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Cal football: Spring practice preview — running backs

By Jonathan Okanes
Thursday, March 12th, 2009 at 11:16 pm in off-season stuff.

RETURNING STARTERS: Jahvid Best

WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Covaughn DeBoskie

POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Kevin Lewis

THE BREAKDOWN: The spring will be all about Covaughn DeBoskie. Jahvid Best is out and Jeff Tedford said he wants to limit Shane Vereen’s workload (Vereen is also running track and there’s no sense pushing him), DeBoskie figures to get a ton of reps with the first unit. it’s hard to say what’s at stake for DeBoskie. Assuming everybody is healthy, DeBoskie still doesn’t figure to get on the field much this season. Best and Vereen will once again assume almost the entire workoad. But as the Bears learned last season with Best, running back injuries are common, and Cal would love to know if DeBoskie can step in and provide depth should anyone go down.

DeBoskie didn’t get a whole lot of reps last season but he was pulled off the scout team because of Best’s health problems. That means DeBoskie got to spend most of the season in the offense meeting rooms so he should be pretty far along for a redshirt freshman. Like all of the other Cal running backs, he’s talented and came to Cal highly recruited. There’s no reason to believe he won’t have a terrific spring.

Cal doesn’t have as much depth as it once did with Tracy Slocum’s dismissal from the team for violating team rules. One player to keep an eye on is Kevin Lewis. He came to Cal last season as a defensive back, but oftentimes would get carries on scout team. He was an eye-opener. Lewis has great burst and could have a future as a running back. I can remember one practice last season where he once again caught the eye of myself and colleague Rusty Simmons of the SF Chronicle. We asked Tedford after practice if Lewis stands out when he watches the tape of practice. He acknolwedged that he did but kind of downplayed it. Apparently, he did enough to have Cal switch him to offense. Of course, Slocum’s departure may have had something to do with that, too.

The competition at fullback may be the most wide-open of the spring. The departed Will Ta’ufo’ou developed into one perhaps the Pac-10′s top fullback and his skills will be hard to replace. John Tyndall probably is the leader heading into the spring, but that term should be used loosely. Brian Holley is a guy who has some experience and will be right there in the mix. One intriguing option is Matt Russi, who has moved from linebacker to fullback. Tedford also wants to take a look at Eric Stevens, the brother of former Cal tight end Craig Stevens.

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