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2022 Cal Football Positional Preview: Running Backs
Run the dang ball, Musgrave
The running game is still an iconic part of football. When you close your eyes and think of football most will think of the iconic Barry Sanders dancing in the backfield making a mockery of any would-be tackler or on the other side of the spectrum Marshawn Lynch turning opponents into crash tests dummies.
Musgrave’s offense in 2021 tried its best at maintaining a pass-heavy approach with 396 (351 passing attempts + 45 Garbers scrambles) pass plays to 288 (333 total rushes - 45 Garbers scrambles) rushing attempts overall split. With an emphasis on passing on 3rd downs.
Cal for the last couple of years relied on a running back by committee approach with only Christopher Brooks/Brown Jr. rushing for more than 50% of possible attempts in 2019. In 2021 No RB ran for more than 36% of possible attempts with 4 of them having 20+ rushing attempts.
We’re also replacing 60% of snaps, 66% of yards and 59% of TDs in the 2022 season, this means that as much as we want to prognosticate the depth chart things will change as Pac-12 play comes into view and real game performances become tangible.
Furthermore in 2022 I believe there is going to be a re-balancing of the run/pass tendency due to the following factors:
With the departure of veteran QB presence in Chase Garbers, since it is a QB-centric system, the introduction of a relative novice in the system will lessen the pass-heavy balance, especially on 3rd down.
Same with the WRs, Cal lost its top 4 receivers by targets (Clark, Crawford, Remigio, and Tonges). Even if the new WRs have a higher ceiling there is going to be some growing pains.
OL Shuffle. Only Cindic remains as a mainstay of the OL, with Ben Coleman possibly moving from LG to LT Cal effectively replacing all 4 positions. Pass protection is harder to teach than run blocking, especially gap scheme run blocking that doesn’t rely on the whole unit working together in concert.
With all this context and story building out of the way who will we be seeing carry the rock for Cal in 2022?
Note: The listing of RBs is based on their 2021 production and not what I think is their position on the depth chart.
Damien Moore, #28, Jr., 5’10”, 215 lbs, 120 2021 Snaps
Damien began the 2021 season as the lead back, but due to an injury was given fewer reps vis-a-vis Christopher Brooks and his general abilities. Moore is one of those elusive backs who want to use his patience and feel for the hole to make the right read at the right time. He has lacked that extra gear in the open field as evidenced by some of his runs where he’d be caught from behind by a DB. However, as someone who doesn’t put as much weight on flashes and more on consistency on the ground in order to force the defense to stack the box, I love what Moore brings to the field.
Per PFF he ranked as the 146th rusher in 2021 mostly weighed down by his post UW performance where he was trying to fight through his injury.
I think he will begin the season as the starting RB mostly due to his past production, familiarity with the scheme, and a pretty good sense of how to pass-protect on 3rd downs. The final piece being the deciding factor in keeping him on the field vis-a-vis the younger backs in the room.
Chris Street, #24, Jr., 5’9”, 200 lbs, 24 2021 Snaps
Chris Street was a highly rated recruit and has shown some electric runs during his limited snaps in 2021 using his natural leverage to make guys regret trying to tackle him. There is an uncommon burst that should keep him getting touches in the run game.
He had only 21 rushes in 2021 and averaged a respectable 5.1 YPC with a long of 19.
DeCarlos Brooks, #25, R-Jr., 5’10”, 210 lbs, 13 2021 Snaps
According to some in WFC sphere, he is the darkhorse big play threat we have on the roster. With over 2000 yards as a senior in the top league in Arizona, rushing at a 7.8 YPC clip he was a menace as Chandler’s lead back.
Ashton Stredick, #31, R-So., 5’9”, 195 lbs, 4 2021 Snaps
He has been touted as the burner of the RB room. It is hard to project someone with just 4 snaps as an RB in the 2021 season. As an RB in Texas, he rushed for over 3000 yards as a senior with an average of 11.2 YPC.
You don’t rush for 3000 yards with a long of 99, 37 TDs without having a significant pop in the run game. I can see him sneaking into Khalfani Muhammad situations where a big play is needed and someone with “AND, HE, IS, GONE” playmaking is needed.
Jaydn Ott, #6, Fr., 6’0”, 200 lbs, 4* 2022 Recruit.
The headliner of Cal’s 2022 class presents a full package of abilities that Cal hasn’t seen since Daniel Lasco during the Goff era. Possessing game-breaking speed, toughness, and willingness to run between the tackles for positive yardage he has the greatest potential of all new Golden Bears to make an impact on the stat-sheet (#SioapeVatikaniTruther)
“Jaydn is a productive running back with a lot to be excited about. He is a smooth athlete with an impressive combination of burst, lateral quickness and long speed that will translate well at this level. Jaydn is a homerun hitter with the ball in his hands and has value as both a receiver and pass protector in the passing game.” - Wilcox
His 10 YPC is very impressive for an RB at any level, especially at the level he was getting snaps (10 snaps per game).
Ashton Hayes, Fr., 5’11”, 180 lbs, 3* 2022 Recruit.
Mostlikely member of the RB room to redshirt or play snaps on special teams as a true Freshman, as a recruit out of Nevada he has rare breakaway speed and is all 180 lbs of a prototypical one-cut runner.
“Ashton is a highly productive running back with speed and a nose for the end zone, making him a valuable addition to our offense. Like many of our players, Ashton showed a passion for football at a young age and is driven to succeed, both on the field and in the classroom. He is a player who will also have a chance to contribute in our special teams return game.” - Wilcox
He had a very productive career with a very good 7.8 YPC his senior year on over 18 snaps per game. He was definitely used as a feature back in his HS offense.