This weekend, as the Stanford Cardinal gear up for UC Davis, it will be without All-American running back Bryce Love.
Two years ago, we received a taste of what Love was capable of when Christian McCaffrey sat out against Notre Dame. On October 15th, Love dashed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per touch.
It was the first time the former 4-star recruit was able to truly strut in the limelight, giving a glimpse of what was to come. Now it is the turn of the Mcallen, Texas native (Trevor Speights) to perform in the absence of the starter. Because of the limited snaps he has seen in college, time to hit the high school tape and see what we can expect from Speights.
Three takes from the tape
1 - Speights is especially potent when getting out on the edge off a pitch. Swinging the ball outside seems to be his sweet spot. After Love struggled against San Diego State, the Cardinal made a dedicated effort to get him outside and in space when they played USC. There, Love took advantage of one on one tacklers, creating his own blocks in space and breaking free for both his first touchdown and first 50-yard run of the season.
Speights can capitalize on the same type of plays, breaking to the outside and hitting another gear in the open.
2 - Running through holes the offensive line creates is a particular art, but an exceptional back runs with patience. Going back to high school, Speights does a great job waiting for the hole that is supposed to open up, not merely diving into the first gap but letting the play fully develop. He is not a panic runner, antsy to get north and south. This style speaks to both a solid football IQ and fantastic field awareness, sensing where players are on the field and understanding the time he has to sit on a play.
Stanford pulls guards and tackles on plenty of pitches and counters, meaning Speights’ patience on the run will be critical against UC Davis.
3 - “You drive for show, and you putt for dough,” is an old golf saying, an ideology that running backs can apply to rushing and blocking. The back who can save his quarterback from the blitzing free safety is the back who stays on the field.
Speights has blocked plenty, playing for a high school that went to the quarterback keeper pretty consistently. On many such designed runs, Speights filled the role as the lead blocker who set the edge, something he did with success.
Speights taking the backfield not only gives Stanford a dynamic runner, but also another blocker. He will be able to pick up blocking assignments without botching them, key in any system, and justifying a higher snap count.
The assessment comes with a grain of salt. The points made here are based on a lot of high school tape and a small college sample size. But the reasons Stanford admired Speights out of high school are the same reasons to get excited about him headed into week three. Love stepped up big when the team turned to him; Speights is in position to take advantage of the same opportunity.