Ryan Hewitt could give Stanford boost in Pac-12 opener

Stanford has wide receivers? Who knew? After building its offense around a seemingly never-ending collection of massive pass-catching tight ends capable of creating mismatches all over the field, the Cardinal has had to restructure its approach with Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo off to the NFL.

Ty Montgomery, Kodi Whitfield and Devon Cajuste have combined for 18 receptions, 307 yards and three touchdowns in two games, while top tight ends Luke Kaumatule and Charlie Hopkins have only two receptions for nine yards and no touchdowns. Kaumatule and Hopkins represent 6.7 percent of Stanford's total receptions and 2.2 percent of its receiving yards.

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Compare that to last season when Ertz and Toilolo accounted for 38.8 percent of the team's catches, 46.1 percent of its receiving yards and scored 10 of 19 touchdown passes.

But the return of fullback Ryan Hewitt could allow Stanford to look more like, well, Stanford. Hewitt suffered a bruised knee during a scrimmage last month and has been very limited since, catching only one pass for three yards.

"He feels great for the first time in a month," Shaw told the San Jose Mercury News.

Hewitt came to Stanford as a tight end in the same recruiting class as Ertz and Toilolo, but was moved to fullback. At 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, Hewitt has emerged as a dominant lead blocker, but still catches the ball effectively either coming out of the backfield or split out wide.

"He is the hybrid club in the bag," former Stanford assistant Pep Hamilton, now the Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator, said last December. "He's one of the toughest football players in America in my opinion."

If Hewitt is able to contribute, he could be a valuable asset in the Pac-12 opener against Arizona State on Saturday. Stanford will look to grind out the game using its dominant rushing attack with some play-action mixed in to keep the Sun Devils' prolific up-tempo offense off the field.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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