By Emily Van Buskirk / @Emilnem
Hell hath no fury like a college football coach asked for the umpteenth time if he is leaving for the NFL.
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But Stanford head coach David Shaw is used to the question by now and handles it the way he handles all inquiries he may or may not particularly enjoy talking about: with his patented half smile and an intelligently crafted, only slightly sarcastic response.
“I answer the questions ever year … I have not interviewed for a single job no matter how many times my name has come up,” insists Shaw. “I have not interviewed for a job in four years.
“I have shown my dedication to the school, re-signing my contracts, extending my contracts. I have no desire right now to go to the NFL. I’m never going to say never, but with a young family right now and being in the Bay Area and where we are and the way this program is — honestly, I love the stream of guys we have coming up, and I think we have a chance to be really competitive nationally for the next four to five years. So I kind of want to be around for that.”
And compete with the Cardinal will. This year’s squad returns 46 letter winners, 22 on offense, 22 on defense and two on special teams. Kevin Hogan returns to reprise his role as veteran quarterback, but the question remains: Will the good Hogan who led Stanford to substantial victories over Cal, UCLA and Maryland at the end of the year show up, or will it be the Hogan who struggled through the first half of the season?
“He had a rough beginning of the year, which we all understand, but it also was collectively that I think we didn’t jive early on; we didn’t handle success or failure very well during the course of the year,” said Shaw. “Later in the year, I think a lot of things got resolved, both in his personal life and on the field — he just played better, we just played better and I think we got a glimpse of a young man that, even when he took us to back-to-back Rose Bowls, he didn’t play as well he played in those last three games. We got a glimpse of his ceiling, of how good he can be. We always have to gauge — it's not about keeping more pressure on Kevin, as much as it is to say, ‘Hey, we saw your best; now let's make sure we try and do that every single game.’”
Hogan is Shaw’s ride-or-die, that much is clear. And both returning to The Farm says a lot about the program itself.
“I’ve had friends, people that I won’t name, NFL coaches and some college coaches that have told me, that have basically threatened me, not to leave this job because it’s so good,” said Shaw. “The kids that we coach, the area that we live in, and the fact that we are winning games and being competitive and graduating players — there is no better place to do this job.”
Stanford has seen much success in recent years, thanks to the quality of players recruited by Shaw and his solid coaching staff. But last year’s 8-5 performance left a sour taste in fans' mouths.
“We don’t apologize about an eight-win season,” said Shaw. “We didn’t reach our goals, but we earned what we got. And we are going to get what we earned next year. It’s not what we deserve, it's not what we want to have happen — we have to earn it. And we have a conference that’s going to make you earn it.”
Stanford faces a solid, albeit overrated, USC team on the road in week three but gets Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame all at home this year. It’s still not an easy path to Levi Stadium, and Shaw has been vocal about the Pac-12 being as competitive, if not more so, than the SEC.
“Week in and week out — I don’t know that the non-West Coast fan truly understands how hard it is to play at Oregon State, especially after you played USC, UCLA and Utah and then you go play at Oregon State. It’s just the run that you have to make in our conference to go to the Pac-12 Championship Game — it is hellacious.”
Stanford will rely heavily on Hogan and his arsenal of offensive weapons, such as running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Devon Cajuste, while the defense continues to rebuild after losing experienced players like Henry Anderson and A.J. Tarpley.
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