Versatile Vereen Would Fit Needs

Packer Report talked to standout Cal running back Shane Vereen in our latest draft exclusive. Vereen, a distant cousin of the legendary Ben Vereen, can run, catch, block and return kicks,

Ben Vereen is a legendary actor, singer and dancer.

Cal running back Shane Vereen laughed when asked if there's any comparison in what he does with the football in his hands to what Ben Vereen did with dancing shoes on his feet.

"Well, not exactly," Vereen told Packer Report earlier in the week. "He's a distant cousin of mine, but other than that ... well, maybe a little bit on the dance floor, but not in the backfield. I'm more of a north-south runner — unless I need to (dance)."

While Alabama's Mark Ingram gets all the hype in this class of running backs and Illinois' Mikel Leshoure is considered another first-round possibility, Vereen might be the most versatile running back in the group.

"We pride ourselves in being good, all-around running backs," Vereen said of a school that has produced J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best in recent drafts. "There's a standard around here, and (Cal's run game coordinator, Ron Gould) does a great job of making sure we live up to that standard.

Vereen can run it: He rushed for 1,167 yards this past season and 2,834 yards during his three years in Berkeley, with a career average of 5.1 per carry. He posted 61 carries of at least 10 yards during his career.

Vereen can catch it: He caught 22 passes in 2010 and 74 passes for his career — including a streak of 33 games with at least one catch — with a career average of 9.1 yards per reception.

Vereen can return kicks: Doing it full-time only as a sophomore, he averaged 23.0 yards on 24 runbacks.

"I love it," he said of returning kicks. "It can be a game-changer in a heartbeat, which is why it's so exciting to me. I love returning kicks."

Vereen, who had a 4.0 GPA in high school and needed just three-and-a-half years to earn his degree in media studies, can do the little things, too: He's good in pass protection, even at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds. Plus, he lost just one fumble during his final two seasons.

"If you couldn't pass protect, you couldn't play. It's a huge deal," he said.

Put all those skills together and that he's played in a pro-style offense, and Vereen would be the perfect third-down back for the Packers. Green Bay has to consider the possibility of losing Brandon Jackson, who figures to be an unrestricted free agent whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is struck. Of the front-line players, Ryan Grant and James Starks, only Starks has the receiving skills to play on third down but he has yet to show he can consistently pick up blitzers. Plus, Vereen's kick-return ability would solve a longtime problem.

Vereen is the eighth-ranked running back in NFL Scouting's exclusive rankings and could be in play for the Packers if still available at the end of the third round.

"I take a lot of pride in being able to do a lot of things and do a lot of things well," Vereen said. "There's a lot of things that I would love to get better at because I don't think I've reached my full potential yet as a player, which is something I'm really looking forward to doing."

Vereen says Gould compared to him Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, and Vereen loves to watch the late, great Walter Payton.

"I liked how physical he ran and how he was able to break long runs and break a lot of tackles," Vereen said of Payton.

Vereen, with the one-cut running style perfect for the Packers' zone scheme, ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds at the Scouting Combine and ranked second among running backs there with 31 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

All that's left is to find out where he'll be starting his career.

"It's nerve-wracking and a lot of anxiety but I'm excited," he said. "It's a fun experience. I'm enjoying it. We'll see what happens in a couple weeks."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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