2009 California Golden Bears Football Preview
2008 Record: (9-4, 6-3)
2008 Bowl: Emerald Bowl vs. Miami (W 24-17)
Coach: Jeff Tedford (59-30 at California, 59-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Gregory
Other Key Returnees: OT Donovan Edwards, S Marcus Ezeff, CB Darian Hagan, DT Derrick Hill, S Brett Johnson, DE Cameron Jordan, OT Mitchell Schwartz, WR Verran Tucker, RB Shane Vereen, LB Eddie Young
Key Losses: LB Anthony Felder, LB Zack Follett, QB Nate Longshore, C Alex Mack, G Noris Malele, TE Cameron Morrah, LB Worrell Williams
The Heisman buzz has already begun in Berkeley. Running back Jahvid Best rushed for 1,580 yards as a sophomore and averaged an incredible 8.1 yards per carry. He reached the end zone a total of 16 times and even returned some kick-offs. Best is a dynamic playmaker in every possible way and the California offense will revolve around him and the nation will take notice as long as Best keeps leading the Golden Bears to victory.
Best will get all the hype, but it is the defense that will win games. The unit has to replace three of their four linebackers, but everybody else is back. Cal ranked 14 th in the nation in sacks last year and Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan will continue to get into the backfield. The secondary is absolutely loaded with experienced upperclassmen. Corner Syd’Quan Thompson is the best defensive player on the team and Marcus Ezeff has emerged as a quality safety whose best days are still in front of him. Surely the Golden Bears will miss Anthony Felder, Zack Follett and Worrell Williams, but Eddie Young is ready to take over the leadership role among the linebackers and Mike Mohamed will be the next superstar linebacker at Cal.
The biggest obstacle standing between Best and serious Heisman Trophy consideration is the rest of his offense. Quarterback Kevin Riley is the guy now that Nate Longshore is gone. Those two split time last year and neither was very consistent. Riley barely completed over 50 percent of his passes, but that was not entirely his fault. The young receivers did not help much and players like Alex Lagemann and Marvin Jones really have to grow up in a hurry. Even the returning upperclassmen, Verran Tucker and Nyan Boateng, were inconsistent receiving options. That has to change or the Bears offense will be extremely predictable…and even Best cannot be very effective if everybody knows that he is going to get the ball on every first and second down.
The Bottom Line for the Golden Bears:
That leads into what may be the most important group on the team. The offensive line lost Alex Mack and Noris Malele. Mack was one of the best centers in the game and his leadership will be very difficult to replace. The offense might not look too much different without him, but without his leadership in the middle of the line, California’s offense could be in trouble. Chris Guarnero has the unenviable job of trying to replace Mack, but he will need help from the rest of the line. If the big guys cannot give Best any room to run, the offense will be stuck and that Heisman talk will go away very quickly.
By Joel Welser
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