Cal Bears' Lack of a Backup Running Back Could Be a Major Issue

Steven ResnickSenior Writer ISeptember 19, 2010

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 05:  Isi Sofele #20 of the California Bears catches the ball during the game against the Washington Huskies on December 5, 2009 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Bears 42-10. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

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In 2009, the California Golden Bears had Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen in the backfield. This year, though the Bears still have Vereen in the backfield, there's not a backup for the Bears that can step in after a big run or when Veren needs to catch his breath.

A lack of a backup hasn't been a problem for the Bears as of late, 2007 was arguably a year that there wasn't a lot of depth at the position, but that was fixed in a hurry.

Since Tedford's arrival here's a look at the No. 1 and 2 running backs for the Bears, based on rushing yards since 2003.

2003: Adimchinobi Echemandu 1,234 yards and J.J. Arrington 631 yards

2004: Arrington 2,018 yards and Marshawn Lynch, 645 yards

2005: Lynch 1,246 yards and Justin Forsett 999 yards

2006: Lynch 1,356 yards and Forsett 626 yards

2007: Forsett 1,546 yards and Best 221 yards

2008: Best 1,580 yards and Vereen 715 yards

2009: Vereen 952 yards and Best 867 yards 

The lack of a backup was apparent against the University of Nevada as Vereen, who broke off some big runs, needed a couple of breathers. Unfortunately, Isi Sofele, the backup to Vereen, hasn't yet been able to live up to expectations. 

Sofele's speed is an excellent attribute to have, but he hasn't shown the ability that he can break tackles and be elusive out of the backfield. So far in the three games for Sofele, he has had 19 carries for 80 yards with his longest run being of 17 yards, averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and also had one catch, for one yard, and a touchdown. 

In his freshman season, Sofele had 12 attempts for 82 yards and a long of 22 yards. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry, one touchdown, and had three catches for 26 yards. 

At 5'7", 185 pounds, Sofele's effectiveness for the Bears comes with his ability to make defenders miss and for him to get out in the open field. That has not happened yet.

The reality is, though, the Bears have a better option as the backup—Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson, who was the third running back for the Bears in 2009. He's bigger than Sofele and in my opinion offers a better chance of gaining yards on the ground than Sofele coming into the game. 

His 2009 season was his freshman year as well he had 31 carries for 211 yards, a long of 30, and a touchdown. This season, since he's been relegated to third-string, he has 11 carries for 52 yards, a long of 10, and one catch for four yards. 

Sofele did win the job as backup to Vereen in the Bears training camp, though so far he hasn't lived up to the expectations. He had a chance to turn the corner against Nevada and even with his speed he was not able to do it.

As the season progresses, Deboskie-Johnson may be moving up the depth chart to replace Sofele as the backup to Vereen if Sofele is not able to produce with Vereen out of the game catching a breather.