2008 Camp Begins

The 2008 football season officially began Sunday with the players checking into camp and sitting through meetings for most of the day. However, they do not hit the gridiron until Monday evening. Despite being picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10 by the media, the Bears have the talent to compete for a conference crown...

Coach Jeff Tedford is excited about the 2008 team despite last year's disappointing 7-6 season and the numerous questions surrounding the offense. He addressed the questions at receiver and running back at the Bay Area College Football media day last week. However, the biggest question remains at quarterback.

Nate Longshore is listed atop the depth chart heading into camp. Coach Tedford stated at last month's Pac-10 media day that both Longshore and Kevin Riley would see game this season. Riley led the Bears to a comeback win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl and took a majority of the first team reps during voluntary summer workouts. RFr. Brock Mansion is third on the depth and has not been discounted by Tedford.

Nate Longshore
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
Longshore ranks second all-time at Cal in victories and fourth in passing efficiency. He passed for 2,580 yards and 16 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. He led the Bears to their 5-0 start last year and No. 2 national ranking until an injury against Oregon forced him out of the lineup. Riley started the following week versus Oregon State. Longshore started the final seven games, including the bowl game; however, the offense was never the same after his injury.

Longshore and Riley are expected to get first team reps in camp. Nonetheless, with mostly inexperienced skill position talent surrounding them, whoever has better chemistry should have the edge. If they are neck-and-neck, expect the veteran Longshore to get the nod. Like a heavyweight fight, Riley cannot expect the "scorecards" to be in his favor, if he wants to win this battle, he has to deliver the knockout punch in camp.

The success of Cal's offense starts with the running game. The Bears best season under Tedford came in 2004 when the offense averaged 257 yards per game on the ground. Last season, Justin Forsett led the Bears with 1,546 yards and 16 touchdowns. Replacing him will be huge. Jahvid Best was the second leading rushing as a true freshman, but gained just 221 yards on 29 carries. He missed the last three games with a hip injury and sat out spring ball as well.

Coach Tedford has expressed his interest in using a duo rushing attack, which has been successful in the past with J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch in 2004 and Lynch and Forsett in 2005 and 2006. New offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti also had success using two backs at Fresno State as the OC in 2004 and 2005.

Tedford describes Best and RFr. Shane Vereen as two backs with the explosiveness and versatility unseen in his previous six seasons. Sophomore Tracy Slocum is listed second on the depth chart behind Best. He had a great spring, and he will be the power to complement Best's and Vereen's sprinter speed. True frosh Covaughn DeBoskie will also add some power to the lineup. He was in for spring and has worked hard throughout summer. The 5-foot-11 200 lb back is a straight-line runner who can motor in the open field with his 4.4 speed.

Will Ta'ufo'ou has never run for a negative yard in his career as a fullback. He is also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Brian Holley and Zach Smith will battle to back up Ta'ufo'ou in fall camp.

The receiving corps lost 97% of its production from a year ago. TE Cameron Morrah is the leading returning receiver with 13 receptions for 155 yards. Nevertheless, Coach Tedford points to unit as his most talented in his tenure.

Sophomore Jeremy Ross and RFr. Michael Calvin enter camp atop the depth chart. Ross has been described as a DeSean Jackson type receiver. The 6-foot-2 202 lb Calvin brings great size and speed to the table. He impressed teammates last year on the scout-team with his leaping ability. He is a former basketball dunk star. Pushing them will be former U.S Army All-American Nyan Boateng.

Boateng transferred to Cal from Florida, where he caught four passes as a true freshman. He did not play last season. At 6-foot-2 and 210 lbs, he is another big, strong receiver who can leap. Senior LaReylle Cunningham is the only player on the two-deep with a reception as a Bear. He has 10 career receptions, which accounts for 77% of Cal's catches returning at the receiver position. The only other receiver on the depth chart with a career reception is sixth-year senior Sean Young.

The receiving corps does get a boost with the addition of Verran Tucker, who recently enrolled in school. Tucker signed in February out of El Camino Junior College but his eligibility has been a question mark all summer. Along with true frosh Marvin Jones, they should bolster a very talented but inexperienced receiving corps.

Outside of Morrah, the tight end spot is loaded with unproven talent. DE Tad Smith moved to TE in the spring and enters camp No. 2 on the depth chart. They will have to contend with redshirt junior Skylar Curran and incoming highly touted frosh Spencer Ladner.

All-American center Alex Mack leads the most experienced unit on offense outside of quarterback. Three starters return but RT Mike Tepper makes the move to LT. RG Noris Malele has 23 career starts, 22 at RG over the last two seasons.

C Alex Mack
Mack won the 2007 Morris Trophy – awarded to the Pac-10's top OL as voted on by the conference's defensive linemen. He is arguably the best center in the nation. The LG guard spot will be contested between two unproven sophomores, Mark Boskovich and Richard Fisher. Senior Chet Teofilo has one career start and enters camp No. 1 on the depth chart at RT.

Sophomore center Chris Guarnero is the most experienced backup. Redshirt freshmen, RG Justin Cheadle, LT Sam DeMartinis, and RT Matt Schwartz are all listed No. 2 on the depth chart at their respected positions and should make huge impacts in camp. Matt Gavin-Summers grayshirted last season because of an injury but was a highly touted prep in 2007.

The defense will make the switch to the 3-4 alignment this season. Starting defensive tackles senior Mika Kane and junior Cody Jones return this season. However, in the 3-4 Kane is likely to get the starting nod. Senior DE Tyson Alualu is the most experienced player on the outside but is just capable at tackle. He recorded 52 tackles last season, the most by a Cal defensive lineman since current NFL standout Andre Carter. Fellow senior Rulon Davis, who was limited to just six games last season due to injuries, will join Alualu at end. Davis had 16 tackles including 1.5 sacks in his limited time.

Much is expected of sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Hill. He recorded 24 tackles last season in a reserve role. More importantly, he can play the nose in the 3-4, which will allow Jones to stay at defensive end. Sophomores Cameron Jordan and Keith Browner are expected to contend for time in the rotation at end. Sophomore Michael Constanzo will have to hold true freshmen Kendrick Payne and Trevor Guyton at defensive tackle in camp.

The linebacking corps is the strongest and deepest unit on the team. It is single handily the reason for making the switch to the 3-4 defense. Senior returning starters Zack Follett, Worrell Williams, and Anthony Felder lead the unit. Since making the switch to outside linebacker, Follett has been a more disruptive force to opposing offenses. He has 13 career sacks entering this season, but he could double that mark after this year.

LB Anthony Felder
photo by CalBears.com
Williams and Felder had over 100 tackles each last season. Felder moves to the inside in the 3-4. Joining Follett on the outside is sophomore Mike Mohamed, who had 46 tackles last season. Juniors Eddie Young and Devin Bishop add experienced depth on the edges.

RFr. D.J. Holt enters camp No. 2 behind Williams at inside backer. Junior Matt Russi is also expected to contend for time in the middle. Sophomore Charles Johnson hopes to build upon a solid spring, and true frosh Mychal Kendricks looked impressive throughout voluntary summer workouts. Kendricks is possibly the fastest backer among the deep and talented group.

The secondary must replace two starters. Junior Syd'Quan Thompson has 26 career starts and should contend for all-conference honors this season. He led the Bears with 10 pass breakups last season. Sophomore Chris Conte enters camp as the starter opposite Thompson. He started three games last season earning Freshmen All-American recognition.

Fellow sophomores Charles Amadi and Darian Hagen provide talented depth. However, neither has proved themselves on the field of play. That leaves the door open for true freshmen Josh Hill and Marc Anthony. Both had great summers in voluntary workouts. They will push the aforementioned varsity athletes in camp.

Senior Bernard Hicks is the veteran of the group. He has 17 career starts at both free safety and rover. He enters camp No. 1 at free safety after recording 40 tackles in 2007. Junior Marcus Ezeff is No. 1 at rover after starting four games last season and registering 47 tackles. RFr. D.J. Campbell can play both safety and corner but enters camp as the backup rover. Junior Brett Johnson is expected to backup up Hicks at free in camp.

Senior Jordan Kay returns this season after hitting 13 of 20 field goals and all 48 of his point-after-touchdowns in 2007. True freshman David Seawright is expected to win the kickoff job in camp. RFr. Bryan Anger takes over the punting duties after having a great spring.

Thompson will get the first crack at replacing Jackson at punter returner. But he will need to hold of Vereen in camp. Best returns as one of the nations best at kick returns. Vereen is also expected to return kicks in camp.

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