Vereen Continues Long Line Of Success For Pac-10 Running Backs
by Keyon Johnson
While there are a number of different elements that can affect or determine the outcome of football games, time of possession ranks as one of the most important. When talking to football coaches, you will constantly hear them stressing the importance of being able to take care of the ball, keeping the ball out of the defense's hands and controlling the clock.
There is no better way to controlling the clock than running the ball consistently. Running backs in the Pac-10 Conference have a clear understanding of this concept, arguably better than any other conference in the nation as of late. The Pac-10 has produced such great running backs as Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, Oregon State's Stephen Jackson, UCLA's Maurice Jones-Drew and Stanford's Toby Gerhart over the past few years. The talent pool of running backs in this conference is far from running dry. It is as if the water is in constant motion with current Pac-10 running back phenoms like Oregon's LaMichael James, UCLA's Jonathan Franklin, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and USC's Marc Tyler.
If the Pac-10 is one of the top conferences for running backs, then the University of California might be Running back U. Over the past few years, Cal has produced one great back after another, going from J.J. Arrington to Marshawn Lynch; then to Justin Forsett, who passed the torch to Jahvid Best.
Now it's Shane Vereen's time to shine and he's done just that.
With 1,112 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, Vereen has proven this year that he is up to the challenge and understands the history of the great backs that preceded him. Vereen has accepted the job and is aware that he has a lot to live up to as the running back at Cal.
"I do feel as though we've produced great running backs in the past, and that we'll continue to do so," Vereen said. "I think that it all has to do with [RB coach Ron Gould]. His work ethic and his ability to coach is unmatched. I feel like the way that he pushes us, the level that he gets us to play at which is way ahead of anything that we could have ever achieved."
Vereen's accomplishments are recognized by his teammates and the coaching staff. He has the desire to do whatever it takes to win games.
"For me, my overall goal is to be the best running back that I can be in order to help the team reach our goals," Vereen said. "To me, it's always about the team and not about myself. If I have a good enough season to get personal accolades then great. But more importantly, I want to be part of a successful football team. We all want to win and we all know how good we can be and I think it's important for us to play at that level."
When Cal hosts Washington in the regular season finale Saturday, a bowl berth will be on the line. Win and Cal is in, lose and the season is over. Bouncing back from a loss to Stanford in the Big Game will take leadership and Vereen is widely looked at as the leader of the Bears.
"I love being known as a leader, I love being a leader," Vereen said. "I think it's where I perform best. I like the challenge of being a leader, so I try my best to be the best leader that I can be and to embrace that role."
Vereen dedicated a lot of extra time working out and studying film in the off season in preparation for this season.
"I think that it was important for me to kick it up a notch," Vereen explained. "Not only on the physical level in getting faster and stronger but especially on the mental level. Being smarter, being quicker with my reads, to uncover defenses faster and that's also from watching a lot of film. Watching myself from last year and improving that way as well. I look at different things now while I'm watching film. Instead of watching it just to watch it, I watch for certain things in the film that I need to improve on."
Vereen is a student of the game and he tries to pattern his style after running backs that came before him and also backs that he looked up to as a child like the great Hall of Fame Walter Payton.
"One of my favorite running backs that I like to emulate, analyze and try to run like is Walter Payton," Vereen said. "I try to take little things from each of the running backs that have come before me. Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Jahvid Best - taking the little things that works for them, that can work for me like making my read and making guys miss in the open field. Also looking at different ways to get off of coverage and get open for a pass. Little things that they do that I try to do myself. So I'm always learning from each and every person that's come before me."
Vereen has always set high goals for himself and expects to reach and exceed those goals. This came naturally to him.
"I think a lot of what I believe in now is because of my upbringing," Vereen said. "Since I was little, I have always held myself to a higher standard in order to become better."
That attitude and focus carried over to high school and helped create his identity at Valencia High School.
"When he being was recruited we knew two things," Valencia High School head coach Larry Muir said. "He was going to be a captain, no matter what school he went to, and he was going to be the face of someone's program."
Vereen has proved his high school coach correct as he has become one of the best running backs in the Pac-10 Conference and the face of this Cal team.