California Preview 2006 - Offense
California Golden Bears
Posted Aug 8, 2006

California Golden Bears Preview 2006 - Cal Offense

What you need to know ... This should be one of the nation's most explosive attacks if the quarterback situation stabilizes in a hurry and if the offensive line can make up for some big losses. Tackle Ryan O'Callaghan and center Marvin Philip were two of the best linemen in the nation and won't be easily replaced. That's about the only concern with Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett forming one of the nation's best 1-2 rushing punches and DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and LaVelle Hawkins combining for one of the nation's fastest and most explosive receiving corps. The question now becomes whether or not QB Nate Longshore can come back 100% after breaking his ankle. Steve Levy, Kyle Reed and Joe Ayoob will all get their shots at the starting job, but Longshore is the one who'll make sure the passing game doesn't finish last in the Pac 10 again. Look for the Bears to run a little bit of spread attack throughout the year to mix things up.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Joe Ayoob
125-254, 1,707 yds, 15 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Marshawn Lynch
196 carries, 1,246 yds, 10 TD
Receiving: DeSean Jackson
38 catches, 601 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Marshawn Lynch
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore C Alex Mack
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore OT Mike Tepper
Best pro prospect: Lynch
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lynch, 2) WR DeSean Jackson, 3) TE Craig Stevens
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line depth

Allegedly all four of the main quarterback options (Nate Longshore, Steve Levy, Kyle Reed and Joe Ayoob) will get an equal shot at the starting job, but there might be protests not seen since the 1960s around Berkeley if Ayoob gets the opening day call at Tennessee. He has the talent, but he struggled in his first season as a starter after taking over for Nate Longshore, who suffered a broken ankle in the season opener. It'll be a mild upset if anyone other than Longshore is the No. 1 man after already being declared the starter in spring ball, but Levy proved he can handle the work if called upon while Reed has the skills and smarts to be an option with more practice time.
The key to the unit: Quickly figure out the pecking order with an eye toward the future by developing Kyle Reed.
Quarterback Rating: 8

Projected Starter
- Nate Longshore, Soph. - 8-11, 72%, 131 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Longshore was looking great getting the opening day start against Sacramento State, and then he broke his ankle in the second quarter and the Joe Ayoob era began. The 6-5, 230-pound sophomore is a big bomber with a nice command of the offense, he's not a runner and had a bit of a limp in spring practices. Even so, he'll likely be the main man for the next three seasons even though he's the least mobile of all the options.

Top Backups
- Steve Levy, Sr. - 32-52, 439 yds, 62%, 4 TD, 2 INT 16 carries, 64 yds
Levy got the call after the offense needed a different option than Joe Ayoob, and he came through with two nice performances against Stanford and BYU. He's the most limited of the four quarterback options, but the former fullback is a good runner and he doesn't make mistakes.
- Kyle Reed, RFr.
Reed will be given every shot to win the starting job, but the star redshirt freshman will likely be the number two man behind Nate Longshore going into the season. He's the best runner of the four main Cal quarterbacks with 4.6 speed and has a live arm, with his accuracy and ability to limit mistakes that makes or breaks his chances.
- Joseph Ayoob, Sr. - 125-254, 1,707 yds, 49%, 15 TD, 14 INT, 58 carries, 58 yds, 5 TD
Ayoob ended up getting most of the blame for Cal's season not going as well as originally planned and it appeared he'd be nothing more than an emergency quarterback this year before starting to light it up at the end of spring ball. He didn't show much of the running ability last year many were hyping up from his days at City College of San Francisco, and his accuracy left something to be desired starting off ominously going 0-for-10 against Sacramento State. While he had some good moments, he'll most be remembered for throwing too many interceptions with several of them coming at the absolute worst times. Even so, his athleticism makes him a perfect fit when Cal wants to run the spread attack.

Running Backs
There are few better 1-2 punches in America than Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. They'll each crank out 1,000 yards if they each stay healthy with Lynch sure to flirt with the 2,000-yard mark if the offensive line can make the necessary replacements to be nearly as good as last year. Marcus O'Keith might be the nation's best number three back. Fullback won't be an issue with Byron Storer an excellent replacement for Chris Manderino.
The key to the unit: Keep Marshawn Lynch healthy and get another strong season from Justin Forsett.
Running Back Rating: 10

Projected Starters
- Marshawn Lynch, Jr. - 196 carries, 1,246 yds, 6.4 ypc, 10 TD, 15 catches, 125 yds
It should say how much is expected out of Lynch that he had a slightly disappointing season and still cranked out 1,246 yards, ten touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per carry despite missing time and having a few problems with a hand injury. He's a home run threat every time he touches the ball with the size at 223 pounds to power for tough yards. If he can stay healthy he's a Heisman candidate and a legitimate threat to crank out 2,000 yards.

- Fullback Byron Storer, Sr. - 2 carries, 9 yds
Storer has built a top special teamer so far, and now he'll have to full the big shoes left by Chris Manderino. He's a little bit bigger than Manderino and should become a great blocker in a full-time role if he's as physical as he is on special teams. However, Will Ta'ufo'ou is pushing hard for the starting job.

Top Backups
- Justin Forsett, Jr. - 132 carries, 999 yds, 7.6 ypc, 6 TD, 7 catches, 68 yds
Forsett isn't going to do much between the tackles, but he's a lightning quick runner who explodes when he gets a little room to move. He was a workhorse against New Mexico State carrying it 31 times for 235 yards, and he was a dynamic number two back the rest of the way making the most of every opportunity.
- Marcus O'Keith, Sr. - 22 carries, 243 yds, 11 ypc, 3 TD, 3 catches, 56 yds, 1 TD
O'Keith has it all with good size and 4.4 speed. He wasn't used much over the second half of last year, but he was a big factor early in the season with a 103-yad, two touchdown day against Washington and ran for 66 yards and a score against Illinois. He's not going to see see too many carries with Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett getting most of the work, but he's a great emergency policy.
- Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou, Soph.
At 250 pounds Ta'ufo'ou is a bigger blocking option than Byron Storer, but he won't likely see many carries. He's being given every shot to start.

Last year was about developing the young targets, and this season will be when the group explodes. Considering the shaky play of quarterback Joe Ayoob, DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan had even better seasons than it might appear on the stat sheet. The top three wide receivers return as does top tight end Craig Stevens providing speed, speed and more speed. Jackson has All-America potential while Jordan will put up huge numbers as a strong number two target. Lavelle Hawkins has tremendous potential as a number three receiver. If Sam DeSa can ever use his elite speed to become a steady deep player, this group will be really scary.
The key to the unit: Getting another step up in production from the great young talents and hoping for more production from the reserves.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- DeSean Jackson, Soph. - 38 catches, 601 yds, 15.8 ypc, 7 TD
The star recruit of last year stepped in and became the team's best receiver right off the bat. He scored the first time he touched the ball taking a punt 49 yards for a touchdown against Sacramento State, and he had three huge receiving games lighting up New Mexico State, UCLA and BYU. Now he has to be a steadier, more consistent number one target, and that should come from improved play from the quarterbacks. He'll grow into one of the Pac 10's top playmakers with 4.3 speed and a knack for making the big play.

- Robert Jordan, Jr. - 34 catches, 455 yds, 13.4 ypc, 4 TD
Jordan doesn't have the blinding speed or the raw talent of some of the other Cal receivers, but he's a solid playmaker who can occasionally explode. He torched Washington for 192 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches. He's not afraid to make the tough catch and is a perfect number two receiver to take the short passes and the heat off DeSean Jackson.

- Tight end Craig Stevens, Jr. - 13 catches, 165 yds, 12.7 ypc, 2 TD
Stevens earned honorable mention Pac 10 honors last year turning into a dangerous receiver as the season went on with a good second half of the season. At 6-5 and 255 pounds and with good athleticism he provides a nightmare of a matchup problem for most trying to cover him. Expect him to be even more dangerous this season as more than just a safety valve.

Top Backups
- Lavelle Hawkins, Jr. - 18 catches, 171 yds, 9.5 ypc 1 TD
The former JUCO all-star had a nice first year considering he struggled through the second half of the season with an ankle injury and appeared to lose focus. He's a good-sized target with next-level speed and fantastic open field moves. He's a better deep threat than the 9.5 yards per catch from last year might indicate.
- LaReylle Cunningham, Soph. - 5 catches, 112 yds, 22.4 ypc, 1 TD
Cunningham only saw major time in one game last year, but he turned out to save the day catching all five of his passes in the win over Washington State with a 57-yard play. He'll see time in three receiver sets and will put for time on the outside.
- Sam DeSa, Jr. - 4 catches, 84 yds, 21 ypc
One of the Pac 10's fastest receivers, DeSa has 4.3 speed and needs to grow more into a top deep threat. He didn't do much after catching a 44-yard bomb against Sacramento State with only three catches the rest of last year. He'll have to be a bigger factor behind DeShaun Jackson at the X.

- Tight end Eric Beegun, Sr. 6 catches, 78 yds
Beegun is a good-looking target who should play a bigger role this season. He has the size at 251 pounds to be a major factor in the ground game, and he's a nice receiver who can stretch the field down the middle.

Offensive Linemen
This could be a big issue early on losing all-stars Ryan O'Callaghan and Marvin Philip. Guard Erik Robertson and tackle Scott Smith are solid, but they're not the big-time talents. Tackle Mike Tepper and center Alex Mack are young and talented, but they'll need time before they can come close to being O'Callaghan and Philip. This won't turn out to be a weakness by any stretch even though it might be asking a lot for the new configuration up front to by fully jelled by the time the Tennessee game comes around.
The key to the unit: Develop some depth in case the new young starters aren't rocking and rolling right away while hoping Alex Mack and Mike Tepper can grow into stars.
Offensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- OT Mike Tepper, Soph.
Trying to fill the shoes of all-star Ryan O'Callaghan will be Tepper, who was about to be a major player in the rotation last year before getting his ankle smashed by a car. He's 6-6 and 334 pounds with tremendous feet.
- OG Erik Robertson, Sr.
Robertson got the start all last year on the left side until the end of the year when he missed the Stanford game. The 311-pound senior is versatile enough to play center if needed and should be the team's most reliable run blocker. 
- C Alex Mack, Soph.
It's asking the world for Mack to be as good as Marvin Philip, but he has the talent to become a major talent in the middle. He saw a little bit of time in the rotation and now should grow into a mauling, consistent blocker.
- OG Norris Malele, Soph.
The 6-4, 298-pound Malele saw a little bit of time as a redshirt freshman and will now need to step in and play a big role right away for Aaron Merz. He has been a top practice and practice player over the last two seasons.
- OT Scott Smith, Sr.
Smith stepped in last year when injuries hit the line and turned in an All-Pac 10 season. He's not huge at 276 pounds, but he's a versatile, rock solid blocker who turned out to be great for the ground game.

Top Backups
- OT Kevn Bemoll, RFr.
One of the team's best young prospects, the 6-5, 310-pound Bemoll was a top recruit who'll be a bigger option than Scott Smith.
- OG Brian De La Puente, Jr.
The 301-pound junior will be neck-and-neck with Norris Malele for the starting job. He's a high-motor former walk-on who turned into a major reserve last year.
- C Mark Gray, Jr. 
The JUCO transfer was an all-star at El Camino CC last year and came to the team early this spring to get key reps. He likely won't have a real shot at beating out Alex Mack for the starting job, but he'll be a key reserve.

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