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Projecting Shane Vereen's 2010 Season: Can He Produce Like Justin Forsett?

Shane Vereen shouldered the load much of the final third of the season. Can he shoulder the load in 2010? (via <a href="">Monica's Dad</a>)
Shane Vereen shouldered the load much of the final third of the season. Can he shoulder the load in 2010? (via Monica's Dad)

The biggest parallel we could find for Vereen's career at Cal is Forsett's. Like Vereen, Forsett had to take over for a marquee running back after being the second option two years running. Like Vereen, there were doubts whether Forsett could handle being the big running man on campus. Like Vereen, Forsett has a lot of unproven talent lined up behind him that might not see that many carries due to their inexperience. Like Vereen, Forsett is also a bit more elusive between the tackles, slipping out of the reach of defenders and picking up extra yardage where it didn't look possible.

So, the question becomes this: Can Shane Vereen handle this formidable situation and produce at a similiar rate as his counterpart tailback? Stat-master Berkelium97 breaks down the numbers after the jump.

Make your predictions on Shane Vereen's 2010 season. Will he be forced to carry the load?

Let's examine Forsett's stats 2005 to 2007, courtesy of cfbstats:

Yr Pos G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
SO RB 12 132 999 7.57 6 11.00 83.25
JR RB 13 119 626 5.26 4 9.15 48.15
SR RB 13 305 1546 5.07 15 23.46 118.92

Now Vereen's freshman and sophomore numbers (courtesy of cfbstats).

Yr Pos G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
FR RB 13 142 715 5.04 4 10.92 55.00
SO RB 13 183 952 5.20 12 14.08 73.23

Now the parallels between Vereen and Forsett are more similar than you might think. Other than the touchdowns, both had promising freshman campaigns backing up dynamic starters. Both saw significant drawbacks in their second season as those starters evolved into even better players. The only reason Vereen's carries increased as opposed as to Forsett's in the second season is because of Best's injury (before the injury Vereen had only carried for 391 yards all season long).

The situations are a little different. Cal's receivers were better and the game rotated around the pass rather than the run (Cal never passed more than they did in 2007). Although Cal should have a better passing situation in year's past, the focus of the offense should be multi-pronged, with the run attack likely to be aimed at first.

How many carries of those will be Shane? Just like in 2007, no real second man has emerged. Best and Montgomery both competed for time but Forsett was the rock; Sofele, Yarnway and Deboskie-Johnson all have their merits, but it's difficult to see any of them emerging as definitively better than the other. If there's no predominant second option, that would mean more carries for Shane.

"I want to show I don't necessarily want to come off the field," he said. "If I have to run the ball 30 times a game, I'll do it. It was important for the team and myself to know I actually can do it."

One thing that does give you hope? Despite having Alex Mack in front of him, Forsett's offensive line wasn't that great, often getting beaten at the point of attack by faster and stronger Pac-10 defenses. Vereen's offensive line was a mess last season, but with four starters returning, they should be better than they were last season.

Now, without further adieu, here's Berkelium's projection.

1512/1638 yds, 16/17TDs. ~5.25ypc, ~126ypg, ~288/312 carries.

Seems like a lot of yards, but this is contingent on the idea that no Golden Bear wins the second spot and produces on a consistent basis. Perhaps if the offensive line improves a lot or a second running back makes his mark, the yards per carry could also increase sharply. This would be a pretty nice season for Shane, one that could get him the notice to graduate early.

In whatever case does emerge, you've still got to feel that we're in good hands with Shane.