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Injured player Jahvid Best (right) watches teamates warm up before the Big Game at Stanford University in Palo Alto Calif., Saturday Nov. 21, 2009. (John Green/Staff)

Jahvid Best may have played his last game at Cal.

Best said Wednesday that he won't play in next week's Poinsettia Bowl, ending his season and possibly his college career. He missed Cal's final three regular-season games after suffering head and back injuries Nov. 7 against Oregon State.

Best, a junior, is considering leaving school early to enter the 2010 NFL draft. He has submitted his paperwork to be evaluated by the NFL draft advisory committee, which provides early-entry candidates an idea of their draft prospects. Best has until Jan. 15 to make himself available for the draft.

"Right now, I sent that in just to get information," Best said. "After the bowl game, I'll sit down with my family and coaches and make a decision. As of now I'm completely on top of the fence."

Best entered the season as a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and although he didn't put up the dominating numbers many had expected, he still rushed for 867 yards and 12 touchdowns before suffering a severe concussion and back injury after landing hard on his back and head at the end of a 7-yard touchdown.

Although Best's rehab is going smoothly, he won't be ready in time to play Wednesday against Utah. Had the Bears made it to a bowl game after Christmas, Best might have been able to play.

"It's a little disappointing. I just have too much rehab to do and not enough time," Best said. "There's nothing I can do (about the decision). The immediate step is just getting back in shape. I'm close, but I can't get in football shape to play a game in seven days. It would have been a lot more likely (after Christmas)."

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. rates Best as the top junior running back in the country and the 20th overall prospect in the 2010 draft.

Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he will sit down with Best and his family, along with running backs coach Ron Gould, after the Poinsettia Bowl to discuss Best's NFL decision.

"Mainly it's just to lay out all the information so he can make an educated decision," Tedford said. "You take all the information into consideration and then make a decision."

If Best decides to enter the draft, he will leave Cal tied with Marshawn Lynch for third all-time with 29 rushing touchdowns. He's seventh on the school's career rushing list with 2,668 yards and last year had the second-best single-season rushing total at Cal with 1,580 yards.

"I feel bad for him, because I know how bad he really wanted to play," said Cal running back Shane Vereen, Best's replacement and one of his closest friends. "It kind of hurts a little bit to know he can't play. He wishes he could be out there with us. But at the same time he needs to understand he needs to get better and healthy."

Tedford said Best will still join the team in San Diego for the bowl game. The Bears are scheduled to leave Saturday.

"Obviously, he'd like to be out there with his team, but he also understands that the level that he plays, there's a certain shape he'd have to be in," Tedford said. "He's not ready to hit, and he's not ready to do all that."

POINSETTIA BOWL
  • NEXT GAME: Wednesday, vs. Utah, 5 p.m.