Every day here at Your Best 11, we are counting down to the start of the regular season with our Top 150 players for the 2012 season.
No. 101: Stepfan Taylor, No. 33, Stanford, Running Back
Stepfan Taylor has been the ground element to the Stanford rushing attack since standout running back Toby Gerhart left for the NFL two season ago. Taylor has filled his shoes nicely with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Cardinal.
While Gerhart was a bruiser, Taylor is a more complete running back out of the offense. He has good field vision, sees the holes well and is quick enough to get to the seam in a hurry. Once he hits the next level, Taylor has speed that gets him open and allows him to go the distance with the football in his hands.
Taylor is a north-and-south runner than can shake off tackles, but he is also quick enough to dance himself out of trouble, truly a complete back.
After spending two seasons playing as the afterthought of the Stanford offense, we'll get to see just how good Taylor is. The Cardinal have lost their quarterback, top three pass-catchers and their top two offensive linemen.
All of these things mean Taylor's life is going to be a bit more difficult.
Losing receivers and a quarterback means the Cardinal offense will have to rely on the run, and with teams ready for that, it could be tough sledding for Taylor. That fact is only compounded by the loss of linemen, and 2012 could be a tough one for the Cardinal's best returning offensive player.
While the going may be tough for Taylor, he still has a shot to be one of the Pac-12's best running backs, although it is not going to be easy. Guys like John White, Kenjon Barner, Cameron Marshall, Isi Sofele, De'Anthony Thomas and others are going to be gunning for the top spots in the Pac-12.
In an offense that will be breaking in a new quarterback and have a new look as far as pass-catchers go, Taylor will have to prove he can be the center of the defense's attention and still succeed.
Expect his carries to go up this year and his yards to go down as defenses key on him. However, he still should be an All-Pac-12-caliber player.