QBs take center stage when No. 10 USC visits Stanford
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Stanford coach David Shaw spends part of his offseason each year studying up for his side gig as a draft analyst so he knows very well what NFL teams are looking for in a quarterback.
When the Cardinal (1-0) host No. 10 Southern California (1-0) on Saturday in the Pac-12 opener this season, Shaw sees a pair of potential NFL prospects in the Trojans’ dynamic dual-threat quarterback Caleb Williams and his own more traditional passer, Tanner McKee.
“I don’t know that these aren’t the top two quarterbacks in our conference going head to head,” Shaw said. “As pure passers, they’re both exceptional. As a runner, Tanner is underappreciated but at the same time Caleb is special there. You’re talking about two guys, when you watch them play, you’re looking at two NFL quarterbacks. It will be fun to watch.”
Williams was outstanding in his debut for the Trojans after following coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC as a transfer this offseason.
Williams completed 19 of 22 passes against Rice for 249 yards and two TDs. He also ran for 68 yards on six carries.
“He’s a special kid and he can do it all,” Riley said. “He can literally do it all. He can pass, he can paint your back porch, he can walk your dog, and he can run the ball. He’s a great player.”
McKee was also sharp last week against lesser competition, going 22 for 37 for 308 yards and two TDs against FCS-level Colgate.
McKee made his first career start last year against the Trojans when he threw for 234 yards and two TDs in a 42-28 win at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where he used to go as a kid cheering for USC.
“Last year for me was surreal going to the Coliseum and seeing all the different spots I’ve sat at games growing up an SC fan,” he said. “It was obviously lot of fun, a lot of emotions. There’s a lot of juice playing the Trojans.”
USC running back Austin Jones gets to face his old team after transferring from Stanford this offseason. Jones had four carries for 48 yards and two TDs, along with a 21-yard catch, in his debut for the Trojans.
Jones ran for 1,155 yards and 12 TDs in three seasons at Stanford.
“He knows we’re going to bring it as hard as we can,” Stanford safety Jonathan McGill said. “We know Austin will bring it as much as he can. We can’t want for the challenge. We’re brothers outside the lines but when the whistle bows Saturday, he’ll definitely feel us.”
Stanford has its own player with an insider advantage with safety Patrick Fields having played the last four seasons at Oklahoma when Riley coached there.
NOT SO SPECIAL
The Cardinal had problems in the opener on special teams, losing two of their three fumbles on punts, including a muffed punt that was recovered for a TD by Colgate.
“We have a relay good group,” Shaw said. “We’ll put those guys back there again and expect better production.”
This will be the 101st meeting between the in-state rivals as USC is Stanford’s second most common opponent followed by the 124 games against California.
With the Trojans set to join the Big Ten in 2024 along with UCLA, the long-term prospects for the rivalry are in doubt.
“Regardless of conference realignment, I hope that continues,” Shaw said. “Our alumni love the competition, the year-to-year clashing of different styles. We have had a lot of exciting games, especially in the time I’ve been here. … My hope and wish is this rivalry continues regardless of conference affiliation.”
Stanford will honor former star quarterback Andrew Luck for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame this year.
Luck will be honored between the first and second quarter. Luck had some of his finest moments at Stanford against the Trojans, winning all three starts, including a triple-overtime thriller at USC in 2011. Luck threw eight TD passes in the three games with two TD runs and only one interception.
Associated Press freelancer Dan Greenspan in Los Angeles contributed to this report
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