We don’t need to question Bryce Love’s ability to score whenever he touches the ball, but what we do need to question is his ability to stay on the field. Last year, he battled an ankle injury during the second half and even missed the Oregon State game, which almost cost the team a win. What if his ankle acts up again in 2019, forcing the team to turn to another running back option? Who’s going to step up?
First, take a look at the depth chart. Behind Love, the team boasts a surplus of impressive running backs. Redshirt junior Cameron Scarlett is a bruising back at 6’1” and 220 pounds. Redshirt sophomores, Dorian Maddox and Trevor Speights, fall in line next, and both players received their share of touches in 2017. And let’s not forget sophomore Connor Wedington.
Scarlett finished last season with 389 rushing yards on 91 carries, which comes out to 4.1 yards per carry. Not exactly a stellar stat line, but consider the fact that most of his touches came during garbage time when everyone knew Stanford would run out the clock.
His biggest responsibility last season wasn’t even carrying the ball; instead, it was returning it. He averaged 25.8 yards per return, which ranked second in the PAC-12 and 18th nationally. Scarlett, though never found the end zone on a kick return, was a consistent special teams weapon.
In 2018, Scarlett should have a much bigger role on offense. David Shaw should be careful not to risk Bryce Love’s health and should depend more on Scarlett. At 220 pounds, Scarlett’s big frame can tire out the imposing front seven, allowing Love to catch his breath on the sideline. If it were up to me, I’d give Scarlett 10 to 15 carries per game. Scarlett should be the thunder to Love’s lightning.
Meanwhile, the two younger backs, Dorian Maddox and Trevor Speights, will most likely still have smaller roles on offense next year. In my eyes, neither showed breakout potential last season, but Speights definitely will be given more carries than Maddox. Last season, Speights carried the ball 36 times while Maddox got the ball only 12 times. Furthermore, at a speaking event last season, running backs coach, Ron Gould, promised the audience Speights would be a special player one day. High praise from a guy that coached Marshawn Lynch...
One younger guy that did show tons of potential last season was Connor Wedington, who played as a true freshman. What other players has David Shaw used as true freshman? Oh, just two guys named Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. Shaw has always been hesitant to play true freshman, and clearly, he must see something in Wedington.
Wedington is capable of playing slot receiver and running back. Just like McCaffrey, he’s an all-purpose back, and the sophomore had an impressive spring game, finishing with five receptions, 61-yards, and a touchdown. Next year, Wedington will most likely play slot receiver but could easily line up in the backfield as well.
Ultimately, none of these guys come close to Bryce Love’s skill level, but together they can minimize the risk of Love getting hurt. And God forbid, if Love is forced to miss a game or two, the group is solid enough to carry his load.