I have been watching tape of practices and of the spring game for Stanford and I was ready to give my hot take on why an extended Bryce Love role will be the key this season to what makes the Stanford offense different from last year. Then head coach David Shaw announced that he would “most likely” have Love sit for the opener and leave all of the weight on Christian McCaffrey’s shoulders.
I am here to tell you that not only am I disregarding this statement as a detractor to Love’s progress, but I also will still be talking about Bryce because he does give the Cardinal a dynamic piece for their offense.
Let’s be honest, McCaffrey will be in no danger of losing the starting job or taking a step back, he is still the number one or two running back in the country. Which is why, when this team is up 14 points on Kansas State they will not leave him in the game late, but put Love to work. This might just be a case of a coach being a little shady to a reporter, Love will get snaps in the opener simply because of the score. But there is more here for this offense to take advantage of in the long run.
Flash back to 2015 when Love is coming out of high school in Wake Forest, North Carolina as a 4-star recruit. With 2,304 rushing yards, 33 rushing touchdowns, 12 runs of 100 yards and a 4.3 40 yard dash time he was one of the most sought after recruits by the likes of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Coming to Stanford when he was set to be a role player because of his smaller size, the comparisons to other, smaller change of pace backs in the NFL were rolled out as he was stacked up to guys like Darren Sproles and Gio Bernard.
He was never supposed to take away carries from McCaffrey, but came in to be a compliment back which we saw glimpses of last season. He is great in the screen game and can be sent out wide to catch passes as well as being able to run the route tree and no longer has Barry Sanders Jr. to take away touches. In pitches, sweeps or stretch runs when he is looking and waiting for that edge to run around and up he is phenomenal because of his speed. He can be the guy, when the offense is stalling late in the third quarter that comes in and gives a spark to the team.
This team has a new quarterback and despite how talented McCaffrey is he will have drives where he is just off or needs a break. In those spots especially Love can come in and make a difference. Not to mention in two back sets or in the slot with a linebacker covering his 4.3 speed. Can you say mismatch?
At the end of the season we will look back and pick out a few games where the combination of Love thrown in with McCaffrey and Michael Rector at wide receiver proved to be just too much for the opposing defense. That’s why there is no reason to ask what happened to Bryce when Shaw says he will be on the sideline. He will have a role in the offense and he will be making a few highlight plays this season.