It was supposed to be a running back by committee. When Toby Gerhart left for the NFL it was going to be replacement by a group for Stanford football. It did not turn out that way.
While Stanford clearly has had some talented runners, and the depth may be even deeper this year, Stepfan Taylor has emerged as THE MAN.
“In my opinion we have the best running back in the country,” offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said this spring.
For a back that was supposed to share the load, Taylor is coming off of back-to-back 1,000 yard campaigns. His last game was filled with career highs as he rushed 35 times for 177 yards in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
The national media is paying attention to Taylor as well as he has been added to the Doak Walker Award watch list for the best running back and Maxwell Award watch list for best offensive player.
With Stanford breaking in a new quarterback this year, talk on campus is similar to Gerhart’s last season. Can Taylor have a 2,000 yard season?
“Absolutely,” Hamilton exclaimed. “We average 36 run attempts per game last year. He averaged exactly 18 carries per game. We were fortunate in some of our games to have a lead late in the game that allowed us to take the pounding off of him and get some of our other backs involved, but just like our bowl game, he had 35 carries, the good backs they want to get in a rhythm. We are going to feature Stepfan without a doubt.”
Every year the focus seems to be on some of the other backs. Where does Tyler Gaffney fit in? Will highly recruited Anthony Wilkerson take carries away? This year Gaffney is gone but so much attention is centered on incoming freshman Barry Sanders Jr.
There is talent and depth in the Stanford running game. Through all the competition, all Taylor does is quietly do his job and he excels at it.
The 5-11, 215-pound runner from Mansfield, Texas is very quiet and unassuming in public. On the field he just takes care of business. In three years career, the last two as a starter, he has rushed 521 times for 2,770 yards and 27 touchdowns.
With a smaller frame, there is some concern about him wearing thin with all the carries. That is not a concern for Hamilton.
“We are going to be smart about it. We don’t want to wear him out. We want to wear the defense down but we don’t want to wear Stepfan out at the same time. Coach Sanford will really have a good sense of where Stepfan is physically and give him as many opportunities as he can handle.”
With Stanford breaking in a new quarterback this year, you can be sure there will be plenty of workload for Taylor and his backups this season.