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Pac-12 preview: Does returned missionary Tanner McKee have inside track to Stanford’s starting QB job?

McKee turned in solid spring game performance, completing 6 of 8 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown

Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee calls a play in the huddle during Stanford’s spring game at Stanford Stadium.
Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee calls a play in the huddle during Stanford’s spring game at Stanford Stadium on May 22, 2021 ,in Stanford, California. McKee, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is in a battle for the starting quarterback job.
Erin Chang/isiphotos.com

Editor’s note: Seventh in a series of stories examining the 12 football programs in the Pac-12.

For Stanford, its biggest question mark during the offseason may be at the quarterback position.

The Cardinal are looking to replace Davis Mills, who was selected in the third round of the NFL draft.

Battling for the job are sophomore Tanner McKee and senior Jack West. McKee returned home from a mission to Brazil for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a year ago and took 12 snaps in 2020. West saw limited action behind Mills last season.

Coach David Shaw said he won’t name a starter until fall camp.

But based on Stanford’s spring game on May 22, McKee could have the edge.

In the scrimmage, McKee completed 6 of 8 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. West was 4 of 8 for 5 yards.

While Stanford’s leading receiver from a year ago, Simi Fehoko, a Brighton High product, has departed (he was a fifth-round NFL draft pick), the Cardinal will look for production from players like running backs Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat and wideouts Brycen Tremayne, Michael Wilson and Elijah Higgins.

On defense, Stanford is seeking improvement after surrendering more than 200 rushing yards per game last season. The Cardinal also ranked last in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense.

Stanford hosts Utah on Nov. 5.


Word on the street

“Team: good. Schedule: absolutely brutal. The Cardinal have the distinction of playing an all-Power Five schedule including a trip to Vanderbilt and date with Kansas State in Arlington. To make matters worse, they play USC on the road and have to play Notre Dame again. On the positive side, Oregon and Washington are at home.”

— College Football News


By the numbers

2020 record: 4-2 (4-2 Pac-12)

Returning starters: Offense: 6, defense: 8


Local ties

LB Levani Damuni (Ridgeline HS)

LB Spencer Jorgensen (Provo HS)

FB Houston Heimuli (Bountiful HS)

LB Tangaloa Kaufusi (East HS)

LB Gabe Reid (Timpview HS).


2021 schedule

Sept. 4 Kansas State

Sept. 11 @ USC

Sept. 18 @ Vanderbilt

Sept. 25 UCLA

Oct. 2 Oregon

Oct. 8 @ Arizona State

Oct. 16 @ Washington State

Oct. 30 Washington

Nov. 5 Utah

Nov. 13 @ Oregon State

Nov. 20 California

Nov. 27 Notre Dame