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Why Best Went to Cal

Wanted to touch a little more on ‘Jahvid the Jet,’ ‘Little Bush,’ or the ‘Next Reggie,’ whatever you’d like to call Cal running back dynamo Jahvid Best, because there was some more info that I couldn’t get into today’s newspaper story because of time and space. I’m always hesitant to compare anyone to Reggie Bush because I covered nearly half of Bush’s games in 2005 and the kid was a freak of nature, the likes of which we may not see for quite some time. Aside from that Rose Bowl game against Texas, Bush was irrepressible. So I wasn’t too surprised that Cal QB Kevin Riley made the comparison, or that Best’s high school coach, Chad Nightingale, bought into it when I talked to him on the phone. I was surprised that Coach Jeff Tedford did not try to downplay the hype or expectation.

I asked Nightingale how Best wound up at Cal and he told me most of the elite schools shied away from Best through much of his high school career because of his stature. He was 5-7, 135 pounds in ninth grade. He only needed enough speed in high school to beat defenders to the end zone, so he never really had to run at maximum speed. And he didn’t just run 10.31 once as a senior in the 100 meters. Nightingale said he ran times of 10.31, 10.36, 10.36 and 10.37 as a senior. Equally remarkable was his time of 20.65 in the 200 and, I believe, 48.something in the 400. Nightingale said Reggie Bush ran something around a 10.55 in the 100. Nightingale believes what Bush accomplished at USC speaks for itself, and that the comparison may be a bit unfair because Best is just a sophomore. But he says unequivocally that Best is faster.

“I’m sure Maryland coaches are telling players that you can’t give Best a crease or he is gone,” Nightingale said.

Nightingale made clear that Best is not a track athlete who plays football, but rather a football player with track speed. He has exceptional speed running straight ahead and also cutting horizontally. During his senior year of high school, marquee programs started to show interest. Nightingale said ND Coach Charlie Weis showed up in the parking lot and that USC Coach Pete Carroll and Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti showed interest. Best loved watching Bush at USC and taped all his games, but USC signed tailback Joe McKnight out of Louisiana and, as has been well documented, had a slew of running backs, uh, like nine of them, last season. So it was best for both USC and Best that he didn’t wind up at SC, Nightingale said. It came down to Cal or Oregon. A deciding factor was that Cal is a stone’s throw from Best’s home in Vallejo, Calif., and Best’s parents, Lisa and David, could easily watch him play.

Even after Best orally committed to Cal, Nightingale said, schools continued to show interest. He said that a Florida assistant called him and offered a scholarship to Best without even talking to the player. Nightingale offered the assistant Best’s phone number and a chance to talk to him but told the assistant that Best was pretty committed to playing for the Golden Bears. And once Best started training camp at Cal before his freshman season, it took DeSean Jackson, who was receiving Heisman hype at the time, all of 2 ½ weeks before he told a local reporter that Best was “Little Bush.”

Nightingale already knew his potential, saying that by the end of his junior year of high school, “I knew that he was not only good enough to play Division I football, but that this guy is good enough to be as good as anyone is going to see.”

Make what you want of him, but there is considerable interest building for his East Coast appearance Saturday.

By Eric Prisbell  |  September 11, 2008; 4:39 PM ET
Categories:  Football  | Tags: Jahvid Best  
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Eric -- I'm pretty sure if you look back, Reggie Bush didn't look like "Reggie Bush" against Cal.

Posted by: John | September 11, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Pete Carroll himself came to see Jahvid in action on three different occasions.

I think Pete really wanted Best, in addition to Joe McKnight, to continue to keep ultra-talented kids away from other teams like Cal, UCLA, Oregon, etc.

I'm sure Best would've seen some action had he gone to USC, but definitely not as many touches as he's getting at Cal.

It should be a fun game with so many speedsters on Sat with Scott, Heyward-Bey, Best, and Vereen.

Posted by: Aaron | September 11, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse

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