Tailback was unhappy with third-string status
Cal tailback Saleem Muhammad has decided to transfer to Portland State for his senior year, the school announced Thursday.
Muhammad finished spring practice as the third tailback on the depth chart, behind starter Joe Igber and backup Joe Echema. New Cal offensive coordinator Al Borges has indicated that Igber will be given most of the carries as long as Igber stays healthy.
Muhammad ran for 264 yards on 61 carries last season with two touchdowns.
“He came into my office the last week in May and said he wanted his release,” Cal coach Tom Holmoe said. “He feels he won’t get an opportunity to play here and that it would be in his best interest to play somewhere else. He told me he wanted to examine his options.”
Holmoe said that while he regretted Muhammad’s decision, he understood it. Muhammad wasn’t likely to recieve many carries as the third option at the position. Igber showed last season that he can be an every-down back, despite his small frame. Add the presence of Echema and utility man Marcus Fields, who was a tailback before switching to fullback, and Muhammed was the odd man out.
“Echema was No. 2 anyway,” Holmoe said. “In the past, before Joe Igber came into prominence last season, the feeling was we could take advantage of the strengths of all three of our tailbacks. But last year, Joe proved he could be an every-down player. He has put on strength and muscle, and Al wants to give him the ball and let him go. I am convinced that is the way I want to go. Echema and Muhammad were going to be role players, and that’s hard. But they were also one play away from moving up the ladder.”
Muhammad signed with Cal in 1997 but didn’t enroll until the following spring semester to complete an academic admission requirement. He was a SuperPrep All Far West Selection in 1997. At De La Salle High School, he rushed for 1,472 yards and 29 touchdowns his senior year. He chose Cal over USC and Washington.