Bye week grades: running backs

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
10:00
AM ET
Part five of the ongoing report card for the Stanford Cardinal during the bye week.

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS

Grade: B

Summary: As the offensive line goes, so goes the running game. And the offensive line has had a "B" performance to date, and so do the running backs. Stepfan Taylor is by far the most complete of the running backs. The extra weight he's put on in the offseason has made him an even better runner between the tackles and as the Cardinal get into some more competitive games, look for coach David Shaw to stay with Taylor deeper into the fourth quarter.

Taylor is also the strongest pass blocker of the group and so far, the backs have collectively been fairly consistent in protecting Andrew Luck when called upon.

At 196 yards per game, the Cardinal rank 36th nationally. That number is down a bit from the 213.8 they averaged last season. A lot of that has to do with the offensive line still coming together with three new starters.

Another reason for the downgrade has been the red zone running. It hasn't been terrible, but it hasn't been great either. That falls on both the backs and the offensive line.

FULLBACK

Ryan Hewitt is just fun to watch. He's a 6-foot-4, 242-pound bowling ball rolling down hill and crushing everything in his path. He's also shown to be quite valuable in the passing game. He's tied for second on the team with nine catches and he has 105 yards and a touchdown. It's an underrated position and he plays it very well.

The backups: Last year, Anthony Wilkerson provides the sizzle to Taylor's steak, but he hasn't sizzled much so far this season. He finally had a break-out run against Arizona -- a 24-yard touchdown on fourth down -- that put his speed on display.

Jeremy Stewart has made the most of his rushing opportunities. He has 65 yards on 11 carries -- the bulk of which came on a fantastic 30-yard touchdown run against Duke.

Tyler Gaffney, with good hands and a strong frame, has proven to be an asset in the screen and underneath passing game. He's yet to have a real "breakout" run, but he's good at the goal line and in short-yardage situations.

Geoff Meinken (FB). Stiff arm. 'Nuff said.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive Line

Offensive Line

Linebackers

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30