Golden Recruiting Wire: Runningbacks

Bob Stanton-US PRESSWIRE

With two of our main running backs out due to injury during the Spring, will Khalfani Muhammad be asked to carry a heavier load than previously expected come Fall?

Dykes already said in his signing day press conference that he could see Khalfani Muhammad getting significant playing time in 2013. Although Dykes may have been trying to build some signing day buzz here, I believe that Muhammad could very realistically be thrown into the rotation early on.

Here's his senior year tape. Dudes got some serious burners.


Here are also some pretty sweet track videos to give you a better idea of how fast this guy really is.


The 2012 CIF State Championship Meet:


For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that Muhammad will be charted as the 3rd running back behind Lasco and Bigelow, and I think that's a fairly reasonable assumption based on what we saw during the Spring.

Bigelow and Lasco: By all means, we all are hoping that Bigelow will be the man next year. He is easily one of the most explosive players in the country, and was one of the few bright spots for the Bears on offense last year (when he got the ball). Unfortunately Bigelow's history of injury leaves me with some worry. Similarly, Daniel Lasco is a guy who possesses tremendous talent--some have even said that he may be the best running back in Cal's stable. Although Lasco did show signs of a fumbling issue last year, I expect him to have a break out year in 2013. Hopefully these two backs can form an effective tandem, similar to Best and Vereen.

So with these two studs already in the rotation, where will Muhammad fit into the Bears game plan next year?

Depth: Obviously, Muhammad provides much needed depth to an already banged up running back stable. It's a shame that Dykes wasn't able to land another explosive running back recruit to give us a bit more cushion. If either Bigelow or Lasco goes down, Muhammad would likely be given significant carries in 2013. Obviously, my fingers are crossed that this situation doesn't occur, but with Bigelow's history of injuries, it is a definite possibility.

Special Teams: I think Muhammad will be a special teams guy from the get go. With his speed, he would be a great guy to return kicks, and perhaps even punts. Remember Muhammad is a state champion in track, and may end up being one of the fastest guys on the Cal roster next Fall. He could also be used as a gunner on punts and kick offs, similar to what Jahvid Best used to do during his freshmen campaign. If Muhammad was able to return kicks, this would probably relieve Bigelow of his kick return duties and allow him to solely focus on carrying the ball on offense. Personally, I think having Bigelow return kicks next year is too risky considering how much we are going to need him to be healthy on offense.

Multiple Running Back Formations: We saw some signs of this during the Spring. Dykes definitely likes to use multi-back sets, most notably the "Diamond" formation, as well as that set with a staggered RB/FB combination. Now, the diamond formation can be run with a true tailback in the back, and two larger FB/H Back guys (such as Lucas Gingold or Jacob Wark) offset in front of the running back and adjacent to the quarterback. This beefier set allows the offense to run a lot of power running plays, and also is a good set to run play action out of since the receivers on the outside are guaranteed to have one on one coverage.


However, this set can also be run with 3 true running backs. For example, Dykes could have Bigelow and Lasco line up on either side of the quarterback, with Muhammad in the farthest back position. I think this could be absolutely deadly if utilized. With all of this extra speed, the Bears would probably shy away from running any power running plays (it would not be as effective to use Lasco and Bigs as blockers). However, this set would open the Bears up to a lot of option opportunities and other sorts of misdirection. Let's examine a few schools who have used sets similar to this in the past.

Check out what Oklahoma did with their diamond formation last year against OK State.


There are a ton of options OK has in running this. Notice how they are using two true running backs (Murray and Finch), as well as one bigger, H-back in no. 33. Although they aren't using this formation to run the option, they are still using this formation to create misdirection on their running plays. On the dives up the middle to Finch, OK often times has Murray going to the outside faking a sweep. I could very much see Muhammad playing a role similar to Finch in this formation; he would be an effective quick hitting back, who could also be used as an effective pass catcher out in the flat.

Oregon ran a similar formation in their national championship game, but implemented a motion back (they still had 3 running backs in the backfield though at the snap of the ball). This tape is a good example of what an option quarterback can do with this sort of set. Just look at the various options Oregon utilizes in running this formation. Auburn is able to cover this set because they have a stellar defense, but they do eventually get burned on the play action for a big gain.



Another team to watch that utilizes this set is West Virginia, whose coach Dana Holgorsen created the formation while he was at OK State. Unfortunately I couldn't find any good film of WVU in this set.

Conclusion: Bigelow and Lasco will be seeing the bulk of the carries (barring any injury) in the main running sets; I think their success and ability to provide the Cal offense with a consistent running attack will be instrumental in us having a winning season next year. However, Muhammad-being a true speedster-will not be left out of the mix. Look for him to be a mainstay on special teams, while also being featured in some of Dykes more exotic sets. I for one am very excited to see what Dykes can come up with given all the speed he has in his backfield.

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