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Behind Bryce Love’s Unexpected Rise To Stardom

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford fans are quickly forgetting about Christian McCaffrey, as Bryce Love is proving himself as one of the nation’s top running backs.

After waiting in the shadows of Christian McCaffrey the past two seasons, Bryce Love is finally getting his chance to shine.

And he’s making the most of it.

McCaffrey was an unstoppable force for the Stanford Cardinal the past two seasons. He accounted for 5,128 scrimmage yards over that span and led the Cardinal to a 22-5 record. With McCaffrey gone, the Stanford offense needed a running back to step up.

Enter Bryce Love.

Many thought that Stanford’s offense would take a step back with the loss of McCaffrey. But so far this season, the Cardinal ground attack has not missed a beat with Love taking over the starting role.

McCaffrey 2015McCaffrey 2016Love 2017
Rushing Yards6015201,088
Rushing TDs138

Through five games this year, Love has been sensational. He currently leads all of FBS football with 1,088 rushing yards, 265 yards ahead of the next closest rusher. Love is also averaging an insane 11.1 yards per carry, leading the nation in that category as well.

So, what makes Love stand out?

The most obvious skill Love possesses is his speed. Love was a track star in high school. In 2014, he was the anchor leg for the 4x100 state champion team. When he was was younger, he held national records in the 100, 200, and 400-meter dash. Love could have earned a scholarship for track from almost any school in the country, but chose football because “that’s what he loved.”

Love utilizes his speed and agility to hit open holes hard and to outrun defenders in the open field. In the Week 2 loss to USC, Love blazed past the Trojan defense, going untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. Once Love sees open field, he turns on the jets and is almost impossible to catch.

Here’s Love burning the defense again, as he uses his speed to turn the corner and zoom by the entire defense:

Love’s ability to break off the big play makes him electrifying, as he has seven touchdown runs of at least 40 yards, and 18 rushes of at least 20 yards. His amazing speed coupled with an experienced offensive line (three senior starters) gives defenses headaches.

Along with his speed, Love’s strength makes him a nightmare in the open field. On Love’s first carry of the season, he stiff-armed a defender to the ground, rumbling for 62 yards and nearly scoring.

He gains key yards after initial contact, as can be seen at the 5:03 mark in the video below. Love should be stopped at the line of scrimmage but breaks multiple tackles and almost scores.

I’m definitely not the biggest guy out there and it’s easy to overlook it I feel like,” Love said. “But I take pride in being able to go out there and make those type of plays and being able to pick up the yards after contact.”

Finally, Love has tremendous vision that allows him to exploit holes that his offensive line creates. He sees gaps in the defense and opportunities to cutback, and attacks with his incredible speed. In the game against UCLA, Stanford was up 44-34 midway through the fourth quarter. Love and company had a chance to put away the game, and that’s exactly what he did. He took a toss to the right side, ran upfield, and cut back to the left side where there were no defenders home. Love scampered into the end zone for a 69-yard score, sealing Stanford’s second win of the season.

Against Todd Graham and the Sun Devil defense last week, Love had a performance for the ages. He rushed for a whopping 301 yards, breaking McCaffrey’s single-game mark. Love also found the end zone three times, all from at least 40 yards. In doing so, he caught the attention of the college football world and put his name into the Heisman race.

After the game, Stanford head coach David Shaw stated of Love’s performance, “I’ve never seen anything like that, ever.”

With four ranked opponents left on the schedule, I expect Love’s pace to cool down to some degree. However, he has proven that he deserves to be labeled as one of the nation’s top players. He has shown that he can produce consistently, rushing for over 100 yards in five consecutive games to start the season. Expect Love to make a push for 2,000 rushing yards, a mark that only seven running backs have eclipsed in the past eight years.

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

How many Pac-12 titles has Stanford won?
Created 10/4/17
  1. 8
  2. 10
  3. 12
  4. 15

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