Stanford searching for its next great running back

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm •  Published: August 7, 2014
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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Stanford coach David Shaw is beginning this season the same way he has his first three: preaching a running back-by-committee approach in training camp.

That never seems to last long on The Farm.

From Toby Gerhart to Stepfan Taylor to Tyler Gaffney, Stanford has seamlessly replaced one NFL draft pick in the backfield with another in recent years. The Cardinal's commitment to the run game has been relentless, and so has the competition to be the next guy anchoring it each fall.

"I don't know who's ready to get more than their even share," Shaw said. "I don't know that we'll know that, honestly, until we start playing games."

Offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said junior Kelsey Young created some separation in spring practices and headed into training camp this week as the slight favorite. But sophomore Barry Sanders — yes, the son of the Hall of Famer with the same name — also is likely to get carries along with junior Remound Wright and senior Ricky Seale.

Somewhere in that foursome — whether it's one player or as a group — the two-time defending Pac-12 champions will need to replace the production Gaffney gave them last season. Gaffney, who didn't become the featured running back until October, ran for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Bloomgren said the competition has been so close that Stanford might truly shuffle running backs all season.

"I'm not sure how we're going to get one runner 20 carries (in a game) this year, as good as these guys have shown to be," Bloomgren said.

None of the four players vying for carries are the traditional up-the-middle power backs Stanford has been known to let loose. They are all about 20 pounds smaller and make-you-miss type of runners.

And their experience is limited.

Young, who had been mostly Stanford's fly sweep specialist, ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries last season. Sanders had five rushes for 34 yards and a touchdown and emerged late last year as a punt returner.

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