Stanford’s Scarlett happy Love stayed, though it meant he’s still No. 2

Stanford running backs coach Ron Gould called him “one of the more talented guys I’ve coached.”

Considering that Gould has coached Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Arrington, Justin Forsett and Shane Vereen, that’s high praise for Bryce Love, right? Except that Gould wasn’t talking about Love.

He was talking about Love’s backup, Cameron Scarlett, who will be a junior next season. While Love will enter the season as a Heisman Trophy favorite, Scarlett will again be a more-than-capable No. 2 back, a strong short-yardage runner and one of the nation’s top kickoff returners.

“He’s a very talented young man,” Gould said. “He has a lot of tools. … As a receiver he has phenomenal hands. He’s got a huge upside.”

Those skills will be on display in the Cardinal & White Spring Football Game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cagan Stadium, normally Stanford’s soccer and lacrosse venue.

Scarlett had a 55-yard touchdown run in last year’s spring game and figures to have plenty of carries this time because Love and Dorian Maddox are both rehabbing from injuries. Trevor Speights, who has had what Gould calls a “sensational” spring, will see plenty of action, too.

At 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, Scarlett is the team’s biggest back. “I’ve gotten faster than last year,” he said. “I’ve lost some body fat, just working on increasing my speed since I’m naturally heavy.”

As the main goal-line tailback, he scored eight touchdowns on 91 carries. He ranked second in the Pac-12 and 18th nationally on kickoff returns (25.8-yard average) and no one had as many returns of at least 30 yards as he did (12).

In a 17-14 win over Cal, he carried 11 straight times and picked up four first downs to kill the final 7 minutes and 25 seconds.

“He can run with a physical nature, but he can also make big plays,” head coach David Shaw said.

Love’s decision to come back for his senior year was no surprise to Scarlett, his roommate.

“He was torn 50-50,” Scarlett said. “It could have gone either way. The last week and a half (before Love announced his decision), he talked a lot about getting his degree. I kind of knew it was coming.”

Scarlett acknowledged that the decision cost him the chance to be the No. 1 back. “Obviously there’s some downside, but I’m trying to stay positive. More important than football, he’s one of my best friends here. We’ve been together for so long, I was happy to see him come back.”

How good could Scarlett be as a featured tailback? “I think if I was in another program or in the No. 1 slot anywhere, I’d have a lot of success,” he said. “My job right now is to back up (Love) and make plays when I can.”

In 2019, presumably Scarlett will get his shot at No. 1. Don’t express that presumption to Gould, though. “No, you’ve got to earn the right to say you’re a starter,” he said. “There’s no position that’s granted to you.”

Briefly: Many positions are short-handed because of injuries, none more so than quarterback. Jack Richardson has been the only healthy QB this spring, so Saturday’s game is all his. … Asked who have been the most impressive players of the spring, aside from the normal starters, Shaw mentioned Richardson, outside linebacker Gabe Reid and cornerback Paulson Adebo.

Tom FitzGerald is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @tomgfitzgerald

Cardinal and White Spring Game

Where: Cagan Stadium,


When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Format: Offense vs. defense. Each series begins at the offense’s 35-yard line. The defense earns points for stopping the offense at various points short of the defense’s 30. The quarterback can’t be hit, but sacks are awarded at the discretion of the officials.

Autograph session: Players will be available for autographs after the game. Free posters will be distributed.

Admission and parking: Free

TV/Radio: P12Net/1050

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