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Cal Running Backs Discussion: Is Isi Sofele Ready To Carry The Load?

Isi Sofele needs to be prepared to lead the Bears rush attack next season.
Isi Sofele needs to be prepared to lead the Bears rush attack next season.

We looked at Shane Vereen last week; today, it's all about the next generation.

Isi Sofele. A lot of people seem to not like him for whatever reason (he's too small he's too small!). What do you think? If necessary, would you be ready for him to be the feature back next season?

Kodiak: He'll do fine provided we have the O-line to block for him, and the offense avoids being one-dimensional.  Look at Jacquizz Rodgers.  He was a stud in 2009 playing with a senior quarterback, great Oline, and his All-American wide receiver brother outside.  This year...he has none of the above and has looked pretty mortal. (except when running through us - sigh)

I suppose you could ask if Sofele didn't get as many carries as previous backups because Gould has questions about his ability, or because Shane is just that good. 

I would not be surprised if Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson, or Dasarte Yarnway seize the starting job, but Sofele has the edge on all of them because he's been our best back at blitz pickup.  He might be small, but he gets great leverage and position.  That's one of the reasons Justin Forsett got so much time as a backup - he was one of the best pass pro blockers from the tailback position that we've ever had.

Ohio Bear: I think it's unfair that so many have piled onto Isi Sofele. We all recognize that our O-line is not stellar. So why are we throwing Isi under the bus for not looking particularly good running behind it? There is no question in my mind that Isi has some ability. Will he be the next Justin Forsett? I don't know, but I'd sure as heck like to see how he does behind a competent line. If he wins the starting job, I'm fine with him being the feature back.

solarise:  Isi performed admirably at times. His lateral running style stretches the D. I also like how he finishes off runs despite of his diminutive size. He has the heart and strength to take on LBs and pick up blitzes. Overall I'm happy w/ Isi's progress, except for that botched handoff to Keenan Allen in the Crazy Formation against Washington. Huge glaring mistake.

I am not completely sure about Isi as the featured back next year. The competition should be fierce but I am confident that Isi will certainly emerge as one of our two backs for 2011.

Berkelium97: I like Isi.  He's shifty and tough to take down.  For his size, he's surprisingly good at picking up pass-rushers.  We haven't seen him very involved in the passing game (which is a staple for our running backs in recent years), but with next year's talent at receiver that may not be an issue.  I think he certainly has potential to be the feature back, but I would not be surprised if we return to a running game more like what we had in 08 and 09.  Isi will get about 17-20 carries per game and his replacement will receive about 10 per game.

Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and Dasarte Yarnway fell out of the rotation and got injured. Will either be a major contributor, or will Gould and Tedford turn to young Trajuan Briggs or even one of the true freshmen?

Kodiak: CDJ needs to get healthy and stay healthy.  Dasarte needs to take care of the ball and learn to run less upright.  Both of them need to show that they know how to block in pass pro.  Briggs was rumored to be Beast Mode 2.0.  I guess we'll see. 

Ohio Bear: I've liked the little I've seen from Deboskie-Johnson. He's athletic and I like his slashing running style. I expect him to be a major contributor if healthy. Between Yarnway and Briggs, I'd expect that we see one of those in the mix for carries, too.

solarise: I think Covaughn & Dasarte are the front runners @ the moment to complement Isi. If it weren't for the fumbles & injury I think Dasarte would've stood out more this year w/ his north-south running style. I will mention though that both Covaughn & Dasarte are untested in their pass catching and blocking. If either wants to become Cal's feature back in 2011 then they must win the coaches' trust in all aspects of the game.

Berkelium97: In Gould We Trust.  I've heard great things about Yarnway and Briggs and I've seen some good things from DeBo.  Regardless of what happens, Gould will churn out another fantastic RB to complement the featured back.  I have no doubt that one of these guys will step up and be impressive.

Fullback play. Not sure how many people pay attention but any thoughts?

Kodiak: Fullback was really shaky early in the year with Eric Stevens, Will Kapp, and John Tyndall playing it by committee.  Stevens and Kapp emerged as our 1-2 answer there.  They still alternated later in the year with Stevens getting the majority of the snaps.  Stevens showed a lot of improvement.  He's got some wheels, is a nice receiving threat out of the backfield, and is physical enough to actually pop guys and drive them back.  Kapp usually has to resort to a cut block.  Since Stevens was just a soph this year, I think we're in decent shape.  However, like we were when Holley was the FB, depth is a concern.

Ohio Bear:  Sadly, my enduring memories of fullback play this season are (1) a missed block my Stevens in the Colorado game and (2) some dropped passes in the flat.

solarise: Stevens improved by the end of the season. Kapp was mainly used as a pass-catching threat because of Steven's hand injury later in the season. Kapp was also the 3rd string RB after Covaughn & Dasarte's season-ending injuries because Tedford liked Kapp's versatility. In 2011 Stevens will probably start again at FB while we will see mainly see Kapp on special teams.

Berkelium97: I really don't remember much about them this season.  I've been too busy this year to re-watch any of the games so I haven't been able to watch parts of the game I don't pay as much attention to when I watch it live (like FB play).  At least they're young, so they time to improve over the next couple years, though depth is an issue if we lose one to injury.