With all of this hype about the Stanford-Northwestern game (sorry west coast fans), Brandon Stephens has announced his commitment to the Cardinals. He will be the 2nd running back in this top 10 (the other being Beau Bisharat) and is surely a great addition. Stephens had some great offers from in-state team Texas A&M, Texas, and Alabama. Stephens announced his commitment through Twitter earlier today:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Blessed to be joining coach Shaw, and Stanford University! See ya soon Palo Alto! </p>— BRANDON STEPHENS (@BFame24) <a href="https://twitter.com/BFame24/status/639810165017972736">September 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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At 6 foot, 205 pounds, Stephens looks like a power back. Instead, he is a much more elusive runner than one would assume. The three-star product out of Plano, TX continuously gashed defenses during his junior season, racking up over 1300 yards on the ground plus 21 TDs, and displaying his diverse skill set.
Stephens' defining trait is his lateral quickness. Often times, a defender will have him dead to rights, but will end up tackling nothing but air due to his remarkable ability to plant his foot in the ground and change direction without losing any speed. At Plano High School, the coaches would repeatedly call plays with two pulling guards, allowing Stephens to showcase his speed and his ability to be a home run hitter. Another attribute Stephens consistently displays is his smooth running style. He simply looks like a natural runner with the ball in his hands. His vision, his balance, his patience is a formidable combination for any defense to stop. He follows the old football adage, "patience to the hole, speed through the hole". An underrated aspect Stephens' game is ability to get skinny, which is even more impressive given his frame.
One aspect the newest Stanford commit must work on is hitting the holes inside. Stanford's pro-style offense is reliant on its backs consistently gaining yards through the gut of the defense. Stephens often will press the line of scrimmage, then use his explosiveness to bounce the play to the outside faster than defenders can pursue him. However, the PAC-12 is full of speedy linebackers that will not let that happen. Stephens must adapt a more north-south running style in order to have a more successful college career as a Cardinal.
Overall, Brandon Stephens is a very natural runner and has the athletic ability and size to be a threat to take it the distance on any play. Although he has to make the adjustment of going more north-south, most college running backs have to make that adjustment. Brandon Stephens could turn into a dangerous playmaker for the Cardinals offense.
You can find Stephens junior year highlights courtesy of Hudl: