By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – The smoke has cleared from a 2013 season full of transition, and the Cal football team can take some comfort knowing running back Daniel Lasco is still standing, healthy and ready to fulfill the significant potential he brought with him to Berkeley in 2011.
The junior from The Woodlands, TX was considered one of the premier running backs in the country coming out of high school. After redshirting the 2011 season and waiting his turn behind productive backs such as Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson in 2012, the prospect of him becoming an integral part of the playing rotation last year fizzled quickly after a series of injuries set him back.
With Brendan Bigelow now off to the NFL Draft, Lasco is the Bears’ most experienced tailback and is poised to shine in 2014.
“When I first got on campus, I was ready to produce and help the team,” Lasco said Saturday after the Spring Football Experience at Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium, in which he rushed six times for 35 yards and a touchdown. “Now it’s my time to shine. I had a couple injuries last year. I can’t really harp on that fact. I just have to find ways to keep improving because I’m not where I need to be right now at all. Eventually throughout summer and fall camp, hopefully I can get to where I want to go.”
Lasco missed spring practice last year following shoulder surgery and was forced to sit out four games a year ago because of a hamstring injury and a separated shoulder. Even when he did play, he wasn’t right.
He still had the third-most carries (67) and rushing yards (317) on the team while tying for second with two touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 11 passes for 78 yards.
“It was real frustrating,” Lasco said. “Every week, I had to come to practice and basically endure all the pain I was going through. I just wanted to be out on the field with my brothers. Sitting there takes a toll on your body and your mind. It was real rough last year.”
If he stays healthy, it’s sure to be not quite as rough. Lasco has a combination of power and athleticism that makes him a potentially dangerous running back. He displayed his strength Saturday in the red zone when he dragged the pile six yards to the shadow of the end zone and then scored a touchdown on the next play.
That kind of run is something head coach Sonny Dykes didn’t see enough of last year, and wants to see more of this season.
“We have to be a little more downhill and be a little more physical, and Lasco really did that this spring,” Dykes said. “I think overall it’s a big area of improvement, especially with Lasco.”
Lasco will compete in the fall with leading returning rusher Khalfani Muhammad, Jeffrey Coprich and incoming freshman Tre Watson. He’s happy with how he positioned himself this spring but knows he still has a lot of work ahead of him.
“I always want to think there is someone behind me trying to take my job and keep that grind going,” Lasco said. “Right now, I feel great. I just have to stay healthy. Whatever I have to do, I have to make sure I’m healthy next year.”
Cal running backs coach Pierre Ingram said Lasco was able to learn the team’s new system last season and the Bears are counting on him to step up his production in 2014.
“He has it all,” Ingram said. “I’m excited. You know he can run with power, but at the same time he can get in the open field. I think he understands what it takes to make a big play happen. We need him to step up and do that.”