Obviously, the news that running back James Montgomery is transferring out of Cal was a little startling. It’s not often you find a guy who is listed No. 1 on the depth chart at any position that wants out.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to reach Montgomery today so I can’t provide a whole lot of insights regarding his motivation for leaving. The only comments he has made so far were published by RealDawg.com, a fan site for the University of Washington.
Montgomery told RealDawg.com that “it never felt right, really” at Cal. Those who know Montgomery’s history are aware that he initially made an oral commitment to Washington but later changed his mind and came to Cal. But he was quoted publicly near the end of his redshirt freshman year that he was happy at Cal and was happy with his decision to come to Berkeley.
“Cal was never my first choice,” Montgomery told RealDawg. “I didn’t feel (Cal) was a (football) school that had a lot of tradition. They were ranked sixth in the country and yet couldn’t sell out that week’s game.”
Based on these comments, the simple interpretation is that Cal just wasn’t becoming the right fit for Montgomery. I am not going to speculate about other possible reasons because I simply don’t have enough information that would support anything else.
I exchanged a few e-mails with the editor of RealDawg.com today. Her latest one to me this evening said it was her understanding that Montgomery was planning on contacting Washington, Oregon and Florida today. She also said that Montgomery told the RealDawg reporter that “Today I feel like there is a big weight off my shoulders.”
I will say that the handful of times I talked with Montgomery last season, I found him to have a real enjoyable personality. He seemed bright and always had a good attitude.
So what does this mean for the Bears? Well, the first thing it means is Jahvid Best better be healthy this fall. Yes, there are other talented running backs in the program, but none of the others have a carry to their credit in their careers. Plus, it is evident that nobody’s potential is as great as Best’s. One school of thought is maybe that is a reason for Montgomery’s departure, that he can see that, when healthy, Best is going to be the featured back. But that is purely speculation.
If nothing else, Montgomery’s exit will make things a little easier on the coaching staff to sort out the running back situation. Suddenly, Tracy Slocum and Shane Vereen are very much viable candidates to see meaningful playing time next season. That will make spring practice even more vital for them while Best sits out, recovering from his hip injury. And that’s not even mentioning incoming freshman Covaughn DeBoskie, whom the coaching staff seems very high on.