Football: Is this Bears’ deepest batch of RBs?

Nine of Jeff Tedford’s first 10 Cal teams have featured a 1,000-yard running back. Most of his squads have enjoyed a productive 1-2 punch at the position.

Tedford believes this team could boast more and better talent at running back than any of those.

With seniors Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson expected to share the starting job — and be on the field together at times — and sophomore Brendan Bigelow and redshirt freshman Daniel Lasco ready and able behind them, Tedford is salivating at the depth of riches he has in the backfield.

“As far as four backs are concerned, as a group at one time, this is probably the deepest we’ve been and the most talented we’ve been,” he said. “We’re in pretty good shape in the tailback position.”

Tedford’s best running teams were in 2004, when J.J. Arrington ran for 2,000 yards and the Bears averaged 256.8 rushing yards per game, and 2005, when Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett helped Cal produce 235.2 yards per outing.

You’d have to rewind back to 1975 with Chuck Muncie or 1952 with Johnny Olszewski or 1948 with Jackie Jensen to find Cal teams as productive on the ground.

Sofele surprised outsiders a year ago when he ran for 1,322 yards in his debut as a starter. Anderson arrived from Laney College, admittedly out of shape, then gradually worked himself into the mix.

By the spring, Sofele had packed 200 solid pounds on his 5-foot-7 frame and Anderson so impressed the coaching staff that he moved even with his friend and backfield mate.

Now Tedford expects to use them both extensively, sharing the load.

“Isi is bigger but his quickness and speed are still there,” Tedford said. “He’s a very tough guy, so he can take the pounding pretty well. C.J. has really done a nice job of getting himself in shape. I like ’em a lot — they bring a lot to the table.”

Bigelow arrived at Cal in the fall of 2011 from Fresno-Central East HS, where he was rated as one of the nation’s top running back prospects, despite missing his senior season with a knee injury. Lasco, from The Woodlands, Texas, also was a 2011 freshman, but was redshirted, giving him four years of eligibility.

“I think we’ll use ’em all,” Tedford said. “But it’s hard to share carries with four guys. I anticipate all four will get some playing time. As far as the percentages on how many carries (each gets), we don’t know that yet.

“But I feel really confident in all four of them.”


Jeff Faraudo

  • rotfogel


  • covinared

    that’s what I was thinking. anthony wallace an russell white. russell white and lindsey chapman. paul jones and john tuggle. this group is 4, but the top 2 are the only ones we really know about. we have had at least 2 good backs for most of the last 10 years. it may be more reflective of o line play anyway. a mediocre back will do well with a great line and a great back is nothing without at least a mediocre line.

  • It was O’Keith but yah, I hear you, that was an awesome backfield. Remember Marshawn’s run against air force where he broke like 8 tackles on his way to the endzone? We had no idea that that was normal, yet. Go Bears!

  • Kevin Thomas

    And for the best of all time at Cal, you might want to go back to the ’37 Thunder team, Rose Bowl champion, and #1 ranked nationally, with 10 out of 11 (the players went both ways, offense and defense) making some All-American team, with the 11th guy making one the following year. They ran a single wing, with Sam Chapman and Vic Bottari carrying the ball. You had to get there before halftime, if you wanted to see them play, because they were usually so far ahead at half, that the first string very seldom played in the second half.

    I saw both Jensen and and Johnny O play, and they were awesome. Jensen quit school early to sign a baseball contract with the Red Sox. Johnny O’s career was ruined when USC piled on him after a run, and a USC linebacker grabbed his foot and deliberately twisted his knee. He was out for the season, and played a long time in the pros, but just as a blocking back. I went to that game, and the dirty play happened right in front of me.

  • I think CJ has a bit of RWhite in him. He is big and can bruise you, but I also saw some quick feet and change of direction a la Russell.

  • gobears49

    Cal may be deep at running back, but it is most important for the #1 and #2 backs to be really good, as they get 95% of more of the carries. Cal has had, in many recent years, guys at the #1 and #2 slots that eventually made the pro’s (Arrington, Lynch, Forsett, Best, and Vereen). I doubt any of the current group of Cal RB’s, as good as they are, are going to play pro ball, though it may be too early to tell for the younger guys. I don’t think Sofele and Anderson stand much of a chance, though they are pretty good.

  • gobears49

    To further explain my point, in most of Tedford’s years at Cal, Cal’s #1 and #2 running backs were much better than those Cal now has (as the #1 and #2 backs get almost all of the carries). So, in those years, Cal’s running back group was a more potent force than this year’s group, as it is doubtful that Cal’s current #1 or #2 will make the pro’s.

    Just compare the #1 and #2 two tandems Cal now has to the tandems they have had in the past, all of whom have played pro ball — 1) Arrington/Lynch, 2) Lynch/Forsett, 3) Forsett/Best, and 4) Best/Vereen. I think some of these tandems were around, and played at #1 and #2 for more than one year. Thus, Cal’s past year running backs, taking into account who actually gets to carry the ball a meaningful number of times during the year, is much stronger than Cal’s current group of backs.