RETURNING STARTERS: None
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Dasarte Yarnway
POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Trajuan Briggs
THE BREAKDOWN: Even with the loss of Jahvid Best, this is the deepest position on the team. With Shane Vereen, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Dasarte Yarnway, Isi Sofele and Trajuan Briggs, the Bears have a talented collection of tailbacks, albeit most of it is inexperienced.
One thing is for sure: Vereen is the undisputed starter at tailback. He has excelled the past two years as Best’s backup and was excellent when he took over as the starter following Best’s season-ending injury last season. Vereen has the talent and work ethic to lead the Pac-10 in rushing, although he will face some stiff competition next season with Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers and Oregon’s LaMichael James.
Coach Jeff Tedford said Vereen probably won’t take too many reps in the spring. He was a battered man at the end of the season with knee, shoulder and rib injuries. And although he is completely healed, Tedford sees no reason to risk any other injuries to a player who really doesn’t need too many reps.
After Vereen, it will be a very compelling competition to see who fills out the rest of the depth chart. DeBoskie-Johnson has the most seniority of the other tailbacks, but the others should all compete for playing time. Briggs, an incoming freshman, enrolled in school early and will participate in the spring. He reminds some of former Cal star Marshawn Lynch.
“You can’t wait to get on the field and let them go and give them equal opportunity,” Tedford said. “You try to set the stage where they all get an equal chance with certain guys to show what they can do.”
Briggs missed all but one quarter of his senior season at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys with a fractured ankle, but is ready to go for the spring.
“It’s a different speed for him right now,” Tedford said. “He’s worked very hard and had a great attitude. He’s fitting in very well.”
The Bears will have to replace Brian Holley at fullback, but have a couple of good candidates in Will Kapp, Eric Stevens and John Tyndall. Kapp got the most playing time of the three last season as Holley’s backup but Stevens showed promise during practices as the season went on.