Stanford star running back leaving the program

Stanford's deep backfield has taken a hit, as Tyler Gaffney is leaving the program to pursue a career in professional baseball.

The 6-1, 216-pound junior from San Diego was the backup to Stepfan Taylor and was a valuable part of the Cardinal offense last fall. During the 2011 season he rushed for 449 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 74 attempts, finding the end zone seven times. He also caught 12 passes for 79 yards and a score.

Gaffney played left field for Stanford's baseball team and signed a professional baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday. He was selected in the 24th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June.

Gaffney, who could have returned to the college field for another year of both sports had he not signed with the Pirates, will return to school to complete his degree in Sociology.

The Cardinal will return their starter, Taylor, in the fall after the junior rushed for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011. Anthony Wilkerson will slide into Gaffney's No. 2 role, while Ricky Seale will move up the depth chart after an impressive spring. And, of course, Barry J. Sanders arrives this fall.

In other words, the Stanford ground game will continue to annoy opposing Pac-12 defenses.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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