For the second straight year, Cal lost one of its top running backs midway through the season. Last time around it was Daniel Lasco, who muddled through 2015 with the lingering effects of a hip injury. This year’s victim would be Vic Enwere, who broke his foot in the nightmarish game against Oregon State and missed the remainder of the season. The Bears were able to rebound without too much difficulty, however, as upperclassmen Khalfani Muhammad and Tre Watson took on expanded roles in Vic’s absence.
As we’ve come to expect from the Bear Raid scheme, Cal finished in the bottom half of the Pac-12 in rushing yardage. This year’s total of 1852 yards was a tick down from last year’s 1987, but the Bears still improved from 11th to 9th in the conference, vaulting over ASU and UCLA. The Bears also made the third-fewest rushing attempts in the conference, ahead of only UCLA and WSU.
#29 Khalfani Muhammad
Though it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention among Cal fans, Khalfani Muhammad’s 2016 season was a strong performance from a guy who, not that long ago, faced an uncertain future with the team. He sat out spring practice in 2015 to run track and soon fell to fourth on the depth chart. But the speedy Muhammad catapulted himself back into the conversation with a strong junior campaign and now finishes his senior year as the Bears’ back-to-back leading rusher. Known mostly for his quickness, he also demonstrated impressive strength and toughness to extend his runs. He stepped up immediately after Vic Enwere’s injury, posting 165 rushing yards and a touchdown against Oregon State and an additional 148 in the win over Oregon. Khalfani also finished his Cal career on a strong note, gashing UCLA for 116 yards in his final game. His total yardage was good for 10th in the Pac-12.
#5 Tre Watson
Junior Tre Watson also had a strong 2016 campaign, proving himself to be Cal’s best all-around back by making frequent contributions in the passing game. Though his efficiency was down from last year (5.7 ypc in 2015 to 5.0 in 2016), he turned an additional 50-odd carries into a career-best 709 yards. Watson was a model of offensive balance, rushing for four touchdowns and catching four more. Only Chad Hansen and Demetris Robertson had more receiving TDs for the Bears. Like Khalfani, Tre had his best games against the Oregon schools, rushing for 100+ and adding two scores in each game.
#23 Vic Enwere
How different would Cal’s season be if power back Vic Enwere had been able to stay healthy? He was off to a strong start before his injury, highlighted by a 110-yard, 2TD performance against Texas. Of course, he did something else in that Texas game that was not especially good, but I suspect that was a one-off occurrence. It’s included in the video below, in case you want to relive the communal heart attack. Pending the status of his foot, Vic and Tre will be back to lead the charge as seniors in 2017.
#99 Malik McMorris
No discussion of Cal running backs would be complete without new fan favorite Malik McMorris. Though the sophomore’s primary role was as a blocking fullback, and though his four total rushing yards won’t earn him any conference honors, McMorris still found plenty of ways to contribute in 2016. He had a massive hit and forced fumble against Washington, a 20-yard reception against Stanford, and a leaping touchdown against UCLA. Far be it from me to tell Sonny Dykes how to do his job, but I’m pretty sure Malik should touch the ball on every play.