Stanford in the NFL: Taylor growing into threat

Oct. 27, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

At its current pace, Stanford football will finish the 2014 season without a rusher that records 100 carries for the first time since 2005.

This season’s running-back-by-committee approach has largely been attributed to the lack of a big running back, like 6-foot-1, 227-pound Tyler Gaffney ’14 or 6-foot, 230-pound Toby Gerhart ’10.

However, it wasn’t long ago that a 5-foot-9, 214-pound running back by the name of Stepfan Taylor ’13 consistently out-muscled defenders and ran power up the middle despite a slightly smaller frame for the job description. Taylor, the only Stanford running back ever to record three seasons with at least 200 carries and 1000 yards, is now in the midst of his second season in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals after his selection in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft.

Former Cardinal Stepfan Taylor is starting to grow into his role on the Arizona Cardinals (SIMON WARBY/ The Stanford Daily)

“I’m a lot more confident,” said Taylor about his second year. “I’m getting a better feel for the system as far as everything – meetings, off time, practice time, offseason, things like that. I know what to expect now. And also just more chemistry with the teammates.”

In the Cardinals’ 24-13 victory over the Raiders last week, Taylor recorded his first ever two-touchdown game, hauling in a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and dashing in for a 4-yard touchdown run in the third. His 40 rushing yards marked a career-high, and his 12 carries were the most on the season.

“I came in very confident in my abilities. I control what I control and work hard in practice and make sure every day in practice I’m getting better so when the time comes, I make the most out of my opportunities when I’m out there on the field,” said Taylor about his recent successes. “That just comes with preparation and having a lot of confidence in myself.”

Though he ranks second on the depth chart behind starting running back Andre Ellington, Taylor’s second season in the NFL has seen him establish himself as a consistent weapon, especially in the red zone. He attributes much of his quick transition to the NFL to his experiences at Stanford.

“Stanford prepared me very well [for the NFL],” he said. “A lot of NFL coaches that have experience in the NFL, running in an NFL-type offense. Just everything they did at the program was good to help us get to the NFL, as far as meetings, walkthroughs, how to read defensive coverages and blitzes, things like that.

“You gain a lot of respect coming in from Stanford. A lot of them say, ‘There’s just nerds out there,’ but I came in, they had a lot of respect for me. They always said good things like ‘you pound the ball up there,’ things like that. We have a lot of respect.”

While at Stanford, Taylor became the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,300 yards and also the all-time leader in carries with 843. The lead back in his final three seasons, Taylor never really experienced Stanford’s new rushing-by-committee attack.

“I mean, it’s tough. Especially in that type of the offense, the more carries you get the more flow of the game is,” said Taylor about the running-back-by-committee system. “You know as a running back out there you have to prove yourself. I haven’t been able to watch too many of the games because I’m usually in meeting when the game’s going on so I can’t really say what I’ve seen but I know they do what they do for a reason. They’ll pick it up.”


Elsewhere in the NFL, Andrew Luck ’12 and the Colts offense couldn’t keep pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 51-34 loss that ended their five-game winning streak. Despite throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns, Luck’s counterpart on the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger, set career highs with six touchdowns and 522 passing yards.

Stepfan Taylor’s Cardinals beat Zach Ertz ’13 and the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20 in a battle of the NFC’s best. Ertz caught five passes for 48 yards in the loss. Taylor, unfortunately, has been suffering from a calf injury and was afforded zero touches in that game.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ 

Michael Peterson is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of football and baseball for KZSU. Michael is a senior from Rancho Santa Margarita, California majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’

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