Orange Bowl: Luck's skill drives Stanford

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Orange Bowl: Luck's skill drives Stanford

Jan 3, 2011NO. 5 STANFORD (11-1) vs.NO. 12 VIRGINIA TECH (11-2)
RATTO: HARBAUGH BLESSED WITH LEVERAGE

2010-11 BOWL SCHEDULERESULTS

MIAMI (AP) -- Andrew Luck threw seven interceptions and 97 incompletions during the regular season. His knowledge of the NFL is less than encyclopedic -- more on that shortly -- and he settled for a B in the most difficult class he has taken at Stanford, a course on mechanics called Engineering 14.

Yet coach Jim Harbaugh is disinclined to find fault.

"Andrew is the real deal," Harbaugh says. "He is the best player I've ever been around, and he's even a finer young man. There's nothing about him where I say I wish he could do this, or I wish he didn't do this. He is just like my wife: He is perfect. You wouldn't change a thing about him."

ROSTERS: Stanford Virginia Tech

Stanford's passing paragon will take the national stage Monday night in the Orange Bowl, when No. 5 Stanford (11-1) faces No. 12 Virginia Tech (11-2). It could be Luck's final college game -- although only a sophomore, he's touted as the likely No. 1 overall draft pick in April if he turns pro.

The BCS game matches two teams climbing in the polls since early in the season. Virginia Tech opened with losses to Boise State and lower-tier James Madison, then regrouped and went undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Stanford lost in October to Oregon, then swept its final seven regular-season games, the latest surge in a remarkable turnaround under Harbaugh after going 1-11 in 2006.

Luck was a high school junior in Houston when Stanford hired Harbaugh, who spent 15 seasons as an NFL quarterback.

"I did not really know his name, to be honest," Luck says with a sheepish laugh. "Don't tell him I said that."

Soon enough, Luck accepted a scholarship offer from Harbaugh, and now the coach and quarterback have led the Cardinal to their first January bowl since 2000. Like Luck, Harbaugh might be bound for the NFL this year.

PREVIEW: Stanford, VaTech on historic runs

"He's got to do what's best for him," Luck says, "and I've got to do what's best for me."

First there's the matter of beating Virginia Tech, which happens to have a pretty good QB, too. Senior Tyrod Taylor was chosen ACC player of the year, and he's often compared with one of his predecessors at Tech, Michael Vick.

Taylor seeks his third bowl win in his final college game.

"He's a stud," Luck says. "When the play breaks down, he's making guys miss and making things happen. You hate to go against guys like that, because you've always got to be on your toes. You never know when they're going to score."

While Taylor's mobility makes him dangerous, he needs to prove himself as a pocket passer to succeed in the NFL, and he's confident he can do it.

"I believe I can play in any offense," Taylor says. "Early in my career I was more of a runner. As I got older, I think I proved I can be a dropback passer. I can also use my feet, but I always keep my eyes downfield looking for a receiver."

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Taylor will leave Blacksburg as the school's career leader in passing yards, rushing yards by a quarterback and total offense. He's 34-7 as a starter, and like Luck, he wins raves for his leadership.

When the Hokies were 0-2, Taylor led a seniors-only meeting that stabilized the situation.

"His legacy is that we'll always be talking about Tyrod Taylor," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. "That's probably the best compliment I can give somebody."

Luck reaps similar praise, although it's possible he won't leave in 2011. The son of former West Virginia and Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck says he's trying not to think a lot about his future until after the Orange Bowl, but no one seems to doubt he's ready for the NFL.

"It's a tough decision for Andrew, I'm sure," says Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who coached in the NFL for 24 years. "But when he does come out, I'll be shocked if he's not a very good NFL quarterback."

STATS: Andrew Luck Tyrod Taylor

Luck will face a Tech defense ranked second in the nation with 22 interceptions. But in two years as a starter, Luck has been intercepted only 11 times while throwing 41 touchdown passes. He threw for 3,051 yards this year, completing 70 percent of his passes, and finished second to Auburn's Cam Newton in the Heisman Trophy race.

Luck is 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds but mobile enough to run for 438 yards this season. And he's tough: Scrambling against California, he threw a forearm into the chin of a safety and knocked him head over heels.

"Andrew looked at him for a second and then kept running," associate head coach Greg Roman says. "It's one of the best moments I've ever had as a coach, to witness that."

How often do Luck's coaches get mad at him? Roman pauses for 10 seconds, trying to recall the last time it happened.

REWIND: Stanford results Virginia Tech season recap

"Hmm. Mad at him? Hmm," Roman says. "It doesn't happen very often."

That's partly because Luck rarely makes mental mistakes. A B-plus student majoring in architecture, Luck is interested in building stadiums when he's done playing in them. He has mastered Stanford's complicated offense -- his wristband supposedly lists 350 plays -- and Harbaugh has talked of letting him call plays next season.

Like Harbaugh, his players make Luck sound too good to be true.

"If there is any pick higher than the first pick, he would go there," cornerback Richard Sherman says. "When he gets to the next level, it will be amazing. I don't think people realize how good he is."

That may be partly Luck's fault; he's hardly one for self-promotion.

Luck's a big reason Stanford has a shot at its first top-five finish since 1940, but teammates say when his image comes on TV, he turns it off or changes the channel.

"He's so humble, sometimes it's really painful to hear him talk," senior Owen Marecic says with a laugh. "It's absolutely genuine. But that's what makes him so great. He has all this talent, but it doesn't satisfy him in the least. He's always trying to get better."

So while Luck's not really perfect, he is a perfectionist, hoping for a win Monday night to complete Stanford's near-perfect season.

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Resume comparison: Popovich the teacher vs Kerr the student

Resume comparison: Popovich the teacher vs Kerr the student

Programming note: Warriors-Spurs coverage starts tonight at 5:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

While the San Antonio Spurs are chasing the Warriors this season, as was the case in each of the past two seasons, it’s quite the opposite for the coaches.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr is trying to reach the same level as his primary coaching mentor, Gregg Popovich of the Spurs, whom Kerr admires to no end.

Eight games shy of three seasons into his career, Kerr is off to a start far more impressive than Popovich or anyone else ever to preside over an NBA sideline.

When the Warriors and Spurs tip off Wednesday night at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Kerr will have 200 victories on his resume. Popovich owns 1,146 wins, all with the Spurs. It’s inconceivable that Kerr would coach long enough to achieve 1,000 wins, much less 1,146 and counting.

Kerr, 51, likely won’t compile 20 consecutive winning seasons, as Popovich has. And Popovich’s ongoing record of wins with one franchise may never be surpassed.

But much of what Popovich, 68, has done is reachable, if not already accomplished, by Kerr.

Kerr’s 67-15 record in his first season (2014-15) is the best ever for a rookie coach.

Kerr reached 200 in 238 games, faster than any coach in any of the four major sports in the United States. Popovich didn’t win No. 200 until his 304th game.

Popovich won an NBA championship in his second full season; Kerr did it in his first.

Pop won four titles in his first 10 seasons; Kerr has eight seasons to add three more.

Pop has reached the 60-win mark five times in 20 full seasons; Kerr has hit that level in each of his first three.

Under Kerr, albeit with considerable help from interim head coach Luke Walton, the Warriors in 2015-16 set a league record with 73 wins. The high for the Spurs under Pop is 67, reached last season.

Kerr’s win percentage: .840 (200-38). Pop’s win percentage: .696 (1,146-501).

Both coaches have, of course, benefitted from supremely talented rosters.

The Spurs under Popovich have had as core players one player, David Robinson, in the Hall of Fame and three more (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker) certain to get the call. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard are on that path.

Kerr came to a roster with Stephen Curry, who has since polished his Hall of Fame credentials. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson have the goods for the honor. Kevin Durant punched his ticket in Oklahoma City, and now he’s a Warrior.

“I’m lucky,” Kerr said after win No. 200 Tuesday night. “Coaching is all about the guys you coach; Are they coachable? Are they talented? And the answer to that is an emphatic yes. These guys are amazing and I’m really lucky to be able to coach them.”

In short, Kerr’s reaction is precisely as Popovich’s is whenever he wins a game or an award or a championship.

The student has learned well from the teacher, even if he fails to match the old man’s enduring excellence.