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Cal Football: A Golden Spotlight on CJ Anderson vs. the UW Huskies

CJ Scores!
CJ Scores!

Nothing's sexier than than the backup QB...unless it's the backup RB. Many Cal fans have expressed a strong preference for Juco transfer CJ Anderson to see more carries and perhaps even supplant Isi Sofele as the starting tailback. Other fans have expressed the opinion that the run-blocking from the Oline, TEs, and FBs is more important than who actually totes the rock.

CJ's line for Cal vs. UW was:

7 carries, 9 yards, 1.3 yards per carry

1 catch, 1 yard.

But do the stats tell the whole story? Let's take a closer look at his carries:

Carry #1: Cal has 21 personnel.(two backs, 1 TE, 2 WR) UW has seven in the box with both safeties playing relatively deep.


It's an outside zone run to the weakside. (away from the side with the TE) LT Mitchell Schwartz pulls. FB Kapp goes out as a lead blocker. Jones tries to block the CB, but loses leverage.


Galas goes to the 2nd level. MSG and Cheadle are supposed to block down and seal the edge, but one of their men pushes through. Schwartz can't get in front of the play to engage the LB. The CB gets by Jones.


Penetration forces CJ to stop and try to break outside. Kapp is left to block two guys. Cheadle is supposed to block one of the LBs.


Both Kapp and Cheadle miss their blocks. Three UW defenders have a shot at CJ.


CJ tries to spin, but has nowhere to go. Despite a power-run formation against 7 in the box, the result is a 2 yard loss.


Carry#2: Cal has 22 personnel.(2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) UW has eight in the box, and looks to be playing Cover One Zone with one safety deep and one cheating up.


Hagan goes in motion and shifts the formation from strong left to balanced. (one tight end on both sides)


It's an outside zone run to the right. Both Schwartz and Schwenke pull. Hagan and MSG are supposed to seal the edge.


MSG can't quite get outside far enough and CJ decides to cut back inside instead of trying to outrun the UW defender towards the sideline. This might be a missed read by CJ - there was a lot of open space on the edge and it appears that's where the play was designed to go. Perhaps a faster back could have gotten outside. Hagan also misses his block.


CJ moves inside MSG and Kapp, but the UW defender has a shot at him.


CJ manages to elude the first defender, but Cheadle also loses leverage. Trapped between two Huskies, he goes down for no gain.


Carry #3: Cal has 21 personnel (two RB, 1 TE). UW looks to be in Cover 1. Seven in the box, one safety starting to move up, 5 man front.


It's an outside zone run to the weakside. (away from the TE) The line surges to the right. Miller is supposed to block down to the left.


Miller misses his block. Either the Cal interior linemen let guys through, or the UW defenders shoot the gap.


Kapp isn't able to get in front of the play. CJ puts his head down and manages to power forward for two yards.


Carry #4: Cal has an extra lineman lined up as a tight end, two standard tight ends, and a full back. UW has their goal line package in.


Hagan goes into motion looking like he's shifting the strength of the formation to the right.


But Hagan turns around and shifts back to his original stance.


It's a strong-side power run off-tackle.(Blast) Miller misses his block and allows penetration into the backfield. Tyndall has to help Miller.


Two UW defenders penetrate from the middle. Their OLB (#10, Timu) comes flying into the gap and smacks CJ.


CJ shrugs off the first tackle and pushes towards the goal line. But, there are enough defenders around to drag him down after a one yard gain.


Carry #5: Cal is still in their power formation with 3 TE, 2 RB. UW answers with their goal line package.


Hagan goes in motion again...


...and again, shifts back to his original position.


It's the same off-tackle power run.(Blast) But this time, Miller is able to seal his guy. Tyndall still blocks into the line instead of picking up the OLB (Timu).


CJ is left one on one with the UW linebacker. They both get low...


...And CJ runs him over. Touchdown Bears!


Carry #6: Cal has their 21 personnel (two RBs, one TE) in a modified pistol formation with the FB as a wing. UW looks to be in Cover One with 8 in the box, one safety deep, and a five man front.


It's a high snap, but Maynard catches it. He runs the zone-read to the right.


The line surges to the right, and Schwartz pulls. The UW DE(58) is "read" and left unblocked. He holds his position, so Maynard hands it to CJ.


Schwartz is not quite ble to get to his guy in time and CJ decides to cut back inside instead of stretching it to the outside. This might be another missed read by CJ. It is debatable whether a faster back would have made it to the edge.


The unblocked UW DE is waiting inside. CJ isn't able to juke him or run him over. It's a gain of one.


Not pictured: Carry #7 (because I couldn't find it during the re-watch) and Reception #1 (tackled immediately for a 1 yd gain).

Summary: CJ has a nice blend of power and agility. I like his ability to either make the first guy miss, or to manufacture yards after contact. But, he's not going to consistently make something out of nothing if there are no holes to run through. The blast play is clearly one of his strengths. He didn't have the same success running the outside zone for a variety of reasons. When I reviewed all of the negative yardage or no-gain runs for Sofele, it was always the same issue; at least one Cal player missed a block. The goal line issue has already been beaten to death. Before we start pointing fingers at the tailbacks, it's the big-picture execution of our run-blocking (Oline + TE + FB + WRs) that needs closer scrutiny.

Final Thoughts:

1) For those wondering why we didn't send more pressure at Price, we actually did blitz (rush at least 5) on 8/20 first plays. If you count the stunting and zone blitzing, we rushed the passer more than half the time. Here are the results for just those 5+ man blitzes:

28yd Pass complete.
2 yd rush.
44yd pass complete.
0 yd rush.
9 yard inside rush.
Incomplete pass.
14 yard outside rush. (blitz was inside)
2 yard weakside rush for TD. (blitz was strongside)

The one time we forced them to punt in the first quarter? We rushed just four and played coverage. Without a game-changer like Cam Jordan, we're forced to rely on scheme to get guys free runs at the QB. Sadly enough, we're still not getting there.

2) Whiteside and McCain played a significant number of snaps and flashed the ability to pressure the QB. They also had their growing pains...There was blown coverage on the pass to the UW TE where he rumbled/spun for a TD and a positioning error on the screen pass for a TD. Even so, I'm glad to see them getting playing time. I'd rather live with some mistakes if it means that we can see some of their potential sooner rather than later.

3) Our starting CBs actually had a decent game. In particular, Anthony bounced back and was very solid in run support. UW did most of their damage against our nickel back (Hill) and safeties. (Cattouse and Campbell) On many of those infuriating 3rd and long completions, it was a combination of an impotent pass rush combined with a breakdown in coverage by either Hill, Cattouse, or Campbell. Instead of playing an extra cornerback, Coach Pendergast has been sliding either Cattouse or Campbell over to cover the slot. From an experience standpoint, it makes sense to go with a senior instead of a true frosh, but our seniors just aren't getting it done. For an aggressive scheme like Coach P's to work, we really need to have outstanding safety play. Conte disguised a lot of breakdowns last year with a breakout campaign. So far, our safeties look confused, hesitant, and a step slow.

Unless our pass rush and safety play improve, expect our D to get lit up by...well, just about everyone.

4) For those grumbling about "why do we always run up in the middle on 1st down?" It's a bit misleading - Some of those runs looked to be deliberate to set up play-action or zone-reads. Some were off-tackle runs that were turned inside due to poor blocking/penetration. And some were dictated by field position. Because of poor returns, penalties, or both, we started several drives within our 20 and those runs were "get some breathing room" types of plays.

5) What happened to the tight end? It's unfortunate, but Anthony Miller really isn't moving very well. He misses more than his share of blocks and has struggled getting off the line into his patterns. Hagan might be more of a receiving threat, but he's often out-weighed and out-physical'd at the point of attack. I wonder if Clay were eligible if we might use more 4 WR sets for a true spread attack. UW was easily able to single-cover Miller and still have either an LB or a S free to double our WRs in the second half.

Nothing like recovering from a tough loss with prime-time match-ups against Oregon and 'sc. I suspect our guys will be quite busy during the bye week. Here's hoping the coaches have some answers. Go Bears!