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Trent Irwin is emerging as a critical playmaker for Stanford

The highly-touted wideout is already becoming a key part of the Cardinal offense

Harry How/Getty Images

The highly decorated, equally talented, lanky 6-foot-2 wide receiver seemed to arrive on the Stanford campus to little fanfare. This would seem a little odd if one to were to comb over his high school football resume.

2014 Army All-American. 2015 Parade All-America First Team. The only four-year varsity starter during his years at Newell Hart (California) High School. The nation’s sixth-ranked receiver and just outside the top 30 overall in the Class of 2015. If there were a National High School Football Hall of Fame, Trent Irwin’s name should and would rocket straight to the first line of the ballot.

Make no mistake about it; Irwin was this close to spurning Stanford and choosing to join Hart quarterback Brady White and Arizona State after graduating, but the opportunity to attend his dream school was too good for the state of California’s career leader in receptions (285) and receiving yards (5,268) to pass up.

However, those in Palo Alto did not see him do much. Despite playing in all fourteen games for the Cardinal, Irwin logged a mere twelve catches last year. Nevertheless, he made his presence felt with each, seemingly turning "third-and long" into "first and ten" more often than not.

The lack of targets thrown his way definitely makes me wonder why a player like Irwin, whom coaches and teammates alike have gushed about openly, was not utilized more. Even Mr. All-Everything Christian McCaffrey has showered him with praise, anointing Irwin as "the biggest spark in college football." And it’s easy to see why.

In the early stages of Stanford’s sixty-minute grind against the Bruins, I saw Irwin grow up in Stanford’s offense right before my eyes. His seven-catch, 81-yard effort was a coming-out party of sorts. Thanks to the injury/egregious non-penalty that took Francis Owusu out of the lineup and UCLA’s blanket coverage on Michael Rector, Irwin created cushion and found a way to get open against a physical Bruin secondary. It was good to see the sophomore with such a high usage rate, even when Burns didn’t gaze his way. After reeling in three big catches on the game’s penultimate drive - which led to the game-winning points - it seems highly likely that Irwin will see a more featured role in the offense

The question now: Is his consistency as a playmaker here to stay? I say yes.

Irwin’s current role with the Cardinal offers comparisons to Seattle Seahawks wideout and Stanford grad Doug Baldwin, currently second in the NFL third-down receptions converted into first downs (7). This is not a coincidence, as Irwin used Baldwin, as well as the Cincinnati Bengals’ AJ Green, as subjects of his summer route-running self-study.

Though already one of the best route runners to come out of high school (David Shaw has said so), Irwin still finds time to hone his craft by studying two NFL vets who are among the league’s best possession receivers, a role heIrwin would love to emulate at Stanford.

Hopefully, the stout sophomore pass-catcher will continue to impress as the season moves along. This week’s tilt against Washington in Seattle will be an intriguing chapter in Irwin’s development, as the Huskies’ defense against the pass (No. 22 in the country) has been rock solid so far this season.