Ten Key Players for 2010

Fall camp begins this Saturday and will conclude August 24. For the 2010 California Golden Bears to be successful, a number of players must stay healthy, step up their performance, and/or become leaders on the field. Cal Sports Digest looks at 10 key players for the upcoming season…

10 Cal Bears to Watch

Matt Summers-Gavin
Left Tackle, So.
He's arguably the most important player on offense for the 2010 season. He missed the final five games of the 2010 season, and the offensive line suffered. However, he will have an even bigger role this season. He moves to left tackle to replace Mike Tepper. Brian Schwenke takes over at left guard. While Summers-Gavin is not a natural left tackle, he is the Bears most talented offensive lineman.

Cal failed to land a left tackle in this last class, and promising left tackle prospect Charles Ragland has transferred to junior college this semester. Donavon Edwards, who started six games at right tackle in 2008, will back up Summers-Gavin. The unproven tackles must step in fall camp. Summers-Gavin health is important to the success of the 2010 season. Without him, Cal will scramble to field an offensive line capable of protecting the quarterback's blindside and opening holes for the ground game.

Keenan Allen
Wide Receiver/Safety, Fr.
He is Cal's most heralded recruit in the Jeff Tedford era ranking near the 2005 signing of DeSean Jackson. But unlike Jackson, Allen is not from the Golden State. The North Carolina native was an Alabama verbal commit only to renege on his pledge and sign with the Golden Bears on national signing day. The nation's consensus top safety prospect will have the opportunity to play both ways in Berkeley.

The Bears need him immediately on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears need at least three incoming receivers to make an impact this season. Allen is the top receiver prospect as well as defensive prospect in the 2010 class. Outside of the projected starters, Allen could be the third best receiver in fall camp. At the very least, the Bears need him to become the team's fifth receiver.

Defensively, he will get an opportunity at nickel back. Save Sean Cattouse, Allen is arguably the most talented safety on the team. Allen doesn't need to make as big of an impact on defense as much as the other side of the ball, but his presence made be needed more in the secondary. Cal's pass defense in 2009 was the worse in the Jeff Tedford era. New defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is keen on developing defensive backs; it will be interesting to see what he does with the unit, chiefly (no pun intended) what packages he uses Allen in.

Shane Vereen
Running Back, Jr.
Is he the best running back in the Pac-10? He just may be. Vereen will likely not carry the rock 30+ times a game this season to ease the pounding on his body. But Vereen is more than capable of being an every down, in-between the tackle pounder. The Cal offense could lean on him easily start the season 3-0 before embarking on its first Pac-10 road trip at Arizona. Vereen's running help spark the Bears to an upset win over the Wildcats last season, a week after Jahvid Best suffered a concussion against Oregon State.

But a more balanced offense means Vereen won't have to carry the load. That is the goal this season. But Tedford's offenses have always been run-based that feature two talented backs. Vereen and Best shared the load the last two seasons. This year, Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson will get first crack at being the No. 2 back. The ideal situation will see Vereen rushing for 1,400 yards with the backup adding another 600.

Marvin Jones
Wide Receiver, Jr.
He is the only receiver to catch over 40 receptions in a season the last two years. To say the passing offense has struggled would be an understatement. Part of the reason for the struggle has been the lack of big-play receivers. Jones was hampered by injuries his freshman year, and he never got into a rhythm. Last season, he showed what he could do hauling in 43 catches for over 600 yards. He is legitimate All-Pac-10 candidate. He is the Bears top deep threat, and he needs to be Riley's go-to guy this season. No other receiver on the roster has his big-play capability.

Cameron Jordan
Defensive End, Sr.
No player on the defense has Jordan's ability to change the momentum of a game. He can become the conference's top pass rusher, improving on his six sacks from a year ago. Jordan is in the best shape of his career entering fall camp. Trevor Guyton takes over for Tyson Alualu, and Derrick Hill is still at the nose. But Jordan's play will dictate the flow of the defensive line. An All-Pac-10 type season likely means a Cal defense that improves on the 31 sacks from 2009 and the 112 rushing yards allowed per game.

Mychal Kendricks
Linebacker, Jr.
He had offseason surgery and missed spring practice. He will be asked to play inside and outside backer this season. He is atop the depth chart at weak side backer with the loss of Chris Little, who was dismissed from the team. Kendricks' ability to rush the passer and wreck havoc in the backfield will be needed this season for a defense that lacked a consistent pass rushing presence in 2009. While the linebacker corps is loaded with depth in numbers, it lacks playmakers. Kendricks is a defensive playmaker.

Darian Hagan
Cornerback, Sr.
He had a stellar sophomore season, however, he followed it up with a not so stellar junior season. With Syd'Quan Thompson in the NFL, Hagan has to step up his senior year. He has all the tools to follow Thompson to the league. He started just four games last season after starting all 13 in 2008. He had an astonishing 18 pass breakups in 2008, but only five last year. He lost his starting job to Josh Hill and Bryant Nnabuife down the stretch in 2009. But he enters fall camp atop the depth chart with Nnabuife. Hagan must have a solid showing in August. If he cannot reclaim his 2008 form, the Bears' secondary will likely not improve from 2009's subpar performance.

Chris Guarnero
Center, Jr.
When he missed part of spring ball, Donavon Edwards took some first team reps at center. Dominic Galas will back up Guarnero in camp, but his health is very important this fall. Behind Summers-Gavin, Guarnero is arguably the next important cog on a Cal offensive line that cannot afford any serious injuries in 2010.

Mike Mohamed
Inside Linebacker, Sr.
He is the leader of the defense. No Cal player is receiving more preseason accolades. "I'm well aware of the preseason awards but its something I've put in the back of my mind," Mohamed said during Monday's Bay Area media day. "I know worrying about all that stuff right now is not going to help me, isn't going to help the team. The only thing for me to do is focus on the season and give it my all."

He will have no trouble leading by example. No one will work harder, but he just needs to step up and be more of a vocal leader. "The one thing that I've kind of struggled with and working on is being more vocal for the team," he added. "That is something that doesn't come easily. But that is something that I've come to accept, and I really trying to work myself to being more comfortable with that. Because I know the guys do look up to me and they will listen."

Kevin Riley
Quarterback, Sr.
Tedford hasn't had a senior quarterback start a season opener, let alone starts every regular season game, since Kyle Boller in 2002. Riley is the starter heading in camp, but there is no guarantee he will remain atop the depth chart. Kevin Sweeney and Brock Mansion will see some meaningful first team reps in August. But Riley has had a strong offseason, and he looks poised to take control of the offense. It would be surprise if he didn't the season opener.

"He's been working harder than I've ever seen work this offseason," said Shane Vereen. "I can't wait to play with him…he looks really good. He's been to all the practice. He's been a real leader for the offense."

For Riley it's simple. He must be consistent and limit his mistakes. If he trusts his ability, maintains his confidence, and put the ball in the hands of his playmakers, the offense will flow smoothly. However, for Riley, that has been easier said then done the last two seasons.

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