Health is Bears' Greatest Asset

Jahvid Best has spent a lot of time on the sidelines this fall camp and, initially, I had a problem with it…

After months of batting Heisman questions around, dropping the "Jahvid is just another member of this team," line, Jeff Tedford made it apparent that, well, Jahvid Best isn't just another member of the Cal football team.

Fast forward to a season-ending injury to Dasarte Yarnway—who will miss 2009 due to surgery to repair a torn tendon in his foot—later and I've finally come to the realization that Tedford evidently came to a long time ago.

In 2009, the Bears are poised for heights unseen in Strawberry Canyon in decades (maybe five or so) and to ensure that the Bears are as rosey as possible, Tedford has made a number of changes this fall.

Cal's conditioning program is more intense than it ever has been and the Bears have done more situational training than in years past.

In fact, practicing officials have been on the turf at Memorial Stadium more this season than many of Cal's integral players, and that's where the largest difference between this squad and those that came before it lies.

If nothing else, the injuries to guys like Yarnway and tight end Tad Smith—losses that teeter on the edge of importance but aren't expected to be of much harm to the Bears' overall goals this season—bring to the forefront Cal's most threatening roadblock: injury.

For arguably the first time in eight years, a Jeff Tedford (and Bob Gregory) defense is being more highly anticipated than a Tedford (and, now, Andy Ludwig) offense, but with Best in the backfield and a strengthening passing attack, the Bears may have more balance than ever.

But at the heart of a stable team is consistency, both in play and on the roster.

In a 2008 season that saw virtually Cal's entire offensive line, Best, Kevin Riley and a handful of others endure injury to go 9-4; the Bears started the same offensive lineup in consecutive games just once.

Now compare that to a team like USC.

The Trojans featured the same starters on offense from October 18 to November 29, a six-game span in which SC went undefeated and outscored their opponents 242-39.

All of a sudden, I kind of want Best practicing as little as possible, too.

But Tedford hasn't stopped there, as the Bears' list of non-participants in their fall scrimmage read more like one of statistical leaders, with names like Syd'Quan Thompson, Mike Mohamed and Tyson Alualu all missing action.

And now, Cal is ending its fall camp well in advance of what was originally planned. Not only that, but the Bears won't have a second scrimmage either.

Tedford's reasoning for the early end to camp is a confident one, as he feels that no further evaluation of personnel is necessary.

He's happy with who he's got out on the field, and he wants to keep them there.

As far as Yarnway goes, nobody wishes the freshman could be out there more than I do.

He's already proven his extreme talent and coaches and fans can look forward to next season when he challenges for the Bears' TOP spot at tailback (shh, we'll discuss that at a later date).

But for now, Yarnway's setback in practice will serve as a reminder that the Bears' greatest asset is their health, an asset that should be harnessed for Saturdays.

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.

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