Cal Football - Remembering the Seniors: Isi Sofele

Ezra Shaw

After Shane Vereen finished his time at Cal it wasn't clear if Isi would be able to maintain the line of great RB's that was in place. But Isi stepped up big time and proved that he could not only be the feature back, but that he'd be a darn good one as well. So we ask you, what are your memories of Isi Sofele?

TheScientist019: Following Shane Vereen (who followed Best, who followed Forsett, who followed Lynch, etc.) was an unenviable task and I remember a lot of doubters on the internets regarding Sofele. He was unproven and undersized—how the heck was he going to be able to live up to those standards? Well, in Gould I trust (trusted?) and Sofele delivered with an overlooked and underrated 2011 season, rushing for over 1300 yards. His production dropped a bit in 2012 due to splitting snaps and O-line woes, but I'll always fondly remember his ability to silence the critics and his fearless ferocity in attacking blitzing linebackers when he was in pass protection.

Solarise: Isi does greatest damage on the edges following blocks and finding gaps. He is a capable receiver but was not heavily utilized in the slot or from the backfield. For some odd reason Isi's strength in the weight room and against blitzing linebackers never did translate into going through trash in the middle. Too often I witnessed tackles against him that had me thinking, shoot, Beast Mode/Best/Vereen would've taken that to the house. I know my sentiment was unfair. After all, Isi grinded out a 1,000 yd season after Vereen's departure. I can't help but root for him carry after carry. Isi is the underdog who keeps his legs pumping and would never quit. He's Rudy in Cal Blue & Gold.

PS - there was an epic Isi stiff arm last season. Does anyone remember and have that pic?

Isi Sofele Highlights (via Viliami Poleo)

BlueandGold15: It wasn't his highest rushing total - 190 yards against Oregon State was - but for me, his signature performance came against Oregon in 2011. I will always, always wonder why we didn't give it to him more that night, when he averaged damn near 10 yards a carry - and before it got away from us, his effectiveness on the ground was why we led by one at halftime. He followed that up with a strong performance against them a year later, too. Maybe he just doesn't like poultry.

I will admit that I was one of those aforementioned doubters, thinking that he was too small to really be effective, not fast enough to compensate - and at the very least, not nearly as talented as any of the backs who preceded him. While he still was a step below the Bests, Lynches, and Forsetts, I was happy to be proven wrong about my initial judgment - Isi was an unexpected delight in the 2011 season, and quite capable overall.

JahvidKnowsBest: I always loved Isi because of how hard he ran. He never avoided contact, and had one of the nastiest stiff arms I've ever seen (despite not being very big at all). I think my favorite Isi moment would have to be the Oregon State game last year. He had a career high day, rushing for close to 200 yards. Oregon State couldn't do anything to stop him, and he definitely looked like the best player on the field that day.

Another favorite moment of mine was his hurdle against Oregon last year. We were keeping it close with those guys in the first half, and largely because Isi was able to pick up first downs for us. On one particular run to the outside he hurdled a would-be tackler and gained an extra five years, keeping the drive alive. If we had more consistent quarterback play that game, the score would not have been so lopsided.

Cal Football: Interview with Isi Sofele (3/14/13) (via calathletics)

Kodiak: I remember that a lot of people were down on Sofele before his junior year because he didn't have the same sizzle as previous Cal backs. And then all he did was win everyone over with his heart and toughness. I remember watching him run over defenders against Oregon. The team may have eventually lost that game, but it wasn't because Sofele didn't give everything. I also remember him singlehandedly destroy Oregon State. If not for holding penalties, he probably had another 100 yards and a couple of scores. Still probably pound for pound the best pass-blocking back we've had in a long time. Do wish he had held onto the ball better. Hard to knock him for not being more productive because of our awful passing attack. Consider that he had 1000 yards against teams who were perpetually stacked against the run, behind the worse Olines in the Tedford era, and with an utterly unreliable QB. I remember plenty of years where we would have loved to have a back remotely close to Sofele's ability.

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