With one of the top running backs in the Pac-12 last season returning, the Cal Bears already know who is going to get the majority of the carries next season.
It's Isi Sofele, who looks to be picking up in spring practices where he left off last season. In 2011 Sofele rushed for 1,322 yards, 10 touchdowns and an average of 101.7 yards per game. Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he's expecting bigger things from Sofele next year.
"The experience that Isi gained last year and the way he hits a hole now is night and day," Tedford said following practice on Saturday. "When he hits that hole, he really hits it."
A couple of weeks ago, Tedford had talked about his marquee players getting a lot of rest during spring practices -- mainly because "we know what they can do." So far C.J. Anderson has stepped up during spring to provide some quality depth behind Sofele.
"C.J. Anderson looks great and has lost some weight," Tedford said. "When he first came here last fall, he was overweight and wasn't in shape, but now he's in shape and doing a great job. Between Isi, C.J. and those other three guys [Brendan Bigelow, Darren Ervin and Daniel Lasco] we're going to have some depth at that position."
Of course, Cal has only been working out in helmets and shorts -- and everyone looks explosive without pads on. Once the pads go on and the hitting starts, Tedford said he's hoping to learn a little more about the backs behind Sofele.
“As soon as we can get the pads on, it’s going to be critical that we can get those guys in game-type situations,” Tedford said. “Bigelow didn’t have a lot of that type of work last year, Ervin missed much of the season with injuries and Lasco did a great job on scout team. It’s so important to find out what they can do, so we’re going to take a good look at them."
With 252 carries last year, Sofele accounted for 52 percent of Cal's carries. Anderson was third with 72 carries behind quarterback Zach Maynard, who had 84 rushing attempts. Tedford said he's hoping to spread the wealth a little more next season.
"We’ve never really relied on one back,” Tedford continued. “It’s been by committee, sometimes two and sometimes three. If a third guy emerges, and I expect they will, then they’ll be in the rotation. They’re all really good players, there’s going to be a role for all of them if they continue to improve.”