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February 16, 2009

Explosive Best wants to be a complete player

RELATED: College football's 10 most explosive players

Even though they help him, California running back Jahvid Best doesn't want crutches.

If he could, he'd ditch them faster than he sprinted on any one of the eight runs he had of at least 50 yards this past season.

But he can't. Surgery on his left foot in January has left Best, the Pac-10's reigning rushing champion, hobbled and hoping to heal in time to participate in at least some of the Bears' upcoming spring practice.

"Right now I'm just kind of chilling," he said. "I might make the second half of [spring football]."

But there is no reason for Cal coaches to rush him this spring. They already know how he rushes in the fall. Last season his first as a starter Best rushed for 1,580 yards and averaged a scintillating 8.1 yards per carry. Just more than one-third of his yardage came on 10 touchdown runs that ranged between 20 and 86 yards.

In fact, Best, a California high school state sprint champion, had three touchdowns runs that covered at least 80 yards. He did that despite missing time with a slight concussion, a dislocated elbow and the foot injury.

An explosive player causes opposing fans to hold their breath each time he gets the ball because he's capable of scoring on any play, from anywhere.

Best is the definition of an explosive player. Yet, he doesn't want the term "explosive player" to define him.

"You could take something negative from that," he said. "Most of the time an explosive player makes big plays, but if he's not making big plays he's not that productive. You have to make sure that if you're labeled as an 'explosive player,' you'll still be there on every down.

"I'm trying to become a complete player and just work on my all-around game. Obviously, hitting home runs and making big plays are my strong points. But getting yardage on every down is something I have trouble with sometimes. I want to be consistent the whole season."

When he gets off the crutches, he wants to add strength and power. In some instances, getting the first down on third-and-1 can be more difficult than ripping off a 20-yard gain. He wants to prove he can be counted on to get the tough yards, too.

"I'm always expecting a big play," Best said. "If the opportunity presents itself you have to be ready, so it's in the back of my mind to be ready to make a big play. But sometimes the situation calls to just get the first down."

A plow horse and a race horse all in one? That definitely would be a bonus for the Bears, who return the majority of their starters from a team that went 9-4 in 2008. They have even greater aspirations for the '09 season.

"I'm expecting big things for myself and for our team next season," Best said. "We're setting the bar high for ourselves. We're expecting great things all across the board. And I expect to be better myself."

Better? That's hard to imagine until you remember that Best rushed for 698 yards in the final three games of last season. That outburst included eight touchdowns, five of which came on runs of at least 20 yards.

It might have been more if not for a sore foot.

Best broke into the open field on a carry against Stanford, but was caught from behind.

"Some people say the guy had an angle on me, but he caught me," Best said. "I feel like in the open field nobody should catch me, whether they have an angle or not."

There's another example of him not wanting to use a crutch.

RELATED: College football's 10 most explosive players

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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