Isi Sofele and Keni Kaufusi both grew up in Salt Lake City and used to attend football camps at the University of Utah. However, the two former Cottonwood High standouts will find themselves on the opposite sideline at the Poinsettia Bowl Wednesday night when the Utes take on Cal. Sofele is a 5-foot-7, 170-pound running back who is one of three true freshmen to play this year for Cal and has played in every game. He's returned six kicks for 127 yards, has rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries and has nine tackles on special teams. Kaufusi is a defensive lineman who is redshirting this year. "They are hard workers, quality guys," said coach Jeff Tedford. "Isi is a guy who has contributed for us. He's a great kid. Kaufusi has a bright future here. He's done a great job on the scout team this year."
Kaufusi committed to play for Utah in early 2008, but his offer was rescinded when he was arrested on a weapons and alcohol charge a couple of months later. The following January, he signed with Cal along with Sofele. Whittingham acknowledged the Utes recruited both players, but said the Utes had filled their scholarships at Sofele's position and that "it didn't work out" with Kaufusi. Former Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who has the same job for Cal, says he works with Sofele on a daily basis and calls him a "super person" and "a very good football player."
Ludwig said he doesn't work with Kaufusi, but of the two, he said, "Both are doing very well in terms of academics and socially and adapting to Division I football." Sofele says he loves it at Cal. "It's different, but you've got to explore the world," he said.
SECOND-BEST: At the start of the year, Cal running back Jahvid Best was considered a Heisman Trophy and all-American candidate. However, after gaining 867 yards rushing, he went down with a head injury in the Oregon State game last month and is out for the season. However, the Bears aren't sweating much about Best's absence because they have a guy named Shane Vereen who has stepped up and hardly missed a beat. Kind of like Eddie Wide stepping up for Matt Asiata. In three games, Vereen has run for 444 yards on 88 carries, an average of 148 yards per game. "In my mind, he's always been considered a starter," Cal running backs coach Ron Gould told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I'm not surprised by the performances he's produced the past few weeks."