Pac-12: Tyler Gafney

Stanford sticks to winning formula

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
4:30
AM ET
STANFORD, Calif. -- At a place where complex formulas are commonplace, Stanford coach David Shaw prefers simplicity. Power runs plus tough defense equals victory.

It was the equation the Cardinal used in trips to BCS bowls the last three years and remained the same in Saturday's season-opening 34-13 win against San Jose State before a sold-out crowd of 50,424 at Stanford Stadium.

"We don't live on stats. We don't worry about trying to score as many points as we can," Shaw said. "We want to control the ball. We want to score on every possession and we want to play great defense."

No. 5 Stanford (1-0) didn't score every time it touched the ball, but none of its nine possessions ended with a punt. There was a missed field goal, a fumble and a kneel-down, but the Cardinal was 12-of-15 on third down as it slowly beat San Jose State (1-1) into submission.

"From the teams that I watched play last week and earlier today, there are not a lot of teams that look like us anymore," Shaw said, "and that's fine."

He and new offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren, who replaced Pep Hamilton after he accepted the same role with the Indianapolis Colts, are doing their best to keep the huddle and fullbacks off college football's list of extinction. Other schools are speeding it up and spreading it out; Stanford is slowing it down and packing it in. It continuously trotted out packages of seven and eight offensive lineman to plow the way for Tyler Gaffney, who made his return from professional baseball.

A year ago at this time, Gaffney had just wrapped up a successful first year in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. But after hitting .297 and getting on base at a .483 clip, Gaffney realized getting hit by pitches -- 20 times in 38 games in the New York-Penn League -- wasn't as rewarding as hitting the hole behind a pulling guard.

He reaffirmed the decision was correct while running for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a career-high 20 carries.

"The first drive out there, I was light-headed, didn't have my legs under me," Gaffney said. "There were some butterflies, but after that, I started picking up things and felt more comfortable. It was like riding a bike."

Stanford is expected to employ more of a running back-by-committee following the graduation of all-time leading rusher Stepfan Taylor, but that wasn't the case Saturday. Gaffney carried the load for the first three quarters before Anthony Wilkerson added four of his nine carries in the fourth.

Shaw made it clear that won't always be the case.

"[Gaffney] was great when he came back. And I don't want to completely make this the Gaffney show," Shaw said. "I thought Wilkerson ran great as well. There were about three plays that should have been big hits for him early on also, that just didn't block well, guys got off the block.

"I really believe there are going to be times when Wilkerson has a day just like [Gaffney's]. I can't wait for that day as well."

Defensively, Stanford's plan was to give San Jose State quarterback David Fales underneath throws while taking away everything deep. The strategy allowed Fales, who led the nation in completion percentage a year ago, to complete 29 of 43 passes, but they yielded just 216 yards.

Shaw came away pleased with his defense and impressed, again, with Fales.

"David Fales is a phenomenal quarterback. He is outstanding. You know, it's special when you see a guy that can throw the ball the way he throws it," Shaw said. "With a guy like that, you've got to play smart, try to keep the ball in front of him."

Safety Ed Reynolds picked off Fales to extend Stanford's takeaway streak to a national-best 25 games, but was left with mixed emotions in regards to the way his unit played.

"To be honest, I felt on the defensive side of the ball, we played average out there," he said. "I'm not sure if we had it tonight, kind of difficult for us."

The game likely marks the end of the Bill Walsh Legacy Game for the foreseeable future. The Silicon Valley schools, which have now played 67 times -- with Stanford holding a 52-14-1 edge -- aren't scheduled to play in the future.

Stanford will look to extend its winning streak to 10 next week at Army -- its lone road nonconference game of the year.

Pac-12's 1,000-yard rushers

May, 29, 2013
5/29/13
11:00
AM ET
After looking at returning 2,500-yard passers, we're moving on to returning 1,000-yard rushers.

The Pac-12 is replacing many of its big names at running back, including Oregon's Kenjon Barner, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Utah's John White, who each eclipsed the 1,000-yard benchmark in 2012.

The returning 1,000-yard rushers are:
Both these guys seem certain to reach the 1,000-yard mark again in 2013, barring injury. Carey was an All-American after leading the nation in rushing. He could become a Heisman Trophy candidate. Sankey got stronger as the year went on, and his offensive line should take a big step forward this fall. It could be tight between them for the Pac-12 rushing crown.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireArizona's Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
Or maybe a darkhorse rises. While there's a lot of turnover at RB, the cupboard is hardly bare.

Here's a look.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in fine shape here with Marion Grice and D.J. Foster giving them one of the conference's best tandems. Perhaps the best. They combined for well over 1,000 yards as cornerstones of the conference's third-best rushing offense, with Grice leading the way with 679 yards. Will one or the other gain 1,000 yards? Why not both?

California: New coach Sonny Dykes doesn't really know what he's got at running back because both Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco sat out spring practices. Bigelow is explosive but needs to be more consistent. If he gets touches, however, he's going to rush for 1,000 yards.

Colorado: Christian Powell, a 240-pound bruiser, led the Buffaloes with 691 yards last year. Tony Jones is a solid backup. Still, it will be a major accomplishment if a Buff rushes for 1,000 yards in Mike MacIntyre's first year. If it does happen, however, that would almost certainly indicate a lot more wins in 2013 than many project.

Oregon: The Ducks will have a 1,000-yard rusher because they always have a 1,000-yard rusher. The only question is who is the lead dog and how is the ball distributed. The top candidate is De'Anthony Thomas, with him becoming more of a running back than a hybrid player. But if Byron Marshall and incoming freshman Thomas Tyner can handle the load, Thomas seems most dangerous as a slash guy.

Oregon State: The Beavers also look like a good bet for a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013. For one, Storm Woods fell just short with 940 yards last year. Second, the offensive line's improvement this spring was notable.

Stanford: Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney had an "Or" between then on the post-spring depth chart. Either could be a 1,000-yard back. And the Cardinal's run-first approach and potentially dominant offensive line means one or the other -- or someone else -- is surely going to eclipse the benchmark number.

UCLA: There isn't anyone as talented as Franklin on the roster at present, and the general feeling is the Bruins might go with a committee approach this fall with Jordan James, Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones. The Bruins might run the ball well, but it's questionable whether one of those guys will hit the 1,000-yard mark or not.

USC: Silas Redd seems like the most likely starter, at least based on his leading the Trojans with 905 yards rushing last year. But he's getting challenged by freshman Justin Davis. And Tre Madden, D.J. Morgan and Javorius Allen might claw into the picture. With a first-year starter at quarterback and a potentially strong offensive line, it would seem like a good bet one of these guys gains 1,000 yards.

Utah: The Utes were happy with their line play this spring, and it seems as though there's solid depth behind likely starter Kelvin York. While James Poole, Lucky Radley and Karl Williams made plays this spring, they likely will be a "Plan B" behind York, who's got a good shot at 1,000 yards.

Washington State: It's called the "Air Raid" for a reason: Mike Leach likes to throw. The Cougars ranked last in the nation with 29.8 yards rushing per game last year. The Cougs also have O-line issues. While there's decent talent in the backfield, led by Teondray Caldwell, the chances are remote a Coug running back will even approach 1,000 yards on the ground. Shoot, the entire team rushed for 349 in 2012 -- 1.4 yards per carry -- which was nearly 1,000 less than even lowly Colorado.

Pac-10: Biggest shoes to fill in 2010

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
10:43
AM ET
After every season, starters leave. But not all starters are created equal.

Here are the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-10 with spring practices just around the corner.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

How do you replace the best running back in the nation, a guy who scored 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,871 yards? You don't. Those sorts don't come around every season.

The Contenders: Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gafney will get first crack, as well as Jeremy Stewart, who's coming back from a knee injury. Incoming freshman Anthony Wilkerson could be a dark horse.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State

The first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback became an NFL prospect during a strong senior season. He led the conference with 3,271 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, which tied with Washington's Jake Locker.

The Contenders: This will be a showdown between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich this spring, with Katz starting as the leader.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Price could be an NFL first-round draft pick. He led the Pac-10 with 23.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. 'Nuff said.

The Contenders: Good question. The Bruins are perilously thin here, considering both tackles need to be replaced and only senior David Carter has much experience. The answers here might be in the Bruins' recruiting class.

Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California

The Cal secondary was a huge disappointment this season, but Thompson, a four-year starter and two-time first-team All-Pac-10 performer, was mostly his usually stellar self.

The Contenders: Will Darian Hagan step up in his senior season? Perhaps the answer is sophomore Josh Hill? Or maybe a redshirt guy? The Bears only signed one player listed as a corner in their most recent recruiting class. Expect there to be a lot of competition here this spring.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington

Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor guy who started four years and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors his final two seasons, ranking third in the conference with 9.5 sacks.

The Contenders: Considering the other end, Darrion Jones, also is gone, the Huskies will trend young here. Andru Pulu was listed behind Te'o-Nesheim on the depth chart, with Talia Crichton and Kalani Aldrich on the other side. There also will be opportunities for younger players here.

Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Dickson not only was the Ducks' second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns, the matchup problems he presented forced defenses to scheme specifically for him. That helps an offense in ways that aren't accounted for in statistics.

The Contenders: Junior David Paulson was Dickson's backup last year, and he had some nice moments, but he's no Dickson. JC transfer Brandon Williams and touted incoming freshman Curtis White will be in the mix here.

Kenny Alfred, C, Washington State

Alfred, a four-year starter, was a good player on a bad -- and beaten up -- line. His brain as well as his physical ability will be hard to replace.

The Contenders: Walk-on junior Chris Prummer was listed as Alfred's backup -- largely due to injury -- but Andrew Roxas, who redshirted this year after contracting viral hepatitis, is probably the leader here, though Steven Ayers could move inside to challenge him. Or there could be some reshuffling.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12