Despite an injury-plagued 2015 season, Cal Bears’ running back Daniel Lasco’s skill set is undeniable.
As the 2016 NFL Draft approaches, Golden Gate Sports will profile some of the California Golden Bears’ potential draft picks. Everyone knows about quarterback Jared Goff, who declared for the draft a year early and will almost certainly be one of the first few players off the board when the 81st annual draft kicks off on April 28th. But the Bears, who finished 8-5 this past season and beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, have other intriguing prospects. The fourth profiled here is running back Daniel Lasco.
Lasco, a 6’1″ tailback who weighs in at about 205 pounds, came out of The Woodlands High School in The Woodland, Texas as one of the most highly-touted high school runners in the country. His junior year saw him rush for 1,520 yards and 17 touchdowns, while he picked up 868 yards and 12 scores in his senior season, during which he was limited to seven games because of injuries. Lasco was ranked among the top-25 running backs in the country by five different publications, and despite offers from schools like Texas A&M, Miami, and Texas Christian, Lasco chose Cal.
The running back redshirted in 2011, and received his first taste of action in 2012, playing in 12 games mostly as a special teamer. For his efforts, he was named Cal’s special teams MVP. He carried the ball just six times that season, but gained 109 yards and scored once, a 77-yard scamper against Southern Utah.
In 2013, Lasco received more action out of the backfield, but was held to eight games and 67 carries because of a shoulder injury. In those eight games, which included his first career start, Lasco toted the ball 67 times for 317 yards (4.7 per carry) and two touchdowns, while also adding 11 receptions for 78 yards.
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2014 was a breakout season for Lasco, as he played in all 12 games, including 11 starts as the tailback. He carried the ball 210 times and picked up 1,115 yards while scoring 12 touchdowns, plus 33 catches for 356 yards and two scores. After his 188-yard, three-touchdown performance against Oregon State, Lasco was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. Following the season, Lasco was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Lasco’s eye-opening 2014 performance landed him a spot on the preseason Doak Walker Award watchlist, but he couldn’t follow through with the hype during the season. He was limited to nine games and 65 carries, first by a hip strain (suffered against San Diego State, a game in which he had 123 yards and a touchdown), and later by an ankle injury. The latter injury limited Lasco to 12 carries over the final five games of the season, two of which he missed altogether. In the Armed Forces Bowl, the first bowl game of Lasco’s career, he suited up but didn’t receive a carry, totaling just a special teams tackle.
After the season, Lasco was invited to the East-West Shrine Game, where he turned a lot of heads. He had an excellent week of practices, and was the leading rusher in the game, picking up 62 yards on six carries. His biggest highlight was a 41-yard run on a draw play, where he showed his great burst and vision. He also had a first-down catch that was called back due to a penalty.
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Lasco has just about every trait an NFL team would want in a running back. He has good patience to wait for his blockers to make room, and good vision to see the blocks unfold in front of him. Lasco’s got great speed and excellent burst, getting to top speed in the blink of an eye. While he’s mostly a speed back, he’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and lay some lumber before it gets laid on him, and he is shifty enough to make defenders miss in the open field. He’s a good receiving back, and is a serviceable pass blocker out of the backfield. Basically, Lasco has all the tools to be successful at the next level.
The biggest question for Lasco is his durability. Injuries have followed him like a black cloud, starting with his senior season at The Woodlands. In 2013, aside from the shoulder injury that kept him out of four games, he also missed spring practices and the annual spring game because of an ailment. And of course, there was his 2015 season.
Lasco also didn’t have much of an opportunity to show that he could be a workhorse back within the span of a game. In 38 games, Lasco carried the ball at least 20 times only thrice, but did average over five yards per carry each occurrence. That’s not entirely his fault, as Cal’s passing offense, led by Goff, was one of the most dangerous in the country, and the team relied heavily on the air attack often.
Before his senior season, Lasco was ranked the nation’s seventh-best draft eligible running back by Todd McShay for the 2016 draft. His final season performance at Cal put a damper on that enthusiasm, and CBS Sports has him 15th among running backs with a fifth-to-sixth round grade. With some good workouts and impressive tryouts, Lasco can earn some of that good favor back.
Here is a highlight reel from Lasco’s short senior season: