Post-Spring Review: Running Backs
With spring in the books, we're taking a look at every position group from the spring and where they stand going into the 2021 season. Today, we're looking at the running backs
The running back room in Berkeley remains relatively unchanged from 2020 to 2021, the Bears did lose Bradrick Shaw, Drew Schlegel and Zach Angelillo to the transfer portal, but find themselves with a bevvy of running backs who could take snaps for them in 2021.
Those Who Played in 2020
Three of the four ballcarriers for the Bears are back in 2021, in Marcel Dancy, Christopher Brown Jr., and Damien Moore. The Bears know what they have in all three for the most part.
In Dancy, they have a back who does well at making something out of nothing in small spaces, with great balance and side to side agility. Dancy missed a few practices this spring, as he's part of the entrepreneurship graduate credential program that some of the other super-seniors are working on, but he'll play a role for the Bears as a change of pace guy.
In Brown, the Bears have a tough runner who was rankled by injury in 2020. Sturdy at 230 lbs, Brown will likely be the Bears starting running back, showing in the spring game that he's still able to get his pads down, break arm tackles, and explode off them for extra yards. Brown's still the Bears active leading rusher, scorer, and the leader in all purpose yards, and while he's not a guy with elite speed, he has enough to make defenders make 'business decisions' when he gets to the second level of the defense.
In Moore, the Bears have another bigger bodied runner, one who has some excellent skills as a one-cut runner, along with a fantastic stiff-arm. He has been solid in pass protection as well, and has shown some more of the escape ability that got him on the field in 2020.
While those three guys could end up being the running back rotation for the Bears in 2021, there's a belief that the other three running backs could add something to the room moving forward.
Who Hasn't Played
Chris Street, DeCarlos Brooks, and Ashton Stredick are the other three backs in the room who saw plenty of time this spring. The trio took the majority of the reps in the spring game, with Brooks scoring a couple touchdowns during the event.
Street was the highest rated of the group coming out of high school, a former four-star recruit, and his area of growth has come on the mental side of the game, per running backs coach Aristotle Thompson. He's learned more about where the gaps develop in Cal's offense, and it helped him to a solid day in the Bears second scrimmage, with a 6 carry for 56 yard and 1 TD effort.
Brooks' improvement has been in his decisiveness, finding a crease and making his cut. He was decisive on his touchdown runs in the spring game, using his low center of gravity he showed in his high school tape. This spring was the first full camp session he had since he arrived in the summer of 2019, and he has taken advantage of it.
With Stredick, a walk-on and former Texas 4A player of the year, the challenge has been to slow down before speeding up. Stredick's the smallest of the group, checking in in the 175-180 lb range, but could end up being a home run threat for the group as he improves.
The biggest ingredient for this whole group has been time, whether that's time to watch film, to see how plays are developing with new run schemes being put in, or general reps on the field. That has been missing for the Bears over the past year, and the full offseason should be a boon for the running game.
The Bears will still need to figure out some sort of rotation at the spot going into the fall, though having multiple capable runners is a good problem to have.