The worst task in the world is trying to replace the irreplaceable. That's exactly what Josh Nunes has in store for himself this season as he tries to keep the Stanford Cardinal on the national radar. Nunes won the quarterback competition over Brett Nottingham, and now everyone is hoping he can hold the fort and at least keep Stanford's offense steered correctly. Anything like that and fans should be pretty happy with what they get from replacing Andrew Luck.
The good news is that Nunes isn't alone. Plenty of Luck's teammates return, and few of them are slouches. The Cardinal might have the best linebacking corps in the conference with dynamos like Chase Thomas, James Vaughters, and Shayne Skov. Ryan Hewitt, Levine Toilolo, and Zach Ertz compose the finest group of H-backs and tight ends in the country, making the Cardinal a very difficult stop in the trenches.
Then there's always Stepfan Taylor, one of the most underrated running backs in the country.
A Science, Technology and Society major who spends a lot of his downtime making short videos about various topics, Taylor has quietly pulled within sight of most of Stanford's career rushing records. The understudy to Toby Gerhart during his Heisman runner-up season and second-fiddle to Luck for the past two years, the spotlight has never seemed to shine the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder. That's fine for the always smiling tailback, who gives more credit for his success to his offensive line than his physical tools and tends to only speak about himself within the context of the team.
"I'm not really focused on that record, I'm focused on winning," he said. "We don't want go outside the scheme and try to pad our stats and hurt the team. We know that and just have to go out and execute the scheme our coaches have for us. We want to give our best every play."
Tonight's game against San Jose State is less a referendum and more a dress rehearsal for the real deal. The Cardinal are probably winning tonight (by a sizable margin), but a lot of attention will be focused on how well the new Stanford signal-caller performs. Can Nunes manage a game? Can he find his checkdowns? Can he stay accurate? Can he run the script at the start of the game and execute the plays that have been assigned to him as best as he can?
Or is Stanford going to learns that life without Luck is exactly how it sounds?
SB Nation snippets
Scott Allen of Rule of Tree dishes on Nunes: "Shaw has said he wants a QB who helps him sleep at night, while Andrew Luck Director of Offense Pep Hamilton said the competition would come down to who could "best manage bad plays." Shaw's choosing Nunes, who has one more year of experience with the offense and is regarded as a solid game manager, over Nottingham shouldn't come as much of a surprise."
A San Jose State fan weighs in on his team's chances: "As to Friday night - that all depends on the matchup in the trenches between your defensive front seven and our O-line. If our O-line can help to establish some sort of ground game and give Fales time to go through his progressions, and the athleticism of the SJSU receivers will begin to show, and SJSU will go into halftime on even terms; if that happens, then the Spartans will have a puncher's chance of pulling off the upset. If, on the other hand, things progress as they did last year, though, then do not be surprised if our #2 and possibly even the #3 QB get some playing time for experience's sake. We will know how things shake out probably by the end of the first quarter. Realistically, though, SJSU's a year or two from being able to match up equally with you guys. I do not predict another curb-stomping like last year, but something on the order of a 30-10 Stanford win would not surprise me in the least."