Sports

Paly's Chryst ready to take off as Stanford quarterback

 
Keller Chryst listens to Stanford coach and former quarterback Tavita Pritchard. Photo by David Bernal/isiphotos.com.

Keller Chryst's future availability was cloaked in uncertainty after he went down with a knee injury in Stanford's Sun Bowl win last December over North Carolina.

There were no guarantees he would be ready for the start of the 2017 season.

But Chryst, much to the delight of the Stanford fanbase, has shown himself to be a fast healer.

His performance in fall camp has been at such a high level that coach David Shaw named him the starter for Stanford's Aug. 26 season opener in Australia against Rice.

And on Sunday at the final open practice of fall camp Shaw said there would be no limits on play calling, including the quarterback run, for Chryst in the season opener.

"He's 100 percent,'' Shaw said. "No ill effects. No issues at all.''

Chryst's readiness altered Shaw's cautious plan to bring his quarterback along slowly.

"I anticipated resting him more, pulling him out more, but he's feeling great,'' Shaw said. "So as long as he's healthy and cleared by the doctors we're ready to go, no limitations. He's going to have to scramble. We can't keep him from running.''

Chryst came out of Palo Alto High touted as the No. 1 dropback passer in the nation. But in taking over as the starting quarterback last season and leading the Cardinal to a 6-0 record he showed the ability to execute the Stanford offense in its entirety, to run as well as pass.

He completed 77 of 136 passes for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns and also averaged nearly four yards per carry, gaining 159 yards on 41 carries with two TDs.

The quarterback run is a not insignificant part of the Stanford offense. And while running the ball makes him more susceptible to a hit on his surgically-repaired knee, Chryst said it will not affect his style of play.

After all, born into a football family -- father Geep is the Denver Broncos tight ends coach, uncle Paul is the head coach at Wisconsin -- Keller has grown up steeped in football values. They are part of his fabric. He's a bottom-line guy: You do what you need to do for your team to be successful and win games.

"I'm going to take whatever yards I can get,'' he said.

The current nature of the game necessitates mobility at the quarterback position.

"In the landscape of college football you can't have a statue back there,'' Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. "He's a kid who is a better athlete than everyone gave him credit for. He can run the ball on third down and get us a first down.''

Chryst was not asked to run much in high school playing for Earl Hansen at Paly. Logic suggests his development as a runner is the major part of his evolution as a quarterback at Stanford. But that's not necessarily the way Chryst sees it.

"I've learned a lot every year,'' he said. "Overall I think the biggest thing is being a master of the huddle.''

He's talking leadership, a role intrinsic to the quarterback position, not something statistically quantifiable. His teammates buy in. Chryst was named a team captain on Sunday.

"The offensive linemen think he's in solidarity with them,'' Bloomgren said.

At 6-foot-5 and 234 pounds, Chryst is an imposing figure, as big or bigger than linemen of a previous generation.

"He's a football junkie,'' said wide receiver Trenton Irwin. "His whole family is in football. He was out here every day over the summer for optional drills.''

There's never been any question about Chryst's ability as a passer. Irwin, a favored target a year ago when he caught 37 passes for 442 yards, is well versed to speak on that subject.

"He's got a cannon for an arm,'' Irwin said.

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