Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Under the radar: California
By ESPN.com staff
We're continuing with our under the radar series.
The idea is to pick out a player who is not a big name, but who may be underrated. Or, at least, a guy who will need to step up and play a critical role in 2012.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
California: RB C.J. Anderson
2011 production: Anderson rushed for 361 yards with eight TDs. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught seven passes for 186 yards and a score.
Making the case for Anderson: Talk about under the radar: Anderson is the backup to one of the Pac-12's most underrated players in Isi Sofele, who quietly rushed for 1,322 yards last year. Anderson was mostly the thunder to Sofele's lightning in 2011, giving Cal a big back to spell the diminutive Sofele, particularly in short-yardage situations. But here's the deal: A little bird told me that Anderson was consistently the Bears best back this spring. A big reason for that is Anderson losing 15 pounds -- he was out of shape last year after transfering from a junior college -- though he's still listed at 5-foot-11, 215. He's a physical runner who showed much better quickness this spring. Fans got a taste of the new-and-improved Anderson when his 87 yards rushing in the spring game included a 15-yard TD and 44-yard scamper. The Bears backfield is stacked. After Sofele and Anderson there's speedy Brendan Bigelow, and Daniel Lasco isn't too shabby either. That's a quality foursome, but there's only one ball. Let's just say Anderson, if he continues to focus on conditioning during the summer, could offer Sofele some legit competition for the starting job in fall camp. It's notable that Anderson is not only more physical, he's also a better receiver than Sofele and less of a mismatch when asked to block. Even if Anderson doesn't displace Sofele, it's not unreasonable to expect him to double his production from 2011.