Stanford's history is filled with quarterbacks who waited a long time for their opportunity and took advantage.
That list includes Don Bunce, who was in the same class as Jim Plunkett and redshirted as a senior to have one chance to make his mark. Bunce led Stanford to a 1971 Pac-8 title and Rose Bowl victory. Steve Dils, Turk Schonert, and Mark Butterfield are other examples.
The emergence of senior Ryan Burns as Stanford's starting quarterback was not necessarily foreseen. He played in a spread offense in high school and never lined up under center, but came to a program that plays with a pro-style offense and had to relearn how to play the position.
David Shaw, Stanford's Director of Football, and Stanford's players took notice during training camp when all the work began to pay off for Burns.
"There's a moment where you can tell, and it's not a single moment in a day," said running back Christian McCaffrey. "It could be two or three days of repetition and repetition. It's consecutive very good days in a row, and I think that's what Burns did.
"You could see his confidence build, and his poise build. As an offense, that's very good for us, when you see a quarterback start to get into a rhythm and really start to feel the flow of the game. That definitely builds a positive vibe for our offense."
Shaw said that because those of college age mature at such different rates, there is no telling when that emergence will happen, if it happens at all.
"Ryan took a chance with us coming to an offense that was polar opposite of what he did in high school, and you can't just take four years of high school and throw it out and all of sudden become a West Coast, drop-back quarterback," Shaw said. "I don't mind if guys take a little while. I think they gain some maturity. Particularly, with all that we put on our quarterbacks. If he can't handle that, no matter how talented he is, he puts the other 10 guys at risk."
Burns also had to go through seasons in which he knew he had no chance of starting. Kevin Hogan was a four-year starter who led Stanford to three Rose Bowls. Yet Burns refused to be satisfied in a backup role.
"Some freshmen come in -- like Andrus Peat, and Ty Montgomery, or Christian McCaffrey -- and you have to put them on the field right now," Shaw said. "Other times, it takes a little while to truly grasp and be ready for college football -- Ryan Burns, and Jordan Watkins. As a coach, you have to remind yourself that they're not all going to be ready right when you want them to be. Some you have to push, some you have to allow to happen."