2010 California Preview – Offense
California QB Kevin Riley
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - California Golden Bear Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Inconsistency has become the trademark of this Cal offense over the past few seasons. A year ago, the Bears scored 146 points in the first three games and just six in the next two when the competition ramped up. Go figure. While the running game will remain firmly on the rails with budding superstar Shane Vereen, it's the passing attack that needs some fine-tuning. From the sporadic play of QB Kevin Riley and his receivers to questionable pass protection, the school has had issues achieving a desired level of balance, especially on third downs. The undisputed keys for coordinator Andy Ludwig will be the embattled Riley, the target of derision the last two seasons, and his blindside protection. In place of first team All-Pac-10 LT Mike Tepper steps young Matt Summers-Gavin, an up-and-comer who spent all of last season playing left guard.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Shane Vereen
Passing: Kevin Riley
209-382, 2,850 yds, 18 TDs, 8 INTs
Rushing: Shane Vereen
183 carries, 952 yds, 12 TDs
Receiving: Marvin Jones
43 catches, 651 yds, 6 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LT Matt Summers-Gavin
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Anthony Miller
Best pro prospect: Vereen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Vereen, 2) Junior RT Mitchell Schwartz, 3) Junior WR Marvin Jones
Strength of the offense: The backs, big-play ability, run blocking, ball protection, tight end
Weakness of the offense: Consistency in the passing game, pass protection, third down conversions
Projected Starter: Is this the year? While Cal fans have waited patiently for embattled senior Kevin Riley to evolve into an all-star, they've largely been disappointed. Sure, he's had his moments as the starter over the last two seasons, but not enough to be considered Jeff Tedford's next star pupil. The 6-2, 223-pounder did take a baby step in the right direction a year ago, going 209-of-382 for 2,850 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He's also a good athlete at the position, avoiding the rush and picking up first downs with his feet. However, if he's going to finally put it all together, he has to improve his accuracy and find a way to achieve a higher degree of consistency.
Projected Top Reserves: The Bear most likely to push Riley for the starting job is 6-2, 216-pound sophomore Beau Sweeney, who took over the backup job last year and went 5-of-9 for 45 yards in three games. Though he lacks ideal size, he has a lot of the qualities teams look for in a hurler, including a high football IQ, a great feel for the pocket, and a good overall athletic package. He's closing fast and working hard to become the team's quarterback of the future.
The man Sweeney passed on the depth chart last fall was 6-5, 229-pound junior Brock Mansion, who also missed time late in the spring with lower left leg injury. A top dropback passing recruit from the 2006 class, he can make all of the throws and is unexpectedly agile outside of the pocket. He's facing a crossroads season in his development, especially as gifted Allan Bridgford removes his redshirt and begins applying pressure from behind.
Watch Out For … Riley's demeanor. He's traveled the galaxy of emotions while in Strawberry Canyon, which has tested his focus and maturity. In general, he's handled the scrutiny better than most, needing to maintain that even keel in order to close out his career on a positive note.
Strength: Agility. Not only does Cal have a veteran and seasoned starter behind center, but it also has a nice collection of athletes taking snaps. Not counting sacks, Riley ran for 242 yards and a score, while Sweeney and Mansion are both nimble enough to make plays on designed runs.
Weakness: Accuracy. Beyond just the general inconsistency at the position, Riley missed his target too often last season. He completed just 54% of his passes, placing Cal eighth in the Pac-10, which is way too many misfires for this offensive to reach the peak of his potential. It's a shared responsibility, but Riley has to get that number closer to 60% this fall.
Outlook: If Riley hasn't had his breakthrough season by now, will he ever? It's a fair question considering the up-and-down motion that's typified his career and shaky finish to last year. On a brighter note, the Bears do have a returning starter at the most important position on the field, a senior with a thorough knowledge of the system. Ideally, Riley finishes strong and quiets any talk of a quarterback controversy.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: At most schools, losing a player like Jahvid Best would take years to overcome. At Cal, assistant Ron Gould simply promotes his next star into the feature role. As a compliment, junior Shane Vereen has been brilliant in two years, standing out despite being a national unknown. In 2009, he rushed for 952 yards and 12 scores on 183 carries, actually elevating the ground game after Best was injured. Over the final four games, he blew up Arizona for 159 yards, Stanford for 193 yards, and Utah for 122 yards in the bowl game. He also caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest attribute is that he does so many things well, running inside, bouncing outside the tackles for big yards, and dedicating time to become a better all-around player. He runs with ideal pad level and has the cutback moves and agility to toy with defenders. In space, he's got the jets to beat defensive backs to the end zone in a foot race.
The graduation of Brian Holley leaves the Bears looking for a new fullback as well. In his place steps 5-10, 223-pound junior Will Kapp, the son of former Cal quarterback and head coach Joe Kapp. Primarily a member of special teams and the scout team in his first three seasons, he's a physical, non-nonsense blocking back, who won't be asked to touch the ball very often.
Projected Top Reserves: Cal likes tandems out of the backfield, which means someone will get an opportunity for at least seven or eight carries a game. Although nothing has been written in granite, 5-11, 205-pound sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, the current No. 2, has to fit in somewhere. A gem from the 2008 class, he was third on the team with 211 yards and a score on 31 tackles. The potential exists for him to be the total package, combining quickness with an instinctive running style.
For a change of pace, Cal might turn to sophomore Isi Sofele, an ideal option as a third down back or change of pace. A 5-7, 186-pound jitterbug out of the backfield, he has tremendous speed, elusiveness, and hands as a receiver. One of only three freshmen to play in 2009, he carried 12 times for 82 yards and a score to go along with three receptions for 26 yards.
Watch Out For … Vereen's anonymity to disappear no more than a month into the season. Just because folks outside the Pac-10 don't know him does not mean he isn't one of the nation's rising stars at the position. He is, and after finishing 2009 with a flurry, he could be a household name nationally before too long.
Strength: Big-play potential. Best may be gone, but the quick-strike ability of the backs is not. Vereen can score from anywhere on the field, DeBoskie has great jets, and Sofele is difficult to corral in the open field. Together, they give the Bears an explosive backfield that'll give opposing coordinators sleepless nights.
Weakness: Fullback. In successive years, Cal has lost Holley and Will Ta'ufo'ou to graduation, leaving the backfield a little thin at fullback. The book is still out on Kapp and sophomore backup Eric Stevens, and the running game, in general, lacks some thump between the tackles.
Outlook: It's high time that Gould starts getting attention for the job he perennially does with these Cal backs. Few assistants in the country are better. Vereen will be his next star pupil, piling up the yards and highlight reel runs throughout the year. The only uncertainty surrounds DeBoskie-Johnson, who needs to show he's ready to assume the complimentary role.
Unit Rating: 8.5
Projected Starters: Midway through his collegiate career, 6-2, 197-pound junior Marvin Jones is on track to be the kind of player most expected he'd be coming out of high school. He enjoyed his breakthrough season in 2009, leading the Bears with 43 catches for 651 yards and six touchdowns. A silky smooth athlete and one of the budding Pac-10 stars at receiver, he has outstanding hands and runs the kind of routes that make the passer's job easier. With proper support from the quarterback, there's no reason why he can't earn all-star honors this fall.
Junior Alex Lagemann broke the seal on his career in 2009, making a dozen catches for 150 yards while getting a much better feel for the offense. Unlike many receivers who avoid the middle of the field, that's his preferred work area, running tight routes out of the slot and rarely dropping a pass. A possession receiver, he's tough, shows excellent concentration, and is not afraid to sacrifice his body in order to make a play or a downfield block.
Junior Anthony Miller took the first big step toward becoming the next in a long line of outstanding Cal tight ends, catching 26 passes for 357 yards to rank third on the team in both categories. At 6-3 and 263 pounds, he's athletic enough to exploit the seam of a defense, yet also possesses the strength and physicality to break tackles in the open field and create space as a blocker. With two years of eligibility still remaining, he could be eyeing an NFL career if his progress doesn't stop.
Projected Top Reserves: Lurking behind Lagemann is senior Jeremy Ross, a part-time starter throughout his long career, who is looking for a full-time gig in his final year. An all-purpose threat, the Bears would like him to become more of a consistent receiver in 2010. Last fall, he had 22 catches for 344 yards and one touchdown, saving his best work for lowly Washington State. At 5-11 and 213 pounds, he's one of the most dynamic physical specimens in Strawberry Canyon, leveraging 4.4 speed with the upper body strength to avoid getting jammed at the line.
Is time running out for 6-2, 206-pound junior Michael Calvin? While no one doubt he has ideal physical gifts for the position, injuries have prevented him from even approaching his potential. While he had just a single reception for nine yards last fall, the staff hopes that if healthy, he can showcase the size, leaping ability, and physical presence to become a viable playmaker in the rotation.
Watch Out For … the newcomers. The Bears have a clear need for more depth and flash in this group that could be filled by the most recent signing class. Out of Tevin Carter, Kaelin Clay, Coleman Edmond, and Terrance Montgomery, whoever gets up to speed the quickest could wind up catching 15-20 passes this year.
Strength: Size. Three of the Bears' top four receivers are 6-2 and Ross possesses a tremendous blend of speed and strength. In general, Cal has athletes with the measurables to create match up problems with opposing secondaries.
Weakness: Consistency. While Jones has the look of a burgeoning star, behind him is a sea of uncertainty at wide receiver. Lagemann is a first-time starter, Ross has been streaky, and Calvin has had problems remaining healthy. The passing game is going to need someone other than Miller to consistently take heat off No. 1.
Outlook: While Jones and Miller form a nice one-two punch at wide receiver and tight end, respectively, Cal needs at least one other receiver to step up and deliver on a consistent basis. One go-to guy isn't enough, and the program doesn't want Jones to attract double-teams all year.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: Mike Tepper will be missed at left tackle, but with four starters back, Cal feels as if it can overcome the loss. Taking the veteran's place will be 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Matt Summers-Gavin. A key recruit from 2007, he actually started eight games at left guard in 2009, earning the nod as Most Valuable Offensive Freshman. Naturally, he'll need to work on his footwork and pass protection, but the base of talent and fundamentals are in place for him to make this move work.
Taking Summers-Gavin's place at left guard is 6-2, 285-pound sophomore Brian Schwenke. One of just three true freshmen to see the field, he played in all 12 games and picked up some important reps along the way. Even after adding weight, he's still a little undersized, but compensates with good get-off and a feisty mentality. He has the toughness and makeup that coaches look for in an interior lineman.
The veteran of the line is 6-2, 281-pound senior C Chris Guarnero, who has started 16 career games, including all 13 in last year's honorable mention All-Pac-10 campaign. Trading quickness and a great feel for the position, he gets out of the blocks in a hurry and is the cerebral leader of the front wall. After learning from Alex Mack, one of the best centers to ever play for the school, he's done a solid job of carrying the torch at the pivot.
Next to Guarnero at right guard will be 6-2, 290-pound junior Justin Cheadle, a full-year starter and the recipient of the team's most improved offensive lineman of 2009. An athlete at the position, he's quick off the snap and has a tendency to explode into the second level of the defense. While not very tall, he has the long arms needed to stun defenders long enough to get them out of the play.
If anyone on this unit is on the tarmac and preparing for lift-off, it's 6-5, 310-pound junior Mitchell Schwartz, the program's fixture at right tackle, top blocker, and honorable mention All-Pac-10 choice. Yes, he has the sheer size and strength to simply maul opponents and drive them deep into the defensive side of the ball. However, he also possesses great feet and the quickness to seal the edge and keep the pocket clean. If he continues to progress, a shot at the NFL might await in two years.
Projected Top Reserves: One of the more versatile Bears up front will be 6-1, 280-pound sophomore Dominic Galas, a reserve at left guard and center. A top recruit at the pivot coming out of high school, he's a workout warrior and extremely tough at the point of attack. After playing in all 13 games a year ago, he'll be ready to be one of the first linemen off the bench again this fall.
At left tackle, 6-3, 280-pound Donovan Edwards will be providing veteran support to Summer-Gavin as he adapts to a new spot on the line. The recipient of a letter in each of the last two seasons, he's been a productive recruit since transferring from Diablo Valley (Calif.) College. In fact, he actually started the final six games of 2008, and won't become unnerved by an unexpected promotion up the depth chart.
Watch Out For … Summers-Gavin's transition to left tackle. No Bear lineman has a bigger responsibility than the sophomore, who'll have Kevin Riley's back this fall. Few doubt he has a bright future, but being out an island for the first time will bring all kinds of unexpected challenges for such a young player.
Strength: Agility. If there's a common thread among the Cal linemen, it's that they all move well laterally and well down the field. Schwartz aside, the starters aren't physically imposing, but they're light on their feet and possess the endurance to still be fresh in the second half of games.
Weakness: Pass protection. It's sort of tough to figure that this seemingly nimble group could have so many problems keeping the other team out of the backfield. The Bears were a dismal ninth in the Pac-10 in sacks yielded, a trend that must be reversed without last season's top blocker.
Outlook: The Bears were without line guru Jim Michalczik and it showed in 2009. The group made too many mistakes, but has the ingredients on the first unit to make a rebound. While it run blocks very well, it has to step things up in pass protection, putting extra pressure on Summers-Gavin to excel at left tackle. The left side, in general, could make Cal fans hold their breath occasionally this season.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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2010 California Defense |
California Depth Chart
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