Sofele Making Most of Opportunity

Cal went helmets only on Friday in preparation for Saturday's first two-a-day practice. Check inside for news and notes from practice as well as a feature on Golden Bear running back Isi Sofele, who is currently taking first team reps…

California sophomore running back Isi Sofele stands at a short 5-foot-7 and a stout 186 lbs. Fans have described his running style to be like a ‘pinball'. The players he has been compared to the most have been Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Despite being a diminutive back, Sofele runs and plays with a vengeance.

He has the toughness to gain extra yards (see reception against Stanford from last year), he has the shiftiness to make defenders look bad (see run against Eastern Washington from last year), and he has the breakaway speed to be a constant threat on the field (see kickoff return against Washington from last year).

Thus, it is no real big surprise (pun intended) that Sofele has separated himself a little bit from the stable of running backs, in the competition to be the number two back behind junior Shane Vereen. Sofele, in the absence of Vereen (hamstring) and sophomore Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson (concussion), has taken much of the reps with the first team.

Still, he knows that he has a long way to go.

"It's a good opportunity to go out there with the [first team]," said Sofele. "I just go out there, and give it everything I've got. But I have to maintain my blocking schemes, get my eye level correct, catch the ball... just the same things that got me in this position."

The opportunity to compete with the other backs, which include Vereen, Deboskie-Johnson, freshman Dasarte Yarnway, and freshman Trajuan Briggs, is a unique one, because of the relationships that Sofele has built with his teammates.

"Man, we're really tight," says Sofele regarding the running backs. "We stay with each other. My freshman year, it was Dasarte and I. Then, Trajuan came in [during the spring], and we took him in as a brother. We watched over him. We look at it like a little brotherhood, so we're really close."

And that bond goes beyond the running backs. Sofele came to Cal from Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City. His teammate? Defensive lineman Keni Kaufusi. When speaking about Kaufusi, Sofele's eyes lit up.

"Man, he's my brother. We go way back," says Sofele. "Little league, Pop Warner, him and I... we have each other's backs. I enjoy playing with him. I'm happy he came out here."

For the 2010 season, Sofele is expected to contribute all over the field, from running back to wide receiver to special teams.

"Wherever the coaches want me to play, I just want to help my team win," he added.

Not bad for the little guy.

Practice News & Notes

  • Friday's practice featured only helmets and no pads. Head Coach Jeff Tedford said that Friday's practice was more "mental," to give the guys a rest both physically and mentally from the previous two practices (which were full pads), and partly for the guys to "fresh up" and go at it hard again for Saturday's double day.

  • Tedford noted that Vereen did some running on a treadmill, but he is not on a timetable to practice. Vereen needs to do more than straight running to be cleared to practice again.

  • Tedford also noted that sophomore LB J.P. Hurrell, junior DL Trevor Guyton, and senior LB Jarred Price suffered concussions from the previous practice and did not participate.

  • The team will go through their first "double day" practice on Saturday – one in the morning and one in the evening. Tedford's emphasis is that it's just a regular day with an extra practice, and another opportunity to work.

  • At the end of Friday's practice, the team went through a very spirited conditioning drill, which featured a race between different groups from each position. The race ended with the offensive line running 60 yards, and had the team screaming and hollering by the time it was over. The reason? Tedford emphasizes competition.
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