Stanford Football: Gaffney's Gone, and Opportunity Knocks for Anthony Wilkerson

Peter ChenContributor IIIJuly 4, 2012

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Anthony Wilkerson #32 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball during their game against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Tyler Gaffney made it official earlier this week—the Cardinal RB and outfielder signed a professional baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

A Pirate's life for Gaffney means a huge opportunity for Stanford RB Anthony Wilkerson, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two years on The Farm.

Of course, the undisputed star at RB for the Cardinal is Heisman candidate Stepfan Taylor, coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and a monstrous Fiesta Bowl. But Gaffney's departure opens the door for Wilkerson to play a key role in Stanford's power running attack.

Former coach Jim Harbaugh recruited Wilkerson from Tustin HS in Southern California, where Wilkerson was a 4-star prospect listed among the top 25 RBs nationally in 2010 by ESPN, Scout and Rivals (via USA Today).

An imposing 6'1" and 220 pounds, Wilkerson's high school numbers were prodigious: 2,300 yards and 36 TDs as a junior, topped by 2,843 yards and 43 TDs as a senior. That's a lot of yards and touchdowns.

Wilkerson, who has run the 40 in under 4.5, also ran track and played hoops in high school.

As a Cardinal freshman in 2010, Wilkerson complemented Taylor and Gaffney with more than 400 rushing yards and a 4.6 average, scoring three touchdowns. In 2011, Wilkerson improved to five yards per carry, totaling 282 yards and scoring three times.

Wilkerson has displayed decisive instincts, rugged power and absolutely no hesitation to run over and through would-be tacklers. He did not participate in the 2012 spring practice due to a leg injury.

Tyler Gaffney will no doubt be missed on The Farm. He played football all-out, with a swagger and sense of urgency, and averaged a gaudy 6.1 yards per carry last season while totaling eight touchdowns. As an outfielder for Stanford, Gaffney was a career .301 hitter and joins a Pittsburgh Pirates organization currently enjoying its best performance since the early 1990s.

Best of luck to Gaffney. It's now up to Wilkerson to make the most of what could be 10 touches or more per game this fall.