Thursday, August 30, 2007

SF Chronicle: Cal position-by-position

Rusty Simmons


Coach Jeff Tedford repeatedly has referred to Nate Longshore as "another coach on the field." His maturity and his understanding of the offense are evident, which is probably pretty daunting to opponents. Remember, Longshore threw for 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns before he completely grasped Tedford's complex system.

Running backs

A lot of the training-camp hoopla was given to true freshman burner Jahvid Best, but Justin Forsett will be the workhorse. After having spot duty behind a pair of NFL runners, he has added 10 pounds of muscle and says he's faster and quicker than at any time in his career. ... Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou is recovering from a sprained MCL quicker than expected.

Wide receivers/Tight ends

It is downright fun watching these receivers push each other in practice. Electric DeSean Jackson, steady Robert Jordan and no-fear Lavelle Hawkins make up one of the best units in the country. ... All-conference tight end Craig Stevens is almost an afterthought.

Offensive line

Center Alex Mack and tackle Mike Gibson lead a unit that doesn't get enough credit. Sure, the line has to replace two starters, but that hasn't been a problem in the past. Offensive line coach Jim Michalczik's group allowed only a sack a game last season, when it had to replace three NFL draft picks.

Defensive line

This is the wait-and-see position. On top of looking for three starters, the defensive front has had its share of injuries during camp. Matt Malele, Rulon Davis, Tyson Alualu and Mika Kane will get the first chance to quiet doubters.


It's funny to think that this group lost Desmond Bishop and Mickey Pimentel and actually could be better. Worrell Williams moves inside, Anthony Felder is healthy and Zack Follett has been pining to hit something since July.

Defensive backs

Replacing a starting cornerback who won the Ronnie Lott Award isn't fun, but Brandon Hampton has not failed in Berkeley. He went from water boy to scout-team running back to a starting safety, so why not jump into Daymeion Hughes' shoes? ... Safeties Thomas DeCoud and Bernard Hicks are big hits waiting to happen, and corner Syd'Quan Thompson is a different player than a year ago.

Special teams

Many preseason publications have this unit ranked among the nation's best. After all, Tom Schneider keeps moving up the all-time scoring list, and Andrew Larson led the conference in net punting. ... Oh yeah, and the Bears have that Jackson guy returning punts.


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