San Francisco Chronicle

Stanford’s rotation ends: McKee set to start at QB

- By Rusty Simmons

Stanford’s rotating quarterbac­k experiment lasted all of one week.

After the merry-go-round of Tanner McKee and Jack West got derailed by Kansas State in the season opener last Saturday, the Cardinal are planning to go with McKee from start to finish on Saturday at USC.

“I just want him to play,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of McKee, a sophomore. “He doesn’t have to take the world on his shoulders. He doesn’t have to do anything other than play quarterbac­k.”

At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, McKee looks like a player who can continue Stanford’s proud tradition at quarterbac­k. But it has been a while since he’s played consistent­ly.

According to 247sports.com, McKee was the third-best pro-style quarterbac­k in the 2018 class when he graduated from Centennial High-Corona

(Riverside County), ranking behind only Trevor Lawrence and JT Daniels.

Lawrence went 34-2 at Clemson before being the No. 1 overall pick of the Jacksonvil­le Jaguars. Daniels was the second-ever true freshman quarterbac­k to start at USC before he transferre­d to Georgia and led a season-opening victory over Clemson that propelled the Bulldogs to No. 2 in the nation.

Meanwhile, McKee spent two years on a mission in Brazil with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling at Stanford last year.

With all of the time away, it’s easy to forget that McKee threw for 5,905 yards and 62 touchdowns with a recordsett­ing 73% completion rate in his final two prep seasons. Just for fun, he rushed for another 28 touchdowns during the dominating two-year run at Centennial.

“I’m going to stay away from comparison­s until the guy plays at least half a season, let alone before he makes his first start. But he has a lot of the traits that you’re looking for,” said Shaw, who was the head coach of Andrew Luck and Davis Mills at Stanford and the quarterbac­k coach of Rich Gannon for the Raiders. “The reasons he was so highly rated coming out of high school: quick release, very accurate, very competitiv­e, great leader. For a tall guy, he’s pretty athletic, too. He can move. He’s got a strong arm. He doesn’t need a lot of space. He doesn’t really need to step into it. He can get the ball down the field.”

McKee showed all of that in training camp, but he hadn’t separated from West in a competitio­n for the starting job until the season opener.

West made his third career start and went 8-for-12 for 76 yards and two intercepti­ons against Kansas State. McKee came off the bench in the pre-planned rotation and went 15-for-18 for 118 yards and led the team’s only touchdown drive.

“I wouldn’t say there are a ton of difference­s,” right guard Branson Bragg said. “The real difference is just whose voice is saying the cadence, which doesn’t really change a lot. They’re both great guys, and whoever is back there, I’ve just got to block for him.”

USC’s defense returns eight starters from a unit that nudged forward last season. The Trojans allowed 369.7 yards and 26 points per game in 2020, bettering the previous year’s 408.5 and 29.4 numbers under new coordinato­r Todd Orlando.

They also had 16 takeaways in the six-game, coronaviru­s-shortened season.

That equaled the total turnovers USC caused in 13 games in 2019.

It their 30-7 season-opening win over San Jose State, the Trojans limited the Spartans to 68 rushing yards and intercepte­d two passes.

Stanford ran for just 39 yards on 1.8 yards per carry in its season-opening loss.

“Being able to run the ball should take some pressure off of (McKee) in his first start,” Shaw said. “That’s going to be a big factor, getting our running game started in order to be as balanced an offense as we want to be.”

 ?? Brandon Wade / Associated Press ?? Stanford quarterbac­k Tanner McKee “has a lot of the traits that you’re looking for,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said.
Brandon Wade / Associated Press Stanford quarterbac­k Tanner McKee “has a lot of the traits that you’re looking for,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said.

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