Stanford QB depth takes a hit with the reported transfer of Ryan Burns

Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst. left, was injured in the Sun Bowl. (AP Photo/Mark Lambie)

All of a sudden, Stanford’s quarterback depth is looking extremely thin.

The Cardinal shifted back and forth between Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns as starter throughout the year. Now, it appears, neither will be available when spring practice rolls around.

Chryst suffered a knee injury in the Cardinal’s Sun Bowl win over North Carolina. The Mercury News is reporting that Chryst has “severe ligament damage” to his knee (Fox Sports reported he tore his ACL) and his recovery time will span “at least six months from the time of surgery.” That timetable would place Chryst’s return around July or August.

From the Mercury News:

Sources said Chryst, a junior, will miss at least six months from the time of surgery, which would peg his return to late July or the first half of August, at the earliest. A longer rehabilitation would likely rule out Chryst’s availability for the start of the season, which itself is a moving target.

Stanford is expected to face Rice in Sydney, Australia one week earlier than the official opening for most major college teams. If the Sydney event is finalized for Aug. 26, the Cardinal would have a week off to recover and play its second game, expected to be the conference opener, on Sept. 9.

That, sources said, could be the preliminary target date for Chryst’s return to the lineup.

And on top of that, The Mercury News is reporting that Burns, who would be a senior in 2017, will pursue a graduate transfer. Burns started the first seven games of the season before Chryst took over as starter. Overall for the season, Chryst, a redshirt sophomore, threw for 905 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. Burns finished the season with 1,151 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

If Burns leaves, all that remains is just one scholarship quarterback, redshirt freshman K.J. Costello, for spring practice. Costello was a highly-touted high school prospect. According to Rivals.com, he was the second-best pro-style quarterback recruit in the 2016 class and was ranked No. 54 overall.

Walk-ons Brent Peus and Jack Richardson are the only other quarterbacks on the roster — for now. If he signs as expected on Feb. 1, the Cardinal will also add five-star recruit Davis Mills, a quarterback from Norcross, Georgia. In the 2017 class, Mills is the top-rated quarterback and the No. 4 prospect in the nation. He is expected to enroll in June.

Costello and Mills are certainly suitable backup plans if Chryst’s health isn’t where it needs to be by the time the season rolls around. Stanford finished the year 10-3 after quietly winning its final six games after a 4-3 start. The Cardinal is expected to bounce back and compete with Washington again for the Pac-12 North crown in 2017.

Dr. Saturday ranked the Cardinal No. 19 in our early preseason top 25. 

For more Stanford news, visit CardinalSportsReport.com.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!