Spring practice preview: running backs

Much has been made about the depth Cal has at running back. It’s a good thing, because the Bears need it, at least in the spring.

As most of you know, Jahvid Best won’t participate this spring as he continues to recover from a hip injury. Also, James Montgomery is going to be limited during the first portion of spring practice because he is still recovering from minor knee surgery.

That leaves plenty of reps to go around for Tracey Slocum, Shane Vereen and Covaughn DeBoskie.

The Bears are confident Best will be healthy by the beginning of fall camp. If so, he and Montgomery would be the leading candidates to replace Justin Forsett as the featured tailback in the program. It’s hard to believe Best won’t get a lot of touches next season with the type of potential he offers, but Montgomery has been around the program longer and was the No. 2 guy last year (although Forsett carred the overwhelming chunk of the workload).

Still, there is playing time to be had, and without Best and a fully healthy Montgomery, spring will be a chance for Slocum and Vereen to make an impression heading into the fall. Perhaps one of them could put himself into position to become the backup running back.

Slocum is an interesting study. He spent the first half of last season buried on the depth chart but started getting some second team reps near the end of the year. When he did, he looked very explosive. And Cal coach Jeff Tedford has said Slocum has grown a lot both physically and mentally since the end of the season.

Cal is very high on Vereen as well. Tedford said Vereen probably could have contributed as a true freshman but his services weren’t needed. If nothing else, Vereen may get a lot of looks this spring as a kick returner. And he also has a chance to move his way up the running back depth chart with some of the other guys being limited.

Spring will also be a chance for incoming freshman Covaughn DeBoskie to make an impression. DeBoskie graduated from high school early and is eligible to compete in spring drills. He comes to Cal as a highly regarded prospect who picked the Bears over a handful of other major programs.

The Bears are set at fullback with their top three returning. If Will Ta’ufo’ou can stay healthy, he could become the premier fullback in the Pac-10. Brian Holley and Zach Smith are still around to provide depth.

Coming next: Offensive line/tight ends

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Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.