BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 10-3; SEC: 7-2
Won Holiday Bowl vs. Texas A & M 45-10
LOCATION: Berkeley, California
STADIUM: California Memorial (72,516)
HEAD COACH: Jeff Tedford
OVERALL: 43-20 (5 seasons)
AT CALIFORNIA: 43-20 (5 seasons)
The Golden Bears have been nipping at the heels of the Trojans for the last three seasons and you have to wonder how high Jeff Tedford would be on the coaching totem pole right now, if Pete Carroll was not spending his autumns in Southern California. Tedford’s Golden Bears have reached double figures in wins two of the last three seasons, however since putting themselves on USC’s radar with a surprise upset in 2003, Cal has dropped their last three against the Kings of the Pac-10. Once again, the Trojans will be in their way, while a group of about five teams led by the UCLA Bruins set their aim at passing Cal in the Pac-10 standings.
WHEN THE GOLDEN BEARS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Jim Michalczik (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Marshawn Lynch, Erik Robertson, Andrew Cameron
All the ingredients are there for the makings of an explosive offensive attack. Nate Longshore has the size and accuracy to be ranked among the top signal callers in the league and another season of coaching under quarterback guru Jeff Tedford, should do Longshore good, however he must prove he can win the big one and finish strong. DeSean Jackson leads a talented and deep group of wide outs. Jackson could very well be the most explosive player in the land, inasmuch as no one is more difficult to wrap up in the open field, whether as a wide out or return man. At most schools Lavelle Hawkins would be a solid number one and Robert Jordan number two, with tight end Craig Stevens yet another weapon. On the ground, Justin Forsett is primed and ready to step into a starting role, with freshman James Montgomery the next in line of productive backs at Berkeley. Putting up points should not be an issue.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) DeSean Jackson (JR), 2) Craig Stevens (SR), 3) Lavelle Hawkins (SR), 4) Nate Longshore (JR), 5) Justin Forsett (SR), 6) Robert Jordan (SR), 7) Alex Mack (JR), 8) Mike Gibson (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Bob Gregory (6th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Daymeion Hughes, Brandon Mebane, Desmond Bishop, Mickey Pimentel
The defense must replace their best player (Daymeion Hughes), leading tackler (Desmond Bishop) and most disruptive lineman (Brandon Mebane), as all three heard their names called on draft day 2007. The linebacking unit should be the strength of the defense with Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder all talented, as well as Alex Cook and Devin Bishop (Desmond’s brother) coming over from Junior College creating some competition. At corner, Syd’Quan Thompson took his lumps early on, but the ability is there so he will be better for the experience beginning this season. They have veterans at safety and ability at corner. The biggest hurdle for both their pass and run defense is a line that returns just one starter from last season. If they can clog up the line of scrimmage to allow their backers to make plays and get enough pressure on the quarterback to help the secondary, this year’s unit could be better than last season.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Syd’Quan Thompson (SR), 2) Zack Follett (JR), 3) Worrell Williams (JR), 4) Thomas DeCoud (SR), 5) Brandon Hampton (SR)
The key to the season, especially any chance to win a Pac-10 title will come down to their performance in their first five conference games, three of which are on the road. They start off with the up and coming Arizona Wildcats, who beat them last season, before traveling to Eugene to take on the Ducks, as well as a hostile crowd. After a bye week, they host the Beavers, a tough team in their own right, followed by road games at UCLA and Arizona St., as the Bruins will test their offense and the Sun Devils challenge their defense. If they are to make a run at the Trojans, Cal needs to go at least 4-1 in those first five Pac-10 contests.
Will Nate Longshore take a step forward in his development? Last year he struggled at Tennessee, before Coach Tedford pulled him from the game in the second half and against Southern Cal, as the offense was only able to muster nine points, their lowest point total of the season. Both are back on the schedule and Longshore must perform better or else the results will be the same. Cal has also lost two conference road games in each of the last two seasons and are 3-5 in their last eight Pac-10 road games. Finally, Cal was in the top ten twice last season and was 0-2 (lost @ Tennessee & @ Arizona). Can Longshore handle the pressure as well as the success? The answers will determine how far the Golden Bears go this season.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Cal has the talent to put together an excellent season, a potential top ten team, but they still have too many question marks heading into the season, including replacing the Pac-10’s Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, among nine lost starters (six on defense), no easy task. As good as USC is, as well as the next tier of teams (UCLA, Arizona, Arizona St., Oregon St.) a ten-win season and a second place finish should amount to a very successful year, even if it means falling short of the ultimate goal once again.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #16 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown