Spring Practice #5: Mohamed Heads LB Corp

Cal picked up spring ball on Tuesday after taking more than a week off for spring break. Inside Cal Sports Digest has a feature on junior inside linebacker Mike Mohamed, who returns to lead the linebacking corps after the departure of seniors Worrell Williams, Anthony Felder, and Zach Follett, and notes from the afternoon practice session…

The California Golden Bears returned to spring practice after a 12-day layoff and looked a little shaky as the intensity of contact drills picked up. With all but three starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, the Bears are looking to rely on their defense to help carry them to their first Pac-10 title, since sharing the award with USC in 2006.

However, the one question for Cal this off-season is whether it can continue to run last year's successful 3-4 defense with three graduating senior linebackers.

"It will be tough to replace last year's linebackers because they were all playmakers," junior linebacker Mike Mohamed said.

"They were the core of the defense, but we're out here working. We have a bunch of young guys and another year of experience for the defense after last year. We just need to work hard and I think we'll be alright."

Although Mohamed did not start as a sophomore last season, he was consistently used in a substitution role. He ended up playing as much as or more than the starters during the 2008 campaign.

"There's no doubt that we lost three quality players who are going to probably play in the NFL," head coach Jeff Tedford said.

"But at the same time, we have guys here right now that got some playing time last year. Mike Mohamed is a guy who played a lot and so even though those guys did leave, I feel like we have quality [linebackers] to fill those positions."

Mohamed finished the 2008 season tied for second with Follett in total tackles with 87. He also finished tied for second in interceptions, returning one of his three picks back for a touchdown in Cal's 41-20 win against UCLA at Memorial Stadium.

"I've been training harder this off-season," Mohamed said. "Trying to get bigger, better, and stronger. But to tell you the truth, I just do my job within the defense.

"It just turns out that I'm in the right place at the right time. I don't go out there freelancing, looking to make super plays. If you just do your job the plays will come to you."

Doing exactly what he emphasized, Mohamed was able to finish the 2008 season on a high note. Not only did he have seven tackles against Miami in the Emerald Bowl, but he also came up with the lone interception in a contest determined by the turnover department.

When asked about his second quarter interception, Mohamed replied, "You know, that was for the defense and for the team. It was pretty cool for me personally, but it's in the past now. I have to go out next season and continue to make plays to help us win games."

Practice Notes

  • After a-12 day layoff from the previous practice, the intensity picked up with several different contact drills.
  • Kevin Riley took all of the first team reps during the 11-on-11 drills.
  • Special teams spent the first hour and a half of practice on the sidelines.
  • In the first 11-on-11 drills, Brock Mansion looked solid connecting on four of four pass attempts.
  • Senior Devin Bishop stood alongside Mohamed during first team reps.
  • The fifth spring practice proved to be the most physical and although the offense looked as smooth as it has all spring, their play was overshadowed by the incredible speed of the defense.

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