How K.J. Costello’s decision to return affects Stanford’s outlook

K.J. Costello’s decision to forego the NFL draft was welcome news for the Stanford football team, which faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules next season.

Just show seriously the redshirt junior quarterback considered turning pro after just one full season under his belt remains a mystery.

All he said in a concise tweet Wednesday night was: “I look forward to continuing my athletic and academic career at Stanford University. Stanford is a special place. I’m excited to get after it with my brothers in 2019.”

He might have been tempted to go pro. By most accounts, this year’s draft is light on quarterback talent — even if Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner, turns pro as expected. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, a redshirt sophomore, is likely to be the first quarterback drafted, with Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones possible first- or second-round picks.

In his first full season as the starter, Costello threw for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns. Only Steve Stenstrom has thrown for more yards in a season at Stanford (3,627 in 1993). Andrew Luck holds the school record for TD passes with 37 in 2011; he also had 32 in 2010.

Stanford is already losing tailback Bryce Love, wide receivers JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trent Irwin, tight end Kaden Smith and most of its offensive line, as well as its leading tackler, inside linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Had Costello turned pro, the leading candidate at quarterback would have been redshirt freshman Davis Mills, who has a history of knee injuries. The only other scholarship quarterbacks are freshman Jack West and junior Jack Richardson.

Tanner McKee, who signed last year, is on an LDS mission and won’t arrive until 2020. Stanford didn’t sign a quarterback as part of its 2019 class.

The overhauled offense will be sternly tested by one of the toughest schedules in the country next fall. In addition to expected Pac-12 North contenders Washington and Oregon, the Cardinal will face heavyweights Notre Dame, Northwestern and Central Florida. Notre Dame made the College Football playoff semifinals; Northwestern reached the Big Ten title game, and UCF has gone undefeated in the last two regular seasons.

Here’s an early look at how the rest of the 2019 Stanford roster shapes up:

Running backs — Cameron Scarlett is expected to start, although he’ll get stiff competition from Trevor Speights and Dorian Maddox. Austin Jones (Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland) may well join the mix as a freshman. Houston Heimuli is the most experienced fullback.

Wide receivers — At this point, the likely starters are Michael Wilson and Connor Wedington, who redshirted in 2018 because an injury limited him to four games. Osiris St. Brown and 6-foot-4 Simi Fehoko will see plenty of action, and freshmen Elijah Higgins and Colby Bowman may play as freshmen.

Tight ends — Colby Parkinson should be an All-America candidate and Scooter Harrington and Tucker Fisk will be back, mainly as blockers. Taeveon Le, a redshirt freshman, and incoming Bradley Archer (Livermore) will provide depth.

Offensive line — Starting left tackle Walker Little returns along with Foster Sarell (limited to three games in an injury-hampered season) and Devery Hamilton, both of whom can play guard or tackle. Center Drew Dalman and guard Dylan Powell are also in the mix to start, and incoming tackle Walter Rouse may also be in the running.

Defensive line — Thomas Booker, named the top lineman as a freshman in last month’s Sun Bowl, will lead a pack that includes Michael Williams, Jovan Swann and another freshman, Andres Fox. Incoming Stephen Herron Jr. and Joshua Pakola (St. Francis) may well play immediately.

Linebackers — Without Okereke and possibly Sean Barton, who may not come back, the starters on the inside figure to be redshirt freshmen Jacob Mangum-Farrar and Ricky Miezan, with converted safety Andrew Pryts as a backup. The outside group is in much better shape with Casey Toohill, Jordan Fox and Gabe Reid returning and Curtis Robinson and maybe Tristan Sinclair (San Ramon Valley-Danville) providing depth.

Secondary — Cornerback Paulson Adebo made the FWAA All-America second team as a freshman. The other starting corner is likely to be Obi Eboh, although Ethan Bonner, Kendall Williamson and Treyjohn Butler will be contenders there, unless somebody is moved to safety. Incoming Salim Turner-Muhammad could be the next Adebo. Safeties Frank Buncom and Malik Antoine are back, along with possibly Ben Edwards, who played just three games because of injuries.

Kicker/punter — Jake Bailey, the lead-footed punter and kickoff man extraordinaire, will be gone. Jet Toner, a very accurate field goal kicker, may add kickoff duties, although newcomer Ryan Sanborn could be another Bailey as a punter and touchback-machine on kickoffs.

Tom FitzGerald is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: tfitzgerald@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @tomgfitzgerald

A big fish is landed for 2020 class

Besides K.J. Costello’s return, there was more good news for Stanford this week: Five-star offensive tackle Myles Hinton announced he has verbally committed to join the 2020 incoming class.

He missed most of his junior season at Greater Atlanta Christian High School in Norcross, Ga., because of a shoulder injury. He started as a 14-year-old freshman, when he protected the blind side of quarterback Davis Mills, now a redshirt freshman at Stanford.

In the future, the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Hinton may be blocking for Mills again. He is expected to compete for a starting job soon after he arrives.

His older brother, Christopher, is a five-star defensive tackle who has signed with Michigan for next fall. The Wolverines were Myles’ other finalist. He also had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC, among many others.

Their father, Chris Hinton, played 13 years in the NFL as an offensive lineman, mainly with Indianapolis. He was drafted by Denver with the fourth overall pick in 1983 and was quickly traded to the Colts as part of a deal for Stanford great John Elway.

“Myles’ potential is unlimited,” his high school coach, Tim Hardy, told The Chronicle. “He’s a classic offensive tackle — long arms, huge frame, outstanding feet, a lot of room for growth. He was a state champion in the discus, and he’s just figuring it out.

“He’s really a renaissance man. He’s an accomplished artist. His sketches and drawings on display at the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta. He’s an avid fisherman. He’s a young man with a variety of interests. He wants to major in human biology. He’s a perfect fit for Stanford.”

— Tom FitzGerald

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/collegesports/article/Costello-will-return-to-Stanford-rather-than-13522939.php.

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