In recent years, Stanford has always had a big, strong running back that can run in between the tackles. And they've lived or died by these backs' success. When they performed like Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, and last year, Remound Wright did, Stanford took its place among college football's elite. When they didn't, like Wright didn't in 2014, they slipped to a disappointing season and the middle of the Pac.
Now, with Wright's graduation, Stanford is left with a void at power back. Wright got most of the goal line carries, scoring 13 touchdowns for the Cardinal last year. They have the best running back and player in the country in Christian McCaffrey, an electric, established change of pace back in Bryce Love, but uncertainty in the power role.
That's where Cameron Scarlett comes in. After redshirting last season, the imposing 6'1", 220 pound back is the logical choice to fill that hole. The brother of Brennan, who graduate transferred from Cal to play defensive line for Stanford last season, Scarlett was heavily recruited out of high school, a four-star recruit. He spurned offers from the likes of Notre Dame, UCLA, and Oregon, among others, to come to the Farm.
After watching film, it's obvious that Scarlett doesn't shy away from contact. Although he mostly excels running North and South, he has the moves to beat defenders East and West as well. Even though he looked the part against high school defenders, he doesn't project to be all that explosive, but that shouldn't matter much in the role he'll likely play next season. For someone of his stature, he can fly.
His calling card is his physicality, an intimidating combination of speed and strength that will make opposing defenses shudder next season. Probably more of a Gaffney than a Taylor or a Gerhart.
With nearly two more years under his belt from when the film was shot, it'll be interesting to see how Scarlett has grown as a back this Saturday at the Spring Game. We'll get to see Scarlett in a variety of situations -- watch how he responds to everything head coach David Shaw throws at him.
He'll likely be spoon-fed by Shaw, as most young players are in the system, but expect him to jump right into that power role right away next season. He'll need to thrive in that position for the Cardinal to finish drives this season -- he has big shoes to fill. With only one other experienced running back on the roster outside of Love and McCaffrey, senior Pat McFadden, who has one carry in his college career, Stanford needs him to succeed.
With McCaffrey in the backfield, don't expect him to take on the feature back role this season, or even the next one. But when his time comes, he has the tools to be ready for it. If he can turn into the goal line back that he has the potential to be, the Cardinal will have a scary three-headed monster in the backfield next season. Watch out, Pac-12 defenses.