Over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down each of Cal’s position groups. Today we delve into the stable of running backs for the Bears.
The strength of the California offense will be in their depth and versatility at running back. Cal returns every back of note from a team that amassed over 2,000 yards last season. It is well within reason to expect Cal to rely even more on the run this year with the lack of experience at receiver. I would also expect to see more formations with 2 RBs in the backfield now that Tedford is moving more to a spread type system.
1,300 yard performer and incumbent starter Isi Sofele will look to duplicate his breakout season this year in his senior campaign. While there will be plenty of carries to go around, I would expect fellow senior C.J. Anderson to play a much bigger role in the offense.
C.J. came into spring ball slimmer and quicker while still keeping his powerful running style. “I’ve got a year under my belt,” C.J. said. “Losing weight helped. I’m a lot quicker, a lot faster.”
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Anderson and his versatility in both the running and passing game. With that being said, I would like to see Anderson get the most carries this season. His combination of size and now his quickness make him a great all around threat.
With Anderson as a great all purpose back and Sofele as a shifty and gritty runner, that leaves Brendan Bigelow as the true home run threat. Bigelow has the game breaking speed that demands he be on the field for as many snaps as possible. I would like to see him utilized in the same way Oregon head coach Chip Kelly uses De’Anthony Thomas. With the lack of experience at WR it would make sense for Bigelow, a sophomore, to take snaps in the slot because he knows the offense and needs the ball.
The depth doesn’t stop there, Daniel Lasco had a solid spring and brings a nice combination of size and speed. Lasco redshirted last season and while he may need to wait until 2013 to make his impact, should any injuries pop up he is a very nice option to fall back on.
The most intriguing man in the backfield may be junior Desarte Yarnway. Yarnway is moving to the H-back spot and will be able to present some tactical advantages for Cal. He obviously has the athleticism to be a very difficult matchup for LBs coming out of the backfield, and with his size he can provide a strong option in goal line and short yardage situations.
Cal will need to focus on running the ball to put points on the board. If Maynard can complete enough passes to keep teams from loading 8 in the box, the 3 headed attack should cause fits for opposing defenses. With a unique mix of power and speed across all three backs, I expect to see Cal surpass the 2,013 yards on the ground posted last season by a comfortable margin.