The Oklahoma Sooners were dealt a big blow last week when it was announced that star running back Rodney Anderson would miss the remained of the 2018 college football season. Anderson, who was widely considered the top RB prospect for 2019, now has his status as an early entry in question, opening the door for another back to take the mantle of RB1. Some would have considered Stanford's Bryce Love to be a candidate before the start of the season.
But Love's season hasn't got off on the best of terms. First there was the 18 carry, 29 yard performance against stacked boxes vs. San Diego State. Love would have a bounce back against Southern Cal (22 carries for 136 yards). But in the process? Love suffered an "undisclosed" (reportedly knee) injury, one that would cost him the chance to play against UC Davis.
This wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except Love battled a nagging injury throughout his 2017 campaign as well. A bum ankle wouldn't keep Love off the field, but it would keep him out of rhythm and force him from games at times.
Did the decision to play Love came down to the opposition being UC Davis? Or was the severity of the injury the primary factor? Either way, the Stanford back is reportedly projecting to return for next week's date with Oregon.
Love is facing a pivotal point in his player evaluation. Even if Love is back in the fray for the entire season, another lingering injury will put his durability into question. Bryce Love is many things, but a physical player he is not. For Love's sake as a prospect, he's going to need to prove he can handle the physicality of football. Lingering issues with his knee will call that ability into question.
Forecasting from here, Love's season can pivot one of three directions.
- A fully healthy Love shows his knee injury was minor and he sustains himself for the entire 2018 college season.
- Love struggles upon his return to play at full speed due to the knee for several weeks, maybe longer.
- Love suffers another injury between now and the close of the 2018 season.
The former is a must for Love to optimize his value. Either of the other two scenarios will have Love chasing the narrative that he's a lean bodied player who can't handle the physical demands of being a primary ball carrier.
It isn't time to hit the panic button, at least not yet. But Love's status as a prospect is going to hinge significantly on what happens in October and November.
Take into consideration the number of candidates to rise to the top of this year's class.
- Iowa State's David Montgomery
- Alabama's Damien Harris
- Oklahoma State's Justice Hill
- Washington's Myles Gaskin
- Michigan's Karan Higdon
- Ohio State's Mike Weber
- Memphis' Darrell Henderson
- LSU's Nick Brossette
This list goes on and on. At the end of the day, the NFL Draft process is about identifying eliminating factors. "Why should we NOT select this player?" Yes, Love is explosive in the open field but a less physical player than his peers, Love needs to be able to bear the brunt of 15-20 tackles a game to beat out the competition from a loaded field.
Where is the love for Love? The honeymoon of 2017 is over. He's going to have to make us fall for him all over again and that process starts now.