Running back a work in progress for Stanford |

Running back a work in progress for Stanford

STANFORD – Tyler Gaffney essentially took Toby Gerhart’s spot on the Stanford baseball team last spring. He wouldn’t mind repeating that in football.

Stanford hit the practice field for the first time without their Heisman Trophy runner-up on Monday. Gaffney is one of several candidates for the starting job.

“We’re pretty solid at running back. We all have our own strengths,” said Gaffney, who hit .328 and was a Pac-10 honorable mention in baseball. “We’re looking for who can help us win, who is the biggest threat and who brings the most to the table.”

Gaffney figures he’s learned a great deal from balancing two sports and school.

“It leads to more organization in putting forth the effort to know both sports,” he said. “Baseball is more mental and football is physical and you have to keep flipping back and forth. Last year I learned what I had to do in baseball and I can bring that back here and see where it goes. This is like starting a new life.”

Gaffney rushed for 87 yards last year and then won a starting job for the baseball team in the spring.

Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh said there are four returning running backs and three newcomers intent on establishing their own identity.

“There were a ton of good things,” said Harbaugh, who led Stanford to its first bowl game in eight years last fall. “A lot of guys were impressive. They are all equal today, every single guy. It’s going to be who practices hard, who picks up the position and who holds on to the ball. We’ll start to see that this camp.”

Senior Jeremy Stewart, who missed seven games due to injury last year, is the front-runner but he’s had limited success. He rushed for 343 yards as a freshman and has accumulated a combined 183 yards the past two years.

“Gerhart is a great runner,” Stewart said. “The biggest thing I learned from him was watching him. You could tell he was having fun.”

Sophomores Stephan Taylor and Usua Amanam and freshmen Anthony Wilkerson, Ricky Seale and Andrew Stutz will also be given an opportunity.

Two players – seniors Owen Marecic and Alex Loukas – are working out on both sides of the ball.

Marecic will be on the field as both a fullback and inside linebacker. Loukas will be given a chance to win the No. 2 quarterback spot while also working as a free safety. Loukas, who missed last season with a torn ACL, was the backup quarterback two years ago and has seen time as a wide receiver.

“Owen is the perfect football player,” Harbaugh said. “He does so many things right and he’s trained himself for this. Alex will play offense one day and defense the next. We’ll make sure he doesn’t lose a day in either.”

The Cardinal (8-5 last year) host Sacramento State in their season opener on Sept. 4.

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