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Football preview: Running backs, fullbacks

Senior running back Bryce Love (above) will be expected to continue the incredible rushing attack Stanford had under Christian McCaffrey.(DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

In a nutshell

Behind all the chatter about Christian McCaffrey’s departure in the first round of the NFL draft, Stanford’s attack now faces a huge task in trying to fill the void left by their star running back and playmaker.

For the Cardinal rushing attack, which has been so reliable for head coach David Shaw and his coaching staff in recent years, the question will be whether juniors Bryce Love and Cameron Scarlett can be the 1-2 punch out of the backfield that will keep defenses honest about Stanford’s ability to dominate the running game.

Love now steps into the starting position on a full-time basis with key experience from last year during McCaffrey’s injury stint. Love led the team averaging 7.1 yards per rush and showed a glimpse of his dual threat capabilities through the air by using his speed by catching eight receptions on the year, including a receiving touchdown.

Coach Shaw had no doubt that Love is ready to handle the spotlight, telling reporters during this summer’s Pac-12 media day, “He’ll have an opportunity in the return game as well. Catching the ball, running the ball outside, running the ball between the tackles. Because he’s not just a scatback, he’s a running back.“

“Every time Bryce has touched the ball for last two years there is a collective pause that happens on our sideline and the other sideline and there is a gasp that you can actually hear that anticipation because he is so explosive,” Shaw responded when asked about Love’s skill set. “I think Bryce is going to have a breakout year and be one of the better players in the nation.”

Love’s teammate and classmate, Cameron Scarlett, got his first playing time last season but ultimately played third-fiddle in a stacked running back core. With Love now taking over the starting position, Scarlett will move into the RB2 position and look to establish himself as a consistent contributor to the Stanford rushing attack.

The Cardinal hope that the duo of Love and Scarlett will lead to success as Love’s speed and Scarlett’s physically-imposing running style should add versatility to the Cardinal running game.

In addition to the two juniors, Stanford also might incorporate sophomore Trevor Speights into the game plan in order to get the youngster game experience that he has not yet had. Speights’ quickness–he lettered in both football and track in high school–is next level and could be a good replacement for Bryce Love if the junior needs time off over the course of a game.

As far as incoming players, Stanford recently brought in four-star recruit from Utah, Sione Lund, who also provides explosiveness with size, weighing in at 254 pounds, for the Cardinal offense. However, Lund most likely won’t see the field during the upcoming season as the freshman will need time to adjust to the collegiate game.

Who’s Returning?

Bryce Love (RB) – Love is a star in the making as his explosiveness must be accounted for at all times when on the field. The junior will be asked to fill the vacancy left by Heisman-runner up RB Christian McCaffrey and should expect the lion’s share of touches on the ground in addition to being a threat out of the backfield through the air.

Cameron Scarlett (RB) – Stanford running backs coach Lance Taylor likened Scarlett to Tyler Gaffney in his build and running style; Scarlett is a force to tackle yet is multifaceted and can be a threat anywhere on the field. The two-time Oregon state champion could be an interesting and surprising factor for the Stanford rushing game in the upcoming season.

Trevor Speights (RB) – The sophomore showed flashes of excellence during the spring game, and is Texas High School Football’s 4th all-time leading rusher. He may not see the field a lot this season, but his potential is exciting.

Daniel Marx (FB) – Senior fullback Daniel Marx missed seven games last season due to injury, but it is all systems go for Stanford’s premier blocking back this season, and the Cardinal rushing attack will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

Newcomers to watch for

Sione Lund (RB) – The four-star Utah recruit has a scary combination of size and speed, but will likely redshirt this season as in he was not included in the depth chart for the game against Rice.

Key Departures

Christian McCaffrey (RB) – Replacing a Heisman candidate and first round NFL pick is a task that will prove tough for any college team in the nation, and this time proves no different. McCaffrey’s absence will be felt all around the offense, but the junior running back duo should be able to pick up the slack in addition to a heightened passing game.

McCaffrey ended his Cardinal career as one of the greats, finishing with the third most total yards for a Stanford running back in school history on the fifth most rushes all-time. He has taken his talents to the Carolina Panthers where he has been making noise during training camp and preseason.

 

Depth Chart for opener against Rice

RB

Bryce Love

Cameron Scarlett

-or- Trevor Speights

-or- Dorian Maddox

FB

Daniel Marx

Reagan Williams

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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