July 1, 2008

Coach: Jeff Tedford (50-26 in six seasons at Cal, same record overall). | Staff
In 2007: 7-6 overall, 3-6 in the Pac-10 (seventh in league).
Returning starters: Offense: 4. Defense: 8. Special teams: 1 | Depth Chart
Key losses: Offense: G Brian De La Puente, RB Justin Forsett, T Mike Gibson, WR Lavelle Hawkins, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Robert Jordan, TE Craig Stevens. Defense: E John Allen, FS Thomas DeCoud, CB Brandon Hampton, T Matt Malele. Special teams: P Andrew Larson.
Final 2007 Rivals.com ranking: 38th | Complete Final 2007 Rankings
2008 Breakdown: Offense | Defense | Special teams | Coaching | Schedule | Depth Chart

OFFENSE

THE SCHEME: Expect the offense to remain similar to the one run the past few seasons despite the addition of coordinator Frank Cignetti, who will call plays instead of coach Jeff Tedford. Cal often uses three-receiver, one-back sets. The Bears like to attack defenses in a variety of ways from similar formations.

STAR POWER: Pac-10 defensive linemen may have let out a collective groan when center Alex Mack elected to return for his senior season. Mack was awarded the Morris Trophy, given to the Pac-10's best offensive linemen as selected by the defensive linemen. Mack was well-respected on the national scene, too, finishing as a finalist for the Rimington Trophy.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Michael Calvin used spring practice to catapult himself into a starting role. He adds a new dimension to the offense. At 6 feet 2, Calvin is 3 inches taller than any of the Bears' three main wide receivers from last season.

IT'S HIS TIME: Nothing has been easy for senior quarterback Nate Longshore at Cal. For the third consecutive season, he must win the starting job in the fall. He played the second half of last season on an injured ankle, throwing 11 interceptions in the final six regular-season games. He'll have to beat out sophomore Kevin Riley.

STRONGEST AREA: Mack leads a line that returns three starters and was among the most productive in the league. Cal allowed the fewest sacks in the Pac-10 last season and blocked for 1,500-yard back Justin Forsett. Gaurd Noris Malele is a three-year starter, and senior Mike Tepper moves to left tackle after starting on the right side last season.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: Wide receiver is a big question. DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan combined for 2,315 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. Cal has no wide receiver returning who caught more than two passes last season. Colvin had a good spring. Florida transfer Nyan Boateng is promising, but he has caught only four passes since his junior year of high school in 2003.

OVERVIEW: The skill positions are full of questions. The starting quarterback likely won't be decided until late in fall camp. Riley infuriated Cal fans with his blunder at the end of the Oregon State game, but he redeemed himself with 269 yards and three touchdowns in a bowl victory over Air Force. Cal has had a 1,000-yard rusher for six consecutive seasons, but that streak is in jeopardy. Forsett is gone and touted James Montgomery transferred, which likely leaves the job to Jahvid Best the speedy sophomore who missed the final three games of the season and spring practice because of a hip injury. Tedford picked a good time to add a veteran assistant such as Cignetti to the staff.

10

That's the paltry number of sacks Cal received from its defensive linemen last season.
GRADE: B-MINUS.

DEFENSE

THE SCHEME: After running a 4-3 in previous seasons, Cal spent much of the spring working out of the 3-4. The transition would take advantage of a surplus of linebackers and a shortage of linemen.

STAR POWER: Senior Zack Follett is perhaps the top Pac-10 linebacker not playing at USC. He led the Bears with 12.5 tackles for a loss and added 5.5 sacks last season. He could be even more productive as an edge rusher in the 3-4. He's a fearsome hitter and a team leader.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: On a veteran defense, redshirt freshman Ernest Owusu may have trouble finding playing time. But the tackle/end plays a position of need and had three sacks in the spring game.

IT'S HIS TIME: After missing 14 games over the past two seasons, senior end Rulon Davis is ready for a breakout season following an excellent spring. A healthy season from Davis would beef up a thin line. Davis is a 6-5, 281-pounder who served as a Marine in Iraq.

STRONGEST AREA: The move to the 3-4 wouldn't be possible if Cal didn't have four potential starting linebackers. The Bears' three starting linebackers from last year return. Two 100-plus tacklers, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder, will play inside. Mike Mohamed, who had 46 tackles as a true freshman in a backup role, will team with Follett at outside linebacker.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: Cal is attempting to mask its troubles by using three down linemen. End Tyson Alualu, tackle Mika Kane and tackle/end Cody Jones are returning starters, but lackluster line play was a big reason the Bears were last in the Pac-10 in sacks and tackles for loss. Davis can be a playmaker at the other end spot, but he has not played a full season in his career.

OVERVIEW: Cal returns enough experience and talent to be competitive, especially if the transition to the 3-4 goes smoothly. The linebacker corps isn't quite as good as USC's, but Cal can make a strong case for No. 2 in the league at the position. Junior Syd'Quan Thompson and sophomore Chris Conte form a solid cornerback tandem, but the secondary needs a replacement for free safety Thomas DeCoud - last season's leading tackler. The new free safety is expected to be Marcus Ezeff, who started four times at strong safety last season. Bernard Hicks is back, and he started the bulk of the games at strong safety.

GRADE: B.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Cal took a major hit with the loss of Jackson and punter Andrew Larson. Jackson was just as valuable as a punt returner as he was a receiver. Larson also handled Cal's kickoffs. Kicker Jordan Kay was 13 of 20 on field-goal attempts last season, including just 7-for-14 from 30 yards or more. Best, Thompson and backup tailback Shane Vereen likely will handle return roles with the departures of Jackson and Hawkins.

GRADE: C.

COACHING

Tedford has rebuilt the program into a viable Pac-10 contender, but last season caused him to do some soul-searching. It was the lowest win total since his first season at the school, and he brought in Cignetti who had a productive run at Fresno State from 2002-05 to help run the offense. Tedford hopes ceding play-calling duties will help him oversee the program as a whole and prevent the problems that led to last season's 1-6 collapse after a 6-0 start. Tedford promoted graduate assistant Tosh Lupoi to work with the defensive line and hired secondary coach Al Simmons from Arizona State.

GRADE: B-plus.

DATE OPPONENT
Aug. 30 Michigan State
Sept. 6 at Washington State
Sept. 13 at Maryland
Sept. 27 Colorado State
Oct. 4 Arizona State
Oct. 18 at Arizona
Oct. 25 UCLA
Nov. 1 Oregon
Nov. 8 at USC
Nov. 15 at Oregon State
Nov. 22 Stanford
Dec. 6 Washington

SCHEDULE

For a third consecutive season, Cal opens its season without a "warm-up" game. Michigan State-Cal won't be a Rose Bowl preview, but it will be a good barometer for both. The Bears hope another Eastern trip, this one to Maryland, will be better than the last one - a 35-18 loss to Tennessee in the 2006 opener. In the Pac-10, the Bears get Oregon and Arizona State at home but must travel to USC.

OUTLOOK

Once ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation last season, Cal had to rally to beat Air Force in a bowl to finish above .500. Along with the season-opening loss at Tennessee in 2006, it was another sign Cal might not be ready for the spotlight. That could be a positive this season. With the rise of Arizona State and the arrival of Rick Neuheisel at UCLA, Cal is competing for attention in the Pac-10 while it tries to heal the wounds from last season's collapse.

OFFENSE
QB Nate Longshore *, 6-5/233, Sr.
Kevin Riley, 6-2/224, Soph.
TB Jahvid Best, 5-10/193, Soph.
Tracy Slocum, 5-10/198, Soph.
FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-10/253, Sr.
Brian Holley, 5-9/224, Jr.
WR Jeremy Ross, 5-11/208, Soph.
LaReylle Cunningham, 6-1/205, Sr.
WR Michael Calvin, 6-2/202, R-Fr.
Nyan Boateng, 6-2/210, Jr.
TE Cameron Morrah, 6-4/245, Jr.
Tad Smith, 6-5/265, Jr.
LT Mike Tepper %, 6-7/321, Sr.
Matt Laird, 6-7/305, Soph.
LG Mark Boskovich, 6-4/301, Soph.
Richard Fisher, 6-4/276, Soph.
C Alex Mack *, 6-5/316, Sr.
Chris Guarnero, 6-2/275, Soph.
RG Noris Malele *, 6-2/303, Sr.
Justin Cheadle, 6-2/303, R-Fr.
RT Chet Teofilo, 6-3/316, Sr.
Mitchell Schwartz, 6-6/330, R-Fr.
K Jordan Kay *, 5-9/201, Sr.
KR Shane Vereen, 5-10/192, R-Fr.
(NOTE: *--denotes returning starter; %--denotes returning starter who has changed positions.)

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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