July 28, 2010

Cardinal Camp preview: Running back

Stanford faces the challenge of attempting to replace All-American Toby Gerhart. It won't be easy, but there are several intriguing prospects.

While no one is expecting the production that Gerhart produced the Cardinal coaches do feel good about the tailback position heading into fall camp.

(Note: We look only at the tailback position in this segment, we will tackle the fullback position in a later feature)

Biggest question: How will Stanford split the reps?

All-American Toby Gerhart is wearing the purple of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, and the question around the Stanford program is how those carries will be split in the 2010 season. Stepfan Taylor is atop the depth chart, albeit written in pencil, and was productive last season in spelling Gerhart. Tyler Gaffney, when not on the baseball diamond, had a good spring, showing some of the talent that earned him a four-star rating. Jeremy Stewart, injured last season in the fifth game, is a bit of a wild card. Stewart, an excellent blocker and key special teams player, will see playing time if healthy. Also added to the mix is redshirt freshman Usua Amanam, a quick strike threat who coaches would love to use out of the backfield on third-down situations.
What we know right now: No one player can replace Gerhart

Jim Harbaugh said there is no one player on the Stanford roster that can replace Gerhart, but he thinks that there is a group of players there that collectively can come close to matching his production. That will be a tall task, even with a stable of quality backs. Stanford broke school records last season in rushing yards (2,837) and touchdowns (39) behind the Heisman runner-up. One thing to look for in camp is how the offense evolves now that Gehrart is gone and Luck has another year of seasoning. The Cardinal may not nee to replace Gerhart's yards if the passing game opens up.
Fresh fall camp faces: Anthony Wilkerson and Ricky Seale

Anthony Wilkerson brings a stout high school pedigree to Stanford, rushing for over 5,100 yards and 79 touchdowns the last two seasons. He is a solid 6-foot, 218 pounds and has shown good quickness and nice hands at summer workouts. He will start fall camp down on the depth chart and the smart money would be on him to redshirt, but that could change as camp progresses. Ricky Seale, also comes to Stanford with an acclaimed high school record and is the CIF-San Diego all-time career rushing leader at 6,694 yards. Seale told me was working out at running back and cornerback in the summer and learning both playbooks. It will be interesting to follow where he lands, his father played 10 years in the NFL as a cornerback.
Early camp prediction

Taylor, Gaffney, and Stewart will wage a pitched battle for depth chart positioning. Each brings an unique set of skills to the table. All three are capable in between the tackles, Taylor may have an edge on quickness to the outside among the three. Gaffney is a player that looks better with each rep and will push hard for carries. And if healthy, the veteran Stewart could get the starting nod - he is the best blocker and has good hands. Amanam provides a change of pace. Look for Wilkerson to get a good look with a redshirt decision coming late in camp. The RB depth chart battles look to be one of the best for fans to watch this fall camp.

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