With Christian McCaffrey firmly in place as Stanford‘s lead running back and a top Heisman Trophy candidate for one more season, barring significant injury, opportunities for those behind him on the depth chart will be scant. Barry Sanders Jr. found himself in that situation last season, but with Thursday’s news that he will transfer to Oklahoma State a new opportunity is coming for him.
Sanders Jr. is on track to graduate from Stanford this spring, so he will be eligible to play immediately next season. He is following in the footsteps of his father, Barry Sanders, who won the Heisman Trophy for Oklahoma State in 1988 when he rushed for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns. Of course the elder Sanders also went on to have a Hall of Fame NFL career with the Detroit Lions (1989-98), which included a 2,000-yard rushing season (2,053 yards) in 1997.
Over three seasons at Stanford, Sanders Jr. had 115 carries for 672 rushing yards and five touchdowns along with 12 receptions for 89 yards. He also had nine punt returns and two kickoff returns over that span, but that is just a further reflection of the minimal role he had for the Cardinal. Clearly a change of scenery will be welcome.
With comparisons to his father conveniently sure to come, some might say that burden of expectations will set Sanders Jr. up to fail at Oklahoma State. But I take the opposite approach, with an opportunity to earn a starting job and without the wear and tear of a big previous workload, he could make an instant impact under head coach Mike Gundy.