There is no other college football player who has bigger shoes to fill than Stanford running back Barry J. Sanders. Many believe that Barry J’s father, Barry Sanders Sr., is the greatest running back to ever play the game. Throughout the 90’s Sanders juked, cut and trucked his way into a Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Lions. The younger Sanders became a youtube sensation in high school when his game highlights reached hundreds of thousands of people. However, after redshirting his freshman season, many forgot about Barry J. Sanders.
While most star running backs don’t red shirt their freshman year, Sanders was nowhere near ready to get playing time last year for the Cardinal. Unlike most college programs, Stanford runs a pro-style offense that requires the running backs to be pass blockers. Although Sanders came to the Farm with elite running ability, he still was a layman at everything else.
“Barry is night and day better at pass blocking. At Stanford you need the running back to block for the quarterback and he has improved greatly at that. I think his first year here he was still learning but it helps to have players like Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy practicing on defense because you need to learn how to stop those guys,” explained running back Tyler Gaffney.
It wasn’t until a Stanford blowout victory against Washington State on ESPN that the Sanders hype machine began to resurface. Although Sanders only had the ball in his hands four times, he made some spectacular plays including his first touchdown run that went for 22 yards. Immediately after the game many called for Sanders to be used more in the conservative Cardinal offense. David Shaw’s Cardinal offense is built more like an SEC team with the power run scheme being their bread and butter. Obviously, Sanders would not be as effective as star running back Tyler Gaffney, but he would be the perfect change of pace back for the Cardinal.
“It kind of seems like the game has slowed for Barry this season. If you look at the incredible moves he makes on the field it’s not surprising to us because we see that in practice every day,” said stand out wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
In order to win out the rest of their games and make a National Championship, Stanford must put up more points on the board. Quarterback Kevin Hogan has not showed enough to be more than a game manager which makes finding big plays in the running game a huge factor for the Cardinal offense. Senior running back Tyler Gaffney has been a beast this year but he is more of a move the chains type of runner. Head coach David Shaw has started to use Sanders on special teams but he might want to start using him in offensive packages.
“Its unbelievable how much Barry has improved this year. He is a whole different player now, he’s a stud, when he gets on the field he just makes plays,” exclaimed fullback Ryan Hewitt.
The Stanford Cardinal have all the tools to become a national champion but they just needed that big play presence to take them over the hump. If Sanders has a break out performance in the second half of the season, Barry J. can start creating his own legacy.