BERKELEY -- It's still not clear whether or not California will have the services of Doak Walker Award Watch List member Daniel Lasco (hip) on Saturday against Texas, but they will most certainly have his backup -- another Texas-born tailback in Vic Enwere.
"I'm confident in all of them," says offensive coordinator Tony Franklin of his stable of running backs. "I believe Lasco will be the guy, so I feel good about that, but if not, I've told them all -- all five of them -- it's the first time in my life that I've had five guys that I think all five of them can play and win. They can't just play; they can win for us."
Of course, Texas has had issues defending the run -- the Longhorns are 110th in the nation in that regard -- and they're dead last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in third-down defense, making Enwere and the rest of the running back corps that much more important, especially with Franklin's up-tempo offense.
"The reason we play tempo is to get an advantage at that stage," Franklin says. "I've got to do a better job on first down, because I had too many third-and-long's the other day, so that's play-calling."
With that said, last week, Texas gave up lengthy third-down conversions of eight, 22, five, eight, nine and seven yards, so even in third-and-long, the Bears are going to have a shot, especially if the Longhorns bring a fourth man up to rush the passer and take a man out of the back end, giving quarterback Jared Goff more room to work.
"I've got to do a better job of making first-down calls that are going to get us five yards, and not get in as many third-and-longs as we were in the other day. We need to be in third-and-ones, twos and threes, where we can run the football," Franklin says. The best way to do that is to run the ball, and he's got just the guy to do it in Enwere.
When special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl went into Houston to find a running back for the 2013 class, he kept hearing about Enwere, out of Sugar Land (Tex.) Stephen F. Austin.
"He had a really good reputation in the Houston area," Tommerdahl says. "Everybody knew about him. He was just, his style has changed since he came here. He was a big, finesse back. He probably won't like me saying that."
Enwere -- now at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds -- wound up with 22 scholarship offers, but was universally ranked as a three-star. He put the Bears in his top five as soon as Tommerdahl and Franklin pulled the trigger.
"In very offense, I want one of those guys to be big, to be, like he did on the fourth down play [against San Diego State], where they come through, they hit you behind the line, and you're so big and strong and tough that you get it, no matter what," Franklin says. "That's one of the best runs I've seen sicne I've been coaching, and it was a four-yard gain.
"He was dead. I said, 'Let's go for it, I've got a play,' and you're hoping that's what's going to happen, because that's what you need -- you've got to have that, to ever be a championship-caliber team, and that's what we had at La Tech with Kenneth Dixon. Kenneth is the same way -- you hit him in the backfield, and he gets five yards. We wanted to get Vic to that stage, because he's got the physical build to do that. He's worked so hard at his pad level, and getting it down, and he's got it better than I thought he could."
Tommerdahl describes Enwere's high school running style as "he was big and he could make you miss," but the Bears took him out of that once he got to Berkeley. His job now is to be a hammer.
"That's the difference in Pac-12 football," Tommerdahl says.
That's the difference between running through Texas defenders, wearing them down like waves crashing on rocks, and trying to get around their length. On third down, and in the fourth quarter, that's when backs like Enwere pay dividends.
"I'm different than you all -- I don't care about the stars," Franklin says. "You look at the Super Bowl and most of them are two's. I saw a good player. Mark Tommerdahl did a really good job of doing homework on Vic and all that, and we think we has a chance to be special."