College Football's New Look

Ward also has some flexibility at the hybrid "spur" position with Sharrod Golightly, Larenz Bryant and Jordan Diggs, who's coming off his best spring.

Up front, while there might not be a Clowney, veteran tackle J.T. Surratt is vastly underrated, and both the Dixon brothers (end Gerald Dixon and tackle Gerald Dixon Jr.) look like they could be poised for breakout seasons.

"We're going to show some different things, and we still have a lot of people who are going to step up and make plays," Surratt said. "Even though we've lost a lot of talent, we're not going to drop off and will be just as good, if not better, than we were last year."

STANFORD, Calif. -- When Stanford needed to replace tailback Stepfan Taylor a year ago, Cardinal coach David Shaw promised a rotation of several backs. Once the season began, however, senior Tyler Gaffney refused to let any other backs in the huddle. Gaffney rushed for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns on 330 carries, the second-most in Stanford history.

He is gone now, drafted by Carolina in the sixth round, and on the topic of replacing Gaffney, Shaw is trying to keep a straight face.

"I'll say the same thing I said last year," Shaw said with a smile, "which ended up not being true. I think we've got a good group. We've got a good committee."

But this time, he appears to mean it. The Stanford backfield is filled with upperclassmen whose potential has yet to be realized. Redshirt junior Remound Wright had been the favorite to replace Gaffney, but Shaw suspended Wright for disciplinary reasons and he missed the last two weeks of spring practice.

That provided more opportunities for his classmate Kelsey Young, who has played some receiver and returned kicks the past two years. Young uses speed and quickness to do a little bit of everything. Redshirt senior Ricky Seale may be even quicker than he is.

Then there's junior Barry Sanders, son and namesake of a Pro Football Hall of Fame tailback. Sanders "has a once-a-day 'Wow!' play," Shaw said. But that hasn't been enough to get the 5-10, 192-pound Sanders onto the field with any regularity. His blocking, an integral part of a tailback's job at Stanford, has lagged. But Shaw said Sanders is ready, and so are the other three.

What about the old rule, modified here, that if you have four running backs, you really don't have any?

"I understand where that phrase comes from," Shaw said, "but we're in a different world now. We're in a world of specialists, guys that play roles on good teams."

It's a world without Gaffney or Taylor, and Shaw isn't concerned at all.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Everywhere you look on the Texas A&M campus, you see signs of the Aggies' unexpected success in their first two seasons in the SEC. There's an expanding stadium, new football facility and bigger weight room.

It seems the Aggies are spending their SEC riches as soon as they earn it.

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