Thursday, August 30, 2007

San Jose Mercury: Cal football preview: By position




If it weren't for teammate DeSean Jackson and USC quarterback John David Booty, Longshore might be getting more preseason national recognition. He threw for more than 3,000 yards in his first year as a starter, improving as the season went on. He should be even better this year. If Longshore were to get injured, there would be a big drop-off in backup Kevin Riley, who has never taken a college snap.



The Bears have the deepest corps of tailbacks in the Pac-10 save for USC. Senior Justin Forsett is ready to start, and although backups James Montgomery and Jahvid Best are inexperienced, they both came to Cal with big-time press clippings. Fullback Will Ta'ofu'ou, who is expected back soon from a knee injury, is solid.



The trio of DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins has been rated by some as the best group of wide receivers in the country. Throw in Craig Stevens, who might be the Pac-10's best tight end, and it makes for a potent passing game. Opponents may be reluctant to double-team Jackson, a preseason first-team All-American, because of the quality of the other targets.



Center Alex Mack is one of the country's best, but the Bears must replace Andrew Cameron and Erik Robertson on the left side. Mike Gibson has moved from right tackle to left tackle, and Brian De La Puente, who started three games on the right last season, is at left guard. Noris Malele is back as a starter at right guard, and Mike Tepper is the new starting right tackle. Talented freshman Chris Guarnero is in the wings if someone gets hurt.



Cal lost three of its four starters, including All-Pac-10 first-teamer Brandon Mebane, who was picked in the third round of the NFL draft by Seattle. Junior Rulon Davis is raw but athletic and will start on one end. Sophomore Tyson Alualu played a lot as a freshman and will play both inside and out. Returning starter Matt Malele anchors the interior. Sophomore Tad Smith had some good moments during camp, and freshman Cameron Jordan could make an impact.



All three starters are All-Pac-10 candidates. Worrell Williams started on the weak side last year but moves to the middle to take over for Desmond Bishop, the Pac-10's leading tackler in 2006. Strong-side linebacker Zack Follett didn't start last season but got as many reps as one and is considered an All-America candidate. Anthony Felder was a freshman All-American two years ago but was hurt last season. Greg Van Hoesen, Justin Moye and Mike Mohamed are capable backups.



Senior Brandon Hampton gets first crack at replacing Pac-10 defensive player of the year Daymeion Hughes at cornerback. Sophomore Syd'Quan Thompson could become one of the conference's top corners on the other side. Cal returns both safeties in Thomas DeCoud and Bernard Hicks. Backups Darian Hagan and Chris Conte give the position some depth.



The Bears have one of the best units in the country, with punt returner DeSean Jackson, punter Andrew Larson and kicker Tom Schneider all considered among the best at his position. Even long snapper Nick Sundberg is considered a potential NFL player.


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