Headed into the start of spring practice on Feb. 25 without top returnees Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco — both sidelined by following surgeries — new Cal running backs coach Pierre Ingram said two newbies will get their shot.
— Sophomore-to-be Darren Ervin will get heavy reps during workouts.
— And redshirt freshman Jeffrey Coprich has moved permanently to offense.
Ingram, 28, told me he is entirely confident that Bigelow, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, and Lasco, who had shoulder surgery, both will recover fully.
In Bigelow’s case, it’s the same knee on which he twice tore his ACL during high school.
“Not at all. It’s the same knee, but not even close (to being as serious). Not a concern,” Ingram said. “I’m confident, the kid’s confident, spoke to his family and they’re confident. I’m completely confident the kid’s going to be there (next fall) first game, first practice.”
Asked his impression of Bigelow when he first saw him on videotape, Ingram said, “Special. I think he fits the mode of the running back we need in this offense. We look for playmakers. He’s explosive. At anytime, something can happen.
“Lasco’s the same — he’s just never had the opportunity. And those guys are hungry for success. It was running back by committee (here last season). It’s now their chance to be a part of a bigger thing.”
In the meantime, Ervin gets the chance to be the featured back during spring ball. The 5-foot-10, 197-pounder from Houston has not carried the ball in two seasons on campus after a prep career in which he played quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
“I see a desire to be great, a kid who wants the opportunity and maybe just got passed up a bit. And realizes there is a fresh staff here and he can prove himself,” Ingram said. “This spring we’re going to put the load on his back and see if he can handle it. And I know he can.”
Coprich came to Cal last fall from Stevenson Ranch in Southern California. The 5-7, 170-pounder was labeled an “athlete” during recruiting, then moved to defensive back last year, when he was redshirted.
Ingram took one look and immediately lobbied coach Sonny Dykes to switch him to running back. The move is permanent, Ingram said. “He’s a running back.”
A fifth back joins the mix in August with the arrival of freshman Khalfani Muhammad, a 100/200 state sprint champ from Thousand Oaks.
“Explosion,” Ingram said, describing the 5-8, 175-pounder, who rushed for 1,420 yards and scored 20 touchdowns for Notre Dame HS. “He’s a kid that anytime he has the ball in his hands — similar to Bigelow — you never know what’s going to happen. He’s going to bring a different dynamic.”
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Cal fans are going to immediately take to Ingram’s 16-month-old daughter.
Her name? Berkeley.
“Me and my wife met in upstate New York. One of the first conversations we had was about how we always wanted to move to California,” Ingram said.
After they were married and wife Dani became pregnant, the two started discussing names. “She always liked the name Berkeley,” Ingram said. “She picked it, I checked off on it.”
Ingram was on coach Sonny Dykes’ staff at Louisiana Tech at the time, and Berkeley Ingram was born on the evening of Oct. 29, 2011 — hours after the Bulldogs beat San Jose State.