The Ron Gould Stable Continues To Impress. A Look At Cal RBs in 2011

TwistNHook: Isi! Isi! Isi! Isi! Isi!

C.J.! C.J.! C.J.! C.J.!

NorCalNick: Quite the contrast from last season. Last year it was Isi (who many doubted could carry the load), a bunch of injured players, and a bunch of first year Bears.

Now all of a sudden Cal fans look at the depth chart and see the first three spots filled with players with diverse and complimentary skillsets, proven performances and/or dynamic talents. Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and Brendan Bigelow all bring something different to the position. Exciting times!

TwistNHook: And don't forget Manuel. He's been definitely showing some promise. H Here are Isi's numbers on the season.

9/3 Fresno State W 36-21 24 88 3.7 39 2 0 0 0.0 0 0
9/10 @Colorado W 36-33 (OT) 20 84 4.2 29 0 0 0 0.0 0 0
9/17 Presbyterian W 63-12 18 110 6.1 25 2 0 0 0.0 0 0
9/24 @Washington L 31-23 17 98 5.8 22 0 2 29 14.5 22 0
10/6 @Oregon L 43-15 12 119 9.9 34 0 2 -2 -1.0 5 0
10/13 USC L 30-9 12 44 3.7 17 0 2 6 3.0 6 0
10/22 Utah W 34-10 26 84 3.2 17 1 0 0 0.0 0 0
10/29 @UCLA L 31-14 15 74 4.9 15 1 0 0 0.0 0 0
11/5 Washington State W 30-7 23 138 6.0 22 1 0 0 0.0 0 0
11/12 Oregon State W 23-6 23 190 8.3 56 1 0 0 0.0 0 0
11/19 @Stanford L 31-28 21 96 4.6 13 0 0 0 0.0 0 0
11/25 @Arizona State W 47-38 21 145 6.9 26 1 0 0 0.0 0 0

A few stinkers in there (Utah???), but man that's looking good. I'm loving those OSU numbers. Overall he had a very solid season:

2011 232 1270 5.5 56 9 6 33 5.5 22 0

5.5 avg is a bit lower than what Cal fans have come to expect from a Gould coached RB these past many years, but it is nothing to sneeze at.

HydroTech: I actually don't think the Utah game is really a stinker. What's important about that game was that he carried the ball 26 times. So many Cal fans had doubts at the beginning of this season -- for whatever reason -- that Isi couldn't be an every down back. But in 7 games this season he carried the ball over 20 times. And get this, the most carries Marshawn Lynch had in a season was 223; Jahvid Best was 191. Sofele eclipsed both of them big time with 232 carries. There is no doubting it any more, Sofele is an every down back -- and more so than Best ever was.

TwistNHook: That's true HydroTech. Best was like a Ferrari that could hit 140 mph, but needed to spend some time in the shop.

The thing that was different was that Best always had somebody to spot him (namely Vereen). C.J. Anderson came on strong at the end of the year, but for most of the season, it was Isi doing the lion's share of the work.

Berkelium97: I am really impressed with the strides Isi made this season. Early in the year, I thought he had found his role as a reliable, if unspectacular, running back. He did enough to pile up some yards in any given game, but rarely exceed the 100-yard mark. He was an okay runner and his vision wasn't that great. Early in the season, there were several plays where Isi had room to run but he simply did not hit the right hole. The most famous example was his third down run on the Bears' final goal line series against Washington. He should have followed Kapp around the corner, past Miller who sealed the edge with a great block. Kapp would have picked up any stray defenders and Isi would have found the end zone. Instead, Isi cut inside too soon and was stopped short.

Wow, has he changed. While the O-line also improved over the season, Isi's development has helped turn the run game from good to great. He now hits the hole with authority and his vision has improved tremendously. His legs never stop churning and on many occasions he has turned a big loss of yards into something positive. It really says something that the 5'8, 190lb Sofele knocked out multiple defenders this season. He has turned into the bowling ball Mike Mohamed described him as in the summer of 2010. Now that he's better at getting himself into space, he can make great use of his elusiveness in open space. I'm hoping next season we see more long runs from him as he continues to improve.

OhioBear: For all the angst a lot of our fanbase felt about the running back position, we look to be in pretty good shape right now heading to the bowl game and into next season. Isi Sofele was much maligned at the start of the season and even as the season progressed, but he must be given his due as a guy who might actually fit nicely into the Igber-Echemandu-Arrington-

Lynch-Forsett-Best-Vereen progression of running backs during the Jeff Tedford era. Sofele's 1,266 yards is the 6th highest single-season total in Cal history. (If he gains 91 yards in the Holiday Bowl, it will be the 5th-highest.) And as he showed over the final four games of the season, Sofele can pack quite the punch at the end of runs -- the stiff arm and the lowering of his shoulder are great weapons on Isi's arsenal of finishing runs.

C.J. Anderson has proved to be a nice complement. We saw flashes of what he could give us from a power-running perspective early in the season and then saw his production drop off considerably during the middle part of the season. But in the last few weeks of the season, we saw CJA really emerge. We have even seen what he can do as a pass receiver out of the backfield, which is a nice wrinkle for us to have. Cal had three running backs -- Sofele, CJA, and Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson -- who can be legitimate pass-catching options.

We all knew that Ron Gould is a great running backs coach and that Cal is very lucky to have him. This year made that even more clear.
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