Cal coach Jeff Tedford could barely get the question out of his mouth before Isi Sofele had an answer for him. When Tedford asked him near the beginning of last season if he'd like to move from wide receiver back to his natural position of running back, Sofele took approximately two milliseconds before saying, "It's done." Almost a year later, Sofele is emerging as a leading candidate to become Cal's No. 2 tailback behind starter Shane Vereen. "Coach Tedford called me in and asked how I would feel about playing running back," Sofele said. "I told him that's what I wanted. Now, I'm here competing for the No. 2 spot. We'll see what happens." Sofele was recruited out of Cottonwood High in Salt Lake City as a tailback. He rushed for 1,920 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior. But when he arrived in Berkeley last summer for his freshman year, Tedford asked him to switch to wide receiver to provide depth for a depleted unit.
Sofele soldiered ahead, even though he had never taken a single snap as a receiver in high school. "I just thought I would go out there and prove I was a hard worker," Sofele said. "I played absolutely zero wide receiver. I had good high school coaches that taught us the route concepts, and I understood what they were when I came here. I just wasn't that comfortable doing the wide receiver stuff." Fast forward a month. Two weeks into the season, the Bears lost running backs Kevin Lewis (academics) and
Langston Jackson (injury). Suddenly, Cal needed even more help there than at receiver.
Sofele ended up seeing limited time as a true freshman. He's now competing with Dasarte Yarnway and Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson to be the backup tailback, a position that always has meant significant playing time in Tedford's system.