Cal coach Jeff Tedford said during his weekly meeting with the media today that running back Jahvid Best won't play against Washington at Husky Stadium Saturday.
Best, a junior, is the fourth-leading rusher in the Pac-10 at 96.3 yards per game (867 overall) but hasn't played since a harrowing fall against Oregon State on Nov. 7. While a concussion was the initial worry, his back is now the main concern. (You can find a complete transcript of Tedford's press conference here).
Asked about Best today, Tedford said: "No, no update at all. Jahvid did go back today to get evaluated in Pittsburgh [Pa.] and he'll be back tomorrow. He seems to be doing very well but we have not discussed at all a return."
Asked if Best would play against UW, Tedford said: "He won't play this week."
Asked to elaborate on Best's health, he said: "I don't know what they're doing. I do know that the expert in that field that a lot of people rely on is back there, so that's why he went there. But his head's been doing fine. His thing now is he's got a sore back, that's the main thing. He hasn't had any symptoms with headaches or anything like that for a couple weeks now. The back has been what's bothering him."
Cal hasn't missed a beat in the two games Best has missed, however, beating Arizona and Stanford with Shane Vereen rushing for 159 against the Wildcats and 193 againsnt the Cardinal.
Said Tedford of Vereen: "Shane's made a huge impact for us for the last couple years as he's kind of been the one-two punch with Jahvid. So we've had great confidence in him and he's such a down-to-earth, hardworking guy, focused guy, he really hasn't changed a bit. He works very hard throughout the week. Now, when he's carried the load a little bit, he has to rest a little bit more during the week because he's pretty banged up after the game. He was very banged up after last week, carrying the ball 42 times, so he didn't practice last week. We just tried to get him fresh and healthy. But he's the same guy. He always has great focus. He's so versatile with what he does. He can run it, he pass protects very well, he can catch it, you can put him out at receiver, he runs routes at all different levels, he has the speed to break it, so he's an excellent running back, but hasn't changed at all just with his role being increased."
Teford also touched on these UW-related topics:
On the Washington Huskies and how they've endured with their good start followed by four straight losses and a recent 30-0 win over Washington State: "They're back on track, I don't think that there's any doubt about that. They're playing really, really well. They lost some close games, some tough games there. But they beat SC there, they beat Arizona there. It's tough to play there. They have all their fans back, I think they had 68,000 last week for Washington State, so it's a hostile environment. Offensively they're playing really well. [Quarterback] Jake Locker is a guy who makes a big difference as far as throwing the football, pulling it down, running with it. [Chris] Polk, their tailback, is doing a great job. And then their defense is playing really well, played great last week against Washington State. Linebackers are athletic, can run. Their defensive line, very quick and agile. Secondary, very solid and they have a nice package, so they're doing a great job."
On the unique skill set of Husky junior QB Jake Locker: "It's rare to find someone that big with that type of speed, because when he gets in the open field, he can go the distance and he has quite a few times this year. And then he's throwing the ball very well. He's very accurate, he's throwing the ball, he knows what he's looking for. There's no question that he's a great player and you have to defend the whole field with him or he's going to burn you with his legs."
On the challenge of playing at Husky Stadium: "It's one of the tougher places to play in the conference when they have it going. Years ago it was very hostile to go in there, very loud. The last couple times we've been there it hadn't been as bad as it can be, but as I look at people on the sideline I see how [players] are trying to communicate up front, they're having some illegal procedure penalties, things like that. I'm sure that with 68,00 fans or over 60,000 for sure, it will be very, very loud there."
On reasons for Cal's road success this year, with a 4-1 road record going into the game at Washington: "We haven't done anything differently this year than we always have on the road. Nothing in preparation, nothing when we get there - there's no difference."
On whether freshman Husky RB Chris Polk plays with experience beyond his class year: "He looks like he's been around for a while. We're going into our 12th game, so he's had enough carries now. He's a 1,000-yard rusher, so he's had plenty of experience. You're going to continue to learn every time you touch the ball, but he runs physical, he has great speed, he's elusive, so he's a very good player. He doesn't look like a freshman."
On whether there are similarities between Washington and USC in film study: "Yeah, there is, both sides of the ball. Defensively, no question, with [former USC defensive coordinator] Nick Holt there, very similar to what SC does. And then obviously [former USC assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, now UW head coach Steve] Sarkisian playing a big role on offense, they do quite a bit of very similar stuff."
On whether the absence of Holt and Sarkesian at USC has been a factor in Trojans' three losses: "I don't know. I haven't watched them close enough. We played them a long time ago and after that I haven't watched them. I don't know what their issues are, I don't know how the transition's been ... We have our own issues so I really haven't paid attention to their issues."