Friday, December 22, 2006

50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #10 - J.J. ARRINGTON

#10 - J.J. ARRINGTON - RUNNING BACK (2003-2004)
J.J. Arrington is the reason we don't pay that much attention to recruiting rankings. Cal and Oregon were the only programs to seriously court Arrington, a two star recruit from College of the Canyons junior college. To his credit, so-called expert Greg Biggins did expect Arrington to have an immediate impact, though he mentioned him after singing the praises of recruits like Devin Stearns, Garrett Tremblay and Sam DeSa. We think it's safe to say that no one - not even Mr. Tedford - expected the kid from North Carolina to someday compile the 10th greatest season by a running back in NCAA history.

But from the beginning, it was clear that Tedford had gotten a steal in J.J.. In his second game, Arrington torched Southern Miss for 114 yards on 16 carries. There was the issue of fumbles, though: Arrington lost three in his first six games, and found his way to Tedford's bench as Adimchinobe Echemandu strengthened his hold on the starting job. JT reinstated Arrington at home against Arizona, and he rewarded his coach with 92 yards, two touchdowns and no fumbles. His breakout game came three weeks later against Washington, when he gained 185 yards on only 14 carries in Cal's 54-7 rout.

Cal fans were understandably anxious to see what Arrington would do carrying the full workload in 2004. What he did was have the greatest season by any player in the history of Cal football. That's right. The greatest season ever.

In each of his 12 games, Arrington hit for at least 100 yards - the only back in America to make that claim. Against Air Force in the opener, he scored three times including an 89-yard run that set a Cal record. 3 more scores against NMSU, and then a couple of off games - 108 yards and a TD v Oregon State and 112 in the heartbreak loss to SC. Then J.J. got serious. UCLA was torched for 205 yards and two scores in the next outing, and then ASU, Oregon, Washington and Stanford all surrendered a touchdown and at least 120 yards to #30.

But J.J. Arrington, to us, defined himself in the rain and mud of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You recall the scene - the Bears needed a blowout win to impress the human pollsters and vault past Texas into the Rose Bowl. It was not to be, but Arrington moved heaven and earth to make it so, rushing 31 times for 261 yards, the most by a Cal back since 1954.

He ended the year with absurd numbers: 289 carries for 2,018 yards and fifteen touchdowns. A consensus All-American, Arrington also won the Pop Warner Award, given to the top senior on the west coast. J.J. was overlooked in the Heisman voting, and also by the pros in the 2005 NFL draft, falling to the Arizona Cardinals with the 15th pick of the second round. He plays there today, as understudy to Edgerrin James and a kick returner for the Cardinals - a pretty good two-star guy.

12 Comments:

At 10:20 AM, Blogger T. said...

Okay, I'm going to have to take issue with your rankings here. Not that JJ is a top ten guy, but being ahead of Marshawn. (And I'm a huge JJ fan). But JJ had basically one year of being the man (and what a YEAR that was) but Marshawn has carried the Bears for 3 years - even when he was a freshman and backed up JJ, his running in the Air Force and Stanford games was amazing.

JJ's first year - backing up Ech - was filled with fumbles and a lot less significant running then Marshawn's backup year ever was.

I'm of the opinion that 3 great years outweigh 1 fantastic year.

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Eric said...

Imagine what he could have done with a 4-year stint at Cal. The numbers would be incredible.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Ah, but that's what rankings are for. I thought long and hard about Lynch v Arrington. It's like the old baseball Hall of Fame debate - do you favor peak or career? JJ had the best season of any Cal RB by a country mile, and he led Cal to its best season in fifty years. That to me was worth a wee bit more than Marshawn's 3 very good years. And, while JJ coughed it up too much as a junior, he also led the Pac 10 in yards per carry.

But thank you, T, for contributing to our first real debate on the rankings. We've been waiting....

 
At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Foothillbear said...

Is there someplace to look at the list from 50 to 10?

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Good idea, we'll put a link up.

 
At 8:12 PM, Blogger Pete Morris said...

No question that Lynch is a bigger talent than Arrington--probably bigger than everyone else who'll be rated above him on this list, too. Yet, assuming he goes to the NFL this spring, evaluating Lynch's Cal career is difficult indeed. In no way can you say that HE didn't live up to his potential; he's been "money". But "his" Bears the last two years clearly have not. Nagging injuries, inconsistent team play on both sides of the ball, and an offensive game play that has struggled at times to figure out how best to use Lynch, have all conspired to limit his (and his team's) production the last two years.

I don't want to be misread as cynically under-appreciating the thousands of yards, dozens of TDs, and 17 (18?) wins that Lynch has compiled while wearing the Bears' #10 shirt. But with the raised expectations post Arrington/2004, it's production that comes up just that little bit short. I think it is safe to say that we're going to see Russell White's name on this list pretty soon--a legendary Bear who, like Lynch, had "the gift", and who also, like Arrington, was in a situation where he could carry his team to greater heights.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger T. said...

I'd also note that JJ got to run behind the legendary 2004 offensive line. Marshawn had one great line (2005) and one mediocre (especially for recent times) line - and then the difference between Mandarino and Storer AND the single back offense vs. the I formation.

I appreciate JJ's 2000 yard season, I really do. But Marshawn has been the man for 3 years (and has been one of Tedford's recruiters - getting Jordan AND has kept the family atmosphere in the team and has been the teamspokesperson.)

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

Well, I have to go with Marshawn here. Marshawn seemed like the better runner to me when they played together in 2004. Certainly, JJ had the better numbers, but he also got a lot more carries. IIRC, Marshawn had a better average per carry in 2004 than JJ (albeit in limited time).

One of my favorite JJ memories was the Oregon game in 2004. He runs straight into a big mess of guys. It looks like he is going to get tackled. Then, out of nowhere he emerges from the other side and continues running. I call that one the Teleport.

Another great fav JJ memory technically never happened. SoMiss game. He spins around, plants his hand and keeps going. I call that one The Matrix. Too bad it was called back. We mighta gone to the Rose Bowl if we get that TD. :(!

Either way, it's a tough decision to make and us Cal fans have been *incredibly* blessed to have both of those great runners back to back. Too bad that RB from Marist high in Oregon got his scholarship revoked, I heard he was really good.

Love the blog, btw.

 
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