The Cal Bears went through their first coaching change in over a decade as the long-time message of Jeff Tedford just wasn’t resonating the way it once did. The program had become stale and needed to shake things up to get themselves headed back in the right direction in a very competitive Pac 12 conference. New head coach Sonny Dykes is looking for that spark that will get the turnaround going in Berkeley, and he may have it in junior running back Brendan Bigelow.
Looking just at Bigelow’s raw numbers from 2012, he wouldn’t jump out as a candidate to turn around the Cal program. He rushed for just 431 yards and scored three touchdowns, while catching seven passes for 92 yards and another score in the passing game. Not exactly a season to write home about, but the numbers can be deceiving until we delve a little deeper.
The problem for Bigelow in 2012 wasn’t a lack of production, merely a lack of opportunities to produce. He averaged 9.8 yards per carry and was a constant threat to take the football to the house when he got an opportunity. Against the Ohio State Buckeyes, he had one of the best runs of the year in all of college football when he 81-yard run, the longest rushing touchdown ever given up in Ohio Stadium by the home team, and finished with 140 yards…on just four carries.
During his first two seasons, Bigelow has battled with some inconsistency and injury. He’s been held out this spring after having surgery on the same knee that he had ACL surgeries done on twice during high school, but he is a valuable offensive weapon who can create without a lot of help. All he needs is a sliver of light and he can turn it into six points in a hurry. The trick is to get him the touches to make a meaningful impact on the game.
Dykes seems intent on getting Bigelow involved in the offense in a major way next season. If the running back can maintain his playmaking ability over a full season while getting 20 touches a game without missing time with injuries, he could be the difference between another losing season and a bowl bid in Berekely.