The arcades of Main Quad still ring with chants of, "Toby!Toby!" The plaza of the Old Student Union still echoes with calls of, "Gerhart for Heisman!"
It cannot be denied that the Stanford Cardinal football team belonged to one man and one man only: Toby Gerhart. Watching him tear up opposing defenses on his way to several school records was electrifying.
Gerhart leaves a massive hole in a Stanford team that is looking to top its 8-4 record from last season. It's impossible to imagine that someone else can replace his 2009 numbers (1,871 yards on 343 attempts for 27 touchdowns, second to Ryan Mathews in NCAA rushing yards).
These sorts of things leave fans of the Cardinal wondering how in the world the team will manage to move on.
Without a solid running game, play action passing could be out of the question for second year quarterback Andrew Luck, which could hurt his chances of Heisman consideration, as well as his potential draft status.
Well, Stanford fans, fear no more, for there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
For one, there is reason to think highly of the replacement talent. The three heirs to the running back throne (Stepfan Taylor, Jeremy Stewart, and Tyler Gaffney), all averaged 4.0 yards per carry or higher last season. While those numbers don't prove much, considering that Taylor was the only one with significant carries, they are certainly numbers to think well of.
In addition to these three, sophomore Usua Amanam is joining the ranks of the running backs, and the coaches seem to really like him.
In any case, while the talent of the returning running backs is questionable, the abilities of the offensive line are undeniable.
The Tunnel Workers Union, as they are affectionately referred to as, lose one member from last years' team (Chris Marinelli), a group widely considered to be one of the best offensive lines in the country.
They let up an impressively small six sacks in 2009, and helped pave the way for Gerhart to make his Heisman run. The group has a lot of talent, especially with standout Chase Beeler at center.
Oh, and one cannot forgot the player that brought on the most Ooos and Ahhs aside from Gerhart: Owen Marecic.
Marecic is something akin to a folk legend at Stanford. He is a true mauler, springing Gerhart from the would-be embraces of many linebackers. He is considered to have value as a mid-round pick should he choose to enter the NFL at the end of his next (and final) season of eligibility.
While it is true that Marecic will be playing both sides of the ball, the Stanford coaching staff is committed to playing him as a fullback as much as possible.
With all of these factors taken into account, the future of the Cardinal running game doesn't look so bad. While there is no doubt that Stanfords 2010 team will fail to match the production of Toby Gerhart, it is more than possible that the members of the Stanford community will feel content with the new lineup at running back.
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