After the 2016 season, the Stanford Cardinal lost all-world running back Christian McCaffrey to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Bryce Love served as a more-than-adequate fill in for McCaffrey during the 2016 season, gaining more than 100 yards in a start at Notre Dame and in the Cardinal’s bowl game against North Carolina, which McCaffrey decided to skip. Stanford fans with eyes and the ability to read a box score expected Love to be a solid replacement for the departed McCaffrey. No reasonable CFB fan expected him to do what he has done through the first five games of his 2017 campaign. What Love has accomplished so far is worthy of Heisman front-runner status.
Bryce Love Deserves Some Love
Love started the season well in Stanford’s first three games, certainly not to be faulted for the fact that the Cardinal lost two of them. He has yet to tally fewer than 160 yards in any game this season. Love now has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his past seven games, tying him for the second longest streak in Stanford history. His season stats to date look like this:
|2017 Game Log||Rushing|
|@San Diego State||13||184||14.2||53||2|
* Neutral site game in Sydney, Austrailia.
There is a word for numbers like this: stupid. Feel free to use the synonym of your choice: dumb, ignorant, silly, ridiculous, foolish, nonsensical, or ludicrous. Said more plainly, they make absolutely no sense. Here is something else to consider: there are only three running backs who have gained more than Love’s 1,088 yards through five games: Byron Hanspard (1,112 in 1996), Marcus Allen (1,136 in 1981), and Garret Wolfe (1,181 in 2006). Love is on pace to gain 2,828 rushing yards this season, which would shatter Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of 2,628. No, that is not a realistic expectation, but neither is the fact that young Mr. Love has done what he has thus far this season.
For those who live east of the mighty Rocky Mountains, seeing Love play can be a challenge. To understand how he has become the phenomenon that he is, and why he must be considered for this season’s Heisman Trophy, let’s break down what makes him so unique.
Love’s excelled as a track athlete as a youngster, and his fleet feet serve him well on the gridiron as well. If Love trained in track, he could be competitive at the international level. He considers himself a football player, though. So does everyone who gets to see him play. Check out this video as indicative of his speed.
McCaffrey distinguished himself at Stanford for his shiftiness, strength, and balance. Last season, Love was seen merely as the change-of-pace speed back. Wrong. Love demonstrates quite a bit of “wiggle” of his own, and has shown the ability to stay on his feet when a lesser back would have fallen or failed to stay in bounds. Check out this scintillating film from early in the 2017 season.
No running back can hit home runs like Love does without being able to see the potential for a long run before it may be evident to we mere mortals. Indeed, Love often breaks runs in a direction that is clearly not consistent with the initial play design.
Love learned well from Stanford’s position coaches, and from watching McCaffrey operate within Stanford’s power run offense. Despite his blazing speed, Love knows exactly how to set up his blocks to maximize his opportunities.
Show Bryce Love Some Love: Give Him The Heisman
Bryce Love has proven himself to be a complete running back, comfortable running between the tackles, around the end, or catching the ball out of the backfield. Yes, Saquon Barkley is great, Baker Mayfield Is fiery and exciting, and Lamar Jackson is still electric. None of those players has outperformed Love early in the 2017 season. This is not a satirical, wink-wink look at the Heisman race; this is a serious advocacy for the candidacy of a terrific football player in the midst of an historic season. Bryce Love should be the frontrunner for the 2017 Heisman Memorial Trophy.
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