Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Daily Cal: Experienced Squad Returns for 2009 Season

By Matt Kawahara

On Saturday morning, just after the Cal football team officially ended its fall training camp, a reporter asked coach Jeff Tedford if he felt any lingering concerns heading into the season about his personnel at any position.  "No," Tedford said.  For a short answer, it said a lot about his team.

Expectations are peaking around Strawberry Canyon as the Bears' opener against Maryland looms at the end of the week. Both the AP and USA Today preseason polls have Cal ranked No. 12 in the country, and much is being made of 2009 as the year when somebody finally knocks USC from atop the Pac-10.

The Bears are a favorite for the role of challenger. Eight returning starters from the Pac-10's second-ranked defense and a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back will earn that kind of public rep.

But ask the players and coaches what defines this team and you'll get one overwhelming answer: experience at all positions.

In 2008, Cal was racked by a lack thereof. The defense was learning coordinator Bob Gregory's 3-4 scheme as it went along. Tailback Jahvid Best had yet to play a full season. None of the receivers had seen significant playing time the previous year.

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