Pac 12

2010 NCAA Football Preview: California Golden Bears

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 5-4
Bowl Game: Poinsettia Bowl (L 37-24 vs. Utah)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 6th Pac-10
Offensive rank: 49
Defensive rank: 72

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Shane Vereen, 952 yards, 12 TD; Jahvid Best, 867 yards, 12 TD
Passing: Kevin Riley, 2,850 yards, 18 TD; 8 INT
Receiving: Marvin Jones, 651 yards, 6 TD
Tackles: Mike Mohamed, 112 total tackles
Sacks: Tyson Alualu, 7.5 sacks (5 solo, 5 assisted); Cameron Jordan, 6 sacks (5 solo, 2 assisted)
Interceptions: Mike Mohamed, 3 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 25 @ Arizona: With matchups against Colorado and Nevada, the Golden Bears don't play the most glamorous non-conference schedule, but must be careful not to trip up against a downtrodden Colorado team or a run-heavy team like Nevada (Cal was an impressive 23rd against the run last season). Arizona presents a tougher conference opener than most realize. This is the Wildcats' conference opener as well and while some may snicker, they have their eyes on the Pac-10 title. They'll come to play in this one and Cal better too.

October 16 @ USC: So the Trojans aren't really 'down' this season, although they're not as imposing as they were just a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, taking one against USC is a confidence booster for any team.

November 20 vs. Stanford: The Big Game will be played in Berkley this year. Cal has owned the series of late, winning every year since 2002 with the exception of 2007. And I can't mention the Big Game without mentioning The Play.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)


Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Jahvid Best, RB; Mike Tepper, OT; Tyson Alualu, DE; Syd'Quan Thompson, CB

Key Returning Players

Kevin Riley, QB; Shane Vereen, RB; Marvin Jones, WR; Matt Summers-Gavin, OT; Mitchell Schwartz, OT; Cameron Jordan, DE; Mike Mohamed, LB; Bryan Anger, P

Offensive Overview

Quarterback Kevin Riley returns for his senior season and despite some impressive numbers last season, has been generally inconsistent in his three seasons at Cal. Riley was the full-time starter all season in 2009 for the first time after sharing the role with Nate Longshore in 2008. Riley defended his job in the spring, but should he falter, Beau Sweeney and Brock Mansion could see some playing time. The offensive line returns four starters, but must replace big Mike Tepper at the left tackle spot. A guard last season, Matt Summers-Gavin is expected to fill that void.

Running back Shane Vereen stepped in nicely when Jahvid Best went down in November. He was also effective sharing the backfield with Best prior to Best's injury. Isi Sofele should see time in the backfield and elsewhere on the offense and special teams, but Vereen is the clear cut starter. It's worth noting, however, that Cal has traditionally featured two backs and while the competition is ongoing, Covaughn DeBowskie-Johnson is considered the current #2.

Marvin Jones leads the returning receivers after hauling in 43 passes for 651 yards and six touchdowns. Speedy Jeremy Ross also returns and hopes to bring his big play ability to the passing game and special teams once more. Alex Lagemann should also see the ball quite often in 2010. Depth at receiver is a bit of a concern with several unproven players on the roster, but the promise is there.

Defensive Overview

Cameron Jordan returns at defensive end following a 48 tackle, six sack season in 2009. Replacing Tyson Alualu, who started 39 games the past three seasons, won't be easy, but Jordan has established himself as the leader along the defensive line and is thought to be in for his best campaign yet. Derrick Hill is the projected starter at nose guard, but has battled injuries. Fortunately, there is depth at the position with Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne.

Linebacker Mike Mohamed led the team in tackles with 112, recorded two sacks and even led the team with three interceptions. He returns as the star of the defense and will man one of the inside linebacker positions. D.J. Holt started eight games last season and will start next to Mohamed on the inside. While the inside should be strength on the defense, inexperience on the outside is a concern.

Three starters are gone in the secondary, although injuries allowed some players to gain valuable starting experience. Safety Sean Cattouse started midway through the year, earning all-Pac-10 honorable mention. He'll lead a secondary that will include Chris Conte at the other safety spot. Cornerback Darian Hagan started all 13 games in 2008, but saw his production trail off in 2009. He'll have one more opportunity to emerge as one of the Pac-10's better corners in 2010.

Special Teams Overview

All-Pac-10 first teamer Bryan Anger returns as the starting punter after posting a 42.3 yard average in 2009. There is less certainty at kicker where Vince D'Amato and Giorgio Tavecchio shared duties last season. D'Amato got hurt in October, clearing the way for Tavecchio to get playing time. The Bears finished spring unsure of who their primary kicker will be this season.

Shane Vereen, Isi Sofele and Jeremy Ross could be options in the return game. Ross returned 9 punts for 192 yards and a touchdown last season, while Ross, Vereen and Sofele shared kick return duties in 2009.

Head Coach: Jeff Tedford

Mike Stoops took over at Arizona for the 2004 season. While he failed to eclipse the .500 mark in his first four seasons, he's taken the Wildcats Jeff Tedford has produced several young quarterbacks throughout his career including four top 10 picks (Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington) as well as Kyle Boller (19th) and Aaron Rodgers (25th). (Note: He coached Carr in 1997—Tedford's final season at Fresno State and Carr's first. Second note: Yes, only Dilfer and Rodgers have really worked out in the NFL. Third note: Dilfer won a Super Bowl and played 14 years in the NFL so I'm giving it to him.) Tedford enters his ninth season as the head coach at Cal. He shared the conference crown with USC in 2006, but did not go to a BCS bowl game. He's taken the Bears to 7 straight bowl appearances and early indications are that he'll do the same this season.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Kevin Riley, QB; Cameron Jordan, DE; Mike Mohamed, LB

Season Prediction

6th Pac-10

The Pac-10 is one of the most difficult conferences to predict in terms of how the teams will finish with most Pac-10 schools set to field a solid team in 2010. With Oregon considered the front-runner (although that's debatable), spots two through eight could really go in any and all directions with Arizona State and Washington State expected to round out the conference at 9 and 10.

Replacing five starters on defense, one of the top rushers in school history and a starting offensive tackle who started all 13 games in 2007 and 2009 (injured in 2008), Cal has some question marks peppered throughout the roster. Quarterback Kevin Riley must have a solid senior campaign if the Bears want to compete in the conference. Inconsistency at the game's most important position (arguably, I know) can plague a team. He'll have some offensive weapons to work with in Vereen, Jones, Ross and Sofele, but needs to step up to finally live up to expectations in his farewell campaign. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.