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Bryce Love runs right out of Christian McCaffrey's Stanford shadow

From ESPN - November 10, 2017

STANFORD, Calif. -- When Bryce Love is on the field, standing on the Stanford sideline requires somewhat of a poker player's mentality.

Not every player knows each offensive play call beforehand, but they are usually pretty dialed into what is probably coming. And on the occasion they do know that Love's number has been called, it creates an anxiousness they are forced to suppress.

"When we are on the sideline and know he's getting the ball, we are already antsy," fullback Daniel Marx said. "We are all anticipating something big is about to happen."

That's because through eight games this year, Love has proved to be one of the most explosive running backs college football has ever seen.

Since 1956, no one in the sport with at least 100 carries has rushed for as many yards per carry as Love has to this point (9.64). His 10 runs of 50 yards or more are already tied with Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon for the most by a FBS player in an entire season since at least 2004 and are twice as many as USC's Reggie Bush and Alabama's Derrick Henry had during their Heisman Trophy-winning seasons. His 12 touchdown runs have averaged 51.1 yards.

"Love is by far the best back we have seen all year. He does it all," Oregon coach Willie Taggart said. "He's strong -- he looks like he's a small guy, but he's strong. He's very patient and once he decides to go, he's explosive through the hole. He's one of the best in the country."

When he ran for a school-record 301 yards in a 34-24 win against Arizona State on Sept. 30, even Stanford coach David Shaw seemed stunned.

And considering Shaw coached two other Stanford running backs who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting -- Toby Gerhart in 2009 and Christian McCaffrey in 2015 -- his awe was especially revealing.

"I am not saying he's the best one that's been through here. I am not starting that argument," Shaw said.

"I have never seen anything like that, ever," he said.

Had Love not injured his ankle against Oregon on Oct. 14, and been held out the following game against Oregon State, he might have been in position to make a push for Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record (2,628 yards) that has stood since 1988.

As Stanford coaches started evaluating Love as a high school prospect, they saw the same things on tape he is showing the country this season.

He had such an easy time running way from defenses, though, that Stanford's staff wondered about the caliber of the teams he was playing against.

"He's from just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, in Wake Forest, and none of us know that ball really well," Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. "You watch and he runs away from everyone and you are like, 'OK, cool.'"

Stanford sent running backs coach Lance Taylor to watch him play in person and he came back convinced Love could help right away. He was not just a track guy playing football. He was strong. He did not shy away from contact. He ran through tackles and accelerated through contact.

During Bloomgren's in-home visit, he told Love the coaching staff expected McCaffrey, who was then being used in special packages as a true freshman, to evolve into the team's feature back. They saw Love filling McCaffrey's role the following year.

"At that point, I had taken a trip out and seen how they were using Christian. Met him and sat down with him. He loved that role," Love said. "You want to play as a freshman and they were honest and up front about how they would use me."

It all sounded appealing and, for an aspiring pediatrician, Stanford's combination of education and football just made sense.

One of the initial evaluations Stanford strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley puts incoming Stanford freshmen through is a functional movement screen. The test determined Love was overpowered.

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