2009 California Preview - Offense
Cal OT Mike Tepper
Cal OT Mike Tepper
Posted May 7, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - California Golden Bear Offense

California Golden Bears

Preview 2009 - Offense

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What you need to know: Andy Ludwig was a late replacement for Frank Cignetti, keeping the revolving door at offensive coordinator spinning in Berkeley. Arriving with a long and accomplished resume, he’s basically being asked to help turn QB Kevin Riley into a more consistent and dangerous playmaker. That is, of course, if Riley wins the starting job, which was put up for grabs this spring. If Ludwig is successful, the Bears are capable of rolling past last season’s mixed results. Jahvid Best is the Bay Area’s most dangerous home run hitter since Barry Bonds retired, and the young receivers are headed in the right direction. Although the graduation of All-America C Alex Mack cannot be overstated, Cal has recruited well enough in recent years to endure in the trenches.   

Returning Leaders
Passing: Kevin Riley
112-221, 1,360 yds, 14 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Jahvid Best
194 carries, 1,584 yds, 15 TD
Receiving: Nyan Boateng
29 catches, 439 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Jahvid Best
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Kevin Riley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RT Mitchell Schwartz
Best pro prospect: Best
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Best  2) Senior T Mike Tepper  3) Schwartz
Strength of the offense: The backs, big-play ability, run blocking
Weakness of the offense: Passing efficiency, consistency at receiver


Projected Starter: What would an offseason at Cal be without a quarterback competition? Although 6-2, 221-pound junior Kevin Riley is the presumptive starter, Jeff Tedford won’t officially name his guy until the summer. Yeah, he’s played plenty of football in Berkeley over the last two seasons, but he’s also been inconsistent, which is why this job remains open. While sharing snaps with Nate Longshore in 2008, he went just 112-of-221 for 1,360 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed just over 50% of his passes and was No. 7 in Pac-10 passing efficiency. It’s his job to lose, but that’s exactly what’ll happen if he doesn’t start making a u-turn as a passer.      

Projected Top Reserves: Riley’s stiffest competition is coming from 6-5, 237-pound sophomore Brock Mansion. By far the biggest and strongest of the contenders, he can make all of the throws and is surprisingly nimble for such a super-sized quarterback. One of the nation’s top dropback recruits of 2006, he needs more reps to close the gap on the incumbent.

In the hunt, but playing from behind is 6-2, 226-pound redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney. He’s had less time in the system, but has a high football IQ and comes from a long line of former coaches and quarterbacks. He’s also a terrific all-around athlete with the ability to complete passes on the move and escape hard-charging defenders.

Watch Out For… a more relaxed Riley. The buzz coming out of spring was that Riley was far less distracted than in the past and taking on more of a leadership role. The offense needs it. Two years in the system and the departure of Longshore seem to have done wonders for the junior’s chi.
Strength: Footwork. Unlike the days when Longshore was a sitting target in the pocket, Riley, Mansion, and Sweeney all have quick feet and move well from side to side. None will be used on designed runs, but they’re more likely to avoid a sack and scramble for a first down when things break down.
Weakness: General inconsistency. Last year’s quarterbacks were way too sporadic, especially by Tedford’s standards. They completed just 52% of their passes, second lowest in the Pac-10, and, with a few exceptions, struggled to connect on the long ball.
Outlook: The time has come for Riley to blossom into Tedford’s next star pupil. He’s had two seasons to get comfortable with the system, speed of the game, and expectations as a Golden Bear. Plus, without Longshore casting his shadow over the position, he should have a clearer head entering the season. Just in case, the staff is making sure both underclassmen prepare as if they’ll get their chance this fall.  
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Cal has suddenly become a factory for NFL backs, sending four players to the pros in just the last six drafts. Junior Jahvid Best
is next in line. One of the most explosive athletes in America and a Heisman contender, he burst out of the shadows of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett in 2008. In an All-Pac-10 campaign, he rushed for a league-high 1,580 yards, caught 27 passes, and finished No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards. A true gamebreaker in the Reggie Bush mold, the 5-10, 195-pounder is one of those rare offensive stars, who can change a game with one play and must be accounted for at all times.

Very quietly, the Bear running game took a hit with the graduation of Will Ta’ufo’ou, one of the nation’s better blocking fullbacks over the last couple of seasons. The favorite to succeed him is 5-9, 235-pound senior Brian Holley. A loyal soldier in the Jeff Tedford army, he’s earned three letters, primarily as a special teams standout. Very strong and tough to move off his base, his role will be limited to opening holes for the tailbacks. 

Projected Top Reserves: What’s the only things better than having a player of Best’s ability? How about two players with Best’s ability? Okay, 5-10, 198-pound sophomore Shane Vereen isn’t quite as dynamic, but he’s still a top talent, who’d be starting on a ton of schools throughout the country. A blur with outstanding vision, he ran 142 times for 715 yards and four, adding 27 receptions and a touchdown catch as an ideal complement.

While it won’t be easy getting touches on this team, Cal needs to find a way to use 5-11, 205-pound redshirt freshman Covaughn DeBoskie, a top recruit from 2008. Yeah, he’s the least experienced, but down the road, he may wind up being the most complete player, who’s tough enough to work between the tackles and quick enough to bounce outside them.    

Watch Out For… Cal to be set at the position until 2012…at least. The Bears are deep in talented backs and spread out in such a way that the torch will continue to be passed from Best to Vereen, and from Vereen to DeBoskie.
Strength: Quick-strike ability. Best, Vereen, and DeBoskie all have that extra gear needed to bring a crowd to its feet and demoralize 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. In fact, Best and Vereen both had touchdown runs of at least 80 yards a year ago.                 
Weakness: The power game. The Bears have a ton of lightning, but where’s the thunder? Especially now that Ta'ufo'ou is trying to make the Chicago Bears, Cal needs to develop a power back, who can move the sticks in short yardage and milk the clock in the final quarter.
Outlook: If the Golden Bears remain healthy, and it’s no sure-thing, they’ll boast one of the most exciting big-play backfields in the country. Best is an ethereal figure with the ball in his hands, but his track record of getting banged up should somewhat temper enthusiasm as the Heisman hype begins to percolate.
Rating: 9.5


Projected Starters: While the receivers predictably struggled during last year’s rebuilding stage, everyone is a year older, which should usher in some progress. Although more consistency is still needed, 6-2, 211-pound senior Nyan Boateng began flashing his considerable upside, catching a team-best 29 balls for 439 yards and five touchdowns. A Florida transfer and gifted all-around athlete, he’s able to beat defenders with his speed, strength, and jumping ability, and is an underrated downfield blocker.

On the opposite side of the field will be 6-2, 190-pound sophomore Marvin Jones, a smooth operator coming off a breakthrough spring. While he may not be the fastest of the receivers, he’s making a strong case for being the most polished one, displaying great hands, tight cuts in his routes, and the confidence of an upperclassmen. Had it not been for a knee injury, he would have played more in his rookie year.

When the Bears go three-wide, 6-1, 205-pound sophomore Alex Lagemann is the top candidate to line up in the slot. He didn’t contribute in 2008 and has had injury problems, but made up for it with the kind of offseason that’s propelled him into the rotation. More of a possession receiver than his teammates, he uses his body well in traffic and has sticky hands.

The biggest loss among the receivers was the unexpected departure of big-play TE Cameron Morrah. The Bears have recruited the position well, but for now, will place the burden to produce on 6-5, 254-pound senior Tad Smith. A former defensive end, he’s a brutish run blocker, but needs to develop as a pass-catcher after making just three catches for 23 yards and a score.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Verran Tucker was making progress in his first year out of El Camino (Calif.) Community College, but suffered a setback when he had to sit out spring to concentrate on academics. He finished his debut with 21 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns, showing good burst in a 6-1, 204-pound frame. When he returns, he’ll be battling Jones for an outside job.

Junior Jeremy Ross is currently lining up behind Boateng, looking to improve on last year’s 17 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns. At 5-11 and 216 pounds, he’s arguably the most dynamic physical specimen of the group, blending 4.4 speed and good hops with the upper body strength to out muscle defenders for the ball.

The future at tight end likely belongs to 6-3, 258-pound sophomore Anthony Miller. A more athletic option than Smith, he’ll see his playing time increase, especially when the Bears want to exploit the seams down the middle of the field.

Watch Out For… the health of 6-2, 205-pound sophomore Michael Calvin. Before suffering a torn ACL at the beginning of last season, he was considered the top guy at “X” receiver and a possible go-to candidate. Now, he’s just trying to get back to 100% and start climbing the depth chart. When healthy, he’ll instantly add depth and bring a physical presence to the unit.
Strength: Measurables. Across the board, the Golden Bear receivers are big, fast, and have a bounce in their step. Now, all they need to work on is achieving a greater level of …
Weakness: …consistency. As a group, the wide receivers simply aren’t quite polished, dropping too many passes and not always running great routes. Plus, the tight ends took a hit with Morrah’s early exit to the NFL. As a group, these guys need to mature if the passing game is going to make strides from a year ago. 
Outlook: Is there potential? You bet. Tapping it, however, will be a team effort involving the quarterbacks, receivers, and position coach Kevin Daft. If these good athletes can begin morphing into good receivers, the entire program stands to benefit.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: No hole on the depth chart is bigger than the one left by Alex Mack, the best center to ever play in Strawberry Canyon. He’ll be sorely missed. Filling his spot will be 6-2, 275-pound junior Chris Guarnero, who has spent the last few seasons preparing for this opportunity. While undersized, he’s a tough, quick technician, and has been learning from the best since he arrived on campus.

The rising star of this cast is enormous sophomore RT Mitchell Schwartz, last year’s most improved offensive lineman. At 6-6 and 335 pounds, he has the size to simply overpower opposing linemen, yet has surprisingly good footwork, a must as a pass protector in this league. Still a little raw and inexperienced, he has All-Pac-10 potential once he becomes a more seasoned blocker.

Making his long-awaited return to the field is 6-7, 319-pound senior LT Mike Tepper, who has missed two full seasons to injury and was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. A starter in 2006 and 2007, he’s a quality pass blocker and a borderline NFL prospect if he can remain off the trainer’s table. Tepper doesn’t play center, but he is capable of replacing Mack as the leader of the offensive line.

Like Tepper, 6-3, 329-pound senior RG Chet Teofilo is back for a sixth year on campus. A former defensive lineman, he began adjusting to a new side of the ball last season, playing at both left and right tackle. Very tough at the point of attack, he’s better suited playing in smaller spaces, and should excel as an interior lineman.

Rounding out the front wall is 6-4, 304-pound LG Mark Boskovich, who had cameos in the starting lineup when Guarnero was injured last fall. A former walk-on, who was missed by plenty of programs, he’s technically sound and improving every time he gets playing time. Last year’s experience, in particular, really helped flatten his learning curve.

Projected Top Reserves: Keeping Teofilo from running away with the job at right guard is 6-4, 290-pound junior Richard Fisher, the rare vegetarian offensive lineman and a returning letterwinner. He’s added some weight to his frame since arriving, yet remains light on his feet and quick to the second level.

Although he hasn’t been playing the sport very long, 6-4, 278-pound junior Justin Pruiett has become the insurance policy for Schwartz at right tackle. A versatile player, who’s handled multiple positions, he’ll benefit by adding a little more weight and getting more reps this fall.

For now, 6-4, 291-pound redshirt freshman Matt Summers-Gavin is a backup guard, but he’s teed up to be a starter as early as 2010. A nasty and, at times, dominant drive blocker, he spent his first season on campus getting bigger, stronger, and better acclimated to the system. He’s currently running second to Boskovich on the left side.

Watch Out For… the development of Guarnero at the pivot. There’s no doubt that his play will be the key to the overall success of the offensive line. No one expects him to be Mack, but he does need to emerge as a leader, while making all of the right calls up front.
Strength: Bulk. Besides Guarnero, the Cal line consists of hulking linemen capable of blowing opponents off the ball. The Bears didn’t average a robust 5.6 yards a carry in 2008 solely on the speed and nifty moves of Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen.
Weakness: Inexperienced backups. Cal is getting there, but it remains a little too youthful on the second unit, especially with Tepper’s past history of injury problems. The key will be to develop some of those reserves in 2009, so quality depth won’t be a problem in 2010.
Outlook: Ace line coach Jim Michalczik is gone, putting first-year coach Steve Marshall in charge of molding this group in transition. There’ll be a drop-off because of Mack’s graduation, but the starting five should be fine, especially if Tepper stays healthy and Schwartz continues on his current career trajectory.
Rating: 7.5

- 2009 California Preview | 2009 Cal Offense
- 2009 Cal Defense | 2009 Cal Depth Chart
- 2008 Cal Preview | 2007 Cal Preview
| 2006 Cal Preview