I'm on record in believing Shane Vereen will succeed in the pros, and a lot of that has to do with the classical training Ron Gould has given him. But some of his skills are intuitive and showcase the ferocity he can play with given an adverse situation. Considering the next level will place him in plenty of areas where he'll have to adapt to his surroundings, he'll have plenty of opportunities to show his quality.
At Cal, Shane Vereen was all about survival of the fittest.
Shane's best runs often came when he had to make something happen. By himself, that is.
Here is one of Vereen's most impressive runs of the season against UCLA. This is the classical Cal power run play, where right guard Brian Schwenke pulls to take out the inside linebacker, while the rest of the backside linemen seal off the right defenders so Vereen can attack the inside. In the ideal situation, there'd be one big hole created up the middle, and Shane would simply walk into the end zone for a score.
Steve Marshall's offensive lines weren't big believers in creating ideal situations. They specialized in making Vereen's job very, very difficult.
Center Dominic Galas can't seal off his man and blows up the inside hole, and to compound matters, playside tight end Anthony Miller gets pushed back after a UCLA defender pushes his man forward into him. That leaves Vereen with no hole to work with, and very little in terms of cutback lanes.
But Shane was up to the task. A bounceback, a stiff-arm of Aaron Hester, and an extension to the pylonlater, he's in the end zone. It takes toughness to make something out of nothing. I predict we'll be seeing Shane do something like this very soon when his O-line fouls up an assignment. He does have a lot of practice in that.
Some more intrinsic toughness is shown here in the Cal-Oregon game. Vereen does a good job of getting low as he prepares for contact with the tackle; when he gets wrapped up, he ends up falling forward rather than gets pushed backwards. Again, inability to maintain blocks by his teammates (particularly Spencer Ladner) prevents a touchdown, but Vereen's knack for churning out extra yards after contact (even after tackle) is a valuable asset, and ends up setting him up for a TD on the next down.
The problem that Jahvid Best encountered in both the collegiate and in the professional level is that he's often too quick for his linemen, and can burst through the line of scrimmage a little too quickly before his blockers have time to set things up. That leads to a lot of high variance runs, where he can either run straight into blockers who aren't quite yet set, or picks up a straight 50-60 yards. That sort of running is exciting, but volatile, and is not easily reliable against tougher defenses.
This isn't the case with Vereen. Shane is a very patient runner and could wait quite awhile for his offensive line to execute blocks before attacking the hole. While it can often be a vice to be too patient (since unblocked defenders will gobble him up or blockers will eventually), it's clear Vereen does seem to have a sense of when to attack when the play is developing in his favor. In the ASU clip above, Vereen takes the snap from Wildcat, creeps forward toward the line of scrimmage, and when he's sure that his blocks are ready, hits the hole and walks in easily.
Cal Oregon Shane Vereen Touchdown.wmv (via avinashkunnath)
On the lone Cal offensive touchdown against Oregon, Vereen again displays this patience. He doesn't hit the hole full-speed, instead jerking from side-to-side in his movement, reaching his arm out to get leverage, then curves toward the outside of his blocker, and dives forward for the score. This methodical approach to running the football can give Vereen an advantage in short-yardage/goal-line situations, since he can exploit the aggressiveness of defenders, wait for them to make a mistake or overrun their assignments, then be in poor position to deny him when he's ready to chug ahead.
While Vereen's patience did cost him a few times when his offensive line wasn't ready to step up, it pays off for him a lot, and should be salient for him in the future when he does have solid blockers at all positions.
As will the ability to make runs like the one above.
Vereen sometimes has to do the impossible to pick up yards. Watch him in the USC game cut away from THREE unblocked Trojans to bounce to the outside, break the tackle of the unblocked defensive back rushing in from the backside, then cut back and elude another defender rushing in. It was Cal's best offensive play of an otherwise dreadful showing in Los Angeles, and Vereen had to do it all with his shifty and elusive running style.
Pass-catching is part of Vereen's arsenal too, and he's proven he can catch a variety of difficult passes. The fade route is one of the most popular plays in the NFL, and Vereen has shown the ability to come out of the backfield and execute this play. Against Colorado, he used his speed to take advantage of a mismatch down the sideline when running a mini-wheel to the right sideline, then made a great adjustment to come back to the throw and catch it off his back shoulder.
The only thing Vereen might have to improve is his distance between himself and the sideline, because in the NFL that play would be an incompletion. Generally you want at least five yards to give yourself the space needed to make a clean catch and avoid getting hit up by the defending linebacker. But Shane's ability to adjust and make the catch with limited real estate reflects quite well.
These are some of the many components of Shane Vereen's game that will serve him well as a pro.
For more Xs and Os on Shane, check out our breakdown of his first touchdown run against Nevada and his first touchdown run against ASU.