California Golden Bears
2006 Record: (10-3, 7-2)
Coach: Jeff Tedford (43-20 at California, 43-20 overall)
Starters Returning: 14 (7 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists)
Offensive Starters Lost: RB Marshawn Lynch, FB Byron Storer, OL Andrew Cameron, OL Erik Robertson
Offensive Starters Returning: QB Nate Longshore, WR Robert Jordan, WR DeSean Jackson, TE Craig Stevens, OL Alex Mack, OL Noris Malele, OL Mike Gibson
Defensive Starters Lost: DT Brandon Mebane, DE Abu Ma'afala, DE Nu'u Tafisi, LB Mickey Pimentel, LB Desmond Bishop, CB Daymeion Hughes
Defensive Starters Returning: DT Matt Malele, LB Worrell Williams, CB Syd'Quan Thompson, S Brandon Hampton, S Bernard Hicks
Starting Specialists Lost: None
Starting Specialists Returning: K Tom Schneider, P Andrew Larson
For starters: California's offense will once again be explosive with
quarterback Nate Longshore suddenly being an experienced passer and a
trio of dynamic receivers returning. After beating Texas A&M in the Holiday
Bowl, the program is on the verge of stepping beside USC in the Pac-10 pecking
order. Yet, for the team to prove they belong with the big boys, they will have
to beat them.
Offense: Despite the loss of Marshawn Lynch, the offense
should be great. Running back Justin Forsett will not have a problem
taking over the majority of the carries. The 5-8, 186 pound Arlington, Texas
native has rushed for 1,625 yards as a backup the last two years. Behind a
talented offensive line led by Alex Mack, Noris Malele and Mike Gibson,
Forsett will make Cal fans forget about Lynch very soon.
However, it is not the running game that will make the Bears offense click. Longshore threw for over 3,000 yards and completed over 60% of his passes in 2006. With that year of experience, bigger and better things can be expected for the passing game in 2007. The return of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan will make Longshore's job much easier. For the third year in a row, the receiving trio will be a force in the Pac-10 and opposing defenses will have a nightmare trying to cover all three.
Defense: The defense is more of a concern. The defense wasn't
spectacular last year, but did do a solid job game in and game out. The line
lost three starters, most notably tackle Brandon Mebane, and will have to
depend on some youthful options on the ends in Cody Jones and Tyson Alualu. Like the line, the linebackers have some new faces hoping to make an
impact. Worrell Williams returns to anchor the linebacking corps and
Justin Moye and Zack Follett will be looked upon to replace the
production of the departed Mickey Pimentel and Desmond Bishop.
Junior college transfers Devin Bishop and Alex Cook will also
battle for playing time.
The defensive backs lost their star, but the group is still talented without the services of Daymeion Hughes. Syd'Quan Thompson started opposite of Hughes last year and, as just a sophomore, is expected to be the top corner. Another sophomore, Jesse Brooks is the favorite to man the other side. While experience is a concern at the corners, safeties Bernard Hicks and Brandon Hampton have the experience and skill to make sure the secondary remains productive.
The Bottom Line: At the least, the Golden Bears will be fun to watch. The passing game has a ton of firepower and the running game is a big enough threat to keep the opposing defenses honest. If the defense can find a few quality replacements down the bench, Cal can compete with the schools in Los Angeles for the conference title.
QB Nate Longshore is a year older and a year wiser with a host of talented receivers.