By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford opened fall camp Monday ranked fourth in the nation by USA Today. Whether the Cardinal finish as high, or even higher, depends on many factors. It all begins, of course, at the beginning.
Some of the questions that will be answered through the upcoming weeks include how junior quarterback Kevin Hogan uses his experience from last year's run to the Rose Bowl to lead the team into a new season.
"I think running the offense in the offseason at the captain's practices with no communication from us, I think, forced him to get a good handle on everything that we're doing," Stanford football coach David Shaw said. "He did all the scripts, he decided what they were doing every day, he put it all together and he did it all summer."
Hogan will be working with several new receivers and a returning star. There's not a tight end on the roster with a collegiate reception, and its a position that has been golden for Stanford the past few years. Four tight ends were drafted by NFL teams in the last two years alone.
"I've been in the playbook all offseason and summer and ready for them to throw whatever at us, and hopefully, I'll be ready to handle it because it'll help us as an offense," Hogan said. "We have some fast guys so we need to stretch the field a little bit and put some pressure on the defense and that will open up the run."
Ty Montgomery rose to fame during his freshman year, capturing the spotlight with a huge play he had never practiced with Andrew Luck against USC.
After dealing with a series of injuries, Montgomery returns healthy to help fill a void in the receiving game.
"I just wanted to mentally prepare myself," Montgomery said. "It wasn't a good year for me last year. I don't want to sound like an individualistic, I am happy with the Rose Bowl, but mentally I wanted to come out confident and do everything right as a team."
Montgomery made significant contributions at wide receiver and as the Cardinal's primary kickoff returner. He played in all 13 games, starting the last four, and caught 24 passes for 350 yards (14.6) and two touchdowns.
Montgomery averaged 25.2 yards (680 total) in his 27 kickoff returns, which included a 96-yard return for a touchdown on the final play of the game at Washington State.
Against the Trojans, Montgomery caught five passes for 87 yards, including a 62-yard completion from Luck. He caught six passes for 77 yards, including his first career touchdown, against Notre Dame.
Montgomery completed his first season on a high note, with a season-best seven passes for 120 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
He began last year on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, which is presented to the most versatile player in college football.
Montgomery, a Pac-12 honorable mention in 2012, missed four games and was restricted to four starts because of an injury. He caught 26 passes for 213 yards and averaged 26.6 yards a kickoff return.
Phil Steele, considered one of college football's top sources, has Montgomery on his preseason all-Pac-12 fourth team as a special teams player.
His first team picks from Stanford include offensive linemen David Yankey and Cameron Fleming, defensive lineman Ben Gardner, linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov and safeties Jordan Richards and Ed Reynolds. He puts Hogan on the third team behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley.
"Shayne Skov is running around," Shaw said. "It's great to see him back full speed. I thought the defense did really well; I thought they moved around really well, but we'll see. We'll see as it gets going. Day one, it's hard to have guys stand out."
Stanford opens ranked 11th on philsteele.com.
The Cardinal opens the season at home against San Jose State on Saturday, Spet. 7 at 8 p.m.