With Cal’s former top running back Khalfani Muhammad having graduated to the NFL, the spotlight falls on the senior duo of projected starting back Tre Watson and second-string Vic Enwere. The running back position is only one of two on the Bears’ roster where two true seniors are projected as the one-two punch.
Watson has an impressive resume going into the 2017 season and is a preseason candidate for the Doak Walker Award, Paul Hornung Award and other various honors granted to the nation’s top running back and most versatile player. He also has a few bold statements to live up to come September.
“Best hands in the country,” said Watson in a CalBears interview when asked about his skillset. “Throw me the ball, you’re 100 percent going to get a catch.”
Watson has shiftiness to break ankles and strength enough to break tackles. He is great at making room for himself to run and does not give up on the play. He has also added on ten pounds, going from 195 to 205, which could bode well for his power on the field.
While Watson is listed as a running back on the roster, he has the hands of a wide receiver on the field, a testament his offensive versatility.
Enwere is the projected second-string and played six games in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury, but redshirt junior Patrick Laird is gunning for his spot.
In the time he did see on the field in 2016, Enwere averaged 56 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. Standing at 6’0” and weighing in at 245 pounds, Enwere has the frame to easily mow through a defense. He was also the leading rusher in this year’s spring game, but he did not have Watson, who sat the game out, to compete against.
Watson’s speed combined with Enwere’s power could pose a huge threat to defenses as the duo brings two complementary strengths to the table.
For now, it seems that Watson is sitting securely with his rightful spot at number one, but Laird could emerge as the primary backup or create a three-man rotation at the position.
With Muhammad and Waston, and for the first six games, Enwere, taking on most of the touches at back last year, Laird saw minimal playing time off of the bench in 2016. But after an impressive outing during the spring game, he could be in contention for the second-string spot.
“The (running back) are a hungry group,” offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin said in a CalBears interview. “I want them all competing like they are a starter.”
The running back position runs deep as there are seven players listed on the depth chart, three of whom are freshman.
Redshirt freshman Zion Echols is listed at the fourth back and junior Billy McCrary III is listed as the fifth string. Echols was a projected standout coming out of high school and Sonny Dykes had huge expectations for him as a Bear. McCrary has seen minimal time on the field, playing in a total of ten games off the bench.
Barring any injuries to the projected top three, it is not likely that these players will receive ample amounts of touches, but if they are called upon, they need to seize the opportunity and string together a few impressive rushes.
Cal has the luxury of Watson and Enwere this season, but after their departure, there will be capable youngsters looking to inherit their thrones. The Bears have veteran experience at running back which is likely going to call for a heavily reliance on the run-game.
Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]