Preview 2008 -
2008 California Preview
2008 Cal Offense
2008 Cal Defense
2008 Cal Depth
2007 CFN California Preview
2006 CFN California
need to know:
Is Cal about to get consumed by an old-fashioned quarterback
controversy? It might be unavoidable considering the
inconsistent play of incumbent Nate Longshore and the head of
steam being built by Armed Forces Bowl hero Kevin Riley. The job
remains Longshore’s to lose, but if the more mobile Riley
continues to mature, it’ll be hard for new coordinator Frank
Cignetti to keep him out of the lineup. As if losing RB Justin
Forsett isn’t tough enough, the Bears learned in March that his
heir apparent, James Montgomery, is transferring to Washington
State. Next in line is Jahvid Best, who missed spring drills
recovering from a hip injury. The departures of last year’s top
five pass-catchers create opportunities for Michael Calvin,
Jeremy Ross, and Florida transfer Nyan Boateng, who are short on
experience, but long on potential.
Passing: Nate Longshore
230-384, 2,580 yds, 16 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Jahvid Best
29 carries, 221 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Cameron Morah
13 catches, 155 yds, 1 TD
of the offense: Senior C Alex Mack
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Michael
Best pro prospect: Mack
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mack 2) Senior T Mike
Tepper 3) Senior QB Nate Longshore or sophomore Kevin Riley
Strength of the offense: Quarterback depth, speed, Mack
Weakness of the offense: Unproven skill position players,
Projected Starter: Now that USC’s Pete Carroll has
handed the reigns over to Mark Sanchez, the most heated
quarterback derby west of the Mississippi pits senior Nate
Longshore versus sophomore Kevin Riley. The two are
neck-and-neck, and Jeff Tedford isn’t expected to name a starter
until shortly before the opener with Michigan State. Longshore
is the incumbent, and not an especially popular one at that. He
struggled through 2007, battling a nagging ankle injury to go
230-of-384 for 2,580 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Even worse, he missed the second half of spring with a pec
injury which allowed Riley to get all of the reps with the first
team. At 6-5 and 233 pounds, Longshore has one of the strongest
arms in the country, but lacks mobility and displays
In last year’s Armed Forces Bowl, Riley replaced Longshore and
promptly led the Bears to a dramatic win. And just like that, a
quarterback controversy was born. Viewed as a much-needed
sparkplug for the program, Riley has never been so popular, even
after his now infamous brain-cramp at the end of the Oregon
State game when he tried to run, which ended up running out the
clock, rather than getting rid of the ball and taking the almost
certain game-tying field goal. While less experienced, the 6-2,
224-pounder is far more mobile, gets rid of the ball quickly,
and looks comfortable leading the offense. He’s not Longshore,
which for many Cal fans, is his best attribute. Riley expects
to won this job, a show of confidence that’s resonated
throughout the offense.
Projected Top Reserves: Lost in the shadow of
Longshore vs. Riley is redshirt freshman Brock Mansion,
this year’s No. 3 quarterback. Built similar to Longshore at 6-5
and 229 pounds, he’s very strong, makes all the throws, and his
niftier than size might indicate. An apprentice for now, he
could challenge Riley for the starting job in 2009.
Watch Out For… Riley to get the nod at the end of
August. The battle in the summer is going to be fierce and tight
no matter what happens, but Riley’s mobility and moxie is
exactly what the program needs following last year’s collapse.
Longshore won’t go away without a fight, but he has an uphill
battle against a competitor who’s quickly gaining momentum.
Strength: Multiple starting quarterbacks. Of
course Riley still has plenty to prove, but all indications are
that’s he ready to lead an offense. Couple him with the veteran
Longshore, and the Bears boast two players good enough to start,
a luxury in the event both are actually needed.
Weakness: Turnovers. Over the last two seasons,
Cal has thrown 27 interceptions, all but one coming from
Longshore. Whoever gets the start must do a better job of
protecting the ball, or else his tenure under center will be
Outlook: The Bears have two quality quarterbacks,
but only one is needed. Tedford’s challenge will be to make a
decision in August, get the buy-in of both players, and avoid a
controversy that distracts the team. If Riley’s the guy, the
coach could have a star player to build around for the next
Projected Starters: In two years, the program has
lost Marshawn Lynch to the Buffalo Bills, Justin Forsett to the
Seattle Seahawks, and James Montgomery to Washington State. The
heir apparent is expected to be 5-10, 193-pound sophomore
Jahvid Best, who’s recovering from a hip injury that cut
short his debut season in Strawberry Canyon. At the time, he’d
bolted for 221 yards and two touchdowns on only 29 carries,
flashing the breakaway speed, acceleration, and hands that had
the likes of USC, Michigan, and Notre Dame tripping over
themselves to get his signature. Although Best practiced without
contact in March and April, the staff is convinced he’ll be 100%
by opening day.
Best’s mate in the backfield will be hulking senior FB Will
Ta’ufo’ou, a rugged 5-11, 253-pounder who’s a terrific and
unselfish lead blocker. While his role in the offense is
limited, he did carry nine times for 52 yards a year ago, adding
four receptions for 48 yards.
Projected Top Reserves: Montgomery’s departure
opens the door for sophomore Tracy Slocum to rise up to
No. 2 on the depth chart. A powerful north-south runner at 5-10
and 198 pounds, he’ll do the dirty work between the tackles that
Best might not be able to perform. A year after getting lost in
the shuffle, he had the type of spring that’ll command a more
prominent role in the fall.
Redshirt freshman Shane Vereen is a carbon copy of Best,
a 5-10, 192-pounder blur with the vision to slip through a hole
and go the distance. While he’s behind Slocum, he’ll instantly
become the gamebreaker out of the backfield if Best has any
physical setbacks from his injury.
Watch Out For… true freshman Covaughn DeBoskie.
Under normal circumstances, DeBoskie would be a cinch to
redshirt, but there’s an opportunity to get touches as a
rookie. Another top-flight recruit who can get through a
secondary in a flash, he has an edge over the other freshmen who
didn’t take part in spring practice.
Strength: Speed. Best, Vereen, and DeBoskie have
that extra gear needed to electrify a crowd and deflate opposing
defenses. All three have the 4.3 or 4.4 jets that can change the
tenor of a game when they get into the open field.
Weakness: Lack of a true grinder. It’s midway
through the last quarter and Cal is up by eight. Which back get
the ball to burn some clock? Slocum is the likely choice, but
even he’s under 200 pounds and has yet to carry the ball in
Outlook: In an ideal situation, Slocum and a
healthy Best form an inside-outside tandem that can help replace
most of Forsett’s massive production. Best has the potential to
eventually be better than last year’s workhorse, making his
health one of the top storylines of August’s preseason camp.
Projected Starters: The exodus of last year’s top
five pass-catchers has created an opportunity for a new wave of
young receivers to shine in the Cal offense. Coming out of
spring, the front-runners to start were sophomore Jeremy Ross
and redshirt freshman Michael Calvin, but neither is
set in stone and the rotation will rely on far more than just
two players. At 5-11 and 208 pounds, Ross has 4.4 speed and the
upper body strength to break tackles and turn a 10-yard
reception into a 20-yard gain. He was enjoying an outstanding
spring before spraining his ankle, an injury that’ll be healed
before summer workouts begin.
Like Ross, Calvin used an impressive spring to solidify his spot
on the Bear two-deep. Not the blazer that Ross is, he has good
speed and uses his 6-2, 202-pound frame to gain position on
smaller defenders. Still somewhat raw, Calvin is a physical
receiver who shows early signs of being the next coming of Sean
Dawkins, one of the best wideouts to ever play for Cal.
Now that Craig Stevens has graduated, junior Cameron Morrah
is in a position to blossom into a star at tight end. The
former high school All-American defensive end debuted at his new
position by catching 13 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. A
sleek athlete at 6-4 and 245 pounds, he has the quickness to be
a downfield threat and a load for linebackers to cover.
Projected Top Reserves: If he’s dedicated and
focused on the little details, the sky is the limit for junior
Nyan Boateng, a transfer from Florida and one of the
top-rated wide receiver recruits of 2005. At 6-2 and 210 pounds,
he’s the most explosive and dynamic of the Bear receivers, but
he still needs to iron out some of the wrinkles in his game and
reduce the number of dropped passes.
The veteran of this rebuilt corps is 6-1, 205-pound senior
LaReylle Cunningham, a three-time letterwinner with only 10
career receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown. While not
special in any one area, he’s a steady, Robert Jordan-like
leader who will play an integral role on the second unit.
So far, so good on the relocation of junior Tad Smith
from defensive end to tight end. A far more physical option at
the position than Morrah, the 6-5, 265-pounder has proven to be
a bull as a run blocker and surprisingly reliable as a receiver.
In a short period of time, Smith is pushing Morrah harder than
anyone could have expected.
Watch Out For… Boateng. No, the mistakes he makes
can’t be overlooked, but he has a special blend of size, speed,
and explosiveness. If the Bears can somehow harness all of his
physical gifts, Boateng has the ingredients to become a
dangerous All-Pac-10 receiver.
Strength: Size. After being an undersized, finesse
unit for years, the Bears are set to unveil a much bigger crew
that can get separation at the line and win plenty of battles
for balls in the air. Oh, and guys on the two-deep can also
Weakness: Experience. This year’s top four wide
receivers collectively caught four passes a year ago, spending
much of the season watching from the sidelines. Out of Calvin,
Boateng, and Ross, it’s going to take time before one of them
emerges as the go-to receiver.
Outlook: Obviously, you don’t get better by losing
DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, and Robert Jordan, the most
productive trio in school history. However, the next group of
Bear receivers has an exciting upside, and Ross, Calvin, and
Boateng all have the physical ability to eventually develop into
big-time producers and borderline stars.
Projected Starters: When Alex Mack opted to
return for his senior season, Cal instantly had the anchor for
its offensive line and one of nation’s premier centers.
Targeting a third consecutive First Team All-Pac-10 selection,
he’s widely considered the league’s top blocker and a favorite
to win the Rimington Trophy. At 6-5 and 316 pounds, Mack is a
rarity at the pivot, a relentless mauler on running plays and a
near-flawless pass protector
Senior T Mike Tepper is making the shift from the right
side of the line to the left, where he’ll be in charge of the
quarterback’s backside. A second-year starter, he does a nice
job of pass blocking and is surprisingly athletic for a 6-7,
321-pounder. In danger of never walking again after having his
leg run over twice in 2005, Tepper is now on the brink of an NFL
Taking over at Tepper’s old right tackle spot will be senior
Chet Teofilo, a former defensive tackle getting his first
opportunity to turn heads in the starting lineup. Mobile and
light on his feet at 6-3 and 316 pounds, he played well in place
of Mike Gibson late last season. Now he has to go out and prove
ha can do it for 13 games.
The guards are lining up as senior Noris Malele and
sophomore Mark Boskovich on the right and left side,
respectively. Malele has started 22 games over the last two
seasons, fending off a push from Boskovich toward the end of
2007. A squat 6-2, 303-pounder, he’s loaded with experience, but
can also get stood up at the point of attack.
While the 6-4, 301-pound Boskovich is facing a challenge of his
own from sophomore Richard Fisher, he remains the leader
to be the starting left guard in the opener. A former walk-on
and quick learner, he continues to get bigger and more
fundamentally sound, earning some playing time and valuable
experience as a redshirt freshman.
Projected Top Reserves: Fisher was one of the
pleasant surprises of the spring, getting reps with the first
team and ensuring no worse than an integral role as one of the
top backups in the guard rotation. The rare vegetarian
offensive lineman, he’s 6-4 and 276 pounds, needing to add
weight in order to mount a more serious challenge.
Behind Malele is redshirt freshman Justin Cheadle, a 6-2,
303-pounder who’s widely considered the best athlete among the
interior linemen. One of Cal’s top recruits from 2007, he’ll
soak up as much experience this fall before taking over a
starting job in 2009.
Junior center Chris Guarnero isn’t Mack, but he’s a nice
insurance policy for the Bear offensive line. Tough, quick, and
technically crisp at 6-2 and 275 pounds, he’s not going to hurt
the offense if he gets pressed into action.
A couple of sophomore tackles, Matt Laird and Justin
Pruiett, are in the driver’s seat to land spots on the
second team. With a shoulder problem now behind him, the 6-7,
305-pound Laird has the long arms to develop into an effective
Pruiett is an intriguing player, who hasn’t been playing the
sport very long, yet shows the potential to grow into a starter.
At 6-4 and 287 pounds, he’ll continue to fill out and learn the
nuances of the position as Teofilo’s backup.
Watch Out For… the development of the
underclassmen. While the starting five is mostly a veteran
group, when players like Mack and Tepper run out of eligibility,
Cal will begin to lean heavily on some of its top recruits from
the past few seasons. Linemen, such as Laird, Cheadle, Fisher,
Sam DeMartinis, and Mitchell Schwartz are going to
use 2008 as a springboard for the next phase of their Bear
Strength: Pass blocking. Over the last two
seasons, the Bears have allowed just 24 sacks, despite
protecting the lumbering Longshore. With three-fifths of last
year’s starting unit back, including Mack, it’ll once again be
difficult for opposing defenses to perforate the Cal front wall.
Weakness: Experienced backups. Yeah, the future is
very bright at the position, but in the short term, the Bears
lack a veteran presence on the second and third units. In fact,
Guarnero is the only player on the three-deep who’s earned a
letter with the program.
Outlook: Cal and line coach Jim Michalczik
continue to do a fantastic job of coaching up this group of
linemen. Mack is so special, he absorbs multiple defenders and
makes everyone around him better at their own jobs. Ideally, the
Bears can get reps for the next generation of players without
being forced to give any one of them a crash course during the