College Sports

How a Wake Forest high school football star has raced into the Heisman conversation

Bryce Love in action at Stanford

Former Wake Forest High standout and Stanford freshman Bryce Love rips a 65-yard touchdown run showing off his moves and speed in a August 22, 2015, scrimmage. Video courtesy of Stanford Athletics
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Former Wake Forest High standout and Stanford freshman Bryce Love rips a 65-yard touchdown run showing off his moves and speed in a August 22, 2015, scrimmage. Video courtesy of Stanford Athletics

Bryce Love is finding a way to make Stanford fans quickly forget about Christian McCaffrey. Love, the junior running back from Wake Forest, has gotten off to a fast start his first season as a starter. Through five games Love has rushed for 1,088 yards, becoming the first player this season to hit the 1,000 yard mark after a 301-yard rushing performance during a 34-24 win over Arizona State.

Love reached 1,000 yards on his 87th carry of the season and has the most yards after five games in the last 20 years. With his averages – 11.1 yards per carry, 217 yards per game – Love is on pace go well over 2,000 yards rushing this season. He has now rushed for 100 yards or more in seven consecutive games dating back to last season, including 119 in a 25-23 win over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.

The 301 yards on the ground versus Arizona State set a new single-game record for Stanford, previously held by McCaffrey, a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. Against the Sun Devils, Love had touchdown runs of 61, 43 and 59 yards. This performance made Love a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy.

According to ESPN’s Expert Poll, Love is now listed at No. 7 on it’s list of 13 possible Heisman finalists. Saquon Barkley, the junior running back from Penn State, is No. 1 on the list. Barkley has 574 yards rushing this season. The only other running back ahead of Love is Rashaad Penny of San Diego State, who has 823 yards rushing and seven scores.

Love’s emergence doesn’t come as a surprise to his high school coach, Reggie Lucas, who was in attendance Saturday watching his former star tear apart ASU’s defense.

“We knew Bryce was going to be successful,” Lucas said. “We’re just amazed that he’s doing it at such a high level. When you run for over 200 yards at the Division I level, that’s pretty impressive.”

During his time at Wake Forest-Rolesville, now Wake Forest, Love led the Cougars to consecutive 4AA NCHSAA Championship games, and rushed for 5,372 and 71 touchdowns during his prep career. His first two years at Stanford he was the understudy to McCaffrey, who was the Heisman Trophy runner-up a year ago. Now Love has put himself in position to possibly make a trip to New York for College Football’s highest honor. Never one to seek out attention, Lucas said Love has remained grounded, even after the biggest game of his career.

“He was just the same, humble, low key Bryce Love,” Lucas said. “It’s amazing how his character has not changed despite the attention he’s getting. If you were to go up and talk to him you would never know he had a performance like that.”

Love was given the game ball by the Stanford coaching staff and didn’t even want to keep that for himself.

“He wanted to give it to us,” Lucas said. “He just looks at things like that. For him it’s no big deal, but for everyone else it’s like, wow man, you don’t even know what you’re doing. He’s that type of kid.”

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV

Bryce Love single-game rushing totals this season

Rice: 13-180, 1 TD

USC: 17-160, 1 TD

San Diego State: 13-184, 2 TD

UCLA: 30-263, 1 TD

Arizona State: 25-301, 3 TD

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