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CAL IS FINDING PLACE FOR ALL ITS TALENT
By Jonathan Okanes
One of Cal's biggest problems - getting all of its talented running backs on the field - also is one of its most valuable assets. With starter Justin Forsett carrying most of the workload, there aren't as many opportunities for backups James Montgomery and Jahvid Best. But when Forsett is unavailable, as he was near the end of Saturday's game in Fort Collins, Colo., the reserves have proved their worth. When Forsett went out with a back injury at the end of the third quarter at Colorado State, Montgomery and Best combined to rush for 115 yards in the fourth quarter to help secure a 34-28 victory. "It's a physical position and there's times when you need to draw on three or four running backs," Bears Coach Jeff Tedford said. It's not often a team can go three deep at any position without much of a drop-off - especially at running back. Forsett, a senior, entered the season averaging 6.39 yards per carry as a part-time player. He has averaged 107.5 yards per game this season, third in the Pacific-10 Conference. Meanwhile, Montgomery and Best came to Berkeley as highly sought recruits, and they are validating those expectations. Montgomery, a redshirt freshman, rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown in nine carries against Colorado State. That included 25 tough yards in five carries that helped the Bears run out the clock. Best, a freshman, has made an impact in each of the first two games; he gained 103 all-purpose yards in the opener against Tennessee and had 116 last Saturday. He reeled off a 64-yard touchdown run against the Rams.
"This might be the most talented group I've had, ever," said Ron Gould, Cal's running backs coach. "But it's not about talent. You still have to work. You still have to learn the details of our assignments. You have to understand the game. I've been very pleased with the way these guys have come out every day and the way they've worked."
Tedford has different reasons for calling on Montgomery or Best when Forsett needs a breather. Montgomery is considered more of an every-down back whereas Best plays in special situations. Best also has made an impact as a kick returner. "You have to be unselfish to play this game and be in our running back room," Gould said. "We have enough balls that we can share." Gould said the backs have been supportive, but "by the same token, they're all very competitive. "I couldn't ask for anything more from these guys."
Even when they are asking for a little more playing time.