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Running into spring

It’s tailback day.

When you lose an incredible runner like Marshawn Lynch, the intial reaction is YIKES.

That might be tempered just a bit at Cal because Justin Forsett is on hand. He has rushed for 1,674 yards his first three seasons. Now he will be the No. 1 guy and that’s the major question. Will be offer enough of a threat to keep the emphasis off Cal’s wonderful trio of wide receivers.

“He’s been a proven guy who has taken advantage of every opportunity,” said Cal running backs coach Ron Gould. “I’m excited to see him play down in and down out. He has to get stronger and bigger. He is about 190 and he needs to be 195-198 to withstand the pounding.”

At 5-foot-8, Forsett hasn’t had to withstand pounding as the starter for a six, seven game run. So far, though, he has been very durable.

“He has a tremendous work ethic,” Gould said. “He is second to none. He also plays with a lot of passion, a lot of heart. He came off the field after a drive stalled against Stanford (Forsett didn’t hit the right hole), he said, ‘I stopped that drive coach.’ He was mad at himself. I told him not to worry about it and that he would learn from these situations. He said, “Yeah, but I stopped the drive.”

Gould loves the attitude. He also likes Forsett’s quickness and his strength. He said he benches 350 pounds.

The biggest question for Cal and Gould is, “Who is No. 2?”

“Part of my job (this spring) is to develop the No. 2 guy. I’ve told them all that I am looking for a second guy. Right now we don’t have one. We have to figure out which guy wants to step up to the plate. It’s a coin toss.”

James Montgomery is a very talented red-shirt freshman who showed his talent during drills. “He is a very talented young man,” Gould said. “We thought we might have to play him last season. But I thought that red-shirting was the best thing for him. He has picked up the system well and he is getting stronger. He’s a good sized kid and he knows how to get into the open field. He is extremely fast. Now he is learning how to be patient. That’s a transition that all these guys go through.

Like Montgomery, Tracy Slocum red-shirted his freshman season. “He is a very physical player,” Gould said. “He just throws guys off him. He is a slasher who has good feet. He is learning the game and the intensity in which we have to practice.”

Intensity is something that Gould has stressed to all his running backs. He wants them all to pick up the intensity this spring.

Bryan Schutte is a tailback who made a big impression during workouts last season, but was buried behind Lynch and Forsett. “People take him for granted because he is tall, kind of a Brad Muster. But he probably is one of the fastest runners on the team. He is deceptively fast. And the guys nicknamed him “The President” because he is so smart. He sees the whole thing. He has to learn that without the ball, he has to be just as physical.

And all of our tailbacks have to improve in their ability to catch the ball.

Although that neither guy is here yet, Gould knows that incoming freshmen Shane Vareen and Jahvid Best will be joining the team for summer camp. “Best is a very skilled kid who can score from anywhere on the field. He is raw.

“Vareen is such a great athlete and one of the fastest kids in the country. He also has the ability to catch the ball.

Tomorrow: FULLBACKS

jheater