Monday, August 31, 2009

Washington Post: Friedgen on the 22-Point Spread

By Eric Prisbell


Maryland is getting as much respect in Las Vegas as it got at ACC media day, when members of the media predicted the Terrapins would finish second-to-last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.  I have checked the spread on Saturday’s game a few times just for entertainment purposes and saw it range from 21 to 22 points. My thoughts? I think that may be a bit too much respect for California, which has some lingering issues at quarterback and wide receiver. I would not be surprised if the Golden Bears lead Maryland by three touchdowns at some point Saturday. But I would be surprised if the final margin is that large. Another reporter asked Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen about the spread the other day.

“Twenty-two?” Friedgen said. He then paused and raised his eyebrows. “Not much I can do about that, you know,” he said. “We have had other spreads in which we won, too. Still got to play it on the field.” Asked if it the large spread will anger his players, Friedgen said, “I hope it does.”  “We’re 22 point underdogs, I like it,” wide receiver Adrian Cannon said. “I want people to think about it. We’re young, but we have game experience. And there is talent. Our own expectations are the ACC championship and Orange Bowl. A lot of people have those goals, but we’re trying to do something about it.”

SF Examiner: Syd'Quan Thompson has a goal: Win a Pac-10 title

By Rob Calogne

While Jahvid Best is the most sought after player on the California Golden Bears' football team, on the field Syd'Quan Thompson is probably the most avoided.  That's what happens when you are arguably the best shutdown corner in all of college football.  I only say 'arguably' because I haven't seen all 1,500 or so corners in college ball, but I have been fortunate enough to compare him to the best corner in the pro's--Nnamdi Asomugha.  While at the Raiders' training camp, I marveled at how difficult it was for receivers to get any separation from the Cal alum.  When they zigged, so did Asomugha.  When they zagged, he did too.  When those speedy receivers put it into overdrive, he glided along without missing a beat.

Poetry in motion, right?  After thinking that it would be a while before seeing anyone as good as Asomugha, you can imagine my surprise when I found a performance equal to his right on the field of Memorial Stadium.  I found that performance from Thompson:

I'm real happy.  This has been a good camp, been a healthy camp for me.  Last year, I got injured right before--a couple weeks before the first game.  So, I'm happy I'm been able to stay healthy and set a good example for this team.

-Thompson on how happy he is with how camp went

During a session of one-on-one's with defensive backs covering receivers, I watched Thompson sit in the hip pocket of Verran Tucker--the same Tucker who won one of Cal's starting receiver jobs to start the season.  Tucker streaked ten yards up field, cut on a dime towards the sidelines, then cut quickly again up the field.  Thompson never let Tucker get farther away than a forearm's length, maybe less.  What made the battle so impressive wasn't just the fact that Thompson wasn't fooled on a double-move by the receiver.  The coverage was so extraordinary because that double-move by Tucker was impressive and the receiver still looked like he was handcuffed to Thompson.

Link to rest of article.


Sacramento Bee: Pac-10 Primer

By Joe Davidson



Some Pac-10 story lines to ponder:


1. Can Best be best?

Really now, can a Pac-10 athlete take home the Heisman Trophy if he isn't wearing USC colors? Maybe, if he has Best on the back of his jersey. Cal's explosive tailback, Jahvid Best, is being touted for the game's greatest honor, though the last Heisman not from USC from this conference was Jim Plunkett of Stanford in 1970.

Washington Times: Series business: Maryland-California

Patrick Stevens


This feature seemed like a good idea ... until I realized breaking down a single game for the first two weeks of the season could be sort of boring. But hang in there. This will be a little more interesting come conference play. For now, this constitutes a lot of reflection on last year's game between Maryland and California, a 35-27 victory at Byrd Stadium.

Series: Maryland leads 1-0.

Recent star of the series: Can't really go wrong with quarterback Chris Turner, who was 15-for-19 for 156 yards and two touchdowns in last year's victory.

Number worth noting, Part I: 80 --- Yards rushing for both Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett in last year's game. It was one of two occasions (North Carolina was the other) that both tailbacks ran for at least 80 yards.

Number worth noting, Part II: -1 --- Yards on five carries for California's Jahvid Best in the first half of last season's game. Best finished with 10 carries for 25 yards.

Number worth noting, Part III: 15 --- Margin at halftime in favor of Maryland (21-6) in the teams' only meeting. It's the fourth-largest halftime lead for Maryland since the start of the 2004 season:

28: @Maryland 28, Temple 0 (2004)

24: Maryland 24, @N.C. State 0 (2007)

17: @Maryland 24, William & Mary 7 (2006)

15: @Maryland 21, California 6 (2008)

Maryland vs. the Pac-10: This will be the Terps' third game out of 15 against a Pac-10 team (the others being the loss in the 2007 Emerald Bowl and last year's defeat of California). It will be Maryland's first trip to a Pac-10 school since losing to UCLA in 1954.

California vs. the ACC:  The Golden Bears split two games against the ACC last year, losing at Maryland while beating Miami in the Emerald Bowl. Cal's only other games against teams that were then members of the ACC are a loss and a tie in a home-and-home with Duke (1962-63) and a victory over Clemson in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day 1992.

Daily Cal: Tucker Named Starter After Spring Off the Field

Matt Kawahara

Verran Tucker spent his spring in the classroom rather than on the football field, in a self-described "fight" to remain academically eligible.  Tucker won that fight. And on Saturday it was announced that, just weeks after rejoining the team for fall camp, he has won the starting job, too.  Coach Jeff Tedford said that Tucker will start alongside Marvin Jones at receiver when the Bears play Maryland on Sept. 5. It's a rewarding stop on what has been a somewhat rocky road for Tucker, beginning when he joined Cal's fall camp late in 2008 after transferring from El Camino College.  "Last year at this time he had no idea what this offense was," Tedford said. "(Now) he's more comfortable and confident in what he's doing. He plays fast and has done a real good job."

Tucker showed a lot of promise last season, when he had the second-most receptions (21) of any Bears receiver and led the team with his average of 17.2 yards per catch. He started the final seven games in 2008. But sitting out spring ball knocked him down on the depth chart over the offseason. Instead of joining spring workouts, Tucker sat in front of a computer with an academic adviser, completing classes for his social welfare major. He would come out after practice and run sprints.  "Honestly, I felt like I was kind of forgotten," Tucker said. "Not necessarily that I was, but not being able to work out with the guys and go through what they were going through on the field-the pain, the sweat and all that. I kind of felt separated from the guys."

Link to rest of story.

Sacramento Bee: Cal has building blocks in place for long-term success

By Joe Davidson


The noise is worth it, because Jeff Tedford doesn't take it as racket.  It's a sound of progress, the chaos of construction on the Cal campus outside of the football offices. A significant stadium upgrade, for decades a pipe dream in Berkeley, is finally on the horizon, lending more credibility to the vision when Tedford, the veteran coach, sits in a recruit's home and talks about the school's academic prowess. Now he can talk facilities, too, and not have to shield the lad's eyes when he guides him through decaying Memorial Stadium.  "The construction is music to my ears," Tedford said. "Love to see it and hear it."   The real work in progress continues to be the Bears. When Tedford arrived following the 2001 season, the program needed bulldozing. He took over a Bears team that had gone 4-29 in the previous three seasons. Since then: 59 wins, six consecutive bowl games and the promise of more. This includes eternal hope for Old Blue fans – Cal alumni with gray or blue hair – who have one wish: a Rose Bowl bid before death.

"Fans around here are so starved for a Rose Bowl," Tedford said.  It's only been 51 years since the Bears last reached the Rose Bowl, when Joe Kapp played quarterback. Cal has had promising starts under Tedford only to be beset by frustration and bad bounces. In 2006, the Bears started 8-1 before falling to Arizona and USC. In 2007, a 5-0 start moved Cal to No. 2 in the national polls. It would have ascended to the top spot for the first time since 1951 but for a stunning home loss to Oregon State the next week, which led to a 7-6 finish. Last year, an early-season loss to Maryland derailed things. Now with a solid offensive line to pave the way for Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best, and a defense that returns eight starters, Cal is in position to challenge USC for the Pacific-10 Conference title, the Rose Bowl and maybe more. Best is the focus. The junior is a tremendous breakaway threat who rushed for 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008. He has recovered from foot and elbow surgery and aims to extend Cal's successive seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher to eight (the Pac-10 record is 10, by USC, from 1972 to '81). "I am ready to roll," Best said. "We all are. We feel like it's our turn to win the Pac-10."

Quarterback Kevin Riley has had a mixed run at Cal and promises to produce a big season. His first career start was in that 2007 game against Oregon State. He tried to run for the winning touchdown in the closing seconds but was tackled in bounds, thus denying the Bears even a shot at a tying field goal. Tedford alternated Riley and Nate Longshore last season, and consistency was a problem. Cal lost its three starting linebackers, including Worrell Williams of Grant High School, but the secondary is the foundation. The unit is anchored by preseason All-American Syd Thompson of Grant. "He's been a mainstay in our program for a long time," Tedford said. "We really depend on his leadership on defense." Tedford nearly took the San Diego State job before an 11th-hour plea from Cal in 2001. Now he's thinking long term.

"There's so much invested in Cal," Tedford said. "I would like to stay here forever."


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oakland Tribune: Cal freshman to get playing time

Jonathan Okanes


Cal coach Jeff Tedford needed no convincing that Isi Sofele was big enough to play major college football. He has some pretty striking evidence that someone of Sofele's diminutive stature can get the job done.  In the 2003 season opener, Tedford watched Kansas State tailback Darren Sproles run for 175 yards in Cal's 42-28 loss to the Wildcats. Sofele's 5-foot-7, 170-pound frame is similar to Sproles', and Tedford believes Sofele can make an impact — sooner rather than later. Sofele is the only true freshman Tedford has said will definitely play this season. A running back at Cottonwood High in Salt Lake City, Sofele has been taking reps at wide receiver for the Bears. He will play on Cal's kick and punt coverage teams and could see time as a kick returner. "He's quick, elusive, he has really good ball skills and he's a really good special teams player," Tedford said. "You can put him in a lot of places. He's done a really nice job of comprehending the offense, about as good as anyone." Despite rushing for 1,920 yards as a high school senior, Sofele has been working primarily with the receivers so far. But Tedford said he would consider using Sofele at running back as well. "There have been a lot of guys like (Sproles)," Tedford said. "The thing about it is, he's small, but he's really strong. He really packs a punch. He can block; he's physical. That's what you worry about with a small guy. Is he physical enough? He's really physical."

One of the few issues left to be decided is at kicker, where incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio is battling David Seawright and incoming freshman Vince D'Amato for kickoff and field goal duties. Tedford said he wants to see each of them perform in more situations at practice. Tavecchio appears to be the front-runner. ... Star tailback Jahvid Best missed practice Thursday because of an appointment, according to Tedford. The Bears were off Friday and Best is expected to return to practice today. ... Backup linebacker Robert Mullins will be out four to six weeks because of a sprained knee. Safety Marcus Ezeff and tight end Skylar Curran are day to day with ankle sprains. ... Today is Fan Appreciation Day at Memorial Stadium from noon to 2 p.m. Players and coaches will be available for autographs and photos.



Washington Post: For Terps, 'Mature' Turner Is the Man at Quarterback

By Eric Prisbell

The 21st start of Chris Turner's career will be unlike any other he has made in a Maryland uniform. When he takes his first snap in next Saturday's season opener at 12th-ranked California, no questions will loom about another quarterback lurking over his shoulder.  After assuming the starting job because of a teammate's misfortune -- Jordan Steffy's concussion in 2007 and thumb injury in 2008 -- in each of the past two years, Turner now possesses undisputed ownership of the job, the offense and, by all accounts, the entire team. Once an uncertain wild card, the fifth-year senior now stands as the player Maryland can least afford to lose.  "He knows he is the guy," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "He knows that if we are going to win, we've got to go through him. He has taken that on his shoulders and run with it."

Link to rest of article.


SF Examiner: Tedford releases depth chart for Maryland

By Rob Calonge

Coach Jeff Tedford released his final depth chart prior to the start of the season on Saturday.  Most of the first team on both sides of the ball won't surprise many Bear Backers, but there are a few revelations.  As reported on Monday, Kevin Riley will be the starter at quarterback for the Golden Bears.  He'll be backed up by Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney--in that order. Another non-surpise is Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen as the top two tailbacks on the roster.  Is it too late to jump on that bandwagon and predict 3,000 yards rushing between the two for the season?  The offensive line is set with Mike Tepper at left tackle, Matt Summers-Gavin at left guard, Chris Guarnero at center, Justin Cheadle at right guard, and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.  The only surprise out of that group, to me, is the right guard position.  Senior Chet Teofilo was a front-runner heading into camp, but Cheadle really came on to take the job.

The fullback position will be given to senior Brian Holley, and he'll have Will Kapp backing him up.  Once again, the Golden Bears are well-stocked at this position. At the tight end position, Anthony Miller, Skylar Curran, Spencer Ladner, and Jarrett Sparks are on the chart in that order.

Link to rest of article.

ESPN: A Look at Cal's New Depth Chart

Ted Miller

California's depth chart will be distributed on Monday, but here's a look at some of the interesting changes from spring.

  • Nyan Boateng is now Marvin Jones' backup at Z receiver. He was the No. 1 X -- flanker -- coming out of spring.
  • Verran Tucker is No. 1 at the X.
  • The guards are Matt Summers-Gavin and Justin Cheadle. They were Mark Boskovich and Chet Teofilo after spring.
  • Anthony Miller is No. 1 at tight end because Tad Smith is out with a knee injury.
  • Brian Holley won the fullback job.
  • The depth chart doesn't list a slot receiver as it did before, when Alex Lagemann and Charles Satchell were Nos. 1 and 2. True freshman Isi Sofele is probably in the mix there.
  • The linebackers are Eddie Young and Mike Mohamed on the outside and D.J. Holt and Mychal Kendricks inside. Mohamed was inside after spring and Devin Bishop is now a backup inside after being No. 1 outside.
  • The starting secondary remains the same, but Jesse Brooks is a backup safety -- instead of D.J. Campbell --- and Josh Hill is Darian Hagan's backup instead of Chris Conte, who's now at safety.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio is the No. 1 kicker over David Seawright.
  • Syd'Quan Thompson is the No. 1 punt returner; Jahvid Best will return kicks.

Link to rest of article.

New York Times: Heisman Hopefuls

By Thayer Evans



Jahvid Best, California running back: A threat to rush for more than 2,000 yards, but injuries are a concern.

Fox News: Pac-10 foes won't back down to USC

By Rich Cirminiello


Cal and Oregon enter the season as the two primary contenders. The Bears have as much talent as anyone outside of Los Angeles and a bona fide Heisman contender in RB Jahvid Best. The potential is there for this to be the best team in the Jeff Tedford era, provided he can earn his guru title with inconsistent QB Kevin Riley.

Cal Athletics: Annual Fan Appreciation Day Another Huge Success


More than a half-hour after the team's annual Contra Costa Times Fan Appreciation Day was scheduled to end, all but two of the tents set up for the event had been torn down by facilities workers and the school's marketing staff. But Cal football head coach Jeff Tedford wasn't quite finished showing his appreciation for loyal Cal football fans on this gorgeous day at Memorial Stadium.  When the tent being used by Tedford was finally folded up, he simply moved forward a bit and continued to sign autographs and take pictures with fans for another few minutes until every last requested was granted.  An estimated 5,000 fans took the opportunity to meet the team's players and coaches, get autographs, pose for pictures enjoy some free food, take part in football drills, pose with the Victory Cannon and much more.

Cal 2009 football posters were given away while tickets for the upcoming season and merchandise were on sale, including the team's 2009 Cal Football Official Game Day Tee that fans are encouraged to wear to participate in a Blue Out of the season-opener against Maryland at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 5 (7 p.m.). For more information, visit The successful event that was sponsored by AT&T, Coca-Cola, Contra Costa Times, Odwalla, Rubio's and The Sports Gallery

San Jose Mercury: Receiver Tucker makes grade in class and now on field

Jonathan Okanes


When Marvin Jones and Alex Lagemann emerged during spring practice, it was easy to forget about Verran Tucker. Now, Tucker has made his spring a distant memory.  Cal released its updated depth chart and Tucker is listed as a starter at wide receiver. Coach Jeff Tedford confirmed after practice that Tucker will start alongside Jones on Saturday in the season opener against Maryland. Tucker started the final seven games last season and finished fifth on the Bears with 21 catches. He averaged a team-best 17.2 yards per catch and hauled in three touchdown passes. But concerns about his academic eligibility forced him to miss almost all of spring practice. While the rest of his teammates were on the field, Tucker was in the coaches' office along with an academic adviser working on two social welfare classes.  He would join the team only at the end of practice for conditioning drills, and many times stayed afterward to do more running with Tedford or wide receivers coach Kevin Daft. The missed time forced Tucker to start fall camp at the bottom of the depth chart.  But armed with good academic standing and renewed confidence, Tucker slowly worked his way back to the top, especially coming on during the final stages of training camp.

"I felt like I was kind of forgotten about," Tucker said. "Not that I necessarily was, but ... I kind of felt a little separated from the guys. When I came back, it felt good to be back on the field with all the guys."  Tucker demonstrated flashes of his potential last season — four catches for 68 yards vs. Arizona and brilliant one-handed catch against USC are examples. One of many receivers playing their first full year of college football last year, Tucker was expected to get even better with experience. But his absence from spring ball set him back.

"He's worked hard through the summer," Tedford said. "We took him off the field in the spring for academic reasons, to make sure he got his stuff done. He worked hard in that way, too. He got that done. In the last two weeks, he's really made a strong move."

Wide receiver Michael Calvin (knee) has returned to practice and is expected to be available for the opener.

Running back Jahvid Best practiced at full capacity after missing Thursday's workout because of an appointment.

SF Chronicle: Hitting the books keeps Cal's Tucker on the field

Ron Kroichick


Verran Tucker spent spring practice sequestered in the Cal coaches' offices, next to a computer, sitting alongside his academic adviser. As his fellow wide receivers ran routes and caught passes in Memorial Stadium, Tucker dived into his studies in a feverish attempt to stay eligible.  When training camp began earlier this month, Tucker found himself with the third-team offense. His academic troubles had set him back on the football field, shoving him into the crowded pack of Cal receivers vying for playing time in the 2009 season.  Fast forward to Saturday, when coach Jeff Tedford released his season-opening depth chart. Right there, starting at one wide receiver spot: Verran Tucker, No. 86. Tucker, a senior, and sophomore Marvin Jones will start Saturday's opener against Maryland. That counted as surprising news, given Tucker's meandering offseason journey, when he all but vanished from the radar.

"Honestly, I felt like I was kind of forgotten about," Tucker said of the spring. "I felt separated from the guys." He played well enough in camp to surge past Nyan Boateng, who led the Bears last season with 29 catches. The Bears often use three-receiver formations, so Boateng and Jeremy Ross (and possibly one or two others) should collect significant playing time.  Even so, Tucker's return to prominence was striking. He caught 21 passes for Cal last season, after transferring from El Camino College. His average of 17.2 yards per catch led the Bears and stamped Tucker as the team's best deep threat. But his promising football future teetered in doubt because of his problems in the classroom. Tucker typically followed those springtime study sessions with drifting outside for conditioning work, to stay in decent shape. One time, he vomited after relentlessly running 110-yard sprints, back and forth across the field. It was a dual and daunting challenge, trying to get on track academically while not falling too far behind in football. "If I was able to make it through what I did this spring and summer, I don't think anything is going to be able to stop us this year," Tucker said. " I've grown a lot as a football player and as a man since I came to this school."

Said Tedford, in explaining why he elevated Tucker: "Speed, great hands; he knows the offense. Last year at this time, Verran had no idea what this offense was. Now he's comfortable and confident in what he's doing." Saturday's depth chart revealed no other grand surprises. Mike Mohamed and Eddie Young will start at outside linebacker, with Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt manning the inside spots. Brian Holley earned the fullback job, with Will Kapp as his backup. Giorgio Tavecchio is listed as the placekicker, though Tedford insisted he and the coaches have not officially decided between Tavecchio and David Seawright.  Maybe the most significant news Saturday was the sight of No. 4, back at practice and darting through holes with familiar quickness. Jahvid Best missed Thursday's workout, the latest of several absences this month as he struggled to shake lingering pain in his left big toe.  Best appeared healthy - and as fast as ever - seven days ahead of the season opener. "It was just something we needed to rest," Tedford said of Best's injury, "so he could be 100 percent. He could have kept aggravating it every day, and that wouldn't have done anyone any good."

Briefly: Wide receiver Michael Calvin is back at practice after arthroscopic knee surgery and will be available against Maryland. ... Backup linebacker Robert Mullins, a promising redshirt freshman, will miss four to six weeks with a sprained knee.

SF Examiner: Tedord on USC: 'I don't really care'

By Rob Calonge

The California Golden Bears practiced in warmer conditions on Thursday, but they were still in good spirits afterwards.  The team stayed later for a little pep rally organized for incoming freshman, and spirits were high at the conclusion of the event.  So high were the 'spirits' of the crowd, and the team leading the crowd in cheers, it made it difficult to hear what Coach Tedford was saying in the post-practice interview session with the media. One thing came across loud and clear while Tedford was being cross-examined: Whatever is going on with USC doesn't make a bit of difference to him right now.

When asked if the defense would be licking their chops when they faced true freshman Matt Barkley, who Pete Carroll named as his starter, Coach Tedford was distant as he responded with, "I don't know.  I mean, we don't play those guys for five weeks.  So, we'll see at that point how that's going.  They're not really on our mind right now.  We're focused on Maryland." With more than a few reporters around, it only took a few minutes for someone to follow up on his response by asking if it was difficult not to notice what was happening down south due to their success over the last few years.  "No, not at all.  I don't really--I don't care," Tedford flatly stated.  "I really don't care.  We've got a lot of football before we play USC.  Everybody wants to talk about USC.  We got a lot, a lot of hard games before we play USC, starting out with Maryland.  That's the number one focus right now, is we have our hands full with Maryland."

Link to rest of article.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oregonian: Watch out for the Golden Bears

Ken Goe


Looking for somebody to sideswipe USC and grab control of the Pac-10 this season? Look no farther than California.  Why? Two words: Jahvid Best. Best, who rushed for 1,580 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry, gives the Golden Bears an explosion factor nobody else in the conference can match.

Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers was the Pac-10 offense player of the year, and Quizz is a dangerous guy slicing and dicing between the tackles. But Best is a home run threat, from anywhere on the field.

Cal's junior tailback missed part of fall camp with a toe injury. But he's been full-go lately, and should be ready for the Bears' Sept. 5, season-opener against visiting Maryland.  Coach Jeff Tedford's teams always have run effectively. The Bears have had an 1,000-yard rusher for seven straight seasons. But Best is special, and he will be operating behind a big, physical, talented offensive line.

If Cal's passing game improves, and the offense is in balance, Best becomes even more dangerous.  Junior Kevin Riley has the starting quarterback job all to himself this season, after he and the now-departed Nate Longshore were in and out of the lineup like yo-yos last year.

Riley, who starred at Beaverton High, always has had the guts and the moxie for the position, and he was 7-2 last season as the starter. But Tedford wasn't happy with his inconsistency or his .507 completion percentage.  So Riley worked hard on his throwing motion in the offseason, then held off a challenge from 6-foot-5 pocket-passer Brock Mansion in camp by hitting his receivers and demonstrating a firm command of the offense.

The Bears' 3-4 defense returns all three down linemen and all four starters in what might be the conference's best secondary. Cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson is a premier pass defender.  The biggest issue on this team is at linebacker. In the 3-4, the linebackers have to be playmakers. Cal will be replacing all four, and the new guys won't have long to get their feet wet. The Bears are at Oregon on Sept. 26, then home the next week for USC.  It's a two-game stretch that will define just what kind of title contender Cal will be. If the Bears keep Best healthy, they have a shot.

SF Examiner: Isi Sofele will play as a true freshman

Rob Calogne

After the Golden Bears took a day off from the grind of training camp on Tuesday, they were back and Jeff Tedford was happy with their effort.  He especially was impressed with his receivers and tight ends.

"Today, practice, usually after a day off, they come back and they're a little rusty," Tedford began, "This is probably the best practice we've ever had after a day off.  Really sharp throwing and catching the football today."

In the group of receivers this season will be scatback freshman Isi Sofele.  Sofele, who looks even better in person than he did on his highlight video, has practiced in the backfield, at receiver, and as a returner on punts and kicks.  Coach Tedford didn't divulge his entire gameplan for the freshman, but he did mention him along with the receivers when discussing some of the group that has really come on during this training camp.  Verran Tucker, Jeremy Ross, Nyan Boateng, Marvin Jones, Charles Satchell, and Sofele are receivers that Tedford mentioned as coming on this season, saying, "I feel pretty good about the group of receivers."

Link to rest of story.

SF Chronicle: Cal's starting kicker still up in Air

Ron Kroichick


Coach Jeff Tedford resolved some personnel issues after Wednesday's practice at Memorial Stadium. Justin Cheadle and Matt Summers-Gavin will start at the guard spots in the season opener against Maryland, Anthony Miller will start at tight end and Brian Holley probably will start at fullback.  Left unresolved: Who will trot onto the field and potentially decide games with his foot?

The duel for the placekicking job includes sophomores Giorgio Tavecchio and David Seawright and true freshman Vince D'Amato. Tedford declined to name a winner Wednesday, saying he and the coaching staff need more time to decide.  "I guess maybe they don't want whoever is going to be kicking to know early, so they can cruise," Tavecchio said. "They want us to push all the way to the end, which is probably a good thing. That keeps us all under a little bit of pressure." Seawright earned the job last year and was 5-for-7 on field-goal tries (over five games), before a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. Tavecchio, from Campolindo High in Moraga, kicked for the final eight games and went 9-for-13.

D'Amato made his presence known in training camp, too. After one practice last week, with the entire team due to run three "gassers," Tedford gave D'Amato a chance to go double or nothing. His 42-yard kick sailed through the uprights, to the loud approval of his teammates.  "David being healthy and Vince coming in really pushed me, and I appreciate that," Tavecchio said. "And I hope I pushed them to make them better. We all kind of kicked it up an extra notch because of that competition."

Freshmen to watch: One name to remember is Ise Sofele, a fleet and diminutive (5-foot-7, 170) wide receiver from Salt Lake City. Tedford said Sofele is one of the few true freshmen likely to play this season, possibly on kickoff returns.  Another true freshman who might not redshirt is Brian Schwenke, a 6-3, 260-pound guard from Oceanside (San Diego County).

Briefly: Linebacker Eddie Young (concussion) and safety Marcus Ezeff (sprained ankle) missed practice Wednesday, though they're expected back in a couple of days. ... Tailback Dasarte Yarnway, a freshman from Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco, needs foot surgery and will miss the entire season.

UC Berkeley PD Crack Kidnapping Case


“The case broke after Garrido was spotted Tuesday with two children as he tried to enter the University of California, Berkeley, campus to hand out religious literature. The officers said he was acting suspiciously toward the children. They questioned him and did a background check, determining he was a parolee, and informed his parole officer.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New York Times Myerberg Ranks Cal #9

Paul Myerberg


Location: Berkeley, Cal.

Nickname: Golden Bears.

2008 Countdown ranking: No. 22.

What I said in last year’s preview:

The Countdown believes the 2008 Golden Bears will more closely resemble the 10-win team of 2006 than the disappointing 2007 squad that disappeared down the stretch. So how good can Cal be? Not the best in the Pac-10, at least in my eyes, but certainly good enough to win nine or ten games. The good news, at least with the schedule, is that the Bears get Oregon and Arizona State at home; however, the bad news is that the Bears need to go to U.S.C. and Oregon State. Over all, I predict a 9-3 finish, 6-3 in the Pac-10.

Postseason re-ranking: No. 21.

2008 record and recap: (9-4, 6-3). A very nice bounce-back season for California after disappointing in 2007. The Golden Bears entered 2008 with much lower expectations, not ranked in either poll after starting the 2007 season as the 12th-ranked team in the F.B.S. But an under-the-radar approach will only get you so far: Cal needed to get a vastly improved effort on defense, which it did. The Bears allowed 92 less total points on the season, an average of roughly a touchdown (with an extra point) less per game, and gave up only 315.2 yards per game. That output was the lowest of the Jeff Tedford era, as well the fewest the Bears had allowed in a season since 1994. I’ve got to be honest: when I think Cal football, I don’t necessarily think defense. That changed last fall, and if the Bears can get similar production from this side of the ball in 2009, the team will be a realistic national title contender. However, Cal must begin beating the better teams on its schedule; last fall saw the Bears drop two of three against Top 25 competition.

High point: The season’s most impressive win was a 26-16 victory over then-No. 24 Oregon, as the Ducks would go on to rank among the top 15 teams in the F.B.S. at year’s end. Just as the victory over U.O. would reveal itself to be more impressive as the season progressed, an opening weekend victory over Michigan State (by 38-31) looked better and better following State’s nine-win finish. After Tedford first loss in the rivalry in 2007, Cal topped Stanford by 37-16 to reclaim the top spot in Big Game bragging rights.

Low point: Cal followed up its solid win over Oregon with two disappointing losses, both to top 25 competition: by 17-3 to then-No. 7 U.S.C. and by 34-21 to then-No. 23 Oregon State. The Bears managed only 165 yards of total offense in the loss to U.S.C., including 27 yards rushing on 26 attempts. A late comeback fell short in a 35-27 road loss to Maryland on Sept. 13.

Tidbit: It’s the case with most teams, but especially true with Cal: win the turnover battle, win the game. Last fall saw the Bears improve its turnover margin by a whopping three per game, from a -1.2 margin in 2007 to +1.8. That is a staggering improvement. Imagine if, before every game, you knew your team would force two more turnovers than it would commit? In all, Cal is 34-3 under Tedford when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent; it is 13-19 when those roles are reversed. Continuing with this theme, Cal is an impressive 22-1 in Pac-10 play when committing fewer turnovers.

Tidbit (awkward edition): For those interested in hearing me ramble incoherently and awkwardly with the great Wiz of Odds, check out our podcast on his Web site, completed earlier this afternoon. What was discussed? In no particular order, the method behind the Countdown’s madness; how I spend a typical Saturday afternoon (knitting, mostly); the role my brother plays in forming the final 120-1 list; a few programs on the rise in 2009; and how I feel about recruiting Web sites. In retrospect, that last part came across as very Andy Rooney-like. If you listen closely, in the first minute you should be able to hear the sound of a Diet Coke bottle spilling on the floor, where it soaked my sandals. The roar of construction workers attending to the side of my building can be heard throughout.

Former players in the N.F.L.: 35 – DT Lorenzo Alexander (Washington Redskins), CB Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland Raiders), LB Tully Banta-Cain (New England Patriots), C David Binn (San Diego Chargers), LB Desmond Bishop (Green Bay Packers), QB Kyle Boller (St. Louis Rams), OG Brian De La Puente (Seattle Seahawks), S Thomas DeCoud (Atlanta Falcons), LB Anthony Felder (San Diego Chargers), LB Zack Follett (Detroit Lions), RB Justin Forsett (Seattle Seahawks), LB Scott Fujita (New Orleans Saints), OG Mike Gibson (Philadelphia Eagles), S Matt Giordano (Indianapolis Colts), TE Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta Falcons), P Nick Harris (Detroit Lions), WR Lavelle Hawkins (Tennessee Titans), CB Dante Hughes (Indianapolis Colts), WR DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles), C L.P. LaDouceur (Dallas Cowboys), K Ryan Longwell (Minnesota Vikings), RB Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills), C Alex Mack (Cleveland Browns), DT Brandon Mebane (Seattle Seahawks), TE Cameron Morrah (Seattle Seahawks), OG Ryan O’Callaghan (New England Patriots), CB Deltha O’Neal (Houston Texans), C Marvin Philip (Buffalo Bills), QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), TE Craig Stevens (Tennessee Titans), FB Bryon Storer (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), FB Will Ta’ufo’ou (Chicago Bears), OT Langston Walker (Buffalo Bills), OT Mark Wilson (Oakland Raiders).

Top five N.F.L. players from California: Tony Gonzalez is the undisputed star of a mediocre list, especially for a team in the Countdown’s top 10.

1. TE Tony Gonzalez (K.C., Atlanta; 1997-present)

2. LB Les Richter (Los Angeles; 1954-62)

3. LB Hardy Nickerson (Pit., T.B., Jack., G.B.; 1987-2002)

4. RB Chuck Muncie (N.O., S.D.; 1976-84)

5. QB Craig Morton (Dal., Giants, Denver; 1965-82)


Conference: Pac-10.

Head coach: Jeff Tedford (Fresno State ’83), 59-30 over seven seasons as coach. His winning percentage (66.2) is the third best in school history, trailing only Andy Smith (79.9 from 1916-25) and Pappy Waldorf (67.0 from 1947-56). Tedford turned Cal into a winner so quickly (7-5 his first season) that many have overlooked the situation he inherited: The program went 16-39 in the five seasons before his arrival (the forgettable Tom Holmoe era), bottoming out at 1-10 in 2001. The Bears have experienced nearly unprecedented success under the former Oregon offensive coordinator (1998-2001), finishing in the top 25 four of the last five seasons. How does he do it? With a dynamic offense, for starters, one typically paced by his latest project under center. Tedford has tutored college quarterback stars like Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers; each of the six were selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft. System quarterbacks, for the most part? Perhaps – despite the fact that Dilfer is a Super Bowl champ and that Rodgers looks to have the goods – though their lack of pro success speaks even more highly of Tedford’s coaching acumen. This year’s Golden Bears will ride the running game, not its quarterback, illustrating Teford’s flexibility and penchant for adapting to his personnel – the mark of a top offensive mind. Prior to serving as the offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti at Oregon, Tedford coached six years at his alma mater (1992-1997), the first year as quarterbacks coach and the final five as offensive coordinator. He has yet to suffer a losing season at Cal, twice winning coach of the year honors (2002, 2004) and twice winning 10 games (2004, 2006). In 2006, the Bears were co-Pac-10 champions with Southern California. Cal is 5-1 in bowl games under Tedford, making him the only head coach in the history of the program with more than two bowl victories. And, most importantly, Tedford is 6-1 in the Big Game; Cal lost seven straight to Stanford prior to his arrival. You cannot overestimate what that means to the Cal fan base.

Returning starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense).

Key losses: I don’t think there’s any question that the biggest loss on offense is center Alex Mack, the 2008 first-team all-conference and second-team all-American selection. The three-year starter was also a two-time finalist for the Rimington Trophy, though he never won the award. Mack and Oregon’s Max Unger shared the spotlight over the their respective times in the starting lineup, alternating years as a first-team all-conference pick and giving the Pac-10 two of the best centers in the nation. However, it was Mack, and not Unger, who won the Pac-10’s Morris Trophy – given to the conference’s top offensive lineman – not once, but twice: 2007 and 2008. He is one of two players in Pac-10 history to win the award in two seasons. Noris Malele, a 2008 second-team all-conference pick, started 12 of 13 games next to Mack at right guard. Malele started at that spot in 35 of his final 39 games. The skill positions return largely intact, with the biggest loss being the would-be senior tight end Cameron Morrah, who elected to enter the N.F.L. draft with a season of eligibility remaining. While his athletic ability was never in doubt, Morrah did not earn significant playing time until his junior season. He did play well last fall, ranking second on the team in receptions (27) and third in yards (326) while pacing the Bears in touchdown grabs (eight). The receiver corps must also replace key reserve LaReylle Cunningham, who made 18 catches for 276 yards (15.3 yards per reception) as a senior. Of course, Cal will be without the services of quarterback Nate Longshore, who started all or parts of the last three seasons. Yes, his play was sometimes erratic, and Longshore never played up to the level many expected of him when he took over for Aaron Rodgers as a redshirt freshman. Still, he concluded his college career tied for third on the school’s all-time list with 51 touchdown passes.

The losses on defense, though small in number, are focused mainly at linebacker. This is unfortunate, as Cal’s 3-4 defense places a premium on a talented and athletic starting unit. There is no question that the departed trio fit that bill. All three losses hurt, but none more so than that of Zack Follett. One of the Countdown’s personal favorites over the past few seasons – largely because of his motor and his propensity for oddly dyed hair color – Follett was a first-team all-conference selection as a senior, when he led Cal with 23 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. His tackles for loss total was larger than his two next closest competitors combined. A four-year contributor, Follett started in the middle, moved to the weakside as a sophomore, and excelled upon moving to the strongside as a junior. He was an excellent college football player. Both Anthony Felder and Worrell Williams, also departed, were honorable mention all-conference picks. Felder, who also honorable mention honors as a junior, led the Bears with 93 stops a season ago. He was an important four-year contributor, though his sophomore season was limited due to injuries. Williams joined Felder in the middle of Cal’s 3-4 set, making 64 tackles, a sack and an interception. Defensive line depth took a slight hit following the graduation of end Rulon Davis and tackle Mika Kane. Despite being limited to nine games as a senior, Davis posted 19 tackles and 4 sacks, the latter of which tied for third on the team. Kane (14 tackles) made three starts as a senior, though he remained an important member of the line rotation even when not in the starting lineup.

Players to watch: Cal has trotted out an 1,000-yard rusher in each of Tedford’s seven seasons with the program, with the junior Jahvid Best the latest to continue this sterling streak. To put it mildly, Best is a worthy addition to Cal’s recent history of able running backs. Alright, I’m just going to throw it out there: There are a lot of players in the F.B.S., a lot of great players, but no other player keeps me on the edge of my seat like Best, the most electric, explosive ball-carrier in the nation. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, as shown by his 19 carries of 20 yards or more, seven of 60 or more and three of 80 or more. He finished his breakout sophomore campaign with 1,580 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns, the latter tying for the school record; his 8.1 yards per carry – are you kidding me – set a new school mark. Best is clearly among the nation’s elite, regardless of position, and a definite contender for the Heisman Trophy. In fact, he’s the top candidate outside the high-profile quarterback class. But he’s not the only show in town in the Cal backfield. Backing up Best, and rushing for 715 yards in the process, was the sophomore Shane Vereen. He’ll occupy the same role again this season. The Bears had an uncharacteristically average season at quarterback last season, one fact that must change if this team hopes to challenge U.S.C. for Pac-10 supremacy. Best can only do so much, and the team must find improved play from the junior Kevin Riley, who beat out a pair of challengers to retain his starting role. Riley was not terrible last fall, throwing for 1,360 yards with a strong 14-6 touchdown to interception ratio, but he completed only 50.7 percent of his passes. Riley’s a winner, however, as shown by his 7-2 record as the starter last fall. Cal has hopes that a more experienced receiving corps will pay dividends in the passing game. The senior Nyan Boateng returns after leading the Bears in receptions (29) and receiving yards (439) last fall, as does the senior Verran Tucker (21 grabs for 362 yards, a team-best 17.2 yards per reception). The junior Jeremy Ross will also be in the mix, while the team may get production from some yet-untested youngsters, such as the sophomores Alex Lagemann, Marvin Jones and Michael Calvin. The offensive will miss Mack and Malele on the inside, to be sure. But the group will remain solid, thanks to the healthy return of the senior left tackle Mike Tepper from injury and three additional returning starters. Tepper’s return – he missed all of 2008 – pushes the talented sophomore Mitchell Schwartz to the right side, where he made three starts as a rookie (he also made 10 starts on the blindside). The junior Mark Boskovich, a first-team all-conference pick last fall, will again man the lft guard spot, with Mack’s open center spot likely filled by the junior Chris Guarnero, a three-game starter at guard in 2008. The senior Chet Teofilo, who made six starts at tackle a year ago (three on the left side, three on the right) will move inside to right guard. This current alignment allows the five best linemen on the team to be in the starting lineup.

This should be a very strong Cal defense. Its strength is certainly in an opportunistic secondary, which returns all four starters from a season ago. This quartet combined to make 12 interceptions on the year. The undisputed star of the group is the senior cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, an all-conference pick last fall and a heavy favorite for all-American honors in his final season. Thompson has started all 39 games of his already splendid career, making six interceptions and 26 pass breakups. He’s not just a cover corner, however, as shown by his 70 stops last year (7.5 for loss, 2 sacks) and his career total of 208, which leads all active Bears. The junior cornerback Darian Hagan joins Thompson. He takes on the unenviable task of getting the most attention from opposing quarterbacks (due to Thompson’s talents), but has acquitted himself well as the second corner. He made three interceptions of his own last fall, and led the team with 15 pass breakups. The seniors Brett Johnson (43 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Marcus Ezeff (66 tackles, 3 picks) return at safety, giving Cal a talented and experienced defensive backfield. This group makes life difficult for Pac-10 quarterbacks. While the linebacker corps must be rebuilt (more on that in a moment), Cal will be strong up front. The team plays mainly with three down linemen, obviously, and all three return in 2009: ends Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan and nose tackle Derrick Hill. Alualu and Jordan are terrific. Alualu, a senior, earned second-team all-conference honors last fall, when he made 62 tackles (11 for loss) and 6 sacks. His tackle total was the most by a Cal lineman since 1995. Alualu has started all 13 games in each of the last two seasons, while Jordan, a junior, broke into the starting lineup for seven games in 2008. He matched Alualu with 11 tackles for loss, tying for second on the team, and added four sacks and an interception. Jordan was an honorable mention all-conference selection, but he has the talent to earn first-team honors as a junior. Hill started nine games last fall, splitting time with Kane, but takes on the mantle of the team’s top interior lineman in 2009. Depth may be a concern in the middle, as the redshirt freshman Kendrick Payne currently stands as the team’s top reserve. The senior Kevin Bemoli and the junior Mike Costanzo, a former offensive lineman, round out the depth chart at nose tackle.

Click the link above to read the rest of the article.

Washington Post: Coach Says Maryland Players are Sore, Beat Up

We are in the middle of what Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen calls the “dog days” of camp. He said players are tired, sore, beat up.

“They are looking to get the hell out of this stuff and get ready to play a game,” Friedgen said. “We still have work to do. I told them Tuesday morning: ‘Here is where your leadership shows up. I’m not going to say a word today. Let’s see if you guys can do it on your own.’ Our effort was better.

“I am still pretty pleased with the effort. I am seeing a lot of guys stick their head in there, they are not moving their feet to get over there because they don’t have any feet right now.”

Maryland’s final scrimmage will take place Thursday afternoon. This one will be closed to reporters, so we’ll only get statistics afterward and talk to players and coaches. Friedgen would like to play four quarters Thursday – the team played three quarters in Sunday’s second scrimmage – but he will wait and see what the injury situation is Thursday. He obviously does not want to get anyone hurt, and players need to start getting their legs back.


Daily Cal: Cal Has No Chance of Winning BCS

Read Joseph Cannon’s article here.

ESPN: Ranking the Pac-10 Running Backs

Ted Miller


California: Everyone knows about Jahvid Best, but backup Shane Vereen rushed for 715 yards last year. And the cupboard isn't empty behind them.

Sporting News: Best of the Pac-10



Best thing about blocking for California RB Jahvid Best...

California OT MIKE TEPPER says: "It's the moment right after the play starts. The play begins and you execute the blocking assignment, when, all of a sudden, a blur of No. 4 goes flashing right by you. You run down the field following as he makes defenders look absolutely ridiculous. You can do nothing but smile and chuckle."

ESPN: Pac-10 Superlatives

Ted Milller


Cal Excerpts:

1.Offensive player of the year: California running back Jahvid Best: If Best stays healthy he should post huge numbers. And if his team wins and he stays healthy, he should get an invitation to join all those quarterbacks in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

7. Coach of the year: California's Jeff Tedford. While we're not ready to claim he will break USC's seven-year stranglehold on the Pac-10 title just yet, Tedford has a team that's good enough to earn a BCS bowl berth even if USC manages to remain on top.

8. Game of the year: USC at California, Oct. 3. We won't have to wait long for the Pac-10 game of the year. And it's worth noting both teams will be tested before this date. USC visits Ohio State and California must survive consecutive road games at Minnesota and -- egad! -- Oregon.

SF Chronicle: Challenging USC rides on Best's electric moves

Ron Kroichick


The replay of Jahvid Best's 80-yard touchdown run against Washington State last season includes uncommon visual evidence of his ability. Best bursts through the hole and abruptly cuts to his left, leaving Cougars safety Chima Nwachukwu grasping at air.   As Best plants his left foot and makes his sharp cut, a cloud of black granulated rubber rises into the air. His technique is so precise - shoulders square, quickly changing directions in one step - he literally leaves his mark right there on the field at Martin Stadium.

This lingering image illustrates why Cal enters the 2009 season with abundant optimism. The Bears still must revive their passing game and prove they can replace a trio of talented linebackers, but their hopes of challenging USC for Pac-10 supremacy begin with Best.  He counts as one of the most dynamic running backs in the land, a unique blend of big-time speed (2007 state high school champion in the 100-meter dash), dazzling moves and studiousness. The result last season was 1,580 yards rushing, including seven runs of 60-plus yards, and a school-record average of 8.1 per carry.

It's not simply that Best can zoom downfield. As Nwachukwu learned on the 80-yard jaunt, he doesn't always run in a straight line. "When Jahvid makes a cut," Cal running backs coach Ron Gould said, "he's making it at full speed." Best's running style took time to evolve. He didn't play football until he was a freshman at Salesian High in Richmond, and even then he recalled his style as "all instinct" - get the ball and run, oblivious to footwork and blocking schemes and football's finer points.

Now he's fully immersed in lessons from Gould, an effervescent coach who has tutored J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett in his 12 years at Cal. Gould refined Best's footwork, taught him the virtues of tempo and showed him how to use his blockers.  Along the way, Best learned to save his speed for the right moment. As one of Gould's favorite sayings goes, "It's not speed to the hole, it's speed through the hole."  "There are a couple of plays we have to run patiently," Best said. "As a freshman, I was still kind of in the mode of, 'Just get the ball and run.' So I'd miss my hole because I wasn't being patient. Now I'm at the point where I can control myself and remember my techniques."

Or, as Gould said, "Each run we have requires different footwork, different tempo, different speed. Jahvid understands if he's too fast on certain plays, that's going to screw up the blocking for the offensive line." The system obviously works. At least one Cal running back - Arrington, Best, Forsett, Lynch (twice), Adimchinobe Echemandu and Joe Igber - has gained more than 1,100 yards in all seven seasons under Gould and head coach Jeff Tedford. Best's backup, Shane Vereen, also ran for 715 yards last season. Vereen could become a more prominent part of the conversation this season if injuries knock Best off stride again. He missed time in each of his first two seasons because of hip, foot and elbow problems. Then, in training camp, nagging ankle and toe injuries kept him out of several practices.

If he's healthy, Best can unfurl a string of splashy highlights. Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz suspected as much last season, but he didn't really know - he was always occupied with blocking duties when Best took off on his touchdown runs, and in video sessions, Schwartz focused mostly on his own performance.  In the offseason, finally, Schwartz watched tape of Cal's games and marveled at Best's quickness and shifty moves. The tapes also reinforced another important tool for Best - he seldom hesitates.  "Jahvid is so quick to the hole and he's really decisive - he doesn't dance around back there," Schwartz said. "He makes his cut and goes. That's part of his thing, being so decisive and using his speed to his advantage."  Maybe that's the lesson: Speed is nice, but knowing how to use it is another thing entirely.

Contra Costa Times: Recruiting efforts paying off quickly on the offensive line

Jonathan Okanes


Cal has brought in some of the best offensive line classes in the nation in recent years. The Bears are starting to reap the benefits.  Cal coach Jeff Tedford said Wednesday that redshirt freshman Matt Summers-Gavin and sophomore Justin Cheadle had earned starting spots at offensive guard. With sophomore Mitchell Schwartz slated to start at right tackle, the Bears will feature three of the five offensive linemen who made up their offensive line class of 2007 that was ranked sixth in the country by Throw in starting center Chris Guarnero and backup Dominic Galas — each of whom was considered a top recruit — and it appears the Bears are ready to capitalize on their recruiting efforts.

"All those good classes that came in, those guys are playing at a fairly young age," Tedford said. "They're not completely new. They know the offense. I feel like there's a good mix there."  After breaking training camp Monday, Cal held its first practice of the regular season Wednesday. Players were assigned to scout teams, and the Bears began to install their game plan for the season opener against Maryland on Sept. 5.

Cal's coaching staff met Tuesday to resolve some of the position battles that took place during camp. Summers-Gavin beat out Mark Boskovich at left guard, and Cheadle got the nod over Chet Teofilo at right guard. Summers-Gavin never enrolled in school in 2007 after getting injured before training camp. Schwartz and Cheadle redshirted that year.

Star running back Jahvid Best practiced in full capacity again as he recovers from a sore toe. He said he's not 100 percent, but close. Best said the only thing he hasn't done since returning to full practice is taken enough big hits. "If my first big hit is against Maryland, I'll get used to it," he said. Tedford said he won't name a kicker for a couple more days.

Daily Cal: Football Produced Great Underdogs in Tedford Era

Ed Yevelev


Let's face it: it's 2009, and the Cal football team is no longer sneaking up on people. It has been nearly a decade since Tom Holmoe's 1-11 Bears were the official conference punching bag (unless you count the entire Pac-10 to be USC's own personal punching bag).  Now a perennial Pac-10 contender, Cal has consistently wooed top recruits while boasting six NFL first round draft picks since 2003 and a national rushing leader in 2004.  But while the Bears are no longer an underdog in the Tedford era, that doesn't mean the team hasn't had its share of them.

Steve Levy, QB (2002-06)

The New Jersey native did not play at all his first two seasons in Berkeley after redshirting in '02 and undergoing shoulder surgery the following year. When he finally did see the field in 2004, it was as only as a fullback and special teams contributor.  But in 2005, starter Nate Longshore was lost for the year in the season opener against Sacramento State, and the team sputtered midway through the season as quarterback Joe Ayoob's futility became the source of future anger management issues and liver problems for Cal fans everywhere.  After doing clean-up duty for Ayoob's four-interception debacle against USC, Levy finally got the starting nod against Stanford the very next week.  He led the Bears to a 27-3 victory in the Big Game on the Farm, throwing for a long touchdown. Levy remained under center a week later, as he quarterbacked Cal to a 35-28 Las Vegas Bowl win over Brigham Young.

Joe Igber, RB (1999-02)

Pac-10 followers are well aware that Cal has had six consecutive 1,000-yard rushers. But while current or future pros (Arrington, Lynch, Forsett, Best) got the headlines, recognition must go out to the man who started the streak.  Igber was the first (and smallest) link, officially listed at a very generous 5-foot-8. His size scared off many college recruits, as Cal was the only BCS school to offer him a scholarship.  And Igber certainly earned it while having to overcome more than just his height throughout his career.

Igber suffered a shoulder injury that derailed his junior season (the dreadful 2001 campaign), but he bounced back in a big way in the first year of the Tedford era. He posted 1,130 yards for the Bears to become the school's second all-time leading rusher upon leaving.  But Igber saved his best game for last, capping off his Cal career with a 42-yard scoring run to help the Bears recapture the Axe from Stanford. The burst highlighted a brilliant 226 yard performance that remains a Big Game record, and part of Cal lore.  Ever so humble, Igber, who turned down invitations to pro camps to focus on graduate school, was quoted as saying, "People will forget about me in the next couple of months, but .... We got the Axe."

He was wrong about the first part.

Vince Strang, RB (2002-03)

While Igber notched the last offensive touchdown of 2002, an even more diminutive player opened up Cal's scoring the following season.  Looking at Vince Strang-all 5-foot-8, 150 pounds of him-some would wonder what business he has being on a football field, let alone burning No. 7 Kansas State's secondary for a 34-yard touchdown reception.  The walk-on transfer from Ocean Coast College got his chance to play a larger role after second-leading receiver Jonathan Makonnen was injured- and did he ever take advantage of it.  Strang posted modest numbers, but had a knack for making big plays that made him a fan favorite. Against Illinois, he broke off a 69-yard punt return to open up a two-score lead en route to a victory that marked a turning point in the season after consecutive losses.  And in the Bears' first bowl game of the decade against Virginia Tech, Strang scored on a 13-yard reverse to give the Bears a 49-35 fourth quarter advantage.  Watching him burn with excitement while hugging (and getting dwarfed by) his teammates after each play, it was practically impossible not to root for him.

SF Chronicle: Cal Schedule Analysis

Ron Kroichick


Sept. 5: Maryland, 7 p.m.

The Terrapins rolled to victory last year in College Park, in a game starting at breakfast time on Cal's body clocks. This year, the game could end well past 1 a.m. on Maryland's body clocks. Will the Terps stay awake? Will they make Jahvid Best vomit again?

Sept. 12: Eastern Washington, 2:30 p.m.

Quick background: Eastern Washington is located in Cheney, Wash. (outside Spokane), the football coach is Beau Baldwin - who once backed up Jon Kitna as quarterback at Central Washington - and the Eagles went 6-5 last season, including road losses to Texas Tech (49-24) and Colorado (31-24).

Sept. 19: at Minnesota, 9 a.m.

The Golden Gophers are leaving the hideous Metrodome for a sleek, modern, on-campus stadium, which they will christen Sept. 12 against Air Force. Minnesota features a talented wide receiver in senior Eric Decker, who caught 84 passes last season and earned first-team, All-Big 10 honors.

Sept. 26: at Oregon, 12:30 p.m.

Autzen Stadium is not an ideal place to open the conference season, especially against a Ducks team with the same ambitions as Cal - toppling USC from the Pac-10 throne. The Bears' challenge begins with corralling Jeremiah Masoli, the slippery quarterback from City College of San Francisco.

Oct. 3: USC, 5 p.m.

Good omen for Cal: The Bears get USC at home and before November, when the Trojans are all but invincible under head coach Pete Carroll. Bad omen: Cal is only 1-6 against the Trojans since Jeff Tedford arrived in Berkeley (a triple-overtime victory in September 2003).

Oct. 17: at UCLA, TBA

Cal plans to take buses to Pasadena in an effort to save money (that should wipe out the state budget deficit). If the Bears don't spend their time gazing at the picturesque landscape along Interstate 5, maybe they'll watch tape of old USC offenses. Norm Chow, who gained renown as the Trojans' offensive coordinator, now holds the same job with the Bruins.

Oct. 24: Washington State, TBA

This could turn into stat-padding time, if the Cougars' defense plays anything like it did last season. Washington State allowed six opponents to score 58 points or more, including Cal (which won 66-3 in Pullman). Coach Paul Wulff needs to show progress or his second season could be his last.

Oct. 31: at Arizona State, TBA

Coach Dennis Erickson's offensive wizardry might receive a stiff test this season, without many of his top players from '08 - including quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who started 43 games while at Arizona State. The Bears got smacked in their last visit to Tempe, a 31-20 loss during 2007's second-half slide.

Nov. 7: Oregon State, TBA

Watch the running backs in this one, because Best and the Beavers' Jacquizz Rodgers could put on quite a show. Rodgers, a 5-foot-7 workhorse who burrowed his way to 1,253 yards rushing as a freshman, returns to lead a dangerous Beavers team.

Nov. 14: Arizona, TBA

Coach Mike Stoops saved his job by guiding the Wildcats to the Las Vegas Bowl last season. One of Arizona's big wins came against Cal, when the Bears allowed a season-high 42 points. Stoops will lean on running back Nic Grigsby, who gained 1,153 yards rushing in '08.

Nov. 21: at Stanford, TBA

Tedford has dropped only one Big Game in his seven years at Cal, but it happened on his last visit to Stanford, in 2007. The Bears better be prepared to wrap up Toby Gerhart, who has the brute strength to carry would-be tacklers along for the ride.

Dec. 5: at Washington, 3:30 p.m.

Just a guess, but the weather might not be ideal in Seattle in December. The Huskies hope new coach Steve Sarkisian can erase the memories of last season's 0-12 record. Sarkisian brings along the same pro-style offense he used with raging success at USC.

Oakland Tribune: Reasons this may be The Season in Berkeley

Cam Inman


QUIET, SUNNY day ushered in the start of classes at Cal on Wednesday.  One laptop-toting student surfed the Internet in peace on the steps of Sproul Plaza. Cable companies and banks politely wooed freshmen along Bancroft. Students got reacquainted near the Campanile: "I can't believe I don't have your number," a sly guy said to a blonde coed.  Up the hill at Memorial Stadium, however, something extraordinary was taking shape, something besides the overdue construction of a training center at Ye Ole Oak Grove: The Cal football team was practicing for what finally could be The Season.

This wasn't training camp anymore. This was "go" time, as it should be.  So when star running back Jahvid Best got pushed to the turf by defensive end Cameron Jordan on a run up the middle, well, that was frightening. But that's getting game-ready.  "It's part of the game. We're not going to gasp every time the guy gets hit," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said of Best. "He's a football player."  A couple months from now — heck, try Oct. 3, when USC comes to town — Cal's campus will be knee-deep in football frenzy and squarely in the national spotlight. This season indeed is shaping up as something special. Granted, such optimism is a tradition before Game 1. But a lot already is falling into place for Tedford's lads. He got his semiregular quarterback controversy out of the way Monday when he proclaimed incumbent Kevin Riley as his starter. Better yet, Riley isn't simply starting in a wacky two-quarterback rotation like last year's, which backfired as he and Nate Longshore played inconsistently.

"I would like to stick with one guy," Tedford said. The one guy who actually has Cal back on the national map is Best. The junior seems quite capable of handling the hoopla of a Heisman Trophy campaign — and doing so in humble fashion, something wide receiver DeSean Jackson didn't quite pull off two years ago. "Jahvid's a team-first type of guy," cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson said. "He's not out here hyping himself up about the attention he's getting. We're proud of Jahvid. We want to win, and if he gets the big award at the end of the season, we're here to support him."

Who can forget that 2007 season with Jackson, a 5-0 start and a 7-6 finish? OK, Cal rooters probably have tried. They closed in on a No. 1 national ranking, but, boom, the Bears' season crumbled. "We had a lot of individual stuff going on that year," said Thompson, a fourth-year starter. "Everyone now has bought into the team context." Added Best: "We had big expectations last year, so we're kind of in the same boat. But the biggest thing we didn't have last year is confidence. That comes from experience."

And that's why the, ahem, Golden Bears should go for the gold. They are an experienced squad that has arguably the nation's top offensive weapon to complement a defense enjoying familiarity with a 3-4 scheme.  Plus, Best could be ready to jump for the NFL, so the Bears should take full advantage of his play-making presence. Tedford likes how Best is more experienced, stronger and hopefully more durable. (Best admits he's not 100 percent, but a bruised foot isn't keeping him from top speed.)

Down the aqueduct, USC may not be the USC that the Pac-10 has come to fear. Cal fans should take great joy in the obstacles that stand between USC and an eighth consecutive Pac-10 title.  The Trojans still are contemplating a successor to quarterback Mark "The Next Namath" Sanchez. Aaron Corp is recovering from a recently cracked fibula, and the next best thing is true freshman Matt Barkley. There's also a revamped defense, new coordinators and an intimidating second game, a Sept. 12 visit to Ohio State. By the way, wouldn't it be a nice time to finally have the Reggie Bush investigation come to fruition?

Cal is in control of its destiny, starting Sept. 5 vs. Maryland, followed by another home game against Eastern Washington. Trips to Minnesota and Oregon serve as great warm-ups for that Oct. 3 showdown vs. USC. Days like Wednesday reinforce Cal's belief that this could be The Season.  "They had great focus all camp, and today was another really good day," Tedford said. "I think a lot of that is because of our experience. "... I was pleased."  The ultimate pleasure could come in Pasadena, be it Jan. 1 in the elusive Rose Bowl or Jan. 7 in the national title game there. So goes the thought process when you binge drink from the half-full glass at the Bear's Lair Pub.