Sunday, December 20, 2009


Utah, California to Meet in SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl
December 06, 2009
The University of Utah Utes and University of California Golden Bears have accepted invitations to play in the 5th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The game is Wednesday, December 23rd at Qualcomm Stadium. Kickoff is 5 p.m. PT. It will be televised nationally on ESPN. “We’re so pleased that we will be welcoming these two terrific teams and their fans to San Diego later this month,” said 2009 Bowl President Barbara Warden. “With the Utes and Golden Bears, I think it’s safe to expect that we’re in for one heck of a ball game.” Head Coach Kyle Whittingham leads his Utes into San Diego with a 9-3 overall record, 6-2 in the Mountain West Conference. This year’s bowl game will be Utah’s seventh straight bowl appearance, including a 35-32 victory over the Navy Midshipmen in the 2007 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Whittingham says, “We are looking forward to playing in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl for the second time in three years. We had a great experience when we played there in 2007 and our players and staff are excited to be going back. We have around 25 players on our roster from Southern California and we hope for a big turnout from our fans, as is typical anytime we play in Qualcomm Stadium. In addition, San Diego is easy to get to from Salt Lake City and a great vacation destination, especially at this time of the year.
Cal is a formidable opponent and one we look forward to playing. We like playing Pac-10 teams and we anticipate a great game.” Utah is led on offense by two-time first-team all-conference tackle Zane Beadles and the first 1,000 rushing-receiving tandem at Utah in 18 years. Running back Eddie Wide (1,032 yards) and receiver David Reed (1,085 yards) joined Beadles on the 2009 all-MWC first team. Utah’s defense ranks in the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency defense (No. 9), pass defense (No. 13), total defense (No. 19) and scoring defense (No. 22). The Utes, who allow just 19.7 point per game, are led by three first-team all-MWC defenders: end Koa Misi (65 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles), linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (73 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and free safety Robert Johnson (66 tackles, 5 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 4.0 TFL, 2 touchdowns). Head Coach Jeff Tedford brings his Golden Bears to San Diego after finishing the regular season with an 8-4 overall record, 5-4 in the Pac-10. “We are looking forward to going to San Diego and playing in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl,” Tedford said. “We’ve had great experiences in bowl games in San Diego in the past. We’ve always been treated very well, and the hospitality has been outstanding. We are looking forward to playing a quality opponent from the Mountain West Conference.”
Cal will run its school-record string of consecutive bowl appearances to seven by participating in the 2009 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The Golden Bears also have a current school-record string of four straight bowl victories and have won five of six bowls under head coach Jeff Tedford. The 2009 squad features the tailback tandem of Jahvid Best (867 yards) and Shane Vereen (830 yards) although Best has not played or practiced since being injured against Oregon State on Nov. 7 and his status for the Poinsettia Bowl is uncertain. Quarterback Kevin Riley has put together a solid season as the starter in all 12 games, passing for career highs of 2,636 yards and 17 touchdowns. Riley’s favorite target has been wide receiver Marvin Jones (38-607-6). Linebacker Mike Mohamed has been the team’s top defensive player and is the Pac-10’s leading tackler with an average of 8.8 per game and a total of 105 stops, while defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (60 tackles) leads the team in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (10.0) and is expected to be a high pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Cal holds a 4-2 edge over Utah in a series that dates back to 1920. The last time they played each other was in 2003. The Utes topped the Golden Bears 31-24 in Salt Lake City. Tickets for the game can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 619-220-TIXS (8497), or by visiting

When: December 21, 2009 Where: 5th Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Festivities kick off in downtown San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter as the school marching bands and spirit squads parade from each end of 5th Avenue performing holiday classics, and meeting up at Market Street for a heart-pounding Battle of the Bands!
Click here for more information!
Utes in San Diego
Dirk Facersports writer Dec. 19, 2009 at 1:32 p.m.
SAN DIEGO -- They're here.
The Utes arrived in San Diego Saturday morning. They came in two waves. The first charter flight featured most of the coaching staff and the defense, while the second included the offense and special teams.
Weather-related delays in Salt Lake City brought them to sunny San Diego about an hour later than planned.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the entire team made the journey.
A practice is scheduled for this afternoon at San Diego State. After that, the Utes will be greeted at the team hotel by the bowl committee (sporting red blazers), a mariachi band and a red carpet.
On Sunday, they'll visit Sea World.
Pepperdine gets back into action quickly with two games prior to Christmas: Monday (Dec. 21) at UC Irvine at 7 p.m. and Wednesday (Dec. 23) vs. Utah at 7 p.m. in Firestone Fieldhouse. Fans can catch the games and listen to Al Epstein's broadcast at with a subscription to Wave Casts.

Lorne Jackson
# 20

Guard - G
Previous Affiliations
Simi Valley HS
Previous Experience
Simi Valley, Calif.

PEPPERDINE 2008-09: Pepperdine’s third-leading scorer as a freshman ... Averaged 6.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 16.6 minutes ... Played in 31 games ... Started 14 games at point guard while Ryan Holmes was injured ... Scored in double-figures 12 times ... Had a season-high 18 points at Hawaii (12/30) in just 22 minutes ... Other season highs were five assists (several times), four rebounds (several times), three steals at Saint Mary’s (1/17) and three three-pointers (several times) ... After scoring 11 points in the first five games, exploded for 17 vs. Cal State Bakersfield (11/29) in a season-high 31 minutes ... Drove in for a game-winning lay-up with 6.6 seconds left vs. Coppin State (12/29) ... Late in the season, scored in double-figures in three straight games, amassing 32 points in 33 minutes.

HIGH SCHOOL: Graduated from Simi Valley (Calif.) High School in 2008 ... Named the Ventura County Star’s Player of the Year as a 2008 senior ... On the Ventura County all-time lists, finished second in career steals (308) and ninth in career assists (439) ... Also named all-state second team, All-SCIBCA Southern Section Division I-AA first team and Marmonte League co-Player of the Year ... A McDonald’s All-American nominee ... Led Ventura County in scoring (22.9 ppg) and steals (4.3 spg) and was second in assists (6.8 apg) ... Added 6.7 rebounds per game and shot 50% from the field, 38% on three-pointers and 84% from the free throw line ... Set a school record with a 20-for-22 free-throw performance against Dominguez High School en route to a season-high 39 points ... Scored 20 or more points 19 times and 30 or more points three times ... Helped Simi Valley to a 26-2 record, an unbeaten record in the Marmonte League and the second round of the CIF playoffs ...As a 2007 junior, made the all-state junior second team and the All-Ventura County first team while averaging 16.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 4.0 steals ... As a 2006 sophomore, averaged 11.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.6 steals ... Also lettered in football ... Earned a CIF “Character Counts” award and the Marmonte League’s “All-Star” honor.

CLUB: Played for Double Pump Elite and BTI.

PERSONAL: Born in Simi Valley, Calif. ... Son of Reginald and Lyle Jackson ... His father played football at UCLA ... Has two siblings, Ashley and Langston ... His twin brother Langston is a freshman walk-on on the California football team ... Majoring in integrated marketing ... His personal trainer was former NBA player Pooh Richardson ... Chose Pepperdine because “I loved the coaches, the players and the campus.”

FAVORITES: Enjoys watching television and movies and listening to music ... Favorite pro basketball player is Kobe Bryant ... Favorite pro basketball team is the Los Angeles Lakers ... Favorite book is Coach Wooden One-on-One ... Favorite movie is Superbad ... Favorite musical artist is Lil’ Wayne ... Favorite sport other than basketball is football ... Favorite thing about basketball is “there is so much more that you can get better at, even though I’ve been playing it since I was young.”

Men's Basketball Visits UCI, Hosts Utah
Courtesy: Pepperdine Sports Information
Release: 12/20/2009

Pepperdine Men's Basketball Notes

THE FACTS - The Pepperdine men's basketball team will squeeze in two more games before Christmas as the Waves visit UC Irvine on Monday before hosting Utah on Wednesday. Pepperdine just concluded a four-game homestand and has four more non-conference games remaining (two home, two away).
GAME #13 - Monday (Dec. 21) at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif.: Pepperdine (3-9) at UC Irvine (5-5) at 7 p.m.
GAME #14 - Wednesday (Dec. 23) at Firestone Fieldhouse: Pepperdine vs. Utah (5-6) at 7 p.m.
ON THE WEB - Subscribers to "Wave Casts" can catch all Pepperdine men's basketball games on the internet at Veteran play-by-play man Al Epstein, now in his 25th season with the Waves, is behind the microphone. Home games will have live audio and video, while road games will be audio only. Go to the Pepperdine Athletics website and look for the Wave Casts link. An annual pass costs $69.95 and monthly subscriptions are also available. Live statistics will be available for all home matches free of charge, and links are provided to the home team's website when the Waves are on the road.
PROMOTIONS - For the Utah game, groups of 15 or more can purchase general admission tickets for $5 each ... If the Waves score 75 points or more in an upcoming home game, certificates will be given out afterward for a free piece of grilled chicken from the KFC in Malibu.
TICKETS - Men's basketball single-game tickets cost $15 (lower reserved), $12 (upper reserved), $10 (adult general admission) or $5 (child general admission). Call (866) WAVE-TIX to purchase tickets.
UC IRVINE - Pepperdine and UC Irvine are knotted up at 9-9 in the all-time series. The Anteaters have had the upper hand lately, winning five of six games played in this decade. That includes a 71-63 UCI victory last season at Firestone Fieldhouse (Lorne Jackson led Pepperdine with 17 points). The Waves have lost in their last three trips to the Bren Events Center, last winning there in November 1998. The Anteaters are coming off a 69-56 loss to San Jose State, which was their first home defeat in four games this season.
UTAH - Pepperdine is 1-5 all-time against Utah. Pepperdine's win came in the 1979 NCAA Tournament at Pauley Pavilion, a 92-88 victory in overtime. The Utes won all four in a four-game series from 2000-03, the last time the two schools met. Marty Wilson was an assistant coach at Utah before returning to Pepperdine. The Utes made the NCAA Tournament last season. This will be only their second true road game of the season (the Utes lost at Weber State).
LAST GAME - Pepperdine kept rallying in the second half to get within one point of New Mexico State, but the Aggies held on for a 78-72 win on Friday night in Firestone Fieldhouse. The Waves trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half but cut the deficit to 38-35 at halftime. Pepperdine made it a one-point game three times in the second half, last at 61-60 with 6:29 to play, but NMSU went on an 8-0 run to pull away. Keion Bell scored 19 and Jonathan Dupré added 18.
SOPHOMORE SCORERS - Last season, Pepperdine's eight-man freshman class scored more than half of the Waves' points (57.4%). So far, the now-sophomore class has contributed 67.8% of Pepperdine's scoring.
BELL'S BIG START - As of last week, sophomore guard Keion Bell ranked 11th nationally in scoring and was one of only two players in the nation averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and four assists (Manny Harris of Michigan was the other). He's now at 21.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Bell has scored more than 20 points in eight of his 12 games, including a career-high 34 against Monmouth, and he's scored at least 16 points in every game. At the pace he's on, he'll become Pepperdine's 35th 1,000-point scorer by the end of his sophomore season (he's got 675).
SUTTLE'S SHOOTING - Dane Suttle Jr., second-best on the team at 11.3 points per game, is one of the conference's best three-point shooters so far this season. He is averaging 2.2 per game (eighth in the WCC as of last week) and making 44.4% of them (24-for-54, seventh in the WCC as of last week).
THOMPSON TEAM CAPTAIN - Mychel Thompson was selected as team captain for 2009-10 after a landslide vote by his teammates. The junior forward is Pepperdine's only player that has been with the team for two full seasons. He is averaging 9.8 points this season and 9.0 points for his career, and has made 101 career three-pointers (he needs 113 to break into the school's top 10).
2009-10 HONORS - Keion Bell was named to the preseason All-WCC first team ... Bell was named MVP of the World Vision Challenge at Wyoming and Dane Suttle Jr. also made the all-tournament team.
ROSTER - There are no seniors on the 2009-10 squad, and 12 of the 16 players are underclassmen. The roster features four juniors, seven sophomores and five true freshmen. Pepperdine returns 11 letterwinners from last season (believed to be among the most in school history). There are also five newcomers, bringing the roster total to 16. Twelve are on scholarship and four are walk-ons.
RETURNERS - Four of the five starters from last year's team return (Keion Bell, Taylor Darby, Corbin Moore and Mychel Thompson). Pepperdine's returning players account for 82.5% percent of last year's scoring (1629/1974), 88.3% of the rebounds (919/1041), 65.4% of the assists (223/341), 95.0% of the blocked shots (96/101) and 77.2% of the steals (166/215).
YOUTUBE SENSATION - Keion Bell, a preseason All-WCC first team selection, got Pepperdine a ton of publicity in mid-October. At Blue & Orange Madness, Pepperdine's event to kick off the start of practice, the sophomore guard finished up the dunk contest by leaping over five teammates and slamming it home. A Pepperdine fan happened to record the dunk on his iPhone and uploaded it onto YouTube. It quickly spread around the internet and at last check had nearly 1.1 million hits. ESPN's SportsCenter picked up the video and made the dunk the #2 Play of the Day.
NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE - Tom Asbury believes in preparing his team for league play with a difficult non-conference slate of games, and so that's what the Waves are in the midst of. The Waves play six games against non-conference teams that took part in the postseason last year: Portland State, UCLA and Utah made the NCAA Tournament, Miami (Fla.) was in the NIT, Wyoming was in the College Basketball Invitational and Pacific was in the inaugural Tournament. Nine of the 16 non-conference games are at home.
WCC PRESEASON POLL - According to the WCC's coaches, the Waves are predicted to finish seventh in the conference. Their poll went in the following order: Gonzaga, Portland, Saint Mary's, San Francisco and Santa Clara (tied), San Diego, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. Several national publications and websites have differing opinions on the Waves, including fourth (The Sporting News), fifth (The Sports Network), sixth (Athlon and Lindy's) and seventh (, and
TELEVISION - The Waves are slated to appear on television several times once again in 2009-10. Six games will be shown locally - Nov. 23 at UCLA on Fox Sports West, Jan. 14 vs. Santa Clara on ESPNU, Jan. 21 at Gonzaga on Prime Ticket (delayed), Jan. 30 vs. San Diego on Prime Ticket, Feb. 18 vs. Portland on Prime Ticket and Feb. 20 vs. Gonzaga on Fox Sports West.
TOM ASBURY - Now in his second stint in charge of the Waves is coaching great Tom Asbury. He returned to Malibu prior to the 2008-09 campaign to become the Waves' head coach again after 14 seasons away. Asbury was previously at Pepperdine for nine years as an assistant coach (1980-88) and then the next six as the head coach (1989-94). He went on to serve as head coach at Kansas State from 1995-2000 and was an assistant coach at Alabama from 2004-07. Asbury went 125-59 (.679) in his first head coaching job at Pepperdine and took the Waves to the postseason five times in six years with three NCAA Tournament appearances (1991, '92, '94) and two in the NIT (1989, '93). Pepperdine won three regular-season WCC titles and the school's only three WCC Tournament championships came under Asbury. Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, his seven-year record at Pepperdine was 134-82 (.620) and his 13-year record as a head coach was 219-170 (.563).
ASSISTANTS - Upon his return, Tom Asbury wanted to find assistants with a passion for Pepperdine and an understanding of its mission, so he turned to three former student-athletes. It's believed that Duke and Pepperdine have the only two college basketball staffs where the assistant coaches are all alums. Associate head coach Marty Wilson (1985-89) and assistant coaches Damin Lopez (1990-94) and Will Kimble (2001-03) played in three different eras, all successful. In the 13 seasons that made up their playing careers, Pepperdine went a combined 261-135 (.659), had 12 winning seasons, won six WCC regular-season titles and three WCC tournament titles, and made six NCAA Tournaments and four NITs.
ONE RECRUIT - There are no seniors on the roster but Pepperdine had one scholarship to offer for 2010-11. During the early signing period, they inked Hector Harold, a 6-foot-6 small forward from the Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.) School. He was given a rating of 88 out of 100 by's recruiting site and is considered one of the top seniors in New England. He is originally from Pasadena, Calif.
LAST SEASON - Tom Asbury's return to Pepperdine brought much-needed stability to the program in his first season back. With only five players returning, Asbury and his new staff brought in 10 newcomers well after the regular letter-of-intent signing period. The young Waves posted a 9-23 overall record but got much better as the year went on, placing sixth in the WCC with a 5-9 record and winning a first-round game at the WCC Tournament. Keion Bell was named to the WCC All-Freshman team after averaging a team-best 12.9 ppg.
PEPPERDINE HISTORY - This is the 72nd season of Pepperdine basketball, and the Waves opened 2009-10 with an all-time record of 1,111-910 (.550). Pepperdine has been to the NCAA Tournament 13 times (last in 2002), and has won 12 West Coast Conference regular-season titles (last in 2002) and three WCC Tournament crowns (last in 1994).
BEST IN THE WEST - Pepperdine has long been one of the top Division I programs on the West Coast. Over the 31-season period from the 1978-79 season through the 2008-09 campaign, of the 32 schools that currently play Division I basketball in California, Oregon or Washington, the Waves began the 2009-10 season ranking third overall in postseason appearances (16) and fifth in both wins (525) and winning percentage (.565) over the past 31 years.
WAVES IN THE PROS - This is the 34th consecutive season where at least one Pepperdine alum has been on an NBA roster. Currently in the NBA is Yakhouba Diawara, now in his fourth season overall and his second with the Miami Heat. A total of 16 former Pepperdine players have gone on to play in the NBA, most notably Dennis Johnson (the 1979 NBA Finals MVP) and Doug Christie (a 15-year NBA veteran who was a mainstay on the All-Defensive Team). Some recent standouts have been playing in foreign countries, including Alex Acker (Italy), Tezale Archie (Netherlands), Brandon Armstrong (Venezuela), Gerald Brown (Poland), Jelani Gardner (Greece), Kelvin Gibbs (Germany), Chase Griffin (Germany), Dana Jones (Switzerland) and Glen McGowan (Dominican Republic). Robert "Hollywood" Turner, formerly a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, is now playing in Finland.
ABOUT PEPPERDINE - Pepperdine boasts a one-of-a-kind athletic department with unprecedented success for a school of its size. The Waves have won a total of nine NCAA championships in five different men's sports - one of just 14 schools to have accomplished this feat. Of the 14, Pepperdine is the only non-BCS school and has by far the smallest enrollment. The majority of Pepperdine's teams are ranked nationally year after year and compete for conference and national titles.

Langston Jackson
2008: Redshirted.
HIGH SCHOOL: A four-year varsity starter who twice earned Team MVP honors ... rated No. 89 among the nation's running backs ... also a two-time All-Marmonte League selection as well as an All-County honoree as a senior when he rushed 230 times for 1,225 yards and 16 touchdowns after a 988-yard campaign with 10 TDs as a junior ... caught a combined 32 passes for 287 yards in his final two seasons ... also served as his team's punter, averaging 33.7 yards per punt as a senior.
PERSONAL: Full name is Langston R. Jackson ... born May 14, 1990 ... major is undeclared.
LAST UPDATED: August 12, 2009

RB: LANGSTON JACKSON 6-1, 227 pounds, R-Fr. Jackson is one of the more compelling running backs on the roster because of his size and strength running between the tackles. Could Jackson be the short-yardage 'back Cal is searching

Cal Arrives in San Diego for Poinsettia Bowl
Golden Bears go thru spirited workout at University of San Diego.

Cal's hotel offers a spectacular view of sailboats docked at Harbor Island.
Football Home

Dec. 19, 2009
Bears Enjoy First Day in San Diego (Photo Gallery)

SAN DIEGO - When the sun was rising early Saturday morning, the Cal football team could be found boarding buses outside Memorial Stadium heading to Oakland International Airport. By the time the sun was setting on a beautiful day in San Diego, the Golden Bears were in the midst of a spirited workout at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego.
Cal (8-4, 5-4 Pac-10) is in San Diego to play No. 23 Utah (9-3, 6-2 MWC) in the San Diego County Credit Union on Wednesday, Dec. 23 (5:00 p.m. PT). The Golden Bears have extended its school-record run of bowl appearances to seven in 2009 and will be looking for its fifth consecutive bowl win under head coach Jeff Tedford, who is 5-1 all-time in postseason action. The game will be televised live nationally on ESPN with an online version of the telecast available on ESPN360.
"We're going to be playing a great Utah football team, and it's going to be a great matchup," Tedford told local San Diego media after Saturday's workout. "They always do a great job of putting on a bowl here. The players are excited, and we're looking forward to it."
After a short flight delay caused by an East Coast storm that had air travel backed up around the nation, the Golden Bears took a 500-mile flight south to San Diego. Shortly after the team's arrival, the Bears went into a team meeting and position meetings at the team hotel before hopping on buses for a short drive to the USD campus for a one-and-a-half hour practice.
Although the Bears will certainly take part in bowl activities leading up to the game, the team is in town to end the season on a winning note.
"We want to redeem ourselves and get this one," confirmed sophomore safety Sean Cattouse. "That's the bottom line for me. I'm looking for a win."
"We're definitely coming in to win, and that's what we're working hard for," added junior defensive lineman Cameron Jordan.

The Bears will start Sunday with a morning visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo before returning to Torero Stadium for an afternoon practice. The early evening schedule will include a visit by selected members of the team to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in San Diego.
For bowl tickets and information, visit the Cal Bowl Central.
Who will play right away?
Still, after taking a step back, I still believe that Yarnway is too valuable not to redshirt this year. I chalk up many of his first team reps to the fact that Best and Deboskie’s few absences due to injury, and wanting to see how he might perform with the first team in actual running plays and hitting the hole. I can’t imagine him jumping past Shane Vereen for the backup spot, nor can I imagine the coaching staff using a year of his eligibility so that he might be third or fourth on the depth chart. Even if he were used in specific packages (ie. Goalline), it simply doesn’t make sense in my mind. Langston Jackson might make more sense there at the current time. No, though it might be tempting, look for Yarnway to redshirt and seriously battle Deboskie-Johnson for the backup spot next year (assuming Best declares early for the draft).

Posted by Bear with Fangs at 3:15 PM

August 18, 2009 4:44 PM
Anonymous said...
Why are you overlooking Langston Jackson? Have you seen his highlight video on Youtube?
August 19, 2009 10:48 AM
Bear with Fangs said...
I didn't include Langston Jackson in this particular post because he wasn't part of the 2009 recruiting class and wouldn't quite count as a true frosh play. I've heard nothing but good things about Jackson thus far in camp. Given the depth at RB however, it's hard for me to imagine Jackson getting too many significant carries this year though. Next year could be a different story however.
Pac-10 Position Breakdown: Running Back – Cal Bears
By Sam Saig, July 8, 2009 9:19 am

In 2002, Jeff Tedford became Cal’s head coach. Prior to that time, he was known for his innovative passing offenses and unique ability to develop quarterbacks. But since Tedford’s arrival in Berkeley, Cal has been known more for its running game. The Bears have produced seven straight 1,000-yard rushers, which is the nation’s longest active streak. Former star running backs like J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, and Justin Forsett have all successfully transitioned into the NFL, and it probably won’t be long before another Cal runner joins them.
The Pac-10 will feature some of America’s most talented tailbacks this fall. In a conference full of stars, Cal may have the Best one of all.
Junior sensation Jahvid Best enters the 2009 season as a legitimate Heisman candidate. The electrifying Best ran for 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns during a breakout sophomore campaign. He led the Pac-10 in rushing yards and finished 3rd nationally last season. His 1,580 yards are the second most in school history for a single season.

Jahvid Best leaves defenders feeling helpless
Best carried the ball 194 times and still managed a stunning 8.1 yards per carry, which was the best rushing average of any tailback in America with at least 125 carries. He also managed to catch the ball 27 times for 246 yards and one TD (9.1 yards per catch). Best finished second nationally in all-purpose yards, averaging 187.25 yards per game. His 2,247 total yards are a school record. On top of all that, he finished 1st in the conference in kickoff return yards, with 26.3 yards per return.
Best may have started his 2009 Heisman campaign at the end of 2008. He closed out last season with three Herculean efforts. First, he ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Stanford in the Big Game (he also caught a TD). Next, he ran for a staggering 311 yards and four TD’s against Washington. Best carried the ball 19 times against the Huskies, averaging a remarkable 16.4 yards per carry. In the Emerald Bowl finale against Miami, he ran for a bowl record 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. His statistical totals from the three games almost seem unrealistic for a video game, adding up to nearly 45% of his total yards last season.
At 5-10 194 pounds, Best possesses an extremely rare combination of speed, agility and vision. He has game-changing ability, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. The Vallejo (CA) native has always produced eye-popping numbers on and off the gridiron. At Salesian High School (CA) he ran for 6,428 career yards and scored 91 touchdowns. He also won a Junior Olympics Gold Medal in the 200 meters and won the 2007 California State Championship in the 100 meters with a time of 10.31 seconds.
Durability is a concern for Best, and he has been limited by injuries in each of the last two seasons. He missed most of the spring with off-season elbow and foot surgery. Still, Best enters 2009 as the marquee player in the Pac-10 conference. If he can stay on the field for 200+ carries, his name will be involved in Heisman discussions all year long.
It has become a tradition at Cal for each star running back to emerge as a backup first. In 2004, Marshawn Lynch ran for 628 yards as a backup while J.J. Arrington was running for over 2,000 as the starter. The next season, Justin Forsett ran for 999 yards while Lynch ran for 1,246 as the starter. Jahvid Best was Forsett’s understudy in 2007.
Last season, Cal fans were introduced to the next great running back to come through Berkeley. Sophomore Shane Vereen ran for 715 yards and four touchdowns in 2008 as the Bears primary backup. The 5-10 198 pound tailback played extremely well as a freshman, even in the shadows of Best. Vereen averaged 5.0 yards per carry and finished tied for second on the team with 27 receptions.
The Valencia (CA) native burst onto the scene in the season opener against Michigan State, with 101 yards rushing on only 9 carries. In that game, Vereen flashed his explosive speed with an 81-yard touchdown that ignited Memorial Stadium and helped secure the win. Vereen showed off his multitude of talents throughout the rest of the season, including hauling in a 59-yard touchdown pass against rival Stanford.
Vereen came out of Valencia High School (CA) as a highly rated recruit. His skill set is similar to Best, a deadly combination of speed and vision. Vereen was given four-stars by and was a Prep-star All-American choice. He amassed over 6,000 yards rushing in his high school career with 89 touchdowns. Vereen enters 2009 as Best’s number one partner in the backfield.
The power running may come from redshirt freshman RB Covaughn DeBoskie. The 5-11 205 pound back out of Chandler, AZ was a four-star recruit in 2008, and played on the scout team last season. The former super-prep All-American is not likely to get many carries, but he could be a huge value in short yardage and goal line situations.
The first-year starter at fullback will be 5-9 235 pound senior Brian Holley. The Pomona (CA) native has been excellent on special teams and has all the tools to be a perfect run blocker for Best and Co.
Other backs competing for time are: true freshman Dasarte Yarnway, redshirt freshman Langston Jackson, and redshirt freshman Kevin Lewis.
My Take
I’m not going to claim that Cal is Running Back University, but how can you not be impressed by the production over the last 7 years? Best has a chance to surpass them all, and the table is set for a special season as long as he can stay healthy. If you live in the Bay Area and haven’t seen him play in person, do yourself a favor and find a place at the top of Strawberry Canyon this fall.
Shane Vereen looks like the next in line for Jeff Tedford’s great tailbacks and I look for him to have another solid year. If DeBoskie emerges as the thunder to all that lightning, there will be no way to stop this rushing attack. One thing is for sure; it’s an exciting time to be a Bears fan.