Record-setting senior running back Stepfan Taylor has been one of the most productive - and durable - running backs in Stanford history. Not only has Taylor consistently led the Cardinal offense, he's done so without suffering a major injury.
The upside to Taylor staying on the field is obvious -- one of the best backs in school history gets more touches. The flip side is that Stanford's other talented running backs haven't had much opportunity to showcase their skills.
That will change next season. Taylor's departure will open the door for any number of Cardinal running backs to stake claim to the starting job. Among the front runners for the position is redshirt freshman Remound Wright. Wright's playing time steadily increased as the season progressed, culminating with a career-best five carry, 24-yard game against UCLA in the Pac-12 championship. Wright has gained 81 yards on 24 carries in 2012 while also contributing in the kick return game on special teams.
Earlier this week, Cardinal Sports Report caught up with Wright after a recent practice to discuss this year and next season's running back competition.
Cardinal Sports Report: Last year not playing doing the scout team thing, take me through that experience of having to grind every day in practice but not seeing the rewards on Saturday?
Remound Wright: That was a pretty hard learning curve to hit, I will admit. After having pretty good success playing football throughout my life it was kind of like a brick wall. But it was necessary. Redshirting wasn't something that I wanted to do at first, but I'm so glad I did it now. Because it gave me a chance to go up against the best. Our defense is definitely one of the best defenses in the country, and I got to go up against them every day. And that definitely made me a better player and prepared me for this year.
CSR: Was there anything in particular you were working on the most during that year off?
RW: Definitely the mental part of the game and blocking. Running is pretty simple, comparatively. It's something I've been doing my whole life. But blocking 300-pound men was something new. And also just the blocking scheme and knowing my routes for all of the different plays, different footwork for the different run plays, it was more of a knowledge-based learning curve, I guess.
CSR: How important are these bowl practices and spring practices for what you're personally going to want to accomplish next year?
RW: Oh, they're definitely helpful. Any time we get to put on the pads and run around and be out here together as a team we're getting better. And it clearly shows, because the teams that get more practice time are usually the better teams the next years, so I enjoy these practices. It's not as much of a grind anymore - we get a few days in between, so it's nice.
CSR: What is the main thing for you during these practices. Is there a specific focus?
RW: My specific focus is just trying to make myself more well-rounded. We have a lot of talented running backs on this team and it's kind of like what can I do to separate myself from the group in any particular way, because that's the way to get on the field. So I'm just trying to be well-rounded and be good at everything, that way they have no choice.
CSR: Next year with Stepfan leaving, you guys are probably going to be in one of the more heated position competitions anywhere in the country. How much does that drive you? Is it something that's on your mind pretty frequently, wanting to win that starting spot?
RW: Of course I want it. Being the competitor I am, I think every one of us wants it. But it's just what am I willing to do for it? And so I come out here every day and I try to be as much like Stepfan as possible. We have our own specific running styles, he does him and I do me, but in all other regards Stepfan is the man to follow.
CSR: This year you've kind of had an interesting role where you did some short yardage stuff earlier in the year, then when Hogan came (early in the season in the read-option package) you were kind of with him in the backfield. What's it been like this year acclimating to maybe a few different roles maybe different than what you're accustomed to?
RW: I think it's a good sign. Being versatile is something that's valued in football and sports in general. So I feel like the fact that the coaches put me in different roles throughout the year, even special teams roles, I just feel like that's a good sign of things to come and hopefully I can keep it up and do whatever the team needs me to do.
CSR: Had you done much kick returning in high school?
RW: In high school I did, but I didn't do any last year. So taking a year off, it's been a little weird, especially to step in like halfway through the season. But it's been interesting. It's cool, touching the ball, you can't knock it.