There are increasing signs that Cal freshman running back Brendan Bigelow, who began training camp as a leading candidate to get playing time this season, may become a redshirt.
Bigelow, from Central East High in Fresno, did not play as a senior after twice tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Even so, he remained a consensus top-20 prospect among running backs nationally.
All through the offseason, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said that at least one of his five new tailbacks likely would have to contribute this year. Tedford was especially excited about Bigelow, provided he was healthy.
Bigelow appears to have healed from his injuries but said he's still trying to pick up the offense.
"I'm going to continue to work hard," Bigelow said. "I'm not going to give up. I'm still trying to pick up the plays and learn my pass protections. I didn't really learn them in high school. It's pretty different. I'm pushing forward."
The coaching staff is taking it extremely slow with Bigelow, who has received only a handful of reps since camp began.
"He's still learning," Tedford said. "You can't ever count him out. But there are a lot of backs, and he's still learning. He's still getting comfortable with his legs. We'll see how it goes. There is still a long time until we start game-planning. Every day we'll see how they are doing and see who deserves the most reps."
While the start of the season is still almost three weeks away, training camp effectively ends Aug. 23. Cal has only three more full-pad practices before then, and Tedford says they are the only accurate way to evaluate players.
After that, the Bears will start game-planning for their season opener Sept. 3 against Fresno State. The running back depth should be set at that time.
"I'm adjusting OK," Bigelow said. "It's taking a long time, but I'm adjusting. I would like to get more reps, but I am young and I still have to learn the blocking schemes and things like that. I can see why they are taking it slow with me. I appreciate it. It's frustrating a little bit, but I'm getting over it."
Even if Bigelow is still in the mix, it appears he's likely battling for the third spot on the depth chart. Junior Isi Sofele has locked down the starting role, and junior Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson is on the verge of securing the backup spot.
If Bigelow does redshirt, it will mean that when he takes the field in 2012 he will have missed two full years.
"Redshirting is only going to make me better," Bigelow said. "That's the way I think about it. If I do redshirt, I'm going to take everything I know and apply it to next year. I'll be satisfied either way. My legs are working. I'm not injured. Either way, I'm happy."