Bryce Love averaged 7.0 yards per carry last season. That’s really good and better than Christian McCaffrey’s 6.3 ypc. With McCaffrey gone, it’s worth wondering how well will Love fill his shoes. Could he be good enough to bring home the Heisman Trophy McCaffrey so rightfully deserved?
Love has had two chances as Stanford’s lead back, but now, he’ll have a full season worth of chances. When Love did start last year, he did not disappoint and ran for over one hundred yards versus Notre Dame and North Carolina. Even when Love backed up McCaffrey, he still made an impact on the field and earned PAC-12 honorable mention.
David Shaw will probably use Love as an all-purpose back. McCaffrey got into the national spotlight in the same role, and Love could do the same. Love will return kicks, take screen passes, and carry the ball. He’ll do everything and could lead the nation in all-purpose yards. However in order to contend for the Heisman, Love will need to be just as good as or better than McCaffrey was.
From a speed standpoint, Love clearly has the upper hand. He ran a 4.30 40 yard dash in high school, and McCaffrey ran a 4.48 40 at the combine. Once Love has broken free from the defense, he’ll be very hard to catch.
Love is also much more of a threat than McCaffrey in the open field. Take a look at these stats by Pro Football Focus:
McCaffrey had an incredible ability to elude defenders and change speed at a moment’s notice, but Love was even better at that last season and was even one of the best in the PAC-12. However, getting to the open field is a whole other challenge.
While at Stanford, McCaffrey was able to create second chance opportunities and break through the defensive line where as Bryce Love might struggle to get into the secondary. At 5’10” and 191 pounds, Love is smaller than McCaffrey and lacks the strength to plow through bigger players, so he’ll need to rely on a solid offensive line and playcalling to create space for him.
When McCaffrey finished second in the Heisman race, he had one of the best offensive lines leading the way for him. Joshua Garnett became a first round pick, Kyle Murphy joined the Packers, and Graham Shuler was a very good center. Meanwhile, Love will have a much more difficult time behind the current offensive line. In 2016, McCaffrey couldn’t replicate his 2015 season without a star studded line, and Love won’t have a chance to bring back the Heisman trophy unless the Cardinal dominate the line.
Ultimately, Love has a very slim chance to win the Heisman this year. Don’t get me wrong, Bryce Love is really good and will have a great season, but simply put, he doesn’t have a good enough line to be the nation’s best. The year after though might be a different story. With plentiful young talent, Stanford’s offensive line could return to utter domination in 2018 and could create the path for Bryce Love to run his way to New York City.