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Is Kevin Hogan ready to be "the man" for Stanford in 2014?

Going into his 2nd full year as the starter, Kevin Hogan looks to make significant strides in all areas

Harry How

At the end of the season, no one is going to mistake Kevin Hogan for Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota or Taylor Kelly.

The aforementioned QBs all play in offenses designed for them to put up big numbers, and as a result they've all garnered varying levels of preseason Heisman consideration. Gaudy stats and preseason accolades aside, Kevin Hogan has claim to the most meaningful statistic: Head-To-Head victories. In fact, he has yet to lose against the Pac-12's poster boys.

Big wins against college football's best has never been a problem for Hogan. Compiling a 10-1 record against top 25 opponents is something any starting QB would envy; however, there is certainly room for improvement (something he'll tell you) if the Cardinal want to remain at the top of the Pac-12 pecking order.

Gone are Tyler Gaffney and four starters on the offensive line that were the face of Stanford's power running game. For the first time, Kevin Hogan will be relied upon to be "the guy" of Stanford's new offensive attack. In a sit-down interview with the Pac-12 Network earlier this summer, Hogan discussed the offense's transition.

"I like the way [our offense] is headed going into this season. I like the way we can line up with a bunch of o-lineman and run it down a defense's throat and then spread them out and throw it to our guys on the outside. I think we'll have a very balanced offense this season."

Although Hogan will have a full arsenal of weapons as his disposal - including the deadly Ty Mongtomery - he knows he'll have to have a more complete understanding of the offense.

"As a QB you want to master the offense and then you can focus on what the defense is doing. It allows you to play faster. Getting out there with your guys. Repetition, repetition, working on timing. With the West Coast offense... just getting through progressions and check downs or [knowing when to] take off running."

Timing in the passing game is a vital element to David Shaw's offense and Hogan knows that. It's one of the reasons he has retooled his delivery in the offseason. Hogan's delivery has always resembled that of a left fielder gunning down a base runner at home plate. So far, his long, rounded motion hasn't affected his vertical passing game as he always had the ability to air it out. But by shortening his motion, Hogan hopes to increase his accuracy on his short and intermediate routes. In a recent SFGate article, Hogan explained his new delivery.

"I'm trying to shorten it up on short and intermediate routes,'' he said Friday after practice. "It was a little bit elongated. I feel like it's improved. The arm slot is a lot better.''

Along with perfecting a more compact throwing motion, Hogan must improve on his decision making, particularly in the red zone. Go back to that forgettable October 12th in Salt Lake City. With one minute remaining Hogan was able to march the Cardinal down to the 6 yard line looking to escape Rice-Eccles Stadium with a narrow victory. Hogan threw an incomplete pass on 3rd down and then overthrew Devon Cajuste on 4th down. Hogan also struggled in last year's USC game, throwing 2 critical interceptions late in the game, one of which came on USC's 6 yard line with 10 and a half minutes to play.

However, Hogan will certainly have some bigger options this season when the Cardinal is inside the 20. The addition of tight ends Austin Hooper, Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada will give Stanford some much-needed physical targets deep inside opponent's territory  - targets that Hogan lacked last year. Throw in a stable of running backs and Hogan will have a stacked supporting cast.

The question will be if he can improve on these areas before a huge matchup against USC in 2 weeks. Sarkisian and the Trojans will be eyeing September 6th as an early opportunity for a signature victory.

Will Hogan rise to the challenge and use this as an opportunity to showcase his improved skill set? We'll find out soon enough.