Football: Season review — running backs

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Despite a season-ending injury to Jahvid Best, the Bears still got a combined 1,819 yards and 22 touchdowns from their top two tailbacks. Best rushed for 867 yards and 12 scores before going down in the ninth game against Oregon State. He had five 100-yard games and added another 213 yards and four touchdowns receiving. Even before replacing Best as the starter, Shane Vereen was having a productive season as a backup. He totalled 386 yards and six touchdowns in the backup role (5.1 yards per carry) and then rushed for at least 92 yards in each of his starts, including three 100-yard games and six more touchdowns. He added 244 yards and two scores as a receiver. Brian Holley had a solid season at fullback.

WHAT WENT WRONG: There were obviously some games where the Bears struggled to run the ball, most notably against Oregon, USC, Arizona State and Oregon State. While there were other factors that contributed to the ineffectiveness — poor offensive line play, lack of a passing game to balance out the offense — the running backs need to take at least some of the blame for perhaps not hitting the hole hard enough from time to time.

IN SUMMATION: This was the best position on the field for the Bears this season. The production was there most of the time, and when it wasn’t, much of the time it was due to factors out of their control.

MOVING FORWARD: Obviously, losing Jahvid Best to the NFL is a big hit. And while the Bears don’t have anybody left on the roster quite that good, they still have a lot left that is still pretty darn good. Vereen has proven he can carry the load as an every-down back and be productive while doing so. He should have a big year in 2010, if healthy. Cal also has many options to back him up, whether it be Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, who 211 yards on 31 carries, Isi Sofele, the fastest of the running backs, or Dasarte Yarnway, who showed promise in training camp last season as a freshman before suffering a season-ending toe injury. The Bears have the depth and talent to once again make running back the strongest position on the field.


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.

  • GC

    I totally agree with your comments.

  • rollonubears

    i kind of disagree with a few things. i actually think losing best to the nfl isn’t a big hit at all. he may have been marginally faster than best, but he didn’t pound as hard and hardly ever got second effort yards like vereen. he also was injury-prone, and is probably still nursing injuries as he heads to the combine. because of the way tedford operates, like longshore’s injuries, we will never know. i think he kept his mouth shut for best all season, to boost his draft chances. anyhow, without best, i think we’re actually a better football game. our best performance overall, vs. stanfurd, best was on the sidelines. regarding usc and oregon, i agree about the offensive line, and with best, not hitting the holes hard enough, but i think it was more a combination of our inability to react when holes closed up, insisting on “waiting for the whole to develop” rather than just taking it outside when the play is broken, and most importantly, the play calling. we couldn’t run against usc and oregon, primarily because they knew what was coming. we abandoned the run early in both games, and for much of the season. when we finally relied on, with vereen, we dominated. i agree with your grade of b+. without best, it’s probably an A-. i wish best great success at the next level, but unfortunately, this year, his hype outweighed his performance. how many times did we even utilize the FB spot anyway? 5? i agree, holley was a good blocker. someone had to make up for tepper’s slacking.

  • rollonubears

    i meant marginally faster than “vereen” oops. go bears.

  • rollonubears

    this is probably a stupid question, but if anyone knows, please tell me. if you hand the ball off, and you’re running outside the pocket, can’t you throw the ball away just like if you’re a QB? if so, and if backs like best who have great hands, etc, are scrambling and out of the pocket, why don’t they just chuck it out of bounds? also, when thrown OB, does the ball have to just “land” past the line of scrimmage, OB, or does it have to pass the line of scrimmage in the air, in play, before breaking the “OB” plane? I’ll take those answers off the air. Thank you!

  • Juancho

    I’m going to preface my comment by stating that I don’t want Tedford to be fired, or leave.

    Since Tedford has taken us to the level of being a nationally (somewhat) relevant program, our two biggest problems have bad:

    1. Bad quarterbacks
    2. Horrible running games in the games that matter most (not counting Stanfraud of course because we own them)

    I don’t think Tedford is a bad coach. But he does need to find an offensive coordinator for the long haul and stick with him. All the changes hurt the program. And, he needs to start bringing in some higher profile coordinators, not all these young guys he takes chances on. For instance, Lupoi can recruit well – but I doubt he can really develop talent the way a D line coach at a national program with a ton of experience can.

  • Poor QB play by Riley enabled teams with confident/talented secondaries (like SC) to play man to man against Cal’s receivers.

    This fact enabled more defensive players in the box to stop the run.

    An underperfoming O-line exacerbated the problem.

    Bottom line: a vibrant passing game (whihc Cal did not have in 2009) opens up the offense to effective pass and run plays.

  • J.O. – Who is the RB that will enroll in the Spring?

  • House

    I belive his name is Briggs, he used to be a USC commit.

  • Thanks; you’re the second person that state this. Where did you learn this? Are you stating this because Briggs is the only RB to show a Cal “verbal”?

    I read a Tedford quote that a RB would be enrolling in the Spring, but he did not name the player. I thought that perhaps a secret recruit was comming on board.

  • MEXgldnbear

    The good news is none of our running backs were rolling to practice in a Land Rover.


    I cant quite remember where, but it was on the comment section of a site, saying the best thing about Briggs is he would be enrolled for spring ball.