Sunday, August 31, 2008

Contra Costa Times: A lot of positives in Cal's season-opening win over Michigan State


Jonathan Okanes

You had some questions about the 2008 Cal football team? How about these answers? Yes, tailback Jahvid Best can handle a heavy workload throughout all four quarters. Yes, the Bears defense can be effective against a power running game in its new 3-4 alignment.  Yes, Kevin Riley is the starting quarterback. Despite these positive developments, the Bears still had trouble putting away Michigan State before finally holding on Saturday night for a 38-31 season-opening victory in front of 62,956 at Memorial Stadium. "It's the first one," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We feel good that we're 1-0, but we have a lot to improve on. I'm very proud of our kids. They've invested a lot of time and energy to create good chemistry.  "When you invest as much time and energy as we have, you're just really proud that they come away with a victory."  Best, playing in his first game since suffering a season-ending hip injury last year that forced him to miss the final three games, amassed 277 total yards. He rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and caught five passes for 63 yards. He also ran up 103 yards in kick returns.

"Jahvid is a special player," Tedford said. "He prepared himself very well this camp. Jahvid is a no-nonsense guy. He really prides himself on knowing what he's doing and executing. It's really great to see him in full action and taking a load of the offense on his shoulders." Best saw only spot duty last season as a true freshman but is expected to be the focal point of the offense this year. His 24 carries are just five short of his total rushes from last year. "There was never any doubt in my mind," Best said. "I'm sure there were some doubters out there. I felt really confident I could do the job. I've been hungry for it. It tastes good." Cal's defense gave up 402 yards, but the Bears were thrilled to see they allowed Michigan State star tailback Javon Ringer just 81 yards on 27 carries. Cal's biggest concern about the 3-4 is stopping the run.

"I felt really good about how we played the run," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "Can we stop the run against a downhill running team? That was our biggest challenge."  The Spartans gained much of their total yardage in the fourth quarter as they attempted to come back. Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw for 186 of his 321 yards after the third quarter. The Spartans averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.  "Stopping the run was a point of emphasis for us," said linebacker Anthony Felder, who led the Bears with 12 tackles. "This is going to give us a ton of confidence. There was a little question how we would do against the run in the 3-4. This is going to give us the type of confidence that guys are going to be flying around the field even faster next time."  There doesn't seem to be any question now that this is Riley's team. The redshirt sophomore completed 17 of 24 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, consistently leading Cal on scoring drives immediately after the Spartans had gotten on the board.

Fifth-year senior Nate Longshore entered the game in the second quarter by design and ran the team for two possessions, with each drive ending in an interception.   In one of the more awkward moments at Memorial Stadium in some time, Longshore walked off the field to a chorus of boos after throwing interceptions to safety Otis Wiley on back-to-back passes, the second of which was returned 31 yards for a touchdown.  Longshore, much-embattled for a good portion of last season, replaced Riley on the Bears' fourth possession and actually got off to a hot start. On his first play, he made a nice pass under pressure to tight end Cameron Morrah that went for 50 yards down to the Spartans' 28. He completed two more passes in a row for 12 yards to the MSU 16, but Wiley then picked him off in the end zone and returned it 53 yards. The Bears were able to stop the Spartans on three plays on the ensuing possession, and Longshore came back out with the offense to start a drive at the Cal 7. After two running plays, Longshore made an ill-advised pass that Wiley easily picked off and returned for the score.  As Riley warmed up on the sideline after Longshore's second interception, he motioned to the student section to stop booing. "I don't think it's really respectful for our own fans to boo a player," Riley said. "Nate went in there and played well. They don't even know what happened on that play. He's a friend and a teammate. He went in there and did his best. Things didn't work out the way he wanted to. People don't even know what happened."


SF Chronicle: Best, Riley fill stat sheet as upstart Bears take season opener


Rusty Simmons

If it were up to sophomore tailback Jahvid Best, he'd still be Cal's punt-coverage specialist.  Since coaches won't allow their feature back to take that kind of injury risk, Best found a variety of other ways to contribute to Saturday night's 38-31 win over Michigan State in front of 62,956 fans in Strawberry Canyon.  Some were obvious. He ran 24 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, caught five passes for 63 yards and returned four kickoffs for 103 yards.  Some were a little less apparent. He ran down and tackled Otis Wiley, who appeared on his way to an interception-return touchdown. Best also leaped about 8 feet to his left to block a blitzer, giving Kevin Riley time to convert a third-down pass to Cameron Morrah on a Cal touchdown drive. Oh yeah, and he did much of it while battling leg cramps in the second half. Maybe that's why he didn't beg to go in on defense on Michigan State's final drive and left the disruption of the Spartans' last-ditch effort to linebacker Anthony Felder.

Best "has shown great maturity in the offense," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "I don't think he made a single mental mistake tonight. He's a no-nonsense guy, and he really prides himself on knowing what he is doing and executing. "It's great to see him get involved and take a big piece of the offense on his shoulders." It all added up to a season-opening win that might put the Bears into the Associated Press' Top 25 since Cal is currently at No. 28 and four top-25 teams lost in the opening week.  The Bears appear to have found answers at tailback and quarterback. They seemed every bit as physical as the Big Ten power team. And they got enough from their newly designed defense, especially in the first half, to stave off a solid Michigan State offense. Best and fellow tailback Shane Vereen combined for 212 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Aiming for one of them to become Cal's seventh consecutive 1,000-yard rusher, the duo raised the prospect that both might reach the milestone.

Riley was in command. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 202 yards and two scores. His most impressive plays came after Michigan State cut the lead to three twice and seven two other times in the second half. In each pressure-packed series that followed, Riley had the answers. He led touchdown drives of 76, 59 and 64 yards in response to the first three scores, and he ate enough clock on Cal's final drive to all but clinch the win. "When it came down to time to make plays, I made some and got lucky on some," Riley said. "We did our job. We got first downs and went down and scored when we had to." Cal's offensive line allowed one sack to a defense that was 14th in the nation last season, and the Bears' defensive line occupied huge blockers so the linebackers could accumulate 28 tackles. Javon Ringer, the nation's fourth-leading rusher among returning players, ran 27 times for 81 yards against Cal's new 3-4 defense. At halftime, Ringer had only 39 yards on 14 carries and was held out of the end zone.  "This gives the guys great confidence," defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "Any time you're playing a Big Ten team, and you feel good about stopping the run, it gives you great confidence."


San Francisco Chronicle: Berkeley Casts Its Vote


Rusty Simmons

As far as the Cal crowd is concerned, the quarterback debate officially ended Saturday. Backup quarterback Nate Longshore turned the fans' polite applause into a rousing ovation before it quickly shifted back to echoing boos. Longshore completed three passes to his teammates and two to Michigan State. He finished 3-for-5 for 62 yards and two interceptions, including one that Otis Wiley returned 31 yards for a touchdown. As coach Jeff Tedford planned, Longshore entered for starter Kevin Riley on Cal's first possession of the second quarter to lead the Bears to Michigan State's 16-yard line. The drive included a 50-yard completion to Cameron Morrah that had the crowd cheering.

Longshore's fourth pass, however, was picked off by Wiley in the end zone. His fifth pass was picked by Wiley, too, leaving Riley to try to quiet the student-section jeers.  Tedford said he'll make a decision this week whether to continue to use a two-quarterback system.

San Jose Mercury: No QB controversy arises for Cal


Consider Jeff Tedford's quarterback decision validated. By two sources.  One, of course, was Kevin Riley, who won the starting job after a spirited competition that raged through spring ball and summer camp. The other was Nate Longshore, who didn't. Both played Saturday in Cal's 38-31 season-opening victory over Michigan State. Riley passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns, displaying the poise and maturity you would expect from a coach's son.  Longshore? He played two series, because Tedford felt it important to keep him involved. Those good intentions had disastrous consequences. Both of Longshore's drives ended in interceptions — one at the goal line that killed a scoring chance, the second returned for a touchdown that jump-started a lifeless opponent.  The best you could say for Longshore's cameo was that it led to Riley's finest moment of the game. As Longshore trotted off the field to a cascade of boos, Riley faced the student rooting section and beseeched the crowd to chill out.  "I'm very proud of our kids," Tedford said. "They've invested a lot of time and a lot of energy to create great chemistry."  Chemistry was a concern after last season's late-season meltdown. The Cal locker room was bursting with talent but burdened with competing agendas.

The quarterback thing could well have been a divisive issue. Longshore opened the 2005 season as the starter but suffered a broken ankle in the first half of the first game. He has been the unquestioned starter, when healthy, the past two years.  So Riley's winning the quarterback job could have been awkward for Longshore. And it might have been awkward for Riley, who could have been conflicted by his desire to play and his respect for Longshore. It could have been dreadfully difficult for the team, had the two competitors developed an adversarial relationship. Frankly, the scene Saturday could have been a morale-breaker for a team that hadn't made such a point of rebuilding its interpersonal relationships. Instead, it looks like that effort was the biggest off-season development for Cal.  So in one respect, Riley probably didn't even need to address the fans the way he did, asking them to show the same respect to Longshore that Cal players show each other. Then again, it would never have occurred to him not to. Asked about it, Riley paused for several seconds, no doubt trying to decide how to present the situation to those outside the program.

"I don't think it's really respectful of the fans to boo one of our players," he finally said. "Nate went in there and played well. They don't even know what happened on the (interceptions). He's a teammate, a friend. He went in there and did his best. Things didn't work out the way he wanted them to. That's about it."  Not if the Bears are as good with each other as they say they are. There's only one way to sell that claim: Better football through chemistry.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Michigan Live: Dantonio: Cal game gives MSU quick measuring stick

By Philip Zaroo

As opposed to last year's opener against University of Alabama-Birmingham – a 55-18 Michigan State victory – the Spartans begin this season with a tough road game against California.  While it won't be easy, the advantage, says coach Mark Dantonio, is the players and coaches can find out right away if they can rise to the challenge.  “Last year, we tiered-up as we went into our non-conference games," Dantonio said during his weekly Big Ten teleconference, "and sort of got a more difficult game every week, and built confidence there, and ended up 4-0. I think this is a different situation.

"We're going to find out more about ourselves, right off the bat, in terms of playing away from home, in terms of playing a Pac-10 team that's a very good football team. So we'll find a little bit more about ourselves in adverse situations, which can be used as a learning experience. And with our football team being as young as it is, the opportunity to play in a nationally shown game is going to be an experience that'll be very valuable for our young players."


Listen to the whole teleconference to hear Dantonio talk about his expectations for starting quarterback Brian Hoyer:


WILX: Off to California


By Tim Staudt

Mark Dantonio told me Thursday his travel squad will number 70 players to California Friday morning.  The Spartans fly out of Grand Rapids at 11:30am-- the runways are being renovated in Lansing.  Six of the players are true freshmen and 15 more are redshirt freshmen.  Dantonio feels good about his team's chances, realizing that he is going into a tough environment.  Michigan State is a five point underdog.

I asked him about leaving Friday instead of Thursday because of the three time zone difference. He reminded me of the year MSU played at Oregon and got trounced when Nick Saban was head coach-- State went earlier in the week and that didn't help.  Dantonio plans to keep everyone's watch on Michigan time-- so in reality it will be an 8pm game, even though it will be five o'clock in Berkley.  The game will draw 71,000 fans, up to 10,000 of whom will back the Spartans.   Dantonio professes not to know who will run the ball behind Javon Ringer, but he says he doesn't have any major injury problems to deal with.  He admits some players are nicked up, but not badly enough to miss the trip.  The Spartans are one of two Big Ten teams who are underdogs on the opening week end-- Illinois is a nine point underdog to Missouri in Saturday night's game in St. Louis.

Dantonio has a 3-1 record in opening games as a head coach.  The Spartans fly home immediately after the game, arriving at dawn back in Grand Rapids.  The team then prepares for its home opener against Eastern Michigan.  The next three games are in Spartan Stadium-- after EMU, it's Florida Atlantic then Notre Dame.  Florida Atlantic is a 24-point underdog in its opener Saturday at Texas.

ESPN: Ringer will test California's new 3-4 defense


By Ted Miller

While many teams employ spread offenses, or at least have adopted zone blocking schemes -- you know, finesse schemes -- Michigan State is a throwback. California will play host to a true power-running team Saturday, and it will be a test to see of the Bears new 3-4 look on defense avoids getting put through the Ringer. That's Spartans tailback Javon Ringer.  (Feel free to borrow that line and impress folks at a cocktail party this weekend).

While Ringer, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound spark plug with outstanding speed, finds himself obscured by the massive Big Ten shadow of Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells, he's an All-American-type talent after rushing for 1,447 yards in 2007, with an impressive 5.9 yards per carry average.  "He's a guy who has great balance, vision and he's tough," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He'll run between the tackles, and you better make sure you rack him up or he can bounce out of there and make some great plays. He's an elusive guy. It's going to take gang tackling, it's hard to bring him down with just one guy."  He also runs behind a line that averaged 308 pounds and features with three returning starters. The Spartans blocking style is engage and knock over.

"We're going to get a true test," Tedford said. "When you line up, they're not a spread team. You're playing a downhill, physical football team, we better be ready for it."  That means Cal's corps of linebackers will need to live up to its preseason hype.  If the Bears manage to stop -- or slow down -- Ringer, it will be interesting to see how Spartans senior QB Brian Hoyer responds. He was solid in 2007, but tossed four interceptions in a 24-21 loss to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl.


Tedford was asked about the Bears 46-22 win at then-No. 15 Michigan State in 2002, his first season in Berkeley. "We've had some big wins here over the years but I think that was one of the biggest," he said. "We jumped out to a lead and they responded and came back with a couple touchdowns. And at that point right there, I thought it was very important how are we going to respond to this? Are we going to let them go or are we going to respond to their challenge and we did. I felt like when we left the field that day, there was a different confidence, a difference belief that our guys had. I felt that that was a big, big game in our time here." It's worth noting that Cal, 1-10 the season before, earned a No. 23 ranking after that win -- and then promptly lost consecutive games to Air Force and Washington State.

Cal fans: You have been called out. Here's a question from Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's press conference: "Folks from Cal have told us that they're expecting probably 15,000-16,000 Spartan fans. It's not traditionally a loud stadium. How do you use that in recruiting?" "Not a traditionally loud stadium." Ouch.

USA Today: As season opens, head coaches hand off play-calls



When the college football season begins Thursday night, some prominent coaches in the game won't be calling the shots. Yes, Steve Spurrier is still wearing his visor at South Carolina, Charlie Weis is hoping to invert last year's 3-9 mark at Notre Dame, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen is praying for fewer injuries in 2008 and Jeff Tedford is still running the show at California.

But these head coaches, all known for their offensive prowess, will hand play-calling duties to assistants this season. Given the demands of the job as coach and CEO and the increased sophistication of offenses, head coaches who also call offensive or defensive plays have become an endangered species.  "It will allow me to get fresh bodies on the field and be able to look in the players' faces and see what we need to do," Weis said this month. "I'm not going to be standing there studying the call sheet and remembering every formation."

Said Tedford: "I'll still be involved in the game-planning. But it's very difficult to do it all. I'll probably call a portion of the plays. It just frees me up a little bit to do a better job of being the head coach."

SF Chronicle: Stanford, Cal fans need faith in varying doses


By Ray Ratto

Faith, that rarest of commodities when applied to college football, is most in evidence in August. That's when the lack of results allows every fan to believe that this is the year of his or her reward. In these parts, rewards range as high as the Rose Bowl for Cal, and for Stanford, simply not having to return money to the customers.  Stanford's chance of success within these parameters is greater than Cal's, but even if the Bears excel enough to get back to the Holiday Bowl, it will require exceptional work from each team.  And until then? Faith.

Cal fans, who largely found last season to be most unsatisfying, need to have faith that coach Jeff Tedford: A) Finds his quarterback soon; B) Keeps running back Jahvid Best healthy and hearty; and, C) Gets as much from his defense as all the pundits think he should. Then they have to have faith that neither Oregon nor Arizona State is as good as advertised.

Stanford, on the other hand, has to have faith in Jim Harbaugh's vision for the way out of the school's longest-ever run of bad football. Fans have to have faith in the idea that the wins over USC and Cal are the real signs of the Cardinal's future, rather than the eight losses in the other 10 games.

Cal's faith lies in accepting the idea that Tedford's first five years are the proper template for its expectations. Stanford's, in fighting the notion that the last six years are the school's proper place in the world.  The tests come too early for either coach's real comfort. Stanford opens this evening in its all-too-hospitable home against Oregon State, and Cal on Saturday against Michigan State at Memorial Tree-Sitters Stadium and Arboretum. The Pac-10, apparently alone among the BCS conferences, views the nonconference schedule as a midterm rather than as a pop quiz, so their teams need to get up to speed quicker than most.

And though Cal at least has a series of winning seasons at its back and can envision happier times without too much strain, Stanford has the more difficult issue of having faith in something none of its current players have ever enjoyed and that most of their coaches have known only in other places. Oh, and there is also that triumph of faithlessness - Stanford's money-back-guarantee promotion.  The Cardinal players and coaches keep trying to portray the USC and Cal wins as yesterday's news, but without them, the program would have nothing of value to cling to going into the new season. The wins were so nationally stunning (USC) and locally gratifying (Cal) that they ought to be the jumping-off point for Stanford's new glory.

Harbaugh and the players also know that their true progress won't be made against USC or Cal but against the rest of the schedule. The games at TCU, San Jose State, at Washington, Arizona, Washington State and maybe even at UCLA will either justify or undermine the faith the players have shown in Harbaugh's leadership.  Indeed, the entire plan top to bottom is built on faith, all the way down to the daffy money-back-guarantee idea. If you buy a ticket knowing you could get your money back if and/or when you are disappointed, you are being rewarded for either your lack of faith or the team's. This is what happens when you let your most lucrative athletic entertainment slip as far as Stanford has. Going back six years, the Cardinal's 20-48 record puts them just below Baylor, the Big 12's traditional bottom-feeder, and just above Vanderbilt, the SEC's traditional bottom-feeder. Duke, the ACC's traditional bottom-feeder, is so bad that Stanford looks like Oklahoma by comparison. The salient point is that Harbaugh and the marketing department are putting an awful lot on this group of gents. Bo McNally, the senior safety, might have gotten to the heart of the matter when he said the goal was to get six wins and let the bowl game possibilities sort themselves out, but he also knows that other than a fleeting moment in late 2005, neither he nor his mates have ever known even the suggestion of bowl eligibility.

The upside going into the new year is that Tavita Pritchard, the quarterback who engineered the USC upset, won the starting job, and the other 15 returning starters give the Cardinal a clear starting point. But they know that until they get something more tangible, they have to have faith in Harbaugh's faith, and he has to have faith in the faith of his players, and the money-back-guarantee trolls ... well, I guess they can have faith in the notion that they can get their money back if they have to. That might not be faith, but it represents another virtue, prudence, at least until faith can sustain the program more efficiently.

SF Chronicle: Bears have optimism, inexperience


By Rusty Simmons

Senior center Alex Mack, who has been as reliable as anything at Cal during the last two years, is optimistic despite all of the unknowns around him.  The potential first-round NFL draft pick will be snapping the ball to a quarterback who has played a total of seven collegiate quarters, playing alongside three linemen who have combined for one career start and blocking for a tailback who has not had more than four carries in a college game.  Not to mention the three starting receivers who have combined for one start and 13 career catches and the defensive scheme that has been completely revamped.  "You work so hard and you feel like your team is going to be good, but you never know until you play," Mack said. "There's no way to tell, but I'm excited because I see so much talent, I see us working together well and I see us making plays."

Despite the most uncertainty at Cal in a handful of years, the players and coaches all appear to see what Mack sees. There's a quiet confidence amid the storm of unknowns.  "I don't think there's a major concern about anything," coach Jeff Tedford said. "I think they're ready to play against someone else. They've worked hard. "I don't know that they'd feel like they there's anything else they can do right now, except for playing in a game. They've invested the work, so now it's time to game plan and execute the game plan."

Sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley will get the first chance to do that, starting Saturday against Michigan State. He has played only seven collegiate quarters and has been good in only four of those, one in leading a frantic but ultimately failed comeback attempt against Oregon State and three in overcoming a 21-0 deficit in the Armed Forces Bowl.

"He's not an unknown," sophomore receiver Jeremy Ross said. "He's a great athlete with a really strong arm who gets the ball to us really fast. He's taken complete control of the huddle."  Mack and senior right guard Noris Malele will anchor the protection for Riley. Tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Chet Teofilo and left guard Chris Guarnero, who have combined for one start, are also on the offensive line.  "I think they are confident in us because of our focus on mental assignments," said Schwartz, a redshirt freshman who is 6-foot-6 and 323 pounds. "We're physically good enough to play, and that all becomes a lot easier and freer when we're confident in what we're doing."  The new offensive line will be paving the way for running backs Jahvid Best, a sophomore, and Shane Vereen, a freshman. Best has not had more than four carries in a game and Vereen redshirted last season, but their training camps have been daily highlight reels. "We've had the luxury of having two great backs for a long time," Tedford said. "This is no different." What about the receivers? Seven players without much experience are competing for three spots. Senior LaReylle Cunningham has the longest resume - one start and 10 catches.

"There may be a learning curve and those are the growing pains of being young," Tedford said, "but we're going to be fine because I know that they're going to come back with their best efforts."  The defense lost its leading tackler in safety Thomas DeCoud, and it also switched to the 3-4 scheme. It's a move that gets the best athletes on the field, but it's also a complete overhaul that hasn't been tested. "I think the biggest thing is: How are we going to do when it's the real deal?" defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "There's only so much simulating you can do. Anytime there are changes to the scheme or you have a lot of new guys, you're not sure how you're going to do until it's an actual game day."

Chico Enterprise Record: Rigsbee back to square one with Cal

Link (beware the blockups!)

By Dave Davies

When he played at Pleasant Valley High, Tyler Rigsbee was a SuperPrep Magazine All-America choice, a member of the publication's All-Far West team, rated a four-star recruit by and and one of the top offensive linemen in the country.  Now that he's training to play right tackle at Cal, Rigsbee's just another talented freshman with a lot to learn.   "It's definitely that the game's a lot faster," Rigsbee said. "Everyone here's the best from where they're from. There's a lot of talent on the field. Everyone belongs here. I had a lot of good players at my high school, so I was prepared pretty well. I've been around it my whole life. You just basically work really hard and good things come from it."

Rigsbee's life at the Golden Bears' training camp was a blur of two-a-day practices, weight lifting, conditioning and study, facing the challenge of a much faster game than he played at PV.   "It's definitely a steep learning curve," Rigsbee said. "We've installed more in the last three weeks than I did all of high school. But it's the speed of the game. There's no standing around here. You're going against 300-pound, big-time (defensive) linemen. You have to go full-speed every day, and mentally, it's just about working really hard, that's what it's all about."  Rigsbee will likely redshirt this season as the Bears have their usual large group of talented players on the offensive line, and while he's listed at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds on Cal's roster, he says he's actually grown and is up to 6-6 and 265, with a goal of getting up to about 285 pounds next year.

Rigsbee credits offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik, in his seventh year at Cal along with head coach Jeff Tedford, for recruiting him and working on his technique.  Michalczik said Rigsbee has performed well in training camp.  "He's a freshman, and it's the hardest position to come in and play," Michalczik said. "You have to pick up the entire playbook, but he's got a bright future here."  Michalczik said freshmen on the offensive line pretty much always redshirt their first year, and there are a lot of advantages to that.  "Physical maturity as a linemen is a big thing," Michalczik said. "Tyler's an athletic kid who's still growing and a year in the weight room and in the system is going to help him a ton."

Rigsbee's athleticism and intelligence are part of what have gotten him this far.  "He's a bright guy," Michalczik said. "It's not easy to learn the offense. He's a smart guy and a good athlete and if he keeps his work ethic that he has right now he's going to be a really good player for us."  Among Rigsbee's biggest challenges will be getting stronger.   "This year, he's not going to play in games, he'll only be at practice," Michalczik said. "He's got to live in the weight room, and No. 2, he's got to keep working on his technique and fundamentals."  Rigsbee said he's impressed with both Michalczik and Tedford, whom he credits for his decision to choose Cal.

"He's really close with all of us kids," Rigsbee said of Tedford. "He demands a lot out of us, but he's about winning on Saturday. We work really hard, but he keeps it fun. It's really interesting to work with him. He has a lot of knowledge."  Rigsbee's father, Craig, is well-known in the local community for his playing days at Utah State and his unprecedented success as head coach at Butte College.  "I feel like I've got a great advantage," Tyler Rigsbee said. "He played Division I football. My uncle also played D-I. (My dad's) been around me through my whole career, youth football and high school. He told me before I left, 'You're going to get beat up.' And he said be really coachable and work really hard, and that's what I've been doing."


SportingNews: Coach's son Riley takes over as Cal's QB


Kevin Riley, the head coach's baby boy, fetched the loose footballs and carried the water bottles to the huddle. But his time as a youngster around the Beaverton (Ore.) High Beavers also included a quarterback apprenticeship that has served him well this summer.  "All that time around my dad, watching his team and watching film," Riley said this week by telephone, "I think football just came easier to me. I understood things more quickly."  Riley, a highly touted recruit out of the Portland area in 2005, beat out fifth-year senior Nate Longshore to win California's starting quarterback job. His first action as the full-time starter will come Saturday, when the Bears host Michigan State in a nationally televised prime-time game.

Riley learned the news last week around lunchtime and immediately called his dad, Faustin, who remains a high school assistant. Fittingly, Faustin Riley was on the practice field and ignored his cell phone.  "Then one of my other sons came over to me and said, 'Dad, I think you want to take this one,'" Faustin Riley said. "Just knowing how hard Kevin worked, it's a dream come true."  The dream, shared by father and son, stretches back to Kevin's kindergarten years. He'd spend his elementary school afternoons discussing coverages with dad, and he stayed true to playing quarterback even in eighth grade, when his 5-5, 107-pound frame made him a better fit for the soccer field.  His small size helped give him an "L" in his first quarterback competition; as a high school sophomore, he lost the Beaverton starting gig to Greg Laybourn, now a safety at Oregon State. Soon, though, his body grew -- and with it his talents as a quarterback. Cal's connection with Riley began when coaches saw him at a 2005 combine, and it blossomed when he was selected to attend that summer's Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.

He redshirted in 2006 before replacing a banged-up Longshore midway through last season. He made his first start for then-second ranked Cal against Oregon State. Down three in the final minute, Cal drove into field-goal range and ran out of timeouts. That's when Riley took off on an ill-advised scramble, failed to get out of bounds, and time expired. That night, he took a call from his dad.  "He said, 'I'm so proud of how you played out there,'" Kevin Riley said. "'But, boy, did you screw up.'"  Most of the mistakes went away this summer, which began with Riley and Longshore neck-and-neck for the No. 1 spot. Riley proved more consistent throughout the offseason and earned coach Jeff Tedford's nod over Longshore, who had made 26 starts over the past three years.

"It's a work in progress with Kevin," Tedford said on this week's Pac-10 teleconference. "Every snap is a learning experience. But he's very focused, and he's getting more comfortable by the day."  He'll need to be comfortable Saturday night, when he stares down a Big Ten defense and leads a group that lost playmakers DeSean Jackson and LaVelle Hawkins. He'll have one extra friend, though -- for the first time in Kevin's college career, Faustin will watch from the stands.  "We've been looking forward to this day," Faustin Riley said of his son's start. "It's going to be a pretty neat experience."


SF Chronicle: Five keys to Cal's success


Jahvid Best: As team's most dynamic and probably most important player, sophomore tailback has to prove he's healthy and can stay that way.

Kevin Riley: Sophomore quarterback can't be looking over his shoulder to see if Nate Longshore is warming up and has to show his arm strength translates into consistency.

Zack Follett: Poster boy for change to 3-4 defense and his fellow linebackers need to show that having an extra playmaker on field is more valuable than extra big body up front.

Freshmen feet: Punter Bryan Anger and kicker David Seawright, both freshmen, have wowed in practice and now have to prove that game days will be no different.

Tree sitters: For Bears to move to next level of recruiting and prestige, they have to get people out of trees to start construction ontraining center.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SF Chronicle: Judge backs UC stadium, not oak supporters

Carolyn Jones

A judge capped a 20-month legal battle on Tuesday by lifting an order preventing UC Berkeley from building a sports training center next to Memorial Stadium.  In her final judgment issued late Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller wrote that the university had complied with the outstanding legal issues and could begin construction at the stadium's adjacent oak grove, where a handful of tree-sitting protesters have been roosting since December 2006.  "The university has now cleared the most significant legal hurdle," said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. "We're one giant step closer to being able to begin construction."  The judgment allows the plaintiffs, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill neighborhood group, two days to appeal the ruling. The university has said it will not begin construction until the state Court of Appeal rules on the case, which could be as soon as next week.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Stephan Volker, said he would ask the appeals court to reverse Miller's decision and reinstate the injunction that prevents the university from constructing the sports facility.  The $125 million project violates state earthquake and environmental laws and must be resubmitted to the UC regents before being built, Volker wrote in his appeal.  "Whatever we have to do we will do to maintain the injunction," Volker said following a hearing Monday at the county courthouse in Hayward. "If the court takes a year to make a decision, the (injunction) will stay in place for a year."  The UC regents approved the training center in December 2006, intending to provide seismically safe and dramatically upgraded offices, locker rooms and training facilities for 13 varsity sports, including football. The city of Berkeley, oak tree advocates and neighbors sued to stop the project, saying it would bring development to the most inaccessible and seismically sensitive part of town and unnecessarily destroy the oak grove adjacent to the stadium.

Miller sided with the university on most issues. The university offered to drop two points she objected to: construction of a grade beam supporting the stadium's west wall and plans to host more non-football events at the 85-year-old landmark stadium.  The university has been eager to begin construction of the facility as football season nears. About 70,000 fans are expected at Memorial Stadium on Saturday for the Cal Bears' home opener against Michigan State.

SF Chronicle: Wanted or not, Best is getting some rest


By Rusty Simmons

Cal sophomore tailback Jahvid Best calmed speculation Tuesday that last year's season-ending hip injury had resurfaced when he explained his limited participation in practice during the last week.  Best, who was held out of practice the final five days of training camp, said coaches simply thought he was overworked during the first two weeks. He took most of the repetitions during that time, when backups Shane Vereen (ankle) and Tracy Slocum (turf toe) were nursing injuries.  "It's bothered me, but I know they're looking out for me and my best interests," said Best, who consistently tried to sneak into drills. "I feel like I need the reps and the drills to make myself as good as possible, so I always try to get in as much as possible."

Coach Jeff Tedford has maintained all along that the coaching staff is "just being smart" with Best, but sitting a running back for five days is out of the program's recent norms. Marshawn Lynch took limited reps about every three days during game weeks, and Justin Forsett, who had ankle, shoulder and back injuries, rarely took full off-days. Pressed about a possible return of the hip injury or something new, Best said, "No. There's nothing. There haven't been any injury problems."  Tedford said Best will get about 25 touches a game, including somewhere around 65 percent of the carries. Best said he is going to return kickoffs, and he'd like to do even more.  "I want to do all of it," he said. "If I had my choice, I'd still be playing gunner, too. Anything they'll let me do, I'm going to do it."

More Longshore: Three days after senior quarterback Nate Longshore spoke with the media, Tedford expanded for the first time on his meeting to tell the incumbent that sophomore Kevin Riley would take the first snaps of the season.  "Obviously, he was very disappointed during the first meeting I had with him, but there is no other person who is more dedicated to the team's success," Tedford said. "Even though he's not out there in the huddle, he's coaching guys. "It's just really impressive to see a guy refusing to go into the tank and feeling sorry for himself."  The conversation was clearly uncomfortable for Tedford, who has spent countless hours watching video, talking game plans and building a relationship with Longshore during the last three years. Tedford took a beating from fans and media last season, when he stuck with an injured Longshore during Cal's second-half collapse.   "You never want to disappoint somebody," Tedford said. "That's tough. It's not easy to do."

Briefly: Linebackers Zack Follett and Anthony Felder, center Alex Mack and fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou were named Week 1 captains. Tedford said eight or nine players were voted captains and will be rotated throughout the season. ... Mack called first-time starting tackle Mitchell Schwartz a "huge human" and a "brilliant guy," which speaks volumes coming from a player who is 6-foot-4, 316 pounds and graduated with a 3.6 grade-point average in legal studies. Schwartz is a 6-6, 323-pound redshirt freshman who has won the right-tackle job. ... Riley said his father has plans to see him play in person at the collegiate level for the first time this week. Faustin Riley is the coach at Beaverton High School in Oregon.


Daily Cal: Bears Don't Dwell On-or Forget-2007


By Matt Kawahara

It was one of the worst collapses in college football history.  On the cusp of becoming the No. 1 team in the country in their sixth game of the 2007 season, Cal came up three points-and about 10 yards-short against Oregon State. Hopes of an undefeated season vanished along with the energy out of Memorial Stadium as the clock ticked down to zero, the field goal unit sprinting onto the field to no avail.

And the Bears never recovered. They went into a tailspin. At the end of December the team found itself in Fort Worth, Tex., having to come back from a 21-0 deficit to Air Force in order to avoid finishing the season below .500.  Sometimes that's the kind of thing that a team wants to forget. Others take it as a learning experience. In preparation for its return to the gridiron, Cal has made sure to keep last season in mind.

 "I think we focused on that a lot, actually," senior center Alex Mack said. "After the season we went about what it takes to win games, going back to fundamentals, and working on all the little things that it takes to win games. It doesn't just happen. It's hard work."  The Bears-stacked with raw talent in 2007-learned that lesson the hard way. It's something that they've taken to heart since the beginning of spring ball.  "We know how hard we worked after last season," linebacker Zack Follett said. "It would be a major disappointment if we didn't capitalize after what happened because we've worked harder than I've ever worked since we've been here. Coaches have pushed us because of the season we had."

That new intensity showed in a fall camp that even coach Jeff Tedford acknowledged as being more physical than in years past. Loud hits and louder chants of "Offense: Score!" and "Roll call defense: Get the ball back!" spoke to the team's more vocal presence on the field.  "You've got to be vocal out there," Follett said. "That's one thing coaches stress every year I've been here. It's just whether you step up and do it or not, and it's one of the things that the seniors have been working on."  The catalyst behind everything is a word that every player and coach has kicked around since the beginning of camp-leadership.

"(The 2007 meltdown) definitely happened for a reason," Follett said. "The lack of leadership that we had last year kind of showed, and that's why our team kind of broke down."  Seniors like Mack, Follett, Nate Longshore and Will Ta'ufo'ou have embraced their new roles as team leaders. Mack said that the transition has been eased by Tedford, who fostered that leadership by encouraging seniors to speak out and be role models for the rest of the team.

Players have responded. Tedford said during camp that the competitiveness and intensity during practice was a direct result of senior influence. In fact, Ta'ufo'ou, senior wideout LaReyelle Cunningham and sophomore defensive end Cameron Jordan all agreed that the communication between the veterans and young guys at their respective positions has been much better than last season.  "I think we all took it upon ourselves to take control of our position groups as well as, if you're on offense, working with the defense," Ta'ufo'ou said. "It's not just offense and defense. It's a team thing."  So the Bears approach August 30 and Michigan State as a strongly unified team rather than a collection of individual performers.  When asked whether Cal is treating this season as a chance for redemption after last year's disappointment or merely a fresh start, Mack said that it's a little bit of both. As Ta'ufo'ou put it, last season is in the past; the Bears can't hold onto it, but they can learn from it.   "I know I want to prove that we're still a good team, that Cal's still big-time football," Mack said. "On the other hand, we're not last year. New team, new slate, and so we come out for the first game and do what we need to. It's right there around the corner."


Lansing State Journal: MSU ready for business

By Andrew Mouranie

A visit to California during Labor Day weekend sounds like a prime location for a little rest and relaxation.

The MSU football team, however, is going strictly for business purposes. "It's a business trip. It's a business trip," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday. "We'll pack a toothbrush and a comb and that's about it."  The Spartans will travel to central California on Friday morning to prepare to take on the Golden Bears at 8 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.  Dantonio said the decision to not leave until Friday was based on keeping his team in that eastern time zone mentality. The plan is to prepare as if the kickoff was at 8 p.m. in the eastern time zone, not 5 p.m. on the West Coast.

"I don't see a problem with it," senior quarterback Brian Hoyer said about leaving on Friday. "All we have to do is stay on eastern time and it will be like playing an 8:00 game for us."  This will be the Spartans' first trip to the west coast since the 2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic, meaning no player on the current roster has made that long plane ride and had to deal with playing three hours behind.  Yet, running back Javon Ringer does not believe either will affect the way his team plays Saturday. "Hopefully it won't have too much of an affect. I really doubt it. Once game time comes, we are all focused in on the game, not necessarily the time."  Ringer emphatically recognized the importance of the Cal game as well. He knows, being a senior, that this is his last opportunity to achieve the goals he set for himself and the rest of his teammates when he arrived on campus in 2005.

"If we want to be successful this year, we have to beat Cal. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, we need to beat Cal. We need to beat Cal"  So if you lose to Cal and then run the table, its not a successful season?

"If that happened, that would be something," Ringer said with a smile. " But that is something we will deal with later, but our focus is beating Cal.  Right now, we have business to take care of with Cal."

OPPOSING VIEW: Throughout the preseason, both Hoyer and Ringer have received plenty of national praise.

On Tuesday, Cal coach Jeff Tedford joined the crowd.  "Hoyer is solid. He is a quarterback that looks like he continues to get better and better," Tedford said Tuesday during a conference call. "Ringer has great balance. He's elusive and runs behind a great offensive line. I'm sure those two guys provide a lot of leadership and anytime you have senior leadership in those two positions, it's a plus."

NICHOL AS RILEY: In Tuesday's practice, quarterback Keith Nichol played the part of Cal starting quarterback Kevin Riley on the MSU scout team. Nichol, who must sit out this year after transferring from Oklahoma, wore a white No. 13 jersey and portrayed the talented Bears' sophomore. Riley wears No. 13 for the Bears while Nichol normally wears No. 9.

SPARTANS IN CALI: Associate AD John Lewandowski said on Tuesday that the majority of the allotted 5,000 tickets MSU was given for Saturday's game at Cal have been sold. In total, he expects at least 10,000 Spartan fans to be in attendance at Memorial Stadium.

Daily Cal: Position Breakdown - Offense


By Matt Kawahara


After winning the position battle with a solid second half of fall camp, redshirt sophomore Kevin Riley will start at quarterback against Michigan State.  Riley saw most of his collegiate action in just two games last year, although they were arguably the most memorable games of the season-Cal's devastating loss to Oregon State and the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force, in which Riley completed 16 of 19 passes for 269 yards, three touchdowns and Bowl MVP honors.  He won the starting job this season largely because of his formidable arm strength and playmaking ability.   "I think he brings a little bit more elusiveness to (the position), being able to make some plays with his legs, and was real solid through camp," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We felt like maybe we'd see what we could do with his playmaking ability."  Nate Longshore, meanwhile, will provide the best second option in the Pac-10.

The senior ranks second in Cal history with 18 wins as a starting quarterback, fourth in passing efficiency (133.1), sixth in passing touchdowns (62) and seventh in passing yardage (5,732). He's also one of only two Bears quarterbacks to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season, accomplishing the feat in 2006.  Although he is admittedly not a fan of the two-quarterback system, Tedford has promised that both Riley and Longshore will play against the Spartans.  "We want to see, with the roles reversed, how that works," Tedford said. "We're looking for the best chance to be successful."


Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen are the new one-two punch for the Bears and the latest talented twosome to roam the Cal backfield.  "These guys are very talented," running backs coach Ron Gould said. "They're a more mature group coming in, they're very focused.  There's a lot of similarity (to previous tailback duos) in terms of talent and the work ethic is good."  Best is the main weapon in the Bears' offensive scheme. His blazing speed and agility give him the big-play potential that makes fans hold their breath every time he touches the ball. After playing in just 10 games last season and averaging 7.6 yards per carry, Best has minds racing over what he can do with a full season.  Vereen, meanwhile, has shouldered the workload during fall camp as Best has been given regular days off to rest.  "He's got a lot of elusiveness," Gould said of Vereen. "He catches the ball extremely well. He's very passionate about the game."  As a result, Gould views Vereen less as a backup to Best and more as an interchangeable piece in what will be a shifting backfield.

"I don't view any of the tailbacks as backups," Gould said. "I view them all as starters. Whoever's in there, I expect those guys to play at a high level."  That said, there is only one year of varsity experience between Best, Vereen and third option Tracy Slocum. That's where the quiet but sturdy senior presence of fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou has come into play.  "(Ta'ufo'ou) tries to lead by example and he's got a great work ethic," Gould said. "Will is the big dog, and I think he's earned everybody's respect just by how he's carried himself over the last four, five years."


Possibly the position with the least experience, the 2008 receiving corps returns a total of five catches from last season.  Needless to say, the Bears didn't have a go-to guy at wideout at the beginning of camp. Three weeks later, they still don't. But what they did find over the course of fall practices was a pleasantly surprising amount of depth at the position.  "We feel like we have good depth at receiver," Tedford said at one point during camp. "There's probably going to be a broader rotation than we've ever had at receiver."

Right now, LaReyelle Cunningham, Sean Young and Michael Calvin appear to have secured the starting jobs. Cunningham accounts for four of the returning catches, while Young is responsible for the other. Calvin received Scout Team Player of the Year honors last season, but he has been battling a toe injury for over a week and was wearing a protective boot at Tuesday's practice.  Tedford has maintained, though, that up to seven receivers will compete for playing time during the season, and that how they are used will vary week-to-week depending on game planning. Jeremy Ross, Nyan Boateng and Marvin Jones are also in the mix.

This is clearly not last year's receiving corps in terms of proven game-changing ability, but one thing that the 2008 class does have is size. At 5-foot-11, Young and Ross are the shortest members of the group, while Boateng, Calvin and Jones all stand at 6-foot-2.  Still, the wideouts lack true game experience, and for that reason, tight end Cameron Morrah may be a favorite target for the quarterbacks. Morrah hauled in 13 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown in 2007, and he established himself early in camp as No. 1 on the depth chart at tight end.


The heart of the O-line, its anchor and senior leader, is the man in the middle-all-America center Alex Mack.

Mack is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's top center, as he returns to further punish the Pac-10 defensive linemen that voted him the conference's top offensive lineman in 2007.  Around Mack is where things get interesting. Noris Malele is back at right guard, where he started all 13 games last year. But starting right tackle Mike Tepper, who was planning on transitioning to left tackle during camp, was sidelined by injuries and will not be ready to play against Michigan State.  That has opened a door for redshirt freshman Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. Schwartz, who stands at 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds, will start against the Spartans, while Chet Teofilo-a 6-foot-3, 316 pound junior-takes over at left tackle.  Meanwhile, Chris Guarnero-once buried behind Mack on the depth chart at center-has made a comfortable transition to left guard, where he will start on August 30.

"All through camp we've been rotating guys through," Mack said. "I've worked with everyone. It means we have a lot of depth. We've got a lot of guys who can play, people who know all their stuff, guys who know their positions.  "I trust all those guys and they're all hard workers, which goes a really long way."

Daily Cal: Bear Naked: Why Tedford's a Class Act

By Andrew Kim

I think they call it the fundamental attribution error, but I'm not sure.  I did take Psychology 160 last spring, attending a total of six lectures including exams, but like I said, I'm not sure why I'd assumed Cal football coach Jeff Tedford was a good man.  He's a world-class coach, and I figured he'd be a world-class individual. In all its journalistic excellence, that one-sided ESPN piece two years ago -- the one that conveniently left out the positive and, uh, normal details of Tedford's family and upbringing -- did enough not to convince me otherwise.   Today my views on Tedford are a bit more founded but respectful nevertheless. For those who have missed out on the aforementioned segment by the Worldwide Leader in Sports, let this be the convincing halftime reel.

It's a Tuesday night, and I'm sitting through another day in fall camp, a bit more tired than usual from working a 9-to-5 job in the city before walking all the way up the tortuous stairs en route to Memorial Stadium.

Read the entire article here.

SF Examiner: Minus the big three, Cal receivers will still be tough to catch


By Rob Calonge

In 2007, the college football world couldn't stop talking about Cal's DeSean Jackson and his highlight reel returns.  Going into the season, he was one of the top Heisman candidates and he led what was one of the best receiving groups in the country, arguably THE best group that the Golden Bears have ever assembled.

Along with gritty tight end Craig Stevens and quarterback phenom Nate Longshore, the Cal passing offense, which also included Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, was expected to be the greatest show on turf, grass, or any surface used at a college stadium in the country.  While many times this combination was deadly, to say that they fulfilled expectations would be quite an overstatement.  When you stop to think that every starting player in Cal's 2007 passing arsenal is in the pro's except for Longshore, you have to wonder how so much talent could falter enough to let the Bears go 7-6.

Quarterback play had plenty to do with it.  That might be why Nate Longshore is now backing up Kevin Riley rather than showing him how it's done this season.  It's hard to tell from the outside looking in, but Longshore's play may not have been the only thing lacking towards the end of last season. Despite how good that DeSean Jackson is, there were plenty of times during the season that he disappeared for quarters or even halves of games.  Could that be because Longshore didn't have the vision to spot him?  Sure, but it's highly unlikely since Jackson was normally the number one option on passing plays.

One problem for sure was the attitude of the receiving corps as a whole.  Often, they weren't able to get separation due to poor route running or lackadaisical play.  Coach Tedford thinks that he's made major strides in repairing that.  "I'm really happy with the team chemistry," he said about this year's team at the conclusion of camp. "The way we worked together, the attitude, the focus, the camaraderie."

It could also be that Longshore continually looked for Jackson rather than find the open man.  Many times, Longshore would telegraph where he was going with the ball, giving defenders the edge on stopping his passes.  Craig Stevens, now of the Tennessee Titans, was a solid outlet receiver, but too many times he stayed in to block and was normally an afterthought when it came to him being a target.  Justin Forsett, now with the Seattle Seahawks, had more passes thrown his way coming out of the backfield than the reliable Stevens.  That could be due to game plan or the poor play of the quarterback.  Either way, the tight end wasn't used enough.

Too often, when Hawkins had a great day, Jackson only caught a few balls and vice-versa.  In only four games last season, both receivers caught five or more balls in the same game.  Never did both receivers catch six or more together.  Add the fact that in only two games, Jackson, Hawkins, and Jordan all caught at least five passes and you start to piece together why Nate Longshore received so much criticism last year.

Of the 11 games that all three receivers played together in 2007, there were only six games where two or more of the three caught at least five passes.  That is not the makings of the greatest show anywhere.

In 2008, The Bears don't have the hype that they came into 2007 with, but they may have a better receiving group as a whole.  According to Tedford, there are six or seven guys competing for playing time.  The projected top two guys, Michael Calvin and Sean Young, have a combined three NCAA catches thanks to Young and the number three guy, LaReylle Cunningham, who has only ten.  Young and Cunningham are Seniors while Calvin is a redshirt Freshman.  The fourth man in the rotation is true Freshman Marvin Jones.

So with so little in the way of statistics, how can I say that the Cal receiving group is stronger in 2008?  Their depth is much better this year than in the past.  Besides, Young, Cunningham, Calvin and Jones, the Bears also have highly touted Sophomore transfer Nyan Boateng, redshirt Freshman Alex Lagemann, true Freshmen Verran Tucker, and Charles Satchell.  They could also play roles throughout the season.

If Young can stay healthy and play up to the level of the hype he had coming out of high school, Rivals ranking of 91 of the top California players, then he could be a consistent target for whoever is quarterbacking the offense.  Injuries have hurt the sixth year Senior, which is why he's still at Cal playing after the first five.  He'll finally get his chance to pay back the program starting this week.  Young could also get the opportunity to return kicks if Jahvid Best is held out of those duties.

Cunningham may be the most experienced receiver on Cal's roster.  He played in all thirteen games in 2007 on special teams.  Along with Young, he will play a vital role in helping the younger players adjust to the speed of Div I football.  Calvin won Scout Player of the Year for the offense in 2007 and there are high hopes that he will be one of the next great receivers to have worn the blue and gold.  Coming out of high school, Calvin was rated as the 25th best receiver in the nation by and the 58th best by  Rivals and Scout both agreed about Freshman Marvin Jones.  They both ranked him as the 23rd best receiver in the nation coming out of high school last year and he's already put himself in the mix in his first Bears season.  Coach Tedford is pretty high on him and Bears Backers should get a chance to see why when the Bears take on the Spartans this Saturday night.

Besides Young, who measures in at 5'11", the top receivers all are 6'1" or taller making for easy to see targets.  With the height and the speed as their biggest strength, Riley should be able to find open men often.  Speaking of big men, Cameron Morrah will be starting at the tight end position and taking over for departed pro, Stevens.  Morrah caught the third longest touchdown pass last year, a 49 yard reception from Longshore against Arizona.  The 6'4" 245 pound Junior is a converted defensive end that has flashed 'pro' calibur qualities.  The Bears will be counting on him to uphold a tradition of gritty and talented Cal tight ends.

DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, or Robert Jordan might not be part of this group of talented receivers, but these receivers (as a group) are expected to be more talented than the afforementioned pro's.  If they are and the Bears can get the type of play from the quarterback position that they've been needing for the past few years, Cal could be a contender for the Pac-10 title and more.  At least this year, Tedford will have more options should he need them.

Depth Chart released

It looks like my assesment of the Cal starting lineup was a little premature.  Cal has released a depth chart for this week's game updated as of the 25th of August.  Darian Hagan has the slight edge over Chris Conte, who I reported would be the starter opposite Syd'Quan Thompson.

Letter to the Fans

If you're planning on attending the game this weekend, or any of the Bears' home games for that matter, you may want to check out Cal's letter to the fans.  It's similar to the NFL's code of conduct campaign, but has some important information about parking and the tree sitters too.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

AP: Tedford taking active role with every Golden Bear


By Greg Beacham

Jeff Tedford knows he lost his football team last year. California's coach spent the offseason coming up with ways to make sure the Golden Bears won't get away from him again this fall.  For starters, Cal's offensive mastermind has given away his team's play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. Instead of working mostly with the offense at every practice, Tedford roams the field in Strawberry Canyon, chatting with special-teams players and keenly observing the defense.  And Tedford's real work starts when the players get off the field. From strategy questions to personal issues, Tedford has dedicated himself to really listening to his players, all in hopes of keeping their heads together when Cal hits the tough times that wrecked what was shaping up as a remarkable season in 2007.

"I'm just going to keep my fingers on the pulse of the group better," Tedford said. "When I'm not calling the plays, I'll be able to see a lot more of that, at least I think so. ... If you're willing to learn lessons from it, which I've tried to do, then I think we'll be better for it. You live and learn."  Cal is still feeling the effects of the freefall that began with a home loss to Oregon State last October when the Bears were unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Cal finished the regular season with six losses in seven games, including its first loss to Stanford in Tedford's tenure.  A victory in the Armed Forces Bowl contained the ingredients of Cal's recovery this fall, though some are more symbolic than others. The Bears will play this year with no names on the backs of their jerseys, just as they did in the bowl game, to reinforce "the importance of being out there just for the team," according to linebacker Worrell Williams.

That bowl victory also was the breakthrough game for quarterback Kevin Riley, whose last-second mistake cost Cal a chance to tie Oregon State last year. Riley was named Cal's starter last week for Saturday's home opener against Michigan State, though senior Nate Longshore also will play. "I think we have the potential to be a great team, and I think it's going to come out on Saturday," Riley said.  This isn't the first time Tedford has ceded play-calling duties. He called about half the plays midway through his tenure, and former offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar called about 90 percent of the plays during his single season at Cal before Tedford took over again. Tedford hasn't been afraid to allow Cignetti to put his own tweaks on Cal's offensive scheme.

"I think it would be foolish not to let somebody make what you've done better," Tedford said. "It's no different from when I was at Oregon. (Former Ducks offensive coordinators) Bob Toledo, Ron Borges, Dirk Koetter, myself — everybody put in their little piece of the offense at Oregon."  Tedford will need every spare minute of his newfound free time to shape his new starters at every offensive skill position. The Bears' recruiting prowess has kept them stocked even after the departures of Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins, DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Craig Stevens.

Running back Jahvid Best, whose speed made him a tantalizing alternative to Forsett last year, says he's ready for the demands of more consistent playing time. Cignetti will use Best as a runner and a pass-catcher to go with his kickoff return duties, all in the hopes of getting the ball in Best's hands at least 20 times a game.  "I have to learn the complete offense, because I never know where I'm going to be on any given play," said Best, who has been rested against his will during practice to keep him fresh for the season. "I love that kind of a challenge, and it puts me in a lot of different areas to make plays." Cal's receiving corps is much less tested than last season's vaunted trio of Hawkins, Jackson and Jordan. Senior holdovers Sean Young and LaReylle Cunningham will play alongside newcomers Michael Calvin and Marvin Jones as the Bears try to figure out who's ready for the demands of a Pac-10 season.

At least Riley is familiar with the former backups like Young and Cunningham from his time running the second team in practice as Longshore's backup. He's also getting to know Calvin and Jones, two prized prospects with no playing experience. "They're all young, but if they just settle down and play their game, they can all make big plays," Riley said.  Coordinator Bob Gregory's defense has changed to a 3-4 scheme to take advantage of a group of linebackers widely considered to be among the nation's best. Seniors Williams and Zack Follett will play prominent roles, while junior Eddie Young and oft-injured senior Anthony Felder will be the other starters.

Much of Cal's leadership also will come from the veteran linebackers. Williams claims he relishes the chance to begin Cal's season unranked and picked to finish no better than fourth in the Pac-10 by most prognosticators, while Follett sees the relatively low expectations as a motivation to keep alive Cal's streak of six consecutive winning seasons and five straight bowl appearances.  "We feel responsible to get Cal back as a premier team," linebacker Zack Follett said. "It seems like we had one bad year, and people are writing us off as a program. That's crazy."

Journal Register: Cal could stall MSU momentum; 10,000 MSU Fans Predicted to Attend


By Pat Caputo

A five-hour plane ride. An opponent that has pushed its way into the top 10 in recent years, at least until taking a tumble the second half of last season.  For Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans, opening the season at Cal Saturday night is akin to trying to break through a brick wall.  There are easier ways to begin the season. At home. Against a Mid-American Conference team. Or some squad from, say, the Sun Belt Conference. There is a downside to playing, to facing strong opponents on the road in inter-sectional games. Michigan State's not-too-distant past, for example, includes utter embarrassments at Nebraska and Oregon. The last time the Spartans faced Cal it was at home, in 2002, and they were crushed by 24 points. It was the turning point of Bobby Williams' tenure as Spartans' head coach.

Dantonio, who is entering his second season with hope up following a surprising seven-win season in 2007, doesn't see it that way.  "It's a maturing issue for our team," Dantonio said Tuesday. "It's the travel. It's the playing the first game away from home."  Getting blown out would toss cold water on the momentum the Spartans are carrying into this season. There are potential benefits, though. What if they were to beat Cal? It would mean instant credibility, the type the Spartans didn't really receive last season. It would probably mean an early spot in the Top 25.

The Spartans were only 3-5 in the conference in 2007. Their signature victory over Penn State was at home.

Cal is being forecast for the middle-of-the-pack in the Pac 10 standings. The Bears lost six of their final seven games last season, but only after they pushed for the top spot in the polls for the second straight year. Their stars are gone, both at running back and receiver, including the much-hyped DeSean Jackson.

Cal's starting quarterback, Kevin Riley, is inexperienced. What is said most about Cal is it has great linebackers. Maybe that's why the point spread has Cal as only a field goal-to-touchdown favorite over the Spartans, who have concerns of their own.  The most notable is replacing Devin Thomas at wide receiver, Jonal Saint-Dic and Ervin Baldwin at defensive end, inside running threat Jehuu Caulcrick and tight end Kellen Davis.  Other than running back Javon Ringer and quarterback Brian Hoyer, those were the Spartans' primary playmakers last season. They represented 75 percent of the Spartans' touchdowns, and nearly half their sacks.  If Dantonio is spooked by the notion his team has lost much of its firepower on both sides of the ball, it isn't showing.  He exudes a quiet confidence the Spartans' faithful particularly appreciates after the zany John L. Smith, the ever-grouchy Williams and the oh-so-uptight Nick Saban.

He doesn't take offense to questions. He just answers them. But will his players?  "Last year at this time, nobody asked about Devin Thomas or Jonal Saint-Dic or Jehuu Caulcrick," Dantonio said. "Somebody is going to elevate their play on this team. We'll find out who they are soon."  One has to be Hoyer. He was consistently outplayed by opposing quarterbacks during the final stages of close games last season. The Spartans lost several tight games. That can be good news or bad, depending on whether it was progress keeping games competitive, or a sign the Spartans lack the necessary finishing skills, particularly at QB.

"We were in that situation enough last year that, as coaches, we should know what to call and do," Dantonio said. "We've got players who have been in that situation before." It's not like the Spartans can build to a crescendo. Their season is off and running -- in prime time from the West Coast.

Memorial Stadium on Cal's campus is as scenic as it gets. It's on hill, overlooked by another hill. You can see the entire Bay Area from the top of the stands. It is, honestly, a breathtaking view.  Dantonio estimates more than 10,000 MSU alumni and fans will be in attendance. It's not their view looking outside the stadium that will be examined so closely, however, but rather what takes place on the field.

Are you ready for some football? The Spartans better be Saturday night.  It's a high-risk, high-reward venture. After losing so many close games last season, a respectable effort in defeat would provide little solace. "This is what we play for," Dantonio said. "We're not in position for a 'tier-up game.'" Either the step forward or step back the Spartans take Saturday night could be considerable.


Santa Rose Press Democrat: High expectations on the gridiron for Cal, Stanford, SJSU



Here’s a look ahead:


The Bears were 5-0 and poised to assume the No. 1 ranking in the nation when the team inexplicably fell apart. Victims of injuries and poor run defense, they lost six of their last seven before rallying to beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish 7-6.

QB SITUATION: Nate Longshore ranks second all-time among Cal quarterbacks with 18 victories. But Tedford recently announced that redshirt sophomore Kevin Riley will start against Michigan State. Don’t consider the matter settled, though. Tedford said Longshore also will play in the opener, and will continue to push Riley for the job.

WHAT’S NEW: Well, to start with, the Bears aren’t ranked in the major preseason polls for the first time since 2003. On the field, the defense will switch to a 3-4 scheme, and Tedford is giving up offensive play-calling duties to Frank Cignetti, who spent last fall coaching Alex Smith and the rest of the 49ers’ quarterbacks. Cignetti will have to compensate for the seven offensive players from 2007 now vying for NFL roster spots.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The reason Cal is moving to a 3-4 is to maximize its deepest position – linebacker. The group is led by two-time All-Pac-10 selection Zack Follett and preseason All-American Worrell Williams. Meanwhile, super-swift Jahvid Best of Vallejo takes over for Justin Forsett at halfback and attempts to extend Cal’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers to seven straight years. Center Alex Mack may be the best offensive lineman in the conference.

CIRCLE THE DATE: Oct. 4 vs. Arizona State. Dennis Erickson’s highly rated team could provide the first big test for the Bears.

SF Chronicle: Tedford talks up final roster spots


Rusty Simmons

Cal released its Week 1 depth chart Monday, clearing up most of the position competitions that training camp left undone.  Sophomore Darian Hagan was told by coaches that he beat out sophomore Chris Conte for the cornerback spot opposite Syd'Quan Thompson. Coach Jeff Tedford said sophomore Derrick Hill will start ahead senior Mika Kane, who missed most of training camp with an ankle injury, at nose tackle.  Both Hagan and Hill were highly recruited out of high school but have yet to make major contributions. Coaches say Hagan has had trouble learning the defensive scheme and Hill has had trouble staying healthy.  Hagan is "very fast and rangy," Tedford said. "If he can get himself in the right position, he can definitely make plays physically. He covers a lot of ground and can really get to the ball."  Hagan was an All-America selection by SuperPrep and PrepStar out of Crenshaw High-Los Angeles, but he redshirted as a freshman. As a redshirt freshman, Hagan played in only five games and didn't record any statistics.

"It's been a long time coming," Hagan said. "I finally understand what it takes to be a starter at this level. I've found that daily effort and attention to detail, and I'm trying to up my level of play every day."  Running backs Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best are listed as the kick returners, and Thompson is listed as the punt returner. Vereen appears to be making daily progress in healing from an ankle sprain; Best practiced in a full capacity for the first time in a week, and Tedford said Thompson (shoulder) will be ready by game time.

The lone "or" on the chart is at kickoffs, a competition between senior Jordan Kay and walk-on freshman David Seawright, who already won the placekicking duties. Tedford maintains that all positions are being evaluated daily.

ESPN love:'s Ted Miller predicted that Best would win the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year, and, not to be outdone, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit mentioned the Bears seven times in his annual "Herbie" awards.  "If Best stays healthy, he will be the most dangerous multi-purpose threat in the Pac-10," Miller wrote. "Actually, he and USC's Joe McKnight would be a dead-heat on that, but I suspect Best will get more touches and, therefore, more highlight-reel plays.  "Best could easily eclipse 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving, not to mention take a couple of returns to the house."

Herbstreit listed Berkeley fourth among sites "College GameDay" must visit before he retires. Senior center Alex Mack and senior linebacker Zack Follett were on the "What a College Football Team Should Look Like" team. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley, Best and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti also got mentions in various categories.

Briefly: Redshirt freshman receiver Michael Calvin (sprained toe) missed practice and is wearing a walking boot. ... Junior tight end Cameron Morrah (ankle) and senior right guard Noris Malele (knee bruise) returned to practice. ... Senior left tackle Mike Tepper (pectoral surgery) participated in a limited fashion, but was left off the two-deep depth chart since he was unable to practice during training camp.


Daily Cal: For Team-First Bears, 2008 Is Clean Slate

By Andrew Kim

The Cal football team has done everything in its power to prevent last year's you-know-what from becoming a public relations disaster.  Wielding a new slogan -- "Every game counts" -- and sporting jerseys without names, the Bears are purportedly a team without individuals. In public, coach Jeff Tedford and his players have said and done all the right things thus far in the preseason.

Read the rest here.

Contra Costa Times: Riley answers question as to who will be Cal quarterback


Jonathan Okanes

Cal held its first post-training camp practice Monday night at Memorial Stadium, as the Bears prepare for the arrival of Michigan State for Saturday's season opener. When camp started three weeks ago, Bay Area News Group posed the top five questions Cal had to resolve before the beginning of the season. It's time to see if those questions were answered.

1. Who will be the starting quarterback? This question was going to be answered because somebody had to line up behind center Saturday. But coach Jeff Tedford had said he may not name a starter until after the game against the Spartans because he wanted to continue to evaluate Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley in a game situation.  But Tedford was convinced enough that Riley had won the starting job to name him the No. 1 signal-caller last week. Riley struggled during the early portion of camp but came on during the second half. Longshore's camp went in the other direction — he started off hot but seemed to cool off when Riley heated up. Tedford said that Longshore will play against the Spartans and the position continually will be evaluated throughout the season.

2. Have the Bears cured what ailed them during the second half of last season? The Bears seem certain that whatever chemistry or leadership problems plagued them during last year's meltdown are behind them. Training camp practices were spirited, and players such as center Alex Mack and linebacker Zack Follett

have emerged as leaders.  But it's a little easier to be touchy-feely with one another when a game hasn't been played and adversity hasn't struck. It remains to be seen how this team will handle the down times. Don't forget that the Bears insisted team chemistry was better than ever heading into last year.

3. Do the Bears have any productive receivers? Redshirt freshman Michael Calvin appears to be the only sure thing. Talented Florida transfer Nyan Boateng looked terrific at the start of camp but fell off a bit and doesn't appear to be in the mix to start. Calvin should be joined in the starting lineup by sixth-year senior Sean Young and senior LaReylle Cunningham, each of whom has seen only spot time throughout his career. It may be just a matter of time before true freshman Marvin Jones starts getting a lot of reps.

4. Is sophomore Jahvid Best healthy enough to be an every-down back? Best may not carry the ball 20 times a game, but the Bears are hoping to have him heavily involved in the offense in a variety of ways. Best should catch passes out of the backfield, line up wide and return kicks and punts. The Bears are confident Best's hip injury is behind him, but they've still rested him a lot in camp. But he's taken his share of hits with full pads on without any complications.

5. Will the defense improve in the 3-4 alignment? All indications are that it will. The scheme has allowed Cal's talented linebackers to make more plays all over the field, and the Bears are getting strong play from their defensive linemen.


SF Examiner: Cal Bears ready for Michigan State opener


By Rob Calonge

By now I'm sure you've heard the news about Kevin Riley getting the starting nod as the Cal Bears' starting quarterback.  Being Cal's starter going into the season hasn't been a guarantee, during the Tedford era, that you'll end the season that way. In 2003, Reggie Robertson started over Aaron Rodgers.  But by week five Rodgers would take that spot and use it to catapult him to the NFL.  Two years ago, Longshore started the season as the man behind center only to suffer a season-ending leg injury and leave Cal with a hodgepodge of players to fill in.  The position played poorly until former fullback Steve Levy stepped in and played well enough to finish the season with a win in the Big Game and a bowl victory against BYU.

For those of you not excited about Riley as the starting leader of the Bears, Longshore still has the opportunity to wrestle that title away before the end of the season.  The great thing about the Bears' quarterback position is that they have two guys that could easily lead the team back into the top 25 rankings and into a BCS bowl game.  Getting back onto the national stage is the main focus for the program in 2008.  Camp is over and from what Coach Tedford and his players are saying to reporters, it's pretty easy to figure that these guys are more than ready to begin the season.  On offense, besides the lack of hype, Bears Backers can expect to see more of the same prolific play that they've grown accustomed to.  On defense is where some changes may show a different type of team.

Coach Bob Gregory has switched to a 3-4 alignment and the Bears have one of the best collections of linebackers in all of college football returning to action.  Zack Follet will be a pivotal leader on this defense and his high motor play can do nothing but help the Bears when the offense is not as 'prolific' as Berkeley fans would like.  Tedford seems confident about the defense.  When asked about the defensive front he said, "I think we have a pretty good understanding of what's going on, but you never really know until you play the game so we'll find out. I feel good about their effort; I feel good about the work that they've put in, so now it's just a matter of seeing them at game time. That's the true test."

As of now, the depth chart is still in flux, but the following is what I've been able to track down at this time:


QB - Kevin Riley

TB - Jahvid Best

FB - Will Ta'ufo'ou

LT - Chet Teofilo

LG - Chris Guarnero

C - Alex Mack

RG - Noris Malele

RT - Mitchell Schwartz

TE - Cameron Morah

WR1 - Michael Calvin

WR2 - Sean Young

WR3 - LaReylle Cunningham



DE - Rulon Davis

NT - Derrick Hill

DE - Tyson Alualu

OLB - Zack Follet

MLB - Worrell Williams

MLB - Anthony Fielder

OLB - Eddie Young

CB1 - Syd'Quan Thompson

CB2 - Chris Conte

ROV - Marcus Ezeff

FS - Bernard Hicks


The Bears begin practicing for the game today and it should be a nice change of pace for a team that has been performing very physical in camp.  "It was a good camp," said Tedford,"We improved through camp. We had a physical camp; we got a lot of our new guys acclimated to all phases of the game so it was very productive. Now it's time to hone in one game-planning."  One Bear admitted that the players were more than ready to get some live action under their belts.  Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou said, "Banging against each other, it gets old sometimes. We're ready to see some new faces across from us."

After Saturday, the Bears and their fans will know just how good this team is.  A convincing win against another big program like Michigan State could gain them some believers, while a close match could keep them outside of the polls looking in.  On the other hand, a loss could be a sign of things to come and the beginning of a very long year.  As the anticipation mounts to opening kick off, we'll keep you informed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

SJ Mercury: UC Berkeley to delay construction of sports center pending court appeal

By Doug Oakley


BERKELEY — UC Berkeley will voluntarily delay construction of a $125 million athletic training center at Memorial Stadium until a state appeals court considers a lawsuit opposing the project, university officials said Monday.  The project, which is increasing in cost by $750,000 a month due to delays from the lawsuit, could now be stalled until at least the end of September, said Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof.  The project has been held up in court since December 2006. Any further delay would be up to the appeals court, Mogulof said.

In July, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller ruled in favor of the university and against three groups who sued over the project on environmental and public safety grounds.  Two of the groups appealed the decision, but the case was kicked back to Miller because she had not yet considered a request for a new trial by one of the plaintiffs.   Miller is now set to reissue her ruling, one in which both sides believe will favor Cal but send the case back to the appeals court.

The California Oaks Foundation, the Panoramic Hill Association and the city of Berkeley all sued UC Berkeley in 2006. After the defeat in Miller's courtroom in July, the city of Berkeley decided to throw in the towel while the other two groups decided to ride out an appeal. Those who oppose the project say the university should not cut down trees to build a project that can be built elsewhere on campus and that the project will add too much traffic to the area, raising safety concerns in the event of a large-scale disaster.  "We're confident the court of appeals will reverse (Miller's decision) on a number of grounds," said Stephan Volker, a lawyer representing the California Oaks Foundation.   At his annual briefing to the media Monday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau let off some steam about the delay in construction because of the lawsuits. He said that athletes who now train in Memorial Stadium are in danger because the building is not structurally sound.

"From the very beginning, this has always been about the safety of our student athletes," Birgeneau said. "I think it's really unfortunate that all of these legal proceedings have extended the danger to our student athletes. I think the people responsible should be ashamed of ourselves."