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2007 California Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 12, 2007


While Cal is hardly perfect, the offense won't be far off. Yes, this is the year the Bears, led by flash-of-lightning DeSean Jackson, should really, truly be in the hunt for the national title.

California Golden Bears

Preview 200
7

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 Cal Offense Preview | 2007 Cal Defense Preview
-
2007 Cal Depth Chart | 2006 CFN California Preview 


As long as Head Coach Jeff Tedford continues to rebuff offers to leave Strawberry Canyon, Cal will be a perennial threat for ten wins.  However, the upcoming season provides unique challenges, as Tedford and his staff must replace a few all-time great Bears.  It’s a good thing the program has recruited so well the past few years because no Pac-10 school lost a more productive quartet than star running back Marshawn Lynch, leading tackler linebacker Desmond Bishop, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and All-American cornerback Daymeion Hughes. 

Head coach: Jeff Tedford
6th year: 43-20
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Cal Players
1. WR DeSean Jackson, Jr.
2. C Alex Mack, Jr.
3. QB Nate Longshore, Jr.
4. LB Zack Follett, Jr.
5. OT Mike Gibson, Sr.
6. RB Justin Forsett, Sr.
7. TE Craig Stevens, Sr.
8. FS Thomas DeCoud, Sr.
9. LB Worrell Williams, Jr.
10. WR Lavelle Hawkins, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
9-3

Sept. 1

Tennessee

Sept. 8

at Colorado State

Sept. 15

Louisiana Tech

Sept. 22

Arizona  

Sept. 29

at Oregon

Oct. 13

Oregon State

Oct. 20

at UCLA

Oct. 27

at Arizona State

Nov. 3

Washington State

Nov. 10

USC

Nov. 17

at Washington

Dec. 1

at Stanford

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
10-2
2006 Record: 10-3

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/2 at Tennessee L 35-18
9/9 Minnesota W 42-17
9/16 Portland State W 42-16
9/23 Arizona State W 49-21
9/30 at Oregon St W 41-13
10/7 Oregon W 45-24
10/14 at Wash St W 21-3
10/21 Washington W 31-24 OT
11/4 UCLA W 38-24
11/11 at Arizona L 24-20
11/18 at USC L 23-9
12/2 Stanford W 26-17
12/28 Holiday Bowl
Texas A&M W 45-10

Every year Tedford is back, he’s the key returner for Cal, a program that was in complete disarray before he arrived in 2002.  The Bears are currently riding the wave of their best five-year stretch in more than a half-century, dramatically upgrading the pool of talent and routinely finishing the season ranked and in a bowl game.  That a hollow feeling of unfinished business existed after going 10-3 in 2006 is a testament to just how far Cal has come, since going 1-10 in 2001.  To fully complete this extreme makeover, however, the Bears still must get to the Rose Bowl, and must renovate their outdated facilities, a touchy subject that’s reached the courts and raised the ire of local neighborhoods and environmental groups.       

With a winning tradition beginning to take root, Cal doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.  Yes, last year was the Bears’ golden opportunity to knock mighty USC from its Pac-10 throne, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be right back in the thick of the 2007 race, especially since the Trojans come to Berkeley Nov. 10.  With the trio of quarterback Nate Longshore, running back Justin Forsett and receiver DeSean Jackson back for another year, Tedford’s offense will once again roll, giving the revamped defense time to break in six new starters.   

What to watch on offense …Cal is just one of five teams in the country that has ranked in the top 25 in scoring the past five seasons, a trend that’ll continue in 2007.  Tedford’s an innovator, but there’s a national misconception that the Bears are content to heave 50 passes a game, when balance and deception are the objectives.  Super-sub Forsett supplants Lynch in the running game, but at 5-8 and 185 pounds, he’ll need support from redshirt freshmen James Montgomery and Tracy Slocum.  Longshore will build on his debut as the starter by getting the ball into the hands of Jackson, a home-run-hitting receiver and the nation’s most explosive punt returner.    

What to watch on defense … The busiest Cal coach this off-season will be defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who’ll be trying to piece together a cohesive unit after his defense was torn apart by graduation.  There’s no easy way to replace Hughes, Mebane and Bishop, so potential stars, such as tackle Derrick Hill, linebackers Zack Follett and Worrell Williams and corner Syd’Quan Thompson will be asked to grow up and assert themselves real fast.  

The team will be far better if … it can locate a consistent pass rush.  The Bears had just 12 sacks over the final eight games of 2006, leaving a pretty good secondary to fend for itself.  If they fail to create pressure for a second straight year, those young corners are going to be toast once the Pac-10 portion of the schedule begins. 

The Schedule: Considering one of the “away games” is down the road at Stanford, the schedule isn’t all that bad. The non-conference schedule is interesting, starting off with a must-win, national-showcase home opener against Tennessee, before going to Colorado State and then returning home for what should be an easy win over Louisiana Tech. Getting USC at home might mean everything in the Pac-10 race, but league road games at Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State and Washington should derail any hope of an unbeaten season.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR DeSean Jackson. Think Ted Ginn Jr., but smaller and more productive. The 6-0, 166-pound wisp is one of the nation’s fastest players and a game-breaker whenever he has the ball in his hands. The ultimate deep threat, Jackson has averaged 17.1 yards per catch on 97 grabs with 16 touchdowns in his first two years, and has been a devastating punt returner, averaging 18.2 yards per try last season with four touchdowns.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Zack Follett. A reserve most of last year, Follett still earned All-Pac-10 honors with 62 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He’s a hard hitter who’s solid in pass coverage. Now he’ll have to become a leader, given all of the big losses on defense.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Syd’Quan Thompson. With All-American Daymeion Hughes gone, it’ll be up to Thompson to take on the role as the number one corner right off the bat. While he’s not nearly as big as Hughes, the 5-10, 178-pound sophomore is a bit faster and proved he could handle himself after being thrown into the fire as a freshman.

The season will be a success if ... the Bears win the Pac-10 title outright. It’s time. This is a loaded team with as much all-around talent, skill and athleticism as anyone in the Pac-10 outside of USC, which has to come to Berkeley. One loss to a UCLA or Oregon will be acceptable, but anything less than a spot in the BCS for the first time, preferably in the Rose Bowl, will be seen as a major disappointment.

Key game: Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee. Of course the USC game is the most important, and of course there are several other key conference battles. However, for the Bears to finally be recognized as more than just a good Pac-10 program (at least by those who haven’t been paying attention or didn’t watch the 2006 Holiday Bowl), they need to beat Tennessee. A win would set the tone for the season and put them in the thick of the national title race from the start.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Cal 26 for 136 yards – Opponents 13 for 89 yards
- Punt return average: Cal 17.3 – Opponents 6.9
- Red zone scoring: Cal 38 of 42 chances (90%) – Opponents 26 of 36 chances (72%)

 

Related Stories
2007 California Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 12, 2007
2007 California Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 12, 2007
2007 California Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 12, 2007








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