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2010 California Preview
California RB Shane Vereen
California RB Shane Vereen
Posted Jun 18, 2010 2010 Preview - California Golden Bears

California Golden Bears

Preview 2010

- 2010 California Preview | 2010 California Offense
- 2010 California Defense | 2010 California Depth Chart
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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Jeff Tedford
Ninth year: 67-35
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 25, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best California Players
1. LB Mike Mohamed, Sr.
2. RB Shane Vereen, Jr.
3. DE Cameron Jordan, Sr.
4. RT Mitchell Schwartz, Jr.
5. WR Marvin Jones, Jr.
6. P Bryan Anger, Jr.
7. S Sean Cattouse, Jr.
8. QB Kevin Riley, Sr.
9. TE Anthony Miller, Jr.
10. C Chris Guarnero, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 UC Davis
Sept. 11 Colorado
Sept. 17 at Nevada
Sept. 25 at Arizona
Oct. 9 UCLA
Oct. 16 at USC
Oct. 23 Arizona State
Oct. 30 at Oregon State
Nov. 6 at Washington St
Nov. 13 Oregon
Nov. 20 Stanford
Nov. 27 Washington

No one in his right mind would question whether head coach Jeff Tedford has raised the bar in Strawberry Canyon over the last decade. His inability to clear that bar, however, seems to be haunting him for the past few seasons.

Cal is on a historically good run, recording eight straight winning seasons for the first time since 1918-25 and appearing in a school-record seven consecutive bowl games. Yet, the mere mention of the program often draws guffaws and accusations of underachieving. Fair? Maybe not. Fact? You bet. For a few years now, the Bears have been fashionable preseason picks to storm the gates of the Pac-10 before systematically falling short. Well, they won’t have to worry about being trendy this summer. The nation pretty much has learned their routine by now.

In 2009, Cal walloped its first three overmatched opponents, but quickly went into a submissive position, losing to Oregon and USC by a combined score of 72-6. Throw in embarrassing season-ending losses to Washington and Utah, and it’s easy to see why last year qualified as another disappointment in Berkeley … even at 8-5.

The Bears are poised to extend their streak of winning seasons and bowl invitations, but that’s where the line in the sand is now being drawn. Despite having plenty of next-level talent on both sides of the ball, difficult questions persist. Can Kevin Riley finally give Cal what it needs behind center? Can the problems in the secondary be solved by a new defensive coordinator? Will the school fade once the schedule stiffens? Cal knows what it is and so does the rest of the country. And that’s no indictment of the program. The Bears will be a first division Pac-10 team playing in a December bowl game. Anything more is going to qualify as an upset and cause for a celebration.

What to watch for on offense: The transition of sophomore Matt Summers-Gavin from left guard to left tackle. As if the passing game doesn’t have enough concerns, now it must contend with position-switcher supplanting all-star Mike Tepper. Now, Summers-Gavin is one of the young stars of the front wall, but this is a big move that’s going to test his retention and pass protection skills. The entire left side of the line is a bit tenuous at this stage of the preseason, as fellow sophomore Brian Schwenke is slated to be Summers-Gavin’s replacement at left guard.

What to watch for on defense: More blitzes and stunts than in the past. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast will keep the 3-4 alignment on defense, but is asking the players he inherited to be a lot more aggressive than in recent years. With a veteran line and athletic linebackers, the staff is going to have the flexibility to mix things up and keep opposing offenses on their heels. If nothing else, the Bears must find creative ways to support a pass defense that was garroted on a regular basis in 2009.

The team will be far better if… it becomes markedly improved when the ball is in the air. Throwing the ball, Cal ranked 64th nationally in passing efficiency. Defending the pass, it was a putrid 91st in the country. Teams that have a lower passer efficiency rating than pass efficiency defense rating usually don’t even reach the .500 mark, something the Bears have to solve in order to move forward.

The Schedule: There's always going to be the mysterious Cal braincramp somewhere along the way (helloooooo, Arizona State at home on October 23rd), but this isn't all that bad a schedule with five Pac 10 home games and three of the last four games at home (all in November). Going to USC and Oregon State will be a problem, but getting Oregon and UCLA at home will help and going to Washington State is actually a positive considering how bad the Cougars might be once again. The run defense will have to crank things up a few notches early with a road trip to Nevada coming off a date with Colorado, and there's a stretch of three road dates in four games and four in six, but the slate shouldn't be what keeps Cal from winning the Pac 10.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Shane Vereen. Get to know the name because it could reach household status before Halloween. Vereen is so talented, the Bears might not even miss Jahvid Best. In fact, when Best was injured late last year, the former backup erupted for 565 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in the final four games alone. Not only does he run with tremendous jets and vision, but he has a blue-collar work ethic and the burning desire to become the next great back in Berkeley. Don’t bet against it happening.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Mike Mohamed. In a 3-4 defense, you cannot have enough playmaking linebackers. Mohamed sure qualifies. Tasked with becoming the leader of a rebuilt corps in 2009, he responded by making a Pac-10-high 112 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, and three interceptions en route to a spot on the all-conference first team. At 6-3 and 238 pounds, he has the range and fundamentals to constantly be in a position to make key plays.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Kevin Riley … again. While it’s not as if Riley is being asked to channel Carson Palmer in his final year, the program desperately needs better play at quarterback. Sure, his numbers don’t look all that bad from a year ago, but they don’t tell the entire story. Against the better opponents on last year’s schedule, he had a habit of disappearing and accounted for just three touchdowns in five losses, hardly the mark of a transcendent quarterback.

The season will be a success if ... the Bears wind up no lower than second on the Pac-10 ladder. It’s a big challenge in a conference that has a growing number of quality and tightly-packed programs. Naturally, everyone in blue and gold will be pointing to the school’s first Rose Bowl since 1958, but that’s a reach for team that probably won’t even the year ranked in the Top 25.

Key game: Nov. 20 vs. Stanford. The Big Game has gotten even bigger now that the Cardinal has joined the race for Pac-10 supremacy. This is the middle game of a three-week, season-ending homestand that will dictate where the Bears spend the holidays. After pulling an impressive upset on the Farm last November, they’d love nothing more than to make it eight wins in the last nine games with their chief rival.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: Cal 169.5 – Opponents 112.0
- Average yards per catch: Cal 13.5 – Opponents 12.0
- First quarter scoring: Cal 117 - Opponents 68

- 2010 California Preview | 2010 California Offense
- 2010 California Defense | 2010 California Depth Chart
- California Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006