When Cal opens training camp Saturday, coach Jeff Tedford expects more newcomers than ever to compete for immediate playing time. That's especially true at tailback.
Tedford continues to beat the drum for his incoming quartet of running backs while not showing much faith in his returners. Other than junior Isi Sofele, who enters camp as the prohibitive favorite with a substantial lead in the race to take over the starting job vacated by Shane Vereen's early entrance into the NFL, Tedford doesn't seem to be expecting much from fellow returners Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Dasarte Yarnway and Trajuan Briggs. Part of that is because all three are coming off injuries, but also because Tedford is excited about the potential of the new talent in the backfield.
Tedford says heralded incoming freshman Brendan Bigelow is ready to go after after suffering two major knee injuries, the second of which wiped out his senior season at Central East High School in Fresno (Tedford did acknowledge the team likely will limit his reps early on). Fellow freshman Daniel Lasco was also a top recruit and Darren Irvin graduated high school early and took part in spring drills before getting injured. C.J. Anderson, a transfer from Laney College, recently finished up his schoolwork and will also be on the field Saturday.
"I'm excited to see our newcomers. All are very good players," Tedford said Monday at a preseason media gathering in San Francisco. "I think we're going to have to rely on some of the new guys to create some depth there. We'll see as camp goes how much playing time they're really going to get."
DeBoskie-Johnson suffered a knee injury late last season and entered spring practice overweight. If he's worked hard in the weight room this summer, he could be more in the mix than Tedford is letting on. Tedford said he will have a better idea where Yarnway stands when he sees him Saturday. Briggs, a redshirt freshman, appears to be substantially down the depth chart.
Tedford said walk-on Mike Manuel, who impressed this spring before getting injured, enters camp as the No. 2 tailback.
IMPORTANT 2011 BAY AREA COLLEGE FOOTBALL DATES
Aug. 5: San Jose State starts training camp
Aug. 6: Cal starts training camp
Aug. 8: Stanford starts training camp
Sept 3: Season openers (San Jose State at Stanford, 2 p.m, and Cal vs. Fresno State at Candlestick Park, 4 p.m.)
Dec. 31: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park (12:30 p.m.)