2009 CFN California Preview
Cal RB Jahvid Best
Cal RB Jahvid Best
Posted May 7, 2009

This is the year California might really be a major threat in a BCS run. Really. No, really. You've heard this before, but the Bears are loaded for, well, bear with experience, depth, and talent, highlighted by RB Jahvid Best. Check out the CFN California Preview.

California Golden Bears

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello

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

Head coach: Jeff Tedford
8th year: 59-30
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 26, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Cal Players
1. RB Jahvid Best, Jr.
2. CB Syd’Quan Thompson, Sr.
3. DE Tyson Alualu, Sr.
4. DE Cameron Jordan, Jr.
5. LB Mike Mohamed, Jr.
6. T Mike Tepper, Sr.
7. CB Darian Hagan, Jr.
8. S Marcus Ezeff, Sr.
9. RB Shane Vereen, Soph.
10. WR Nyan Boateng, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Maryland
9/12 Eastern Michigan
9/19 at Minnesota
9/26 at Oregon
10/3 USC
10/17 at UCLA
10/24 Washington State
10/31 at Arizona State
11/7 Oregon State
11/14 Arizona
11/21 at Stanford
12/5 at Washington

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 9-4

8/30 Michigan St W 38-31
9/6 at Wash St W 66-3
9/13 at Maryland L 35-27
9/27 Colorado St W 42-7
10/4 Arizona St W 24-14
10/18 at Arizona L 42-27
10/25 UCLA W 41-20
11/1 Oregon W 26-16
11/8 at USC L 17-3
11/15 at Oregon St L 34-21
11/22 Stanford W 37-16
12/6 Washington W 48-7
12/27 Miami W 24-17

Are you ready to take the bait again?

Year after year, Cal is a trendy choice to break through and finally reach a new level of success under head coach Jeff Tedford, like winning the Pac-10 or playing in a BCS bowl game. But year after year the Bears come up a little short, and while it's a stretch to say Cal has been disappointing, it hasn't been able to bust through the ceiling. Well, this year’s edition has enough talent to end USC’s stranglehold on the conference. Honest. Really.

It’s fair to marvel at what Tedford has done in Berkeley since taking over a sinking ship in 2002 and wonder aloud if he’s hit a wall. Cal is on a school-record run of six straight bowl appearances, but the Emerald Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl just don't get the job done any longer for a program hungry for its first major bowl invite since 1958. Plus, it’s been four mostly average seasons for the quarterbacks, putting a small dent in Tedford’s reputation as a positional guru. Offensive coordinators have come and gone like fashion trends, yet the Bears haven’t progressed behind center, a particular issue heading into 2009. The bigger issue will be consistency and, as harsh as this might sound, heart.

The Bears had No. 1 in their grasp in mid-October of 2007, but a late brain-cramp from QB Kevin Riley leading to a loss to Oregon State sparked a disastrous run of five losses in the final seven regular season games. That team was far too good to have gone to the Armed Forces Bowl (where it was pushed in a 42-36 win over Air Force). 

Last year, Cal came out roaring with a nice win over Michigan State and a 66-3 domination of a bad Washington State team. Then came the bizarre we-didn't-adjust-to-the-time-change loss at Maryland and it was also-ran time once again. Granted, losing three road games to Arizona, USC and Oregon State teams that were all good, but it's time for everything to come together under Tedford and this should be the year. Again, yes, honestly, this should be the year.

Cal has one of the top backfield tandems in America, courtesy of Heisman contender Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen. The defense is one of the best-kept secrets in the Pac-10. The special teams is fine as long as a reliable kicker emerges. Ahh, but that passing game, once a sure-thing in Berkeley, will dictate just how far this program goes in 2008. If it turns the corner, the Bears might be ready to kick down a barrier. If not, say hello to the Las Vegas Bowl officials.

What to watch for on offense
: The pivot. Cal didn’t just lose a center when Alex Mack graduated. It lost a leader, a fixture, and one of the best ever to play for the program. Under normal circumstances, junior Chris Guarnero would slide into the opening without a lot of attention, but these aren’t normal circumstances. He’s a nice, experienced player, who won’t hurt the offense, but he’ll have to deal with the added pressure of filling the shoes of a legend. That’s an extra layer of headaches that most centers never have to face.

What to watch for on defense: The rebuilt corps of linebackers. An obvious strength a year ago, the linebackers are now a question mark, courtesy of the graduations of Zack Follett, Worrell Williams, and Anthony Felder. Mike Mohamed is a holdover, and a good one, but he’ll need help if the 3-4 defense is to continue flourishing at Cal. While sophomore Mychal Kendricks brings speed and a fresh energy, the veteran presence will come from Eddie Young and Devin Bishop on the outside.

The team will be far better i
f… it plays as well on the road as it does in Strawberry Canyon. The Bears blew out lowly Washington State in Pullman on Sept. 6, and then didn’t win another road game until the Emerald Bowl … which was across town in San Francisco. With tough tests at Minnesota and Oregon in September, Cal better learn to win away from home, or else its 2009 goals will have to be adjusted before mid-season.

The Schedule: The Bears will no exactly where they'll stand on a national and conference scale by October 3rd. They start out with two tough non-conference games against Maryland and at Minnesota in the new ballpark, but both are winnable. However, the game in TCF Bank Stadium starts a stretch of three road games in four including trips to Oregon and UCLA, but it's the sandwiched in home game against USC that'll get the spotlight. After the battle with the Trojans, five of the last seven games are against teams that didn't go bowling last year with Oregon State and Arizona each coming to Berkeley. On the down side, there are six road games including five in conference play. However, one of them is down the road at Stanford.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Jahvid Best. Best is 195 pounds of pure electricity with a No. 4 on his chest. Well on his way to becoming one of the most exciting weapons to ever play in Berkeley, he needed just 194 carries to lead the Pac-10 in rushing, and was No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards behind only Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin. Blessed with world-class speed and outstanding vision, the only thing that’s slowed him down in two years is a penchant for getting injured.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Syd’Quan Thompson. Best is the offensive playmaker. Thompson carries the honor on defense. A dynamite pass defender and big-play cornerback, he emerged as a force and an All-Pac-10 first teamer as a junior. Despite being just 5-9 and 191 pounds, he’ll jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and pop backs that get beyond the first line of defense. Last season’s production was highlighted by a team-high four picks and 14 pass breakups.

Key player to a successful season: Junior Kevin Riley (or whoever gets the ball). And it’s not even close. If the Golden Bears have any chance of playing past December, they need Riley, the favorite, to blossom into a poor-man’s Jake Plummer, making more plays and coming through in the clutch. Sure, the offense will survive without improvement behind center, but thriving requires more balance. How scary would Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen be if defenses had to fear the passing game?  

The season will be a success if ... Cal finishes no worse than No. 2 in the Pac-10. That’s really what everyone other than USC is chasing each year, right? Sure, the Bears want to play in a Rose Bowl, but that’s the Trojans’ domain until proven otherwise. There’s no shame at all in a second-place finish and a Holiday Bowl invite in a league that houses Oregon, Oregon State, and Arizona.

Key game: Oct. 3 vs. USC. The Trojans remain the measuring stick for every other Pac-10 team with dreams of playing in a Rose Bowl. The Bears have been competitive in recent years, but haven’t beaten Troy since 2003. They’ll need to close the deal this time around to have a legitimate shot at Pasadena in January for the first time in half a century. This is also the finale of a rugged three-game stretch that begins with trips to Minnesota and Oregon.   

2008 Fun Stats:
- First quarter scoring: Cal 108 - Opponents 40
- Average yards per carry: Cal 5.6 - Opponents 3.2
- Fumbles: Opponents 28 (lost 10) - Cal 16 (lost 9)

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