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.”