Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Joe Starkey: 49ers Should have Taken Desean Jackson

Here is the link.


Starkey came away disappointed in both the 49ers' and the league's underestimation of Cal star DeSean Jackson. "When the Niners had a shot at him at (No.) 39, I thought for sure they were going to take him," he admitted. "I thought he'd be the perfect slot receiver for Mike Martz. Plus, there's his ability as a returner. He'd have been perfect."

"Chewbacca's" Murderer Gets Off With Voluntary Manslaughter

Per this report in the SF Chronicle, Christopher Hollis was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the shooting death of Meleia Willis-Starbuck.  The incident started as an argument between a group, including Willis-Starbuck, and some Cal football players.  Willis-Starbuck, apparently angered after it was pointed out that she resembled Chewbacka, the gruff but loveable bear-like creature from Star Wars, called Mr. Hollis and ordered him to “bring some heat.”  He complied, fired into the crowd, killing Willis-Starbuck and wounding a Cal football player.  The Oakland jury believed that he was only trying to “disperse the crowd.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

SF Chronicle: Ex-Marine Davis now giving orders at Cal

Rusty Simmons

The in-house word last season was that Cal was missing Desmond Bishop and Marshawn Lynch, guys who were vocal enough to gain their teammates' attention throughout the practice week and athletic enough to demand it for Saturday game days.  Though injuries stood in the way of the development of some of the sexier stories during spring, the leadership problem, which was mostly blamed for the fall from No. 2 in the nation to a 7-6 record, might have been answered.  Before Saturday's practice, the Bears swarmed around defensive end Rulon Davis, who emphatically notified them that this was their final day to improve. After practice, Davis again moved front-and-center, screaming at a decibel level that should act as a reminder throughout the summer.  "I'm really happy with the team chemistry, the ways we're working together and the attitude, focus and camaraderie of the team," coach Jeff Tedford said. "If the spring is any indication, the togetherness and the camaraderie will carry on over the summer. They'll all invest the time to be ready to go in August."

Davis is a 6-foot-5, 275-pounder who served in the Marines for three years and survived a motorcycle crash. Through an injury-plagued two seasons in Berkeley, Davis has shown flashes of brilliance, like Saturday when he had three tackles for losses and a sack in about 20 snaps.  "I think he's stood out this spring," defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "He's really taken charge and tried to get the guys going, and he plays with a lot of energy."  While lack of player leadership might have been last year's biggest problem, little on-field issues were solved during the spring. Incumbent Nate Longshore's pectoral injury stopped the headline-grabbing quarterback battle with Kevin Riley, the three receivers who will move on to NFL rosters next season have yet to be replaced as injuries plagued the possible fill-ins and the defense is amid a major overhaul.

"Of course, at some time, it's frustrating because some guys get hurt and other guys take more of the load and they end up with injuries," Tedford said. Tedford, however, appeared confident about each of the questions, and offered one final answer, projecting that lightning-in-a-bottle tailback Jahvid Best will be fully recovered from his hip injury by training camp. Tedford also said Michael Calvin and Nyan Boateng made noticeable strides at receiver, and he's in no hurry to name a starting quarterback.  "We're going to go through the summer and fall camp and see how it shakes down," Tedford said. "We're in good shape because we have two very good quarterbacks and a young guy, who has a lot of ability as well."

As for the defense, it appears as though the Bears have shifted to a 3-4 base after struggling to stop the run and get quarterback pressure last season. Gregory maintains that the 3-4 has always been part of the package, but the team did little to nothing from a 4-3 set during the spring.  "The guys did a nice job of absorbing all the new stuff," Gregory said. "The 3-4 gives us much more flexibility in what we can do, and it helps in recruiting because those guys who look like Rulon are hard to find."

Contra Costa Times: Cal Ends Spring Practice on High Note

By Jonathan Okanes

BERKELEY -- Cal may not have found out as much as it would have liked about its quarterback situation this spring, but the Bears may have made a discovery that is just as important.  Cal wrapped up spring practice Saturday, and coach Jeff Tedford didn't hesitate when asked afterward what he has learned over the past four weeks.  "I'm really happy with the team chemistry," he said. "The way we're working together, the attitude of the team, the focus, the camaraderie -- it's all very positive." It's a component that Tedford and the players have been raving about all spring, and it's especially important considering a lack of intangibles may have been a major reason for the Bears' disappointing 2007 season.

Tedford has placed an emphasis on improving the overall culture of the program, and spring practices were substantially more lively and enthusiastic than last season. The Bears also seem to have found some on-field leaders, something that was sorely lacking last year.  Leaders have emerged especially on the defensive side, where Cal has much more experience than the offense. Defensive end Rulon Davis and linebackers Zack Follett and Worrell Williams have especially stood out. Davis wrapped up an exceptional spring by making a handful of plays during the situational scrimmage portion of Saturday's practice. He tackled running back Tracy Slocum in the backfield twice and forced quarterback Kevin Riley to throw a pass away with pressure.

"I think Rulon  stuck out," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "He's really taking charge and starting to get the guys going. He plays with a lot of energy."  Gregory all but confirmed the Bears will be switching to a 3-4 base defense this season. Cal didn't run a single rep of 4-3 during the spring, and with the Bears' deep nucleus of linebackers, the 3-4 seems to suit their personnel well. "What did you guys see this spring?" Gregory asked reporters with a smile when asked about the switch.  It was a more laborious spring than usual for Cal's defense, as much of practice entailed walking through different looks of the 3-4. The Bears seemed to take to it well, and the defense had a good day against the offense Saturday.

"We probably got to a point mid-spring where we probably had too much (teaching)," Gregory said. "You want to try to get as much as you can in, but we kind of had to scale it back this past week. You have to be careful having too much in. I think it gives us much more flexibility as to what we can do."

The quarterback competition between Riley and Nate Longshore was supposed to be the prevailing storyline this spring, but it fizzled when Longshore suffered a pulled pectoral muscle during the second day of practice and missed the final three weeks. Tedford said Longshore's absence had no effect on the race for the starting job because it will be decided in the fall.

"Nate was doing a great job the first week," Tedford said. "He really showed well. Kevin did a nice job through spring. We're in a good position. We have two very good quarterbacks and a young guy (Brock Mansion) who has a lot of ability as well. We feel like we're in good hands at quarterback. We're going to go through summer and we're going to go through fall camp, and then see how it shakes down."

After being inconsistent through much of the spring, Riley came on during the final week and played well Saturday. Not coincidentally, the same thing happened with the Bears' inexperienced corps of receivers. Michael Calvin and Nyan Boateng both looked good Saturday.

"I got more comfortable with the receivers," Riley said. "That was pretty much the main thing. I thought I did my job. I know the offense improved every day, which was our goal."  The receiving corps is perhaps the Bears' biggest uncertainty heading into fall camp. Gone are the explosive trio of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Cal's current group of receivers has just 12 career catches combined.

"As you install plays all through the spring, there's a lot on their mind," Tedford said. "When things started slowing down, they were just able to play. When they

SF Chronicle: Six Cal players get chosen; Stanford gets ignored

The results of the 2008 NFL draft make it hard to believe Cal finished ahead of only one team in the 2007 Pac-10 standings.  The Bears had six players picked in the seven-round draft, the most Cal draftees since the draft was reduced from 12 rounds to eight in 1993.  What's more, it was the greatest number of draft picks from Cal since six players were selected in 1977; the Bears have not had more than six since 1952, when 10 players were drafted, including seven taken between rounds 11 and 29.

Only three colleges - USC with 10, Virginia Tech with eight and LSU with seven - had more players drafted this year, and all three finished ranked in the top 10. The Bears were 3-6 in the Pac-10 and 7-6 overall.  As prominent as Cal was in the draft, Stanford was a no-show, having no players drafted for only the second time since 1962. Among players from Bay Area high schools, Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon (San Leandro High) and San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson (Oakland Tech) were both taken in the fifth round Sunday, Dixon by Pittsburgh and Johnson by Tampa Bay.

Two other quarterbacks with East Bay roots - Nebraska's Sam Keller, who attended San Ramon Valley High, and Miami's Kyle Wright, who was rated the nation's No. 1 recruit by several recruiting services during his senior season at Danville's Monte Vista High - were not drafted They all took a backseat to Cal, which had five players selected on the second day of the draft.

The first Cal player taken Sunday - and the first since DeSean Jackson was chosen in the second round Saturday - was tight end Craig Stevens.  The big numbers posted by Cal wide receivers Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan overshadowed Stevens, who had 17 receptions as a senior. But he was consistent and has no glaring weakness, which, combined with a good showing in the NFL combine, helped him become a third-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.

Stevens initially thought he was headed to Baltimore. Tennessee was on the clock and the Ravens were on deck when Stevens got a call. "Baltimore was on the phone, and they told me they were going to draft me," Stevens said. "Then I hear my call-waiting, and it was Tennessee. One minute I thought I was going to Baltimore and the next I'm going to Tennessee." The Titans acquired four-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler in the offseason. Stevens later found out Hawkins will be his teammate as the Titans took Hawkins in the fourth round. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper called Hawkins the best pick of the second day. Before Hawkins was selected, the Atlanta Falcons took Cal safety Thomas DeCoud in the third round. DeCoud could compete for a starting spot as a rookie because the Falcons' No. 1 strong safety is 34-year-old Lawyer Milloy. "I heard he's a really good safety," DeCoud said, "and it would be great to be an understudy to him and learn from him. I would like to contribute right away, but we'll see how the cookie crumbles."

Cal running back Justin Forsett was drafted by Seattle, but not until the seventh round, later than expected. Guard Michael Gibson was taken earlier than projected, going in the sixth round to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Read the rest of the article here.

Philadelphia Daily News: Is McNabb Happy with Draft Choices? Actions Will Tell

Here is the link.

“..the Eagles again traded out of the first round and used their first pick in the second round on another defensive tackle (Trevor Laws), and then used their next pick on a very fast part-time wide receiver and full-time return specialist who is the size of a 10th-grader (DeSean Jackson), and also traded a fourth-round draft choice for a smallish running back the 1-15 Miami Dolphins didn't want anymore (Lorenzo Booker).”

Daily Cal: Jackson Drops But Bears Still Impressive

It must have been the longest four hours and 49 minutes of his life.  Cal wideout DeSean Jackson seemed to be a certain first-round NFL draft pick based on his game-breaking speed and agility, but on Saturday he had to wait until the 49th pick to hear his name called.  Six receivers were picked before the Philadelphia Eagles snagged Jackson with the 18th pick in the second round. Concerns about his size-he weighed 169 pounds at the NFL combine-may have caused his stock to plunge on draft day.

"I definitely was surprised because I felt like I would go higher than I did, but God had a plan for me, and I knew it would be a team that would pick me up and put me in a great position," Jackson said to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Everything happens for a reason, and I think this is going to be a great fit for me."

Jackson was the first of six Bears players to be chosen over the draft's two days, a school record in a seven-round draft.  Tight end Craig Stevens and wideout Lavelle Hawkins were both taken by the Tennessee Titans, in the third and fourth round, respectively, while safety Thomas DeCoud went to the Atlanta Falcons in the third round.  The Eagles picked offensive tackle Michael Gibson in the sixth round, while tailback Justin Forsett became the last of five Cal offensive stars chosen, landing with the Seattle Seahawks in the seventh.

Jackson did not endure the same wait as some of his teammates, but his may have been the most excruciating. ESPN kept cutting to shots of Jackson and his family sitting patiently by the phone in Southern California before it became apparent that he would not be picked in the first round.

No receiver was selected in the first round and then six were taken toward the top of the second, including players from Coastal Carolina and Houston. Jackson, once considered the top receiver in the draft, blamed his fall on questions of his size and durability.  "I have been hearing about (my size) all my life," said Jackson, who ended his three-year career at Cal ranked third all-time in receiving yards and touchdowns. "It has been something to motivate me. Sitting back and waiting for my name to be called, I kind of figured that a lot of people were afraid of my size, but like I tell everybody else, my heart is bigger than my size and I play larger than I really am."

But Jackson's costly wait-last year's 49th selection received $1.7 million in guaranteed money while most first-round picks received over $5 million-did little to damper a banner weekend for Cal.  It was the first time the Bears had six players selected since 1977, when the draft included 12 rounds as opposed to the seven currently.  "I'm really just hoping that everything works out for all those guys," coach Jeff Tedford said. "They've all done a lot for our program and we're excited about their next step."

Daily Cal: Cal Still Bare Under Center

The Cal football team ended spring ball the same way it started with regards to its quarterback situation-uncertain.   Coach Jeff Tedford said throughout the spring that he was not prepared to make a decision on who would be the starting quarterback come fall and he continued that train of thought after the team's final spring practice Saturday.  "We're going to go through the summer, we're going to go through fall camp and kind of see how it shakes down through fall camp," Tedford said.  Last year's starter, Nate Longshore, missed most of the spring with a pulled pectoral muscle. He was present on practice Saturday, but did not participate in any drills.

This gave backup Kevin Riley time with the first-team offense and allowed redshirt freshman Brock Mansion to take more reps in the spring.  But Tedford said that the injury to Longshore will not weigh on his decision to name a starter.  "Nate was doing a great job this first week. He really showed well," Tedford said. "Kevin did a nice job through spring and Brock got better as the spring went along.  "We're in good shape. We have two very good quarterbacks and a young guy who's got a lot of ability as well, so we're in good hands at the quarterback position."

Bears defensive coordinator Bob Gregory still seemed hesitant to say for sure whether or not the 3-4 defense will be Cal's base scheme next year, although he did allude to it.  "We always have the 3-4," he said. "What did you guys see out there?"  The Bears practiced almost exclusively out of the 3-4 defense this spring-which features three down linemen and four linebackers.

This may be beneficial for Cal-which finished last in the Pac-10 in sacks last year with 22-especially with a veteran linebacker group coming back next year, headlined by Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder.  "With all the one-backs that we see I think it gives us much more flexibility," Gregory said. "I think it's easier to find those kind of guys, those backer guys, than guys that look like Rulon (Davis)."

The memories of the way the Bears ended their 2007 campaign have not been lost on the team. If anything, it has helped Cal this spring.  The Bears were ranked No. 2 in the country in early October, before they lost six of their last seven regular season games-which knocked them out of BCS contention-and dropped the Big Game to Stanford for the first time in six years.  "We use last year as motivation, I think," senior center Alex Mack said. "We had a winning schedule, but we want to do better than that and we came out here knowing that."


ESPN: Golden Bears not finding much success with injuries

Standout offensive skill position players have distinguished the Jeff Tedford-era at California, from Kyle Boller to Aaron Rodgers to J.J. Arrington to Marshawn Lynch to DeSean Jackson. But that doesn't appear to be the case this spring, so feel free to crack wise about why Tedford handed off play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, even though that had nothing to do with the decision.  It's not necessarily about a lack of talent. It's just the talent needs name tags. And good health and consistency.

The only non-no-name of the bunch -- quarterback Nate Longshore -- is engaged in a tight competition with fan favorite Kevin Riley. At least he was until a pectoral muscle injury sidelined him and made it clear the competition will continue well into the fall.  Meanwhile, the pecking order at receiver and tailback remains hard to gauge, in large part because of injuries.  Elusive junior Jahvid Best would be the frontrunner at tailback, even if James Montgomery hadn't opted to transfer to Washington State, but he's out with a hip injury -- the sort that makes coaches nervous even though Best's prognosis is optimistic. Junior Tracy Slocum, speedy redshirt freshman Shane Vereen -- who's been mostly sidelined by a hamstring injury -- and true freshman Covaughn DeBoskie have no carries to their credit, and all three are listed at under 200 pounds.

The story is the same at receiver. Jeremy Ross exceeded expectations until spraining his ankle, while LaReylle Cunningham and Drew Glover also have been hounded by injuries. Redshirt freshman Michael Calvin and Florida transfer Nyan Boateng are physically talented -- and likely will be in the top three next fall -- but they were inconsistent until producing an uptick the final couple of workouts. In other words, little has been settled heading into the offseason.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

San Jose Mercury: No SJSU vs. Cal Game in the Works

Here’s the link.

There is no movement on the Cal front. Tomey and Jeff Tedford discussed a possible series a while back, but SJSU has not heard from the Bears since the fall. “I’m assuming their silence means they are not interested,” Bowen said.


Contra Costa Times: Cignetti ready for challenge

New Bears offensive coordinator is in charge of the offense as Tedford pays more attention to all facets of the team

BERKELEY -- There's a different look at Cal spring practice this year. The coach directing traffic on offense is not Jeff Tedford.   Tedford still is involved in the unit's affairs, but new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti is the one hovering behind Cal's quarterbacks, blowing the whistle when he sees something he doesn't like.

It's all part of the Bears' new regime that has Tedford as more of an overseer and Cignetti running the offense. Tedford made the move following last season, removing himself from play calling duties to pay more attention to all facets of the program. "He's done a great job," Tedford said of Cignetti. "He's worked very hard and is very detailed. He's enthusiastic and has really brought a lot of energy." Cignetti brings his own offensive philosophy to the Bears, but has been careful to adjust to the team rather than the other way around. Tedford and Cignetti both said they are combining on ideas, and that their philosophies are similar.

"It's a situation where you want to make as little changes as possible for the players, so I'm the one who needs to do most of the learning," Cignetti said. "So there's definitely an adjustment period. I've enjoyed every day." Cignetti has a lot of experience adjusting to a new workplace. Cal is the eighth stop during his coaching career, including three stints with NFL teams. "I've done this many times, making changes," Cignetti said. "There is always an adjustment period to the university itself, the coaches and the players, learning a new language. It's been a great situation so far."

Cignetti is taking over an offense that is loaded with questions. The Bears don't have any experience at wide receiver and not much at running back. The team is attempting to decide on a starting quarterback, a competition that has been slowed because of an injury to Nate Longshore.  "We're pleased with our progress," Cignetti said. "When you look at the three phases of offense -- the running game, protection and the passing game -- we feel like we're making progress and getting better with each practice."

No holding back

With only three more practices left, Tedford said he wants the team to "cut it loose" today and Saturday.  "For the young guys who haven't been through it before, it's definitely important," Tedford said. Many of those young guys are at wide receiver, where the Bears are trying to figure out who is going to replace DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Cal's inexperienced receiving core has been a work in progress this spring, and injuries have taken their toll.  Michael Calvin has been the team's best receiver, but he hasn't been spectacular. Jeremy Ross had been playing well before suffering a sprained ankle last weekend. Drew Glover had been a revelation before incurring a separated shoulder and Nyan Boateng has been inconsistent. "We need to get better," Tedford said. "They're working hard at it and trying to get better every day. That's what spring is all about."

Extra points

Walk-on Richard Fisher has started to get first team reps at left guard in place of Mark Boskovich. The Bears need to replace Brian De La Puente at that position. ... Tight end Cameron Morrah missed Monday's practice after having an asthma attack. Tedford also said a flu bug has hit the team pretty hard.


Daily Cal: New Group of Wideouts Comes in to Try to Fill Roles Vacated by NFL-Bound Threesome

By Andrew Kim

The replacements. The new guys. The inexperienced.


A total of 6,218 yards, 454 receptions and 47 touchdowns later, wideouts DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan shed those labels and left the Cal football team as a unit to enter the 2008 NFL Draft, having risen as one of the nation's top receiving corps upon exit.   After assembling a potent passing attack over the past few seasons-not to mention the stable of running backs that the program has graduated-the Bears are left with mere traces of their recent brilliance at this year's spring camp, with names like Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng, Jeremy Ross and LaReylle Cunningham in queue.

Reinsert first paragraph here.

Suffice it to say, Cal's aerial attack remains clipped at the wings, as its depth chart at receiver was wiped clean by the departure of the aforementioned trio.  The Bears have rebuilt their stash of receivers in the past, though never as exhaustively. Still, as should be expected from a top program, there are plenty waiting in the wings for a chance to become the quarterback's favorite hookup.  Arguably Cal's best player not to dress for a game in 2007, Calvin has patiently learned about, well, patience.  Like most of his teammates, the redshirt freshman was the go-to guy during his prep career at San Lorenzo High, racking up 22 touchdowns on 1,454 receiving yards in his final two seasons.

But the 56th-best wide receiver recruit in 2007-according to to stay content with simulating, instead of facing, the Bears' opponents once he entered Cal.  Undeterred, Calvin responded by claiming Scout Team Player of the Year honors on offense, serving up a big 6-foot-2, 205-pound target for the Bears' defensive backs-a bulk that the featherweight starters couldn't mimic.   "I talked to my high school coach, and he told me it's just all about being patient," says Calvin. "I just sat back, I learned the game. I took mental reps, and I prepared myself for this day now.  "The award just shows that I work hard through everything, I don't take plays off, I go 100 percent. I give it my all, man."

Today, Calvin boasts NFL-type measurements and a self-proclaimed 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash. While Cunningham (knee) and Ross (high ankle sprain) continue to recuperate from injury, Calvin and another 6-foot-2 wideout have emerged as prime candidates for slots on the starting 11.  An explosive athlete with hops better reserved for the hardwood, Boateng was recruited by a bevy of SEC staples like Florida and Tennessee despite an injury that caused him to miss his senior campaign.  The Brooklyn, N.Y., native, however, struggled to impress the Gators staff as a freshman and opted to transfer to Cal, only to run into trouble with the law with charges of burglary, battery and criminal mischief before he played a single snap at Memorial Stadium.

A rocky rapport with coach Jeff Tedford seemed inevitable.  "Coach 'T' and I had a great relationship when I first came in," says Boateng. "Then all the other stuff happened to me, so it was kind of a setback. But now he's starting to open up the trust level a little bit with me. It's a process, you know."  Boateng seems to have reciprocated Tedford's efforts to improve their bond.  "At first, I didn't understand why he did certain things with me, but now I do," says Boateng. "I read about him a little bit, saw something on YouTube about his life and I respect him as a man and everything he's been through."  The soft-spoken receiver also assured that he's in the best playing shape of his career, Florida days included.  After muffing a punt return early in Saturday's practice, Boateng later impressed teammates with a touchdown scamper off of a quick slant. The same type of resilience could serve him well in his first full season in years, in which he'll see his share of lumps.  "He's getting better every day, and that's what spring football is all about," says Tedford. "It's about learning the system, it's about getting used to the speed of the game ... I'm pleased with his progress, but he has a long way to go."

Complementing the emerging pair of newcomers are old faces with largely new roles, likely to add stability and toughness to the position.  A special-teamer for most of last season, Ross had impressed Tedford leading up to his injury, leading his coach to spare some relatively lofty words for the receiver:  "Early, Jeremy Ross was doing a real good job," says Tedford.  Look no further than the cause of the same high-ankle sprain-the wideout's willingness to drag defenders after the catch-for proof of his big-play potential.

The public got a glimpse of his grit during open practice two Saturdays ago, as Ross absorbed the initial contact and gained a dozen extra yards, only to be stopped by a gang of incoming tacklers.  A horse collar grab from behind coupled with multiple hits across the chest resulted in the sprain. But despite the setback, Ross doesn't seem like he'll turn soft any time soon.  "Oh yeah, that's my big aspect," says Ross. "When I get hit, it's gonna take more than one guy to take me down because I'm more physical and strong. I plan on catching the rock and getting more after that."  Cunningham, meanwhile, continues to build strength in his right knee. The senior, who returns as the elder statesman of the receiving corps with 155 career receiving yards and a touchdown, said his legs felt about 75 to 80 percent healthy.

Another 6-foot, 200-plus pounder, Cunningham implied his preference for leading through action, Robert Jordan-style.

"I help out when guys come to me to ask questions," says Cunningham. "I let them know what's going on. I'm more of a not-so-talkative leader, but I'm there. I'm there for it."  Despite the talkativeness of the rest of Cunningham's crew, none was able to express the optimism surrounding this group better than first-year wide receivers coach (and former quarterbacks coach) Kevin Daft.  Perhaps the fact that he is new to his own assignment gives the receivers a coach to whom they can relate.  "They're very hungry to play," says Daft. "It's been a while since they've played, every single one of them, extensive amounts of time since high school. I think that's good because they want to learn, they want to get better and they want to be great with everything." Cal Quarterback Riley's Popularity Rebounds

In times of despair, comfort can be found from a parent's sympathetic ear or words of encouragement.   And if there was ever a time that California quarterback Kevin Riley needed compassion, it was after the second-ranked Bears lost 31-28 to Oregon State on Oct. 13.   With Cal in range of a short field goal that would've forced overtime, Riley – then a redshirt freshman making his first career start in place of injured Nate Longshore – ran from the pocket rather than throw a clock -stopping incompletion in the game's final seconds. He was tackled at Oregon State's 9, and time ran out before Cal could line up for a field-goal attempt.

Cal's hopes of an undefeated season were over, and the chance to ascend to No. 1 in the nation (top-ranked LSU had lost to Kentucky earlier that day) for the first time since 1951 was gone. Disappointed fans in Berkeley blamed him for the loss. They blamed him for ruining the season. They blamed him for killing their buzz.   A few minutes later, Faustin Riley - a football coach at Beaverton (Ore.) High School who had proudly watched the youngest of his four children grow from a 5-foot-5, 107-pound eighth-grade overachiever into a 6-3, 215-pound college quarterback - met with his son outside Cal's locker room.  "The first thing he said to me was, 'You really messed up,' " Kevin said.

Read the entire article here.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

San Jose Mercury: Cal Has QB and Tailback Issues

Here’s the link.


“Stanford, Cal and San Jose State are looking for No. 1 quarterbacks and No. 1 tailbacks. And there has been no resolution on either front at any school during spring practice.  At Cal, injuries to quarterback Nate Longshore and tailback Jahvid Best have added to the murkiness.  Longshore is due back in August to compete with Kevin Riley for the starting job. But how effective will Best be after a major hip injury?

Add the departure of James Montgomery, and the Bears have more questions in the backfield than at any time during the Jeff Tedford era.”

Contra Costa Times: Cal sees plusses in a no-star lineup

By Gary Peterson

BERKELEY -- Cameron Jordan is on a roll. Literally. Cal's 6-foot-4, 286-pound defensive end is down on the rubberized fake grass of Memorial Stadium, rolling from one goal line to the other.  Practice -- the 10th of 15 Cal will conduct this spring -- is over. An autumn-like chill is in the Friday evening air. The weekend awaits, smelling of promise. But Jordan continues his long, strange trip. Roll on, you Bear.  He's at the 50... the 40... he could roll all the way. In fact, that's the purpose of this little team-building pseudo-punitive exercise, typically assigned to a player for some minor violation of a little-known -- perhaps even nonexistent -- team rule. A small gaggle of Jordan's linemates shepherd him down the field, heckling him, cheering him, reorienting him when he veers off course.

He almost crashes into a small group that includes coach Jeff Tedford, who is holding a post-practice session with the team's receivers. Tedford lobs high-arcing passes which force the receivers to catch the ball while looking straight back over their heads. (Note to Cal's 2008 opponents: Be alert for the Ghost to the Post.)

Eventually, Jordan reaches the far goal line. There he gets the bad news -- now he has to roll back.  Goofy? Yes. Sophomoric? Well, Jordan is a sophomore. A good sign? That's the word on the rubberized fake grass.

Football is fun again in Berkeley. That's what you keep hearing. Knee-jerk reaction: Well, duh. After a 5-0 start in 2007, Cal lost six of its final eight games. That included the Bears' first Big Game defeat of Tedford's tenure.

"There was a lot of pressure to perform," senior offensive lineman Alex Mack said. "People got down on each other."  From within sniffing distance of the school's first No. 1 ranking in 56 years, Cal plummeted out of the Top 25 and landed with a thud in the Armed Forces Bowl. (Nothing against the Armed Forces.) What wouldn't be more fun than that?  Sure enough, senior linebacker Zack Follett said he first noticed an uptick in the team's mood even before spring ball. "Right when we hit the weight room," he said.  But this good vibe seems to transcend what happened last year, time's healing properties, the low-stress environment of off-season drills, and the natural euphoric cocktail of spring, the great outdoors and the best years of a young man's life.

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Scout: Oak-Tree Protest: Pure Folly

Note from the Bear Insider:

While many involved Cal fans know that the oak tree protest in the grove
west of Memorial Stadium is just a side show to the real issues being
combated in court, the public-relations impact of the protest has been
negative and enormous. Articles about it have appeared in national
newspapers like USA Today and the New York Times - and elsewhere - even

University attorneys now say they expect a favorable decision from Judge
Barbara Miller of the Alameda County Superior Court about the proposed
Athletics Center in just a few weeks. If that happens, and if the injunction
that has to date prevented project construction is dissolved, the University
will immediately clear the site and begin construction.

And should that happen, the tree-sitters and the small grove of landscape
oaks will be the first to go - and that will result in international

Accordingly, writer Gary Moore (an occasional contributor to the Bear
Insider website) has written an Op-Ed piece that attempts to place the
oak-grove protest into an appropriate context.

We have published his article; here's a link to it:

It has become apparent over the last year that few understand the real - and
almost irrelevant - issues at stake in the oak grove protest, so we request
that you distribute the link to Moore's article as widely as possible.

Thank you for your help.

Chris Avery
The Bear Insider - Always on our Game

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please update your account preferences on the following page:

LA Times: Video of Pete Carroll's Spring Press Conference

Here’s the video of the enemy’s coach.

Contra Costa Times: Cal Basketball Coach Mike Montgomery Getting Lay of the Land

Here’s the link.


“I really want to spend some time with Jeff Tedford. He obviously came into a (football) program that was really struggling and got it turned around. I want to know what he saw, what he sells, how he sells it, because I think he's done a marvelous job of obviously figuring that out. Whatever he did, we need to be able to pick up on that. Joanne Boyle, with women's basketball, will be a great resource.” Spring Practice Update

Practice notes from Wednesday, April 16th. The defensive Bears are behaving offensively; Cal fans hope for some balance.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

San Jose Mercury: Cal, Stanford and SJSU football: Three teams, two problems


By Jon Wilner

It didn’t occur to me until Jim Harbaugh made mention of Stanford’s tailback situation following the Spring Game:  Not only do the locals have quarterback questions; they also have backfield questions. The Bears, Cardinal and Spartans are all looking for No. 1 quarterbacks and No. 1 tailbacks.



Quarterback: My feeling at the end of the ‘07 season was that Nate Longshore might bolt for a Mormon Church Mission rather than compete for the starting job with bowl sensation Kevin Riley.   Instead, he opted to compete — creating the possibility that their duel would last through training camp and possibly stretch into the season, with neither establishing himself as the clear-cut No. 1.  And now Longshore’s out with a torn pectoral muscle, leaving most of the spring snaps to Riley, who obviously needs them more given the disparity in experience.

Best guess: Longshore works his butt off over the summer and looks very good in August, so good that Coach Jeff Tedford can’t give Riley the job.

Tailback: My feeling at the end of ‘07 was that Jahvid Best’s career might be over because of the hip injury, and I’m glad I was wrong — you hate to see players retire in college because of injury.  But there’s no telling how effective Best will be in training camp, and without Shane Vereen (hamstring) and James Montgomery (transfer), Cal has been light on experience in spring ball.

Best guess: Tracy Slocum and Covaughn DeBoskie are getting most of the reps now, but look for a tailback-by-committee approach, at least early in the season.  Off the top of my head, I’m thinking this will be, by far, the most wide open tailback situation of the Tedford era.

Daily Cal: Oregon State, Air Force and All, Kevin Riley Returns Ready For Spring Ball

By Steven Dunst

Wideout Jeremy Ross chuckles just recounting the story. The Cal football team was trying its best to look "hard" and intense. It was, after all, time to pose for the team picture.   Freshman quarterback Kevin Riley strutted on from stage left with a goofy grin. The whole team burst out laughing, looking at his ridiculous walk.   "You can just sense his funniness wherever he is," says Ross, not the most solemn guy himself. "The days are tough, and he knows how to change the mood. He's a really outgoing guy."  There was nobody there to lighten the mood after Riley's first career start last year. For a while, it seemed like the confident gunslinger with the goofy demeanor might have to spend the next two years thinking about 14 seconds.

Riley has not forgotten the crushing 31-28 loss to Oregon State, in which he was stopped well short of the goal line and could not spike the ball with time winding down. The field goal unit never came close to seeing the field-costing the Bears their undefeated season, a No. 1 national ranking and a potential BCS bid.

But his confidence is not shaken. After Saturday's scrimmage, during which he efficiently if not masterfully led the first team offense, Riley walks over to his mom and slowly takes the tape off his throwing hand. His voice remains calm and level when a reporter asks him for the umpteenth time to talk about his first career start against the Beavers.

Read the entire article here.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Contra Costa Times: Cal's Riley has the right attitude

Cal's football scrimmage had ended Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, and a young Bears fan approached Kevin Riley on the field, seeking an autograph and offering an impassioned pro-Riley take on Cal's quarterback competition.   "You had a couple sick games last year," the fan said, rapid-fire. "You tore it up. ... You have to be feeling pretty confident about it."  Riley listened patiently, an amused look on his face, then responded.  "That's just the way I am," Riley told the fan.

Confidence has never been an issue for Riley. Not when he was growing up in Oregon as the youngest of four siblings and the son of a high school football coach. And certainly not now when he's trying to unseat Nate Longshore as Cal's starting quarterback.  No one knows which quarterback -- Brock Mansion is also in the running but a long shot -- will ultimately win the job. That's up to coach Jeff Tedford, and he said he probably won't decide until the week of Cal's Aug. 30 season opener against Michigan State.  But I'd give Riley the early edge in this competition, largely because of the aggressive, confident approach he's taking.

Consider what he told our Jonathan Okanes before spring practice began.

"I'm going to have the attitude that I'm going to be the man," Riley said. "I want to be the guy. I want everybody on the team to want me to be the guy, and not leave any doubt. I want to make sure they want me in the game and they trust me."  If I'm a coach, that's the attitude I'm looking for from my quarterback. Not arrogant or cocky, but confident, passionate and competitive. A leader.  You can't question Longshore's intelligence, experience or NFL-caliber throwing arm -- he threw for more than 3,000 yards in 2006 and has 26 starts to Riley's one.

But you can question his mobility and durability -- he's sidelined now with an injured right pectoral muscle. And, more importantly, you can question the way he's approaching the competition for his starting job.

"I'm just trying to get better," Longshore said before spring practice began. "I'm not worried about beating any other quarterback. I'm out there to beat the defense. ...  "If I put everything I have forward and I improve, no matter what happens, I'll be happy with myself. I'll be able to look myself in the mirror and know I did everything I could."  When athletes start talking about being happy when they look in the mirror, that's usually when they sense their starting job or, in the pros, very career is in serious jeopardy.  I can't imagine Riley being happy in any sense if he loses this competition, no matter how much he improves or how well he plays in spring ball and training camp.  Riley said Saturday that his competitive nature stems from his battles with two older brothers -- one is nine years older, the other eight -- and a sister who is just a year older but is "probably the best athlete in the family" and used to beat him up.  "They'd always talk down to me," Riley said. "And I'd always go, 'Be ready. I'm going to beat you guys someday soon.' It always carried with me. I think it's just the type of person I am. I don't want to lose."  By most reports, Longshore was having an impressive spring before being injured. But Riley was even more impressive during Cal's 42-36 victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in December.  Riley came off the bench in relief of Longshore with the Bears trailing 21-0. He completed 16 of 19 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a score. He led the Bears to touchdowns on his first six drives, showing the poise and leadership of a veteran.   Many Old Blues thought, and rightfully so, that Tedford should have turned to Riley much earlier in the season when Longshore was battling a sprained ankle and the Bears' season was imploding.

After his performance against Air Force, Riley is now clearly the people's choice -- at least most of the people -- to be Cal's starting quarterback. When Riley's name was announced before the scrimmage's first series, fans applauded loudly.   "It definitely is a little awkward, but I'm excited that people like me," Riley said. "I just have to work hard. It's not really what the fans want. I love fans, but it's really what the coaches want."  Longshore has the edge in college experience, but Riley is wise beyond his football years. Long before he reached high school, Riley watched countless hours of game tapes with his dad, Faustin Riley, his coach at Beaverton High School. He received a priceless football education.

But Riley said that once he entered high school, his dad showed him no favoritism. Quite the opposite.  "My dad was always toughest on me," Riley said. "He wasn't really like a dad-coach."  Approaching his junior season, Riley thought he had the starting job locked up. But his dad made him compete for the job with a sophomore.  Riley won that job, and now he's confidently taking aim at another.

Monday, April 14, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle: Starting QB job still open question

Rusty Simmons

The most indelible image from a quarterback in Cal's first scrimmage of the spring came Saturday from a fourth-stringer who wasn't even playing quarterback.  Cory Smits, a junior walk-on who was acting as a scout-team gunner, sprinted about 50 yards, fended off a blocker and tackled returner Nyan Boateng as he fielded a punt.  "He may have just won himself a spot on the travel squad," coach Jeff Tedford said. "I'm just kidding. Don't write that."  That isn't much insight into the quarterback competition, and that's because there isn't any. As Tedford hinted at before spring drills, the job probably isn't going to be won in the spring, and, now, it's even less likely.

Incumbent Nate Longshore looked sharp in the first week, but he has a pulled right pectoral muscle that might keep him sidelined for the rest of the spring. With extra snaps, it appeared as though Armed Forces Bowl MVP Kevin Riley and redshirt freshman Brock Mansion could make statements, but the duo combined to attempt only 14 passes Saturday.

"There wasn't much to evaluate really," Tedford said. "There's some work to be done on decision-making and throwing the ball away, which comes with experience. When Kevin did throw the football, he was pretty accurate."  Riley, working strictly with the first-team offense, completed 4 of 7 passes for 30 yards, including a well-thrown 11-yard touchdown to Michael Calvin. Riley consistently got the loudest ovations of the day from the crowd of about 2,000, and he showed off some of his playmaking ability with an 8-yard run on the first called pass play of the day.

In the "situational scrimmage," however, there is no contact on quarterbacks, so other plays were blown dead when defensive players got close to Riley. He's known for making the first guy miss and finding receivers down field, but that couldn't be showcased in this scenario. "I was like, 'No way, I would have broken those (tackles),' " said Riley, who didn't make much of his added opportunity with Longshore out. "I'm just looking at it as a chance to be with the (first team), so I'll be really comfortable when the fall comes around."

Read the rest here.

San Jose Mercury: Running backs control Cal's scrimmage

By Eric Gilmore

Cal sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley got the biggest cheer of the day, but running backs Tracy Slocum and Covaughn DeBoskie carried most of the offensive load Saturday during a controlled scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.  Several thousand fans showed up on a sunny and unseasonably warm day to watch Cal's only spring football practice open to the public.  Those expecting to see Riley and his fellow quarterbacks fill the blue sky with footballs, instead spent most of the day watching Cal work on its running game.  "We're short on some positions, so we really had to kind of focus on the run game a lot today because our receiving corps is a little banged up," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said.

Cal's running corps is short-handed, too. Jahvid Best (hip) isn't ready for contact. Shane Vereen (hamstring) is sidelined. James Montgomery left the program.  Slocum, a sophomore, took advantage of his heavy workload. On one 30-yard touchdown drive, he carried six times for all 30 yards, scoring on a 10-yard run over the left guard. He flashed good power and quickness.  "I felt pretty good," Slocum said. "I love to get the ball between the tackles and just run. I love contact."

On the next drive, Slocum shot around right end for a 12-yard touchdown. Slocum said he's matured greatly since his freshman season when his lack of playing time often left him discouraged. "I think he just realizes he has a great chance to play," Riley said. "Once we came back from the (Armed Forces Bowl), he started working out way harder.  "And it's showing right now. Every big day we've had, he's done well, every live day. He's running hard. He's doing his job."

Read the rest here.

Daily Cal: Slocum Makes Most of Time in the Spotlight

By Steven Dunst

Maybe the events that crippled the Cal football team's running back corps going into spring ball were really blessings in disguise.   First-stringer Jahvid Best sat out most of the spring with a hip injury and then backup James Montgomery left the program for personal reasons.   In stepped Tracy Slocum, once a forgotten man buried deep down the depth charts, now ready to make an impact after waiting patiently for two years.

Slocum ran the ball 11 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's spring game, looking capable of serving as a complement to Best once the shifty speedster returns.   He showed a second gear on a few occasions, bursting through the middle for a nine-yard score and bouncing to the outside for an 11-yard scamper just minutes later.  The Bears boast a number of skilled running backs, but Slocum may be the only one capable of taking the pounding between the tackles and fighting for the tough yards.  "Coming out of high school I used to get 30 carries a game," Slocum said. "I'd love to get back to that. Hopefully coach (Jeff) Tedford gets some confidence in me."

Slocum will never have the sprinter speed of Best or freshman Shane Vereen. Nevertheless, he embraces his potential role as the power back and grinder on the team, which could be a necessity if Best is unable to remain healthy throughout the season or become an every-down runner.

"Jahvid is more of a speed guy with good vision and I'm more of a power back," Slocum said. "You put all that together and we'll be dynamic. I love carrying it between the tackles."  While Slocum shined with the first team, Covaughn DeBoskie showed good ability as well. The true freshman has only been on the Berkeley campus since January, but has already made a name for himself. He hit the hole hard on a draw to gain eight yards and dove into the end zone for a two-yard score later on.  But he fumbled near his own goal line on a run up the middle.

"I should've had two hands on the ball instead of grabbing my facemask when I got hit," DeBoskie said. "But overall I thought I did pretty well. A couple of plays I thought if I kept my feet under me I would've scored."

If Vereen was not sidelined with a hamstring injury or if Montgomery decided to stay with Cal, DeBoskie would not have had many opportunities to experience growing pains and learn from his mistakes.  He embraces the chance to get some carries early on and really hone in on what adjustments he needs to make as a running back on the collegiate level.

"I'm playing with the big boys now," DeBoskie said. "It's kind of a blessing for me but also kind of a curse, what's happening to the running back corps (with injuries). I'm just out there trying to get positive yards."

The quarterback competition steals all the headlines, but with Nate Longshore injured and the receivers still acclimating themselves to the offense, the backup running backs stole the show in front of over 2,000 fans.

"We were short on some positions so we really focused on the running game today," Tedford said. "Tracy ran really well. They're getting better every day."  Slocum and DeBoskie may not be particularly flashy and they may not be home run threats just yet, but both signaled that the tailback stables are far from empty even without Montgomery.  Slocum's wait is finally paying off.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Oakland Tribune: Cal's Boateng makes a fresh start

Transfer from Florida is back on track academically and is focused on filling a major need at wide receiver

By Jonathan Okanes

BERKELEY -- Cal wide receiver Nyan Boateng got a little emotional when he took the field for the first day of spring practice March 31. It hadn't been that long ago that Boateng wasn't sure he'd take any field ever again.   The beginning of spring practice marked the beginning of a new life for Boateng, the embattled transfer from Florida who was suspended from the team in the fall. Boateng had to overcome legal trouble and an academic hole to get back in the good graces of Cal's program. Now, he's faced with the opportunity to resurrect a once-promising career that just recently was in critical condition.  "I thought I was pretty much done here," Boateng said. "It seemed like I had a great uphill battle. It seemed like I was never going to be back playing football again."

Boateng arrived at Cal in time to take part in spring football last year. NCAA transfer rules dictated he had to sit out last season anyway, but he still could have practiced with the team had he not been suspended by coach Jeff Tedford. Boateng was far behind in academic units he needed to become eligible by this season -- he said some of his course work at Florida didn't transfer to Cal, and that he "didn't do too well" in the spring -- and he was facing charges of burglary, battery and criminal mischief in Florida after allegedly kicking in the door of a girlfriend.

"Coach Tedford was really upset and urged me to get my act together," Boateng said. "It was a very sad conversation when I went to talk to him. It was scary. I always had that doubt. What if they don't reinstate me? What am I going to do?"  As it turns out, the suspension may have been what saved Boateng's career. Freed from the demands of practice, he was able to concentrate on his studies and he caught up on his units. Meanwhile, the charges against him were dropped.   In the meantime, Boateng also was working out regularly at City College of San Francisco. He also spent some time with former Cal quarterback Steve Levy, who, like Boateng, is a native New Yorker.  "He's a good kid. He came out here probably a little too confident," Levy said. "We'd go out to throw a couple days a week, but most of the time we'd just talk. I think he came here with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. When he came here, it was a rude awakening. He's matured a lot. He's definitely turned over a new leaf. I'm proud of him."

Boateng wasn't on scholarship until this semester, so for a while he lived with former Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson and current defensive back Gary Doxy. Jackson and Boateng, two of the top receivers coming out of high school in 2005, met at a prep all-star game.  "DeSean was always there for me," Boateng said. "He provided for me. We even slept in the same bed sometimes. That's a brother.  "At one point, I just cried and said that I was going to go back home and just forget everything. Gary and DeSean talked to me and told me not to give up on everything I've worked for." Boateng and Doxy agree that it was during that time they lived together that Boateng started taking a more positive approach.  "He was ready to start packing his stuff up and go back to New York," Doxy said. "We sat him down and talked to him and let him know there was going to be ups and downs and smiles and frowns. We just wanted to be like a brother to him, welcome him with open arms and (let him) really feel comfortable around us."

The Bears really could use Boateng next season. Cal lost its top three receivers from last year and essentially is starting over at the position. Boateng's athletic ability is unquestioned -- he also was a star basketball player in high school, where he was a teammate of Minnesota Timberwolves guard Sebastian Telfair -- but he's starting out at the bottom of the team's depth chart.  "He's a guy who has some ability but has to fit into the system, has to get used to the work ethic and what it takes to be consistent," Tedford said. "But he has ability. He has speed, he has size, he has good hands and is a good athlete. He has potential to be a contributor for us."  Levy said the old Boateng may have had a problem being buried on the depth chart. But not now.   "I'm in a hole," Boateng said. "I have to be patient. I can't worry about the depth chart or who's in front of me or anything like that. I just have to go out there with a great attitude and work on being a great football player. These guys have been here for a long time and have been busting their butts. I just have to go in there and work my way up. Eventually, the cream will rise to the top."

Read the rest of the story here.

Contra Costa Times: Longshore may have to skip rest of spring

BERKELEY -- Cal quarterback Nate Longshore knows what's at stake. He also wants to make sure he gives himself a chance to cash in.  Longshore says he may have to sit out the rest of spring practice after pulling his right pectoral muscle last week. His absence means Kevin Riley will be running for the starting job unopposed for a while, but Longshore wants to make sure he doesn't risk further injury and set himself back in the fall.

"I want to get reps, obviously," Longshore said. "But there's a lot of time between now and the season. If something is going to happen, I'd rather it happen now."  Longshore said he suffered the injury last Wednesday during practice but played through it Friday and Saturday. By the time Saturday rolled around, the area had become discolored and swollen.  Longshore said he isn't able to lift his arm right now.  "It wasn't that bad at first," Longshore said. "It just kept getting worse and worse. When it started changing colors, I figured I should probably give it a rest."  Longshore said it started to feel much worse on Friday but that he wanted to practice Saturday because "we just didn't do well as an offense on Friday. I wanted to come back and make a statement on Saturday."  Longshore said he could return in two weeks "if all goes well." Coach Jeff Tedford said the injury was day-to-day

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Daily Cal: Reborn Identity

Sporting a New Jersey Number, Senior Nate Longshore is Taking the Chance to Start Anew

By Jeff Goodman

Nate Longshore's world has turned upside down-in one way, at least.   After wearing a No. 9 jersey for the past three years, the quarterback has decided to put it back on the shelf.   For the Cal football team's spring practices, which began last Monday, and for the upcoming season, Longshore will sport a No. 6 across his chest.  What's the motive behind the modification?   "There's nothing significant about it," he says. "Just wanted to change it up, do something different."   The variation in his uniform could be construed as trivial, but it's a variation nonetheless. And even if there's no reason for the change to his jersey, there seem to be many reasons why Longshore would want a fresh start.

After all, he was at the center of a Bears team that climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings last year before falling-and falling hard.  After opening the 2007 season with five straight wins, Cal collapsed, losing six of its last seven regular-season games. And after sustaining an ankle injury against Oregon, Longshore did not play against Oregon State, giving backup signal-caller Kevin Riley a chance to prove his worth.  Riley's performance against the Beavers-though marred by a late-game decision that dealt the Bears their first loss-and his stellar outing in the Armed Forces Bowl-where Riley was named the Most Valuable Player-were enough to make the competition for this year's starting spot much more interesting.

But Longshore, now vying for the job he has had for the past two seasons, says his relationship with Riley is a good one.  "We've been friends before, we'll be friends after," says Longshore. "We're just interested in seeing each other improve and competing."  After a one-game hiatus, Longshore returned. But his comeback wasn't pretty, and neither was the rest of the season.  On Oct. 20, Cal trailed UCLA by two points and stood on the Bruins' 30-yard line late in the fourth quarter. But Alterraun Verner intercepted a pass by Longshore and returned it for a touchdown, effectively ending the game.  It turned out to be one of several flawed fourth quarters by Longshore, who was criticized extensively for decreased mobility in the pocket and a lack of confidence down the stretch.

On Nov. 10, the Bears faced a seven-point deficit against USC. With less than three minutes left in the game, Longshore was picked off by Terrell Thomas at the Trojans' 17-yard line.  Three weeks later, Cal trailed by a touchdown against Stanford. After getting his team into the red zone, Longshore threw an interception to Nick Sanchez in the closing minutes.  Altogether, the senior, who was hailed as one of the top junior quarterbacks in the country last year, had four games in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.  With next season in mind, however, he doesn't have distinct memories of those games. All of that is behind him.

"It all just kind of blurred together into unacceptable," he says. "We know we've gotta improve, and that's what we're focused on everyday."  Spring ball is an opportunity for Longshore to make those improvements without thousands of fans watching and scrutinizing his every move, as they did throughout last season. And whether or not Longshore gets to spearhead the Bears offense in the fall, he knows the criticism comes with the territory.  "Playing any position in any sport, you get criticism, especially when you're quarterback," he says. "A lot of the blame goes to you. But I'm not worried about it. Life goes on. I'm just trying to focus on getting better."  Longshore says he is pleased with his team's effort in practice so far, and he knows these sessions are just the early phases of a long and grinding process.   When Cal faces Michigan State in its first game on Aug. 30, he hopes that running out of the tunnel before kickoff isn't the only running he'll do.

Bears coach Jeff Tedford, however, probably won't announce the starting quarterback until shortly before the season begins.  "It's a long ways away," says Longshore. "But at the same time, we're focused at the end of the tunnel."  With more than four months between now and the first game, Longshore can supplement his experience with each drill, each snap and each pass.   Despite suffering a pulled pectoral muscle during last Wednesday's practice, he seems to be off to a promising start.

Towards the end of Saturday afternoon's session at Memorial Stadium, Longshore crouched in the pocket during a simulation scrimmage. Wearing his new No. 6 jersey, he dropped back, stepped up and launched a perfectly timed 40-yard bomb to a streaking Jeremy Ross.  At that moment, it looked as though Longshore's world was right-side up.


Nate Longshore Sits Out Monday Practice

According to the Mercury News (link), “Cal quarterback Nate Longshore (strained right pectoral muscle) sat out spring practice Monday. Longshore suffered the injury Wednesday during practice but participated Friday and Saturday. Coach Jeff Tedford placed no timetable for his return.”

Spring Practice this Saturday

Cal Football to Host Open Practice on Saturday, Apr. 12

BERKELEY - California football fans will have the opportunity to get a sneak-peek at the 2008 Golden Bears on Saturday, April 12th at Memorial Stadium.  The free open practice is the only open-to-the-public practice of the spring season for Cal. The practice is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. as part of Cal Day - a full day of campus activities open to the general public.


In addition to the Golden Bears being in action, highlights include the first availability of the 2008 Official Gameday Football Shirt, free food for the first 500 fans (starting at 11 a.m.) and a surplus equipment sale which begins at 9 a.m. in the Prospect Avenue parking lot located on the south end of the stadium. The surplus sale will include official Cal clothing from Golden Bear varsity sports teams, official Cal jerseys, Nike shoes and duffel bags. A limited amount of football equipment, such as kicking nets and ball bags, will be also available.  


Monday, April 07, 2008

Contra Costa Times: Spring Practice Update

Read Jonathan Okanes’ summary of Friday’s practice here.

Los Angeles Times: It looks like a bear market for Cal

Golden Bears, still recovering from their 1-6 finish to last season, have lost superstar Jackson to NFL and have numerous questions, including at quarterback.

By Chris Dufresne


This is the sixth in a series of short reports examining some of college football's spring story lines. Today: Cal football . . . after the gold rush.

You could say Cal has hit the skids since it rushed to 5-0 and a No. 2 ranking last October.  What does California football need to focus on this spring?  "Everything," seventh-year Coach Jeff Tedford said.

The Bears were poised to become No. 1 before a staggering Oct. 13 home loss to Oregon State sent the program reeling to a 1-6 finish. Cal showed some claws in rallying to beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, but this is as shaky as the program has been since early in the Tedford era.  The off-season hasn't been much better, starting with the Kevin Hart hoax recruiting debacle. The Bears were so beat up they moved their spring practice start date from mid-March to March 31 just to buy some recovery time.

Spring forward: Star receiver DeSean Jackson declared for the NFL draft and tailback James Montgomery transferred. Tedford must decide whether the injury-haunted Nate Longshore or Kevin Riley deserves to be the starting quarterback next fall.

Friday, April 04, 2008

SF Chronicle: A Stanford Hall of Famer Turns Blue and Gold

Ray Ratto

It seems so preposterously delicious, this Mike Montgomery-Cal thing. The hero of Palo Alto, the scourge of Oakland, and now the savior of Berkeley - man, that's a skullful.   The decision, apparently reported first by ESPN's annoyingly reliable Andy Katz, comes as something of a bolt from the blue, after athletic director Sandy Barbour's apparently brief chats with Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Nevada's Mark Fox. Montgomery had been linked by persistent rumormongers to Indiana (filled by Tom Crean) and Loyola Marymount (taken Thursday by Billy Bayno), but Monty to Cal was largely an Internet pipe dream, the product of illogical, disturbed and Chee-to-destroyed minds.

Except that it wasn't. Not even the Chee-to part.  Montgomery clearly recognized that opportunities, even middling ones like this, do not leap out every day, and given that he lives in the area, knows the conference and at 61 still has some tread on the mental tires, it made sense to him - and, clearly, to Barbour.

It is not yet known whether he will install his son John, currently an assistant at Furman, as an aide here, though it is safe to assume that he would not poach anyone from the current Stanford staff. It is also not known how hard he will try to recruit Ryan Anderson, who announced Thursday that he was going to investigate the NBA draft (currently figured in the 18 to 25 range).  But it is known that he becomes the first member of the Stanford Hall of Fame to seek and find work up the 880 Corridor, and that will cause some brains to bend.

Montgomery has been out of the game for 585 days, since getting the black ticket from the Warriors, and he never hid the fact that he wanted back in. Cal, though, seemed like an odd fit, at least for those people who believe that Cal and Stanford aren't actually two sides of the same coin.   And the money? Oh, the money. Rumored (though not yet confirmed) to be in the six-year, $10 million range, it surely would get Montgomery's attention. The money is fungible, of course, but the duration is the intriguing part, given that he would be 67 when the contract expired. Fortunately for him, and Cal, nobody regards a contract as anything other than a general rubric - Ben Braun's contract ran through 2011, and Barbour ran through him with three years to spare.

Whether this makes cosmic sense for Cal is another issue, and one that can only be answered in each person's head. Fan response on the chat boards was running relatively even, and that is in places where everyone starts with the same assumption, that God, Allah and Robert Gordon Sproul all agree that Cal is the center of the galaxy. Montgomery is a weird sell for those who believe that Stanford is the natural predator and enemy of all things Bear.

But politics makes strange bedfellows, and if this seems a bit like Bob Knight at Purdue, Geno Auriemma at Tennessee, or Barack Obama at the Clinton family weenie roast and fund-raiser, well, so be it.  Montgomery is a name, which Barbour clearly felt the program needed. He has a Division I track record, which others, including putative favorite Mike Dunlap, did not. He becomes a sure talker; here at the college basketball trade show that is the Final Four, the news is being regarded as something between a surprise (that Montgomery would take the job after being so secure at Stanford) and amazement (that the numbers and length would be so inspirational).

Assuming the agreement in principle doesn't explode, a press conference will be scheduled soon, at which time Montgomery will turn on his evident, if occasionally asymmetrical, charms upon the same folks who saw him in triumph at Stanford and in defeat in Oakland.  The challenge of Cal is a daunting one - not quite Oregon State, where San Diego's Bill Grier just turned down the Beavs for the security of San Diego (!), but still a program in long and studied repose. Montgomery must pretty well hit the ground running, which will not be easy if Anderson leaves.

We won't know for some time whether he is what Cal needs, but we know he is what Sandy Barbour needed. She couldn't come in with an off-brand name or someone else's fourth choice, and though Dunlap would have been a sound choice, Montgomery is one fraught with greater possibilities at each end of the spectrum.   Barbour went deep with Joanne Boyle on the women's side, and this is her second high-profile hire. No pressure, though.


Stanford Daily: Monty headed to Cal

April 4, 2008

By Patrick Fitzgerald

It’s been a bad week for Stanford men’s basketball.   On the heels of the Lopez twins declaring for the NBA draft on Monday, former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery is reportedly heading across the Bay to coach Cal.  According to, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said Montgomery has agreed in principle to replace Ben Braun, who was fired Wednesday after 12 years at the helm in Berkeley.

Montgomery, who led the Cardinal to a 393-167 record and 12 NCAA Tournament berths in 18 seasons, had returned to the Farm in September in a part time position as assistant to Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby. He also did broadcast work for Fox Sports Net, Comcast and CBS radio.   In an interview with The Daily earlier this year, the 61-year old Montgomery expressed a desire to return to the sidelines. He had been in a state of semi-retirement since August 2006, when he was released as head coach of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors after two seasons and a 68-96 record.

“[T]here’s still a lot of basketball in my blood, just because you do something for that long,” he told The Daily in February. “We’ll have to wait and see if anything develops there . . . You’ve done something for 37 years, and it’s just what you do.”   The winningest coach in school history, Montgomery helped usher in Stanford basketball’s rise to national prominence. He led the Cardinal to four regular season Pac-10 championships, an NCAA Final Four appearance in 1998 and a Pac-10 Tournament title in 2004.

Read and make comments on the Stanford Daily’s website here.

Contra Costa Times: Top recruit Slocum sees daylight at RB

Injury to Best, Montgomery departure has opened door

By Jonathan Okanes

BERKELEY — There was a time last season when Tracy Slocum looked like he may become Cal's most highly recruited player never to see the field. Now, he's seeing the field at running back more than anyone.

Slocum is taking first-team reps at tailback during spring practice. James Montgomery and Jahvid Best were projected to be the Bears' top two running backs next season, but Montgomery transferred out of the program last month, and Best is practicing in extremely limited fashion as he recovers from a hip injury.

So Slocum, who played only on special teams as a redshirt freshman last season, is getting a chance to make a case for increased playing time in the fall.  "It was kind of frustrating sitting on the sidelines (last season)," Slocum said. "I got in on special teams and told myself to just make the best of it, make the best of my opportunity and my time will come. It's paying off now."  Slocum was a high school All-American at Clovis East in Fresno and multiple recruiting publications ranked him at one of the top 20 running back prospects in the country. But he joined the program the same year as Montgomery, who also came to Berkeley as a highly touted prospect and was the No. 2 tailback last season behind Justin Forsett. With Best making an immediate impact as a true freshman, it appeared Slocum might get caught up in a numbers game.

Best still is the favorite to be the starter in the fall, but Slocum can use the spring to establish himself at the very least as a dependable backup.  “My mind-set is pretty much the same — get better every day," Slocum said. "I've been doing the right things, and it's paying off."  

IN THIS CORNER: Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory is hoping cornerback Darian Hagan makes significant strides this spring. Gregory was disappointed with Hagan's development last season and the Bears could use him to provide depth at cornerback in the fall.

Hagan, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, came to Cal as a top prospect and was believed to be in the mix to become a starter last season. But he was passed up by true freshman Chris Conte, who entered spring ahead of him on the depth chart.

"I think the end of last year he was better," Gregory said. "So far in the offseason, he's been even better. I still think he has a lot of work to continue to do, to improve his practice habits and all that stuff. But I think he's much better than he was."

LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT: Rather than have them play rover and free safety, Gregory is simply using Bernard Hicks and Marcus Ezeff on opposite sides of the field during the spring. The idea is for each to work on the skills of both positions.  "We're keeping them right and left to begin with," Gregory said. "We want to teach them both positions, so they have a greater understanding of the defense and kind of go from there."

EXTRA POINTS: Cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson returned from a brief suspension. Thompson didn't practice in the spring opener Monday because he broke a team rule, according to Tedford. ... Best did a little bit more Wednesday than on Monday, taking a couple of reps during team drills. But Tedford reiterated his work will remain limited. "He's going to do some ballhandling, and he's going to run, but he's not going to bang anybody," Tedford said.



Contra Costa Times Article on College Athletic Dept. Donations

The article focuses on Cal.  You can read it here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

SF Chronicle: Buzz up!Cal's Best further allays fears, taking field for two plays

Rusty Simmons

Soon-to-be sophomore Jahvid Best made another positive stride in his return from a hip injury Wednesday, appearing for two plays with the first-team offense.  Best returned to the field Monday for the first time since his Nov. 10 injury. He participated only in individual drills Monday, and by Wednesday, he was able to take a very limited role in team sessions.  "He's going to do some ball-handling and he's going to run some, but we're not going to bang him," coach Jeff Tedford said.

For more than a month after the injury, it looked like Best might require surgery. He was a supposed lock to miss the entirety of spring ball, and he even admitted to being fearful that his career was in jeopardy. He has quieted each concern and appears to be running and cutting with ease.  "I'll admit that I was a little surprised to see him out here" Monday, running backs coach Ron Gould said, "but I guess I shouldn't have been, because that's just Jahvid."  As a high school junior, Best placed in two state sprint events on a broken foot. Ever since the Cal medical staff put Best on crutches, he's been clamoring to get off them and get back on the field.  "Just being out here watching, I don't know if I'll be able to take it," Best said Monday. "I'm just going to have to live with it and get ready for the fall."

That plan lasted only two days.  "Actually, I think he did sneak in on a couple of plays" Wednesday, Tedford said.  On his first 47 collegiate touches, Best recorded 19 plays of 10 yards or more, and he was first-team all-Pac-10 as a special-teams player. More than 25 percent of Best's 91 high school touchdowns went for more than 50 yards, and his senior year at Salesian High-Richmond was one of the most prolific seasons in Bay Area history: 3,325 yards and 48 touchdowns.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

San Jose Mercury: Cal's front-runner at tailback recovering from hip injury

Best participates in individual drills; 'We have quality depth there,' coach says

By Jonathan Okanes

The biggest news on the first day of Cal's spring football practice involved a player who didn't take a single rep.  Running back Jahvid Best, who was expected to miss all of spring practice to recover from a hip injury, participated in some individual drills Monday during the Bears' first of 15 spring sessions at Memorial Stadium. Best watched when Cal lined up for seven-on-sevens or 11-on-11s, but he looked good running and cutting during his drill work.  There are no plans for Best to participate in any contact or team drills this spring, but the Bears want to put him through some tests to see where he stands physically, Coach Jeff Tedford said.

"I was just told to come out here and go as hard as I can and see how my hip responds," Best said. "After today, I feel pretty good. The only thing I felt is that I'm a little bit out of shape from not doing too much in a long time. But I felt fine."  Best suffered a bruised hip Nov. 10 against USC and missed the rest of the season. Because of the sometimes-touchy nature of hip injuries, the Bears have been cautious with his recovery. Best has gradually tested his hip during his rehabilitation.

Read the entire article here.

Daily Californian: Best Getting Better as Cal Opens Its Spring Camp

By Gerald Nicdao

Contributing Writer

There was a bit of a surprise for the Cal football team when it started its spring practice Monday.   On the sidelines, wearing a red "untouchable" jersey and doing his own workouts, was sophomore tailback Jahvid Best.   Best-who injured his hip in the Bears' loss to USC last November-will not participate in team drills this spring, but will participate in personal workouts and individual drills, coach Jeff Tedford said.   "I was just basically told to come out here and push it as hard as I can and see how my hip responds to it," Best said. "After doing it today, I found it pretty good. The only thing I think is that I'm a little bit out of shape from not doing too much for a long time."   Best-who finished the 2007 season with 221 rushing yards-has been rehabbing for some time now, but he said Monday that he just began running recently. He is over, however, the fear of re-injuring himself on the field.   "I'm past the point of being scared to cut or scared to run fast," Best said. "I'm just trying to go out there and act normal."

Tailback James Montgomery's departure from Cal is still surprising to some on the team.  "It shocked me a lot," Best said. "I didn't see it coming. It was kind of all of a sudden. I wished it didn't happen, but that's his prerogative."  Montgomery was slated to be the Bears' No. 1 running back heading into the spring after the graduation of senior Justin Forsett.

Tedford said Montgomery showed no signs of his intention to leave the program, but that he did miss a few practices late last season.  "He was late to a couple of 6:30 a.m. workouts and he was in the doghouse a little bit," he said. "Things weren't going well for him."  Tedford did call Montgomery's action premature and wished that he would have stayed for the duration of spring camp.  "You hate to see that though," he said. "You wish he would have given himself the chance to go through the spring and see where he would have ended up."

With Montgomery gone and Best sidelined, sophomore Tracy Slocum and freshman Covaughn DeBoskie took most of the reps on the first day of practice. Redshirt freshman Shane Vereen saw limited action Monday because of a hamstring injury.  "Right now Slocum is getting a lot of the reps," Tedford said. "Hopefully Shane gets back and takes some of the load, because with only two backs, guys end up getting worn out."  DeBoskie-who graduated from high school early to join the team-had a rude introduction to the program. During one of the scrimmages, senior defensive end Rulon Davis hit DeBoskie hard and took his helmet off.  "I would imagine that their eyes are about that big, just trying to get used to the speed of the game," Tedford said about the four freshmen who joined the team early. "Covaughn got his feet wet a little bit."

Defensive back Syd'Quan Thompson was absent from the Bears' first practice of the spring because of a violation of team rules.  Tedford said that Thompson will be suspended indefinitely and that there is no timetable for his return.