Christian McCaffrey has, to say the least, made a name for himself up and down the West Coast thanks to a dominant season in which he set the new NCAA record for all-purpose yards, was a finalist for Walter Camp, Maxwell and Heisman honors and won AP Player of the Year.
His fame might have developed slowly at the start, but it did tend to spread at a healthy clip around the nation once he and the offensive line hit their groove and torched the Arizona, UCLA and Washington defenses.
But apparently, Iowa City never really got the news.
“I hadn’t heard too much about [McCaffrey],” said Iowa senior linebacker Cole Fisher. “I didn’t follow him in the Heisman race too much, and that was probably the first time I heard about him.”
While Iowa defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson pointed out that he didn’t focus on McCaffrey all too much because he was more concerned more about his own defense’s fundamentals instead of what opponents brought to the table, some of his teammates had mixed opinions on why McCaffrey had slid so far under the radar for them.
“I never really watched a lot of Pac-12 games because they just start so late back home,” Fisher said. “I think they’re after midnight for us. It’s just a geographical thing in my mind.”
“But I know he’s a great player. He can hurt you in a lot of different ways.”
Fellow linebacker Josey Jewell thought that it was more of a matter of McCaffrey being under-the-radar in general, even as he racked up yards at a record-breaking clip as Stanford navigated its way to the top of the Pac-12 through the meat of the conference season.
“I don’t know if he had a lot of recognition until the Heisman stuff came about,” Jewell said. “But he’s a great player. We’ve seen him on film and we’ve just got to be ready for him.”
Part of that preparation has been on the Iowa scout team, where the Hawkeyes have turned to freshman running back Eric Graham, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound running back from Prattville, Alabama, to try and replicate the dynamic ability McCaffrey brings to the field.
Iowa’s defenders seem reasonably confident that their freshman running back has done a fairly good job of preparing them for what they can expect from Stanford’s Heisman finalist.
“I mean, a Heisman finalist is going to make it tough, but the guys are trying their best and I think they’re giving us good looks,” Fisher said.
“He’s given us great looks, but there’s not something you can really do,” Jewell added. “He’s one of the best out there. So we’ve just got to take what we can from out scout team guys and expect a little more.”
Even when USC was focusing its entire defense on stopping McCaffrey, the Cardinal sophomore had the fifth-best all-purpose game in history by racking up 461 yards as the Cardinal cruised to a Pac-12 Championship.
Come Jan. 1, the debate of whether or not Iowa’s scout team has been giving the team good preparation for Stanford’s all-purpose dynamo will be settled – and the Hawkeyes’ defense will probably actually be awake to see No. 5 dart by this time around.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.