Could Justin Forsett Become a Pete Carroll Pleasant Surprise?

Bill HareCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2010

ST. LOUIS - NOVEMBER 29:  Justin Forsett #20 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball for yardage against the St. Louis Rams during their NFL game at Edward Jones Dome on November 29, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Seahawks defeated the Rams 27-17.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Justin Forsett is a running back who could aid Pete Carroll in one of two ways in the coach’s first season at the Seattle Seahawks' helm.

Forsett stood in the shadows as backup to former Notre Dame stalwart Julius Jones last season. With Pete Carroll known at USC, where standout running backs were often plentiful, for a running back by committee process when talent was at a bullish level.

Former Cal Bear product Forsett could operate as part of such a committee or, alternatively, he could break through and become the main man.

This is the type of activity that the competition master in Pete Carroll loves to see, great athletes seeking to top each other to reach premier status.

Last weekend, as Carroll opened camp at Seattle’s Renton training facility, the coach was asked about his system where he considers each week a new competition phase for players seeking to break free and become starters.

The question put to Carroll was that of whether a perpetual competition-oriented system such as what he was famous for operating at USC would make players feel happy, meaning comfortable.

The coach’s quick response was that he was not seeking to make players happy but to put them into a competitive framework where the team would be the ultimate winner.

Just as the competition factor weighed heavily into Carroll’s thinking when recruiting at the college level at USC, this same element was assuredly factored into his thinking and that of general manager John Schneider when evaluating draft prospects.

So here stands Justin Forsett, someone who so often in his collegiate and pro careers stood in shadows, but short shadows, where he was not that far from becoming main man, which he did on some occasions.

Here this Jeff Tedford Cal Bear product stands in a competitive situation to which he is accustomed. The key issue is how will he fare this season within the Carroll competition-oriented system?

Forsett, who was born in Lakeland, Fla., moved to Texas in his high school sophomore season and promptly rewrote the record book at Grace Preparatory Academy. His final two seasons, he racked up 63 touchdowns and gained nearly 5,000 yards.

He was close to getting a scholarship offer at Notre Dame but was supposedly passed up because the Irish were looking for a taller running back. Texas also expressed interest as well, but the Longhorns were said to have backed off for the same reason.

Along came Jeff Tedford at Cal, an astute running back analyst. Forsett stands at 5'8". This did not frighten Tedford off, no doubt knowing that Barry Sanders stood at 5'8" and Emmitt Smith at 5'9". Together, they achieved 18 NFL Pro Bowl appearances.

Forsett ran into stiff competition at Cal from Marshawn Lynch, who ultimately became a Heisman Trophy candidate until sidelined by an injury. When Lynch became periodically injured Forsett filled in admirably.

In his sophomore season there was a 235 yard effort against New Mexico State that was the fourth highest single game rushing effort in Cal’s long and storied history.

During Forsett’s junior season, as he continued backing up Pac 10 running sensation Lynch, he filled in admirably once more when the star was injured. He chalked up 100 yard plus efforts against Oregon and in Cal’s rout of Texas A&M in the 2006 Holiday Bowl.

In Forsett’s senior campaign he became main man and achieved imposing figures, rushing for 1,546 yards on 305 carries with 15 touchdowns. He opened the season with a sterling 156 yard effort against Tennessee.

Forsett’s 15 touchdowns led all Pac-10 rushers. His 1,546 rushing yardage parked him in second spot behind Oregon tailback Jonathan Stewart.

He was selected to the All-Pac 10 first team and ended his college career with a 140 yard, two touchdown effort in a 42-36 Cal victory over Air Force in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl.

In 2009, Forsett was in another backup role, this time to Julius Jones, while starting two games.

Forsett’s seasonal numbers were solid. He gained 619 yards on 114 carries for a 5.4 average and four touchdowns.

So another season beckons. Will Justin Forsett, a runner who has previously shown brilliant talent, make 2010 a breakthrough year?