiving corps in 2012 will feature TEs Ertz and Levine Toilolo (six touchdowns, over 13 YPC) and WR Ty Montgomery (904 all-purpose yards, 13.5 YPC).
The nucleus of returning talent should ensure that the power running game and play-action passing, hallmarks of the Cardinal’s 31-8 record in 2009-11, remains largely intact.
It will be up to one of Nottingham, Picazo or Nunes to take control and lead the offense next year. If the Stanford QB in 2012 can throw with accuracy, take some deep shots and limit turnovers, another BCS run might not be out of the question.