I didn’t start fearing Oregon until September 3, when the Ducks were embarrassed by Boise State on national television.
It wasn’t LaGarrette Blount’s fist that intimidated me (well, maybe a little), but ironically, it was the inevitable suspension of the senior running back that had me shaking in my house slippers.
I never thought that Blount was the type of back that faired well as a feature in a spread offense.
More of a change of pace guy, Blount needed a shiftier running back to spell when the Ducks ran up against a defense that relied more on power than speed, a la the Broncos.
Had Oregon utilized talented lightening bolt freshman LaMichael James more (James had two carries that night for 22 yards, while Blount had eight carries for -5) then Oregon would have been undefeated before heading into last weekend’s match against Stanford (see speedy Ryan Mathews’ 19 carry, 234 yard performance against Boise State two weeks later).
The truth is, James’ skill set makes the Ducks better, as we’ve seen in their eight games since and, to be blunt, Oregon was better off without LaGarrette getting the bulk of the carries.
Now, the weekend after the Cardinal handed the Ducks their second loss, Cal finds itself in a similar situation.
Before you write off the rest of this piece, let me first say that no team is better without Jahvid Best than with him. Anybody who has witnessed the Jet would agree.
But Best’s wicked fall and subsequent severe concussion against Oregon State may not end up all that badly for the Bears.
Put me in the group that thinks No. 4 should sit out the rest of 2009. Two concussions in seven days isn’t exactly something you want to mess with.
If Best decides to come back for the Big Game or Cal’s regular-season finale in Seattle, he runs the risk of incurring more than just a headache…and for what?
The pursuit of a Las Vegas Bowl berth?
Let’s be real, the Bears haven’t had the year anyone expected them to have (especially me), and while Jeff Tedford and Co. will tell you that there’s still much to be had, nothing that Cal can salvage this season is worth risking the career of one the school’s most talented athletic specimens.
So how could sitting Best benefit the Bears?
Well, how about we look ahead to 2010…
Sure, if Best really wanted to, he could still enter this year’s NFL Draft. And sure, with his ability, many pro teams would go after the Vallejo native—only, in round three instead of round one (citing injury issues, a drop-off in production and his disappearance in big games).
Not many kids leave school early without receiving a first-day guarantee, especially a guy like Jahvid, whose personality at age 21 isn’t ready for an NFL locker room (and heck, with Al Davis’ penchant for drafting speed, can you really imagine Best fitting in a place like Oakland?).
Early in the season, I suspected that Best would stay for his senior year. Now, I’m even more confident.
As for the Bears’ current slate, this is where that whole “two running backs are better than one” thing comes in handy.
For whatever reason, Cal’s coaching staff has opted to run the ball between the tackles with Best and Shane Vereen more often than it has decided to stretch the field.
Get Jahvid in space, and nobody in the country is better. Run him up the gut six times, as they did against the Beavers, and he manages just 15 yards.
Vereen on the other hand, while he no doubt possesses elite speed and shiftiness, has chosen to be more of a downhill runner.
Shoot, now that we know Best is okay following his injury, this whole scenario could be a double-win.
Jahvid sits, and by the time he comes back next year, perhaps the powers at be will have realized how “best” to use him.
Cal Sports Digest is the new home of lead writer Jon Doss’ award winning Daily Cal column “Who’s the Doss”. Jon will weigh in on hot topics pertaining to Cal and the Pac-10 conference throughout the season.
You can now follow Cal Sports Digest via Twitter.
Discuss in Cal Sports Digest Forums.
If you have not by now, subscribe to CalSportsDigest.com. Click HERE to get access to the members-only content from CSD and the nation-wide Scout.com network.
©Copyright 2009, CalSportsDigest.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.