Pac-12: Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson

Cal releases depth chart

August, 27, 2010
You can see California's new depth chart here.

Jonathan Okanes does a nice job of explaining the hot spots.

Some quick observations:
  • Quick, undersized sophomore Isi Sofele is the backup tailback, eclipsing Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Dasarte Yarnway and Trajuan Briggs. That strikes me as a minor upset, but Sofele is a scatback type who can make plays as a runner and receiver. Coach Jeff Tedford always gives his No. 2 RB plenty of touches.
  • The starting corners are Marc Anthony and Darian Hagan. Bryant Nnabuife is listed as the backup to both.
  • Okanes notes that the top four safeties will see extensive action, but it seems notable that Chris Conte and Josh Hill are first team, meaning returning starter Sean Cattouse has dropped in the pecking order.
  • A veteran -- Ernest Owusu -- held off a hard-charging youngster -- Deandre Coleman -- at one defensive end. Another hard-charging youngster -- Kendrick Payne -- eclipsed a veteran -- Derrick Hill -- at noseguard.
  • QB Kevin Riley's backup is Beau Sweeney.
  • The only true freshman on the depth chart is receiver Keenan Allen, who is No. 1 opposite junior Marvin Jones.
  • The Bears will start eight seniors and six sophomores.

Preseason position reviews: running back

July, 22, 2010
Another year, another strong collection of running backs, even with the departures of Toby Gerhart and Jahvid Best.

While Pac-10 quarterbacks will grab most of the preseason headlines -- that's what happens when the two best NFL prospects at the position play in the same conference -- the class of running backs is nearly as strong.

Three 1,00o-yard rushers are back, and that doesn't include California's Shane Vereen, who piled up 952 yards as a backup, nor does it including Arizona's Nic Grigsby, who rushed for 1,153 yards in 2008. Six of the top-nine running backs will return this fall, and more than a few teams are decidedly deep at the position.

By the way, you might note there is more mention of incoming freshman at this position than others. Two reasons: 1. The Pac-1o had a strong haul of RBs in recruiting; and, 2. RB is often the easiest place for a young player to break into the lineup.

Great shape

  • Oregon: While the Pac-10 blog rates Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers ahead of LaMichael James as an individual player, the Ducks have a decided edge in depth, and not only because James' backup, Kenjon Barner, is one of the conference's most explosive players. The incoming recruiting class also features Lache Seastrunk and Dontae Williams, the No. 6 and No. 13 prep running backs in the nation in 2009.
  • [+] EnlargeJacquizz Rodgers
    Rick Scuteri/US PresswireJacquizz Rodgers may be the most talented individual running back in the Pac-10 this year, but Oregon has the best group.
  • Oregon State: Jacquizz Rodgers is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as the most complete back in the conference. Depth behind him is a little iffy, though Ryan McCants turned in some of his best work during spring practices.
  • Washington: Washington fans often note that Chris Polk gained most of his 1,113 yards last year after contact because he was running behind a young offensive line. That line, with four starters back, should be better in 2010. Good depth with Johri Fogerson and freshmen Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, who both participated in spring drills.
  • California: As noted above, Vereen put up impressive numbers as a backup and then starter over the final four games after Best got hurt. 12 TDs on 183 carries shows he has a nose for the endzone. Depth behind him is uncertain. Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway are competing for backup touches.
  • USC: Allen Bradford, a neglected talent under Pete Carroll, who was oddly in love with the mercurial Joe McKnight, could end up being a first-team All-Pac-10 back. C.J. Gable also will have a chance to emerge from Carroll's doghouse. True freshman Dillon Baxter was the star of spring practices, while Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler are major talents who just need to stay healthy.
  • Arizona: The Wildcats welcome back their top three running backs: Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko. But Grigsby, who averaged 7.2 yards per carry last year when he wasn't hurt, needs to find a way to stay healthy.
Good shape
We'll see

  • Stanford: The Cardinal doesn't have one guy who can replace Gerhart. But who does? The good news for a backfield-by-committee approach with Jeremy Stewart, Tyler Gaffney, Stepfan Taylor and freshman Usua Amanam in the mix is the offensive line in front of them should be outstanding.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils must replace leading rusher Dimitri Nance, who didn't exactly scare opposing defenses in 2009. Cameron Marshall is the leading returning rusher with 280 yards. James Morrison and Jamal Miles will provide depth, though an incoming freshman might get into the mix. As has been the case for a while with the Sun Devils, the first order is improving the offensive line.
  • Washington State: Leading 2009 rusher Dwight Tardy is gone. If James Montgomery is healthy -- and stays that way -- he gives the Cougars a quality runner. He was clearly the best guy last preseason before he got hurt. Logwone Mitz, Chantz Staden, Carl Winston and Marcus Richmond will compete for touches during fall camp. Whatever the pecking order, the offensive line is the biggest issue.

California spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 5-4 (tied for fifth)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Kevin Riley, OT Matt Summers-Gavin, OT Mitchell Schwartz, RB Shane Vereen, LB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, P Bryan Anger

Key losses: RB Jahvid Best, OT Mike Tepper, DE Tyson Alualu, CB Syd'Quan Thompson

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Shane Vereen* (952)
Passing: Kevin Riley* (2,850)
Receiving: Marvin Jones* (651)
Tackles: Mike Mohamed* (112)
Sacks: Tyson Alualu (7.5)
Interceptions: Mike Mohamed* (3)

Spring Answers

1. Jordan steps up: Defensive end Cameron Jordan has the talent to be a first-team All-Conference player, but he's never broken through as a consistent performer. Heading into his senior year, however, he asserted himself this spring and established himself as the leader of the defensive line with the departure of Tyson Alualu. If that continues, he'll catch the attention of NFL scouts.

2. Attacking defense: Coach Jeff Tedford said the Bears would be more aggressive -- read: stunting, blitzing, etc. -- even before he hired Clancy Pendergast to replace Bob Gregory as coordinator. It became clear this spring that Pendergast, a veteran NFL coach, will focus on making life as difficult as possible for opposing QBs.

3. Replacing Tepper: Four starters return on the Bears offensive line, but the one void is sizable: 6-foot-7, 319-pound Mike Tepper. It appears that Matt Summers-Gavin will slide over from left guard to fill that void. While right tackle Mitchell Schwartz remains a possibility -- he played the position in 2008 -- Summers-Gavin is more athletic, which should help vs. speed rushing ends.

Fall questions

1. Will Riley arrive? Kevin Riley again fought off his challengers and will be the starting quarterback, despite his inconsistency during 22 starts over the previous three season. He's had plenty of good moments and he has ability. If he puts it all together as a senior, the Bears could be a factor in the conference race.

2. Who's the No. 2 tailback? Shane Vereen is the clear No. 1, but Tedford has always used tandems. Each of the four candidates -- Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway -- had productive moments this spring, but none separated himself. Sofele is almost certain to get touches as a scatback, hybrid runner/receiver, but the battle for No. 2 will be at issue early in preseason camp.

3. Who's the noseguard? Derrick Hill, a two-year starter, has been solid, but he's struggled to stay healthy. Sophomore Kendrick Payne had a great spring. He could end up winning the job. Considering coaches aren't afraid of playing Aaron Tipoti either, the good news is there's depth at the position.