- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Watch Kevin Hogan in team meetings, and the intensity with which the Stanford quarterback crams detailed notes onto every paper is a spectacle in itself.

Khalil Wilkes finds it entertaining. Earlier this season, as Stanford prepared to face Arizona State, Wilkes noticed Hogan jotting down the tendencies of defensive tackle Will Sutton, the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

It’s one thing for Hogan to dissect the scouting report on linebackers and defensive backs, trying to understand their habits. But defensive linemen?

“I thought it was kind of weird,” Wilkes, Stanford’s center, said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Why do you got to write so much about him? Why do you got to write that his best move is a club-and-rip? What does that really do for you?’ That’s just the way he trains.”

For Hogan, his separation is in his preparation. In his first full season as a starter, the McLean, Va., native and Gonzaga High School graduate has the Cardinal (8-2) entering the “Big Game” on Saturday against Cal ranked No. 9 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and No. 10 in the Associated Press poll.

After taking over as the starter with five games remaining last season, Hogan, a redshirt sophomore, led Stanford to victories over UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. He won his first 10 starts, has thrown three touchdown passes in a game three times and has won all eight games Stanford has played against a ranked opponent.

But as Hogan has learned, it’s not always that easy. Stanford’s chances of capturing a second consecutive Pac-12 title took a substantial hit Saturday when he threw an interception with 3:07 remaining, allowing USC to emerge with a 20-17 victory following a 47-yard field goal.

“He hates losing,” said left guard David Yankey. “You see it on his face and everything after the game, but as soon as it’s over, as soon as we move on to Sunday, he’s back to work. He’s in the weight room lifting. He’s getting ready for the next opponent because he knows he doesn’t want to let that happen. He knows he doesn’t want to have a second letdown.”

Hogan made his debut last November in a game against Colorado, replacing Josh Nunes on the final play of the first quarter. After he threw for 184 yards, ran for 48 more and led Stanford to a 48-0 victory, the Buffaloes’ first home shutout in 26 years, coach David Shaw announced Hogan would take over as the starting quarterback.

Rather than immediately call home and share the news with his parents, Jerry and Donna, Hogan instead waited until the next time they spoke. That type of humility was what struck Shaw upon first meeting Hogan, who was sold on Stanford within an hour of his first recruiting trip.

The Cardinal’s coaches first became aware of Hogan after Pep Hamilton, now the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator but Stanford’s wide receivers coach in 2010, unearthed his highlights on an East Coast recruiting trip. Hamilton shared the tape with then-coach Jim Harbaugh and with Shaw, who was impressed by what he saw.

“I watched two and a half games, and all the games were played in rain, played in mud, but he never slipped,” Shaw said. “That’s the sign of a real athlete. A lot of guys, when it’s sunny and beautiful, [stand out]. He’s playing in mud, he never slipped, he made guys miss, he ran, he threw the ball deep in windy conditions and rainy conditions. It was like he was playing on a sunny day. That was exciting to see.”

Hogan committed to Stanford in June 2010, before his senior year at Gonzaga. His decision was only solidified months later when, the following January, Andrew Luck decided he’d return to Stanford for another season.

That allowed Hogan to learn as much as he could from the future No. 1 overall pick, who led Stanford to an 11-2 record that season, including a loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

“I try and carry over as much as I can from what he was doing,” Hogan said. “He was the ultimate game manager. He was a great leader in offseason workouts with the team. Everyone respected him — really, just his hard work, his work ethic. He’d always be in there watching film after practice, and [it was impressive] how he carried himself off the field when the cameras might not be on him.”

When Hogan learned Luck was instrumental in setting up summer workouts with his teammates, he wanted to do so as well. He and Yankey were among the players who oversaw a voluntary six-week program in June and July designed to mimic every aspect of an in-season practice.

Running back Tyler Gaffney, who took last season off to play minor league baseball, has seen a change in Hogan’s maturity and confidence.

Last year, Gaffney said, Hogan “was Brett Favreing it: Running around, throwing the ball to open guys, not fully understanding” what he had to do. Now, he comprehends the complexities of the playbook — and teammates are taking note.

“He’s taking care of the extracurricular of, ‘We need the hustle out of you,’ or ‘We need this out of you,’ taking more of a leadership role and understanding where he fits in on the offense,” Gaffney said. “Obviously, in games, everyone makes a mistake here or there, but when it comes to going to practice and what we’ve done, he’s right on point.”

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