It was the summer of 2013, and Stanford had just won its first Rose Bowl since 1972.
Stanford had its quarterback of the present in Kevin Hogan, and our quarterback of the future, Ryan Burns, the crown jewel of the 2013 recruiting class waiting in the wings. In July of that year a phenom named Keller Chryst announced he would be joining the Cardinal from across El Camino. At the time he was the #1 ranked pocket passer in his class, a protege of the sport whose father was the 49ers QB coach, and was seemingly destined to return Stanford to the elite QB play we enjoyed with Luck.
But where did this leave our current quarterbacks? A quick calculation produced the optimal schedule for all three to start in succession. Hogan in ‘13 and ‘14, Burns in ‘15 and ‘16, then Chryst in ‘17 and ‘18. Everyone was going to get their fair share of playing time and each would make their mark on Stanford Athletics history. In fact, it would seem like a shame to do it any other way- both Burns and Chryst were considered among the top 10 quarterbacks in their classes. By that logic, it stands to reason that each should be talented enough to start for most FBS teams at quarterback.
But that's not what happened. After a lackluster ‘14 season, Shaw announced that if Hogan wanted to come back, he would be the guaranteed starter. And so he did return, becoming Stanford's most winning all time QB in the process - you know the story. Meanwhile Stanford has continued to draw impressive high school quarterbacks into their program, most recently with highly touted QB KJ Costello.
Where does this leave our two phenoms? Burns, a top 10 quarterback in his recruiting class, was ranked more highly than Jared Goff at the time - and he's entering his fourth year at Stanford having thrown one pass attempt in a game. Chryst, a year older than UCLA's 2nd year starter Josh Rosen, lost out to Burns and will once again be the backup (at least for the time being).
An influx of talented underclassmen quarterbacks waiting in the wings prompts the question- will Chryst ever be Stanford's quarterback? If Burns hangs on to the starter job for the next two seasons, it's quite likely Chryst will next compete for a starting spot with only one year of eligibility left, and against Costello and Davis Mills, two equally highly-touted upperclassmen quarterbacks.
While this embarrassment of riches is certainly great for the Stanford football program, one can't help but feel for whoever falls through the cracks - especially knowing that they likely could have started for any number of other top football schools.
If Chryst finishes his Stanford career without ever achieving the starting role, it will likely not be due to a lack of talent, but due to ridiculously stiff competition for a single position that rarely turns over personnel between years. And if this is this case, one can only wonder how that is perceived by student athletes considering coming to the Farm for their college careers. It's certainly a possibility that the promise of a bitterly difficult challenge is a draw to some players, but it's not hard to imagine others shying away from a program where their skills might not see the field.