Friday, August 31, 2007
Ivan Maisel on Cal redemption
ESPN Cal vs Tennessee Preview
Stewart Mandel - Payback Time?
Luke Winn - Breaking down Cal vs Tennessee
Austin Murphy - Bring on the Vols
Matt Hayes - Week 1 and Done?
Dennis Dodd - Cal vs Tennessee
CBS Sportsline - Cal vs Tennessee Preview
CBS Sportsline - Cal Golden Bear report - Inside Slant
Ok, I think you get the point. Huge Game tomorrow. Everyone will be watching. Go Bears.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Why to watch: The only game of the opening weekend featuring Top 25 teams is a rematch of last year's 35-18 Tennessee win that was even worse than the score indicated. If there's such a thing as a must-win situation in Week One, this is it for Cal, which despite blowing out Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl is still looking for national respect, at least from the SEC folk. Even without RB Marshawn Lynch, the Bear offense will again be prolific behind big junior QB Nate Longshore and one of the most dangerous receiving corps in America. After excelling as a spare part for years, 5-8 Justin Forsett gets a grand stage to show that he's not too small to carry the load in the running game. Cal won't be the only team with something to prove in Berkeley as Tennessee has to start showing it's Tennessee again. Without an SEC title since 1998 and with barely a hint of any noise in the national title race since winning it all almost a decade ago, the natives are getting restless. The Vols are light on star power in 2007, which is why plenty of first-year players will contribute and QB Erik Ainge is being counted on to have the best season of his up-and-down college career.
Why Tennessee might win: Cal can score, but can it stop a quality SEC opponent from going up and down the field? This is the Bears' first game without defensive stars Brandon Mebane, Desmond Bishop and Daymeion Hughes, something that won't be lost on Ainge as he begins implementing UT's new no-huddle offense. Cal is green at corner and suspect up front, which means lots of time for Ainge and enough running room for Arian Foster to keep the Bear offense in hibernation. This is still Tennessee, and there are still plenty of NFL caliber athletes, even if they're not household names quite yet.
Why Cal might win: Last September, Tennessee had the dynamite receivers and Cal had the secondary that was still in diapers. This year, the roles are reversed. The Vols' first test with three new starters in the defensive backfield comes against the quartet of Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan and tight end Craig Stevens, which combined for 168 receptions in 2006. Tennessee is also very soft in the middle, so look for Alex Mack to create space for Forsett and James Montgomery, while displaying why he's one of the nation's premier centers.
Who to Watch: Last September, then-freshman CB Syd'Quan Thompson became the poster boy for Cal's loss to UT, getting burned repeatedly by Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain. Today, he's one of the emotional leaders of the defense, who'll be on a mission to shut down a Volunteer receiving corps that's a far cry from last year's group. Also worth watching will be the matchup of Tennessee's Britton Colquitt and Cal's DeSean Jackson, the SEC's best punter and the nation's premier punt returner, respectively.
What Will Happen: After getting embarrassed and knocked down a peg a year ago, Cal will get revenge on Tennessee in one of the biggest wins of the Jeff Tedford era. The Vols will get their yards, making heavy use of TEs Chris Smith and Brad Cottam, but it won't be enough with the Bear offense clicking. Jackson will crank out a highlight-reel play that'll ignite the home crowd and earn him some early Heisman attention in a thrilling game that'll be as good as advertised.
Line: California -5.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can't because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 4.5
Fearless Prediction: California 30 … Tennessee 24
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
|Tennessee at California Matchups|
Tennessee Offense vs. Cal Defense
The Vols got a scare in the offseason when QB Erik Ainge missed most of the spring after having knee surgery, but he has shown almost no effects of the injury during summer camp. Ainge made significant strides under first-year coordinator David Cutcliffe in 2006 and he should be even more polished as a senior this fall. Ainge displays good mobility for his size and he has a strong arm to fit the ball into tight spots in coverage. However, gone are Ainge's top-three receivers from last season, including first-round draft pick Robert Meachem (Saints). Without those veteran receivers to rely upon, Ainge's margin for error will be much smaller. He still has a reliable target in TE Chris Brown, who is the team's leading returning receiver with 31 receptions in 2006. However, if the Vols are to keep the Bears' defense honest, Ainge needs help from his inexperienced wide outs. So far, junior Lucas Taylor, sophomore Quintin Hancock and sophomore Austin Rogers are the three most promising at the position. Taylor is the speedster who can stretch the field, Hancock is the bigger possession target and Rogers is the most athletic, but also the least polished, after missing most of last season due to injury and illness. Cal will certainly miss the playmaking skills of third-round NFL draft pick Daymeion Hughes at cornerback, but Syd'Quan Thompson returns as a solid starter on one side and there are a lot of talented youngsters competing for the other starting cornerback job. The unit also returns Robert Peele, who emerged as a playmaker at the Rover position last season and can also play some cornerback if necessary.
When: Sept. 1, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Where: Berkeley, Calif.
Like the rest of the Cal team, QB Nate Longshore's 2006 Knoxville visit was a forgettable one. But in his own backyard with 12 more starts under his belt, it will take a lot more for the Vols to rattle Longshore this time around. Cal's 6-foot-5 junior signal caller shed nearly 15 pounds in the offseason, which will give him more agility to sidestep pass rushers from within the pocket. And with time to survey the field and step into his throws, few quarterbacks in college football can shred a defense with Longshore's precision. It also helps to be equipped with one of the nation's deepest and most talented wide receiver corps. Longshore's top weapon is DeSean Jackson, the most dangerous open-field runner in the country. Jackson is complemented well by No. 2 WR Robert Jordan, No. 3 WR Lavelle Hawkins and TE Craig Stevens. Jonathan Hefney is a versatile playmaker with experience at cornerback and safety. He is likely to spend most of his time at safety in this game, but don't be surprised if the Vols use him occasionally to match up one-on-one versus Jackson. Tennessee is breaking in new starters at the other three defensive back spots, which places a great deal of pressure on the front four to establish a consistent pass rush on its own. While the Vols have some talent returning along their defensive line, the group's ability to rush the passer is very much an unknown at this point. Defensive ends Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds had huge springs, but the pair combined for only five sacks last season. Tennessee could run four-deep at defensive tackle with Dan Williams, Demonte Bolden, J.T. Mapu and Walter Fisher, but Bolden and Fisher are coming off injuries and Mapu is coming off a two-year Mormon mission. RB Justin Forsett is an undersized but shifty back with very good vision as a runner and hands as a receiver. While he should put up some big numbers in Cal's offense this season, we think he will have some trouble getting untracked in his first game as the team's fulltime starter now that Marshawn Lynch (Bills) is gone to the NFL. The Vols had some problems stopping the run last season but they should be much improved in that regard this fall. The front line is bigger and should be stouter versus the run, which should allow the playmaking linebacker trio of Jerod Mayo, Ryan Karl and Rico McCoy to flow freely to the football. Mayo is the leader of the group at middle linebacker and he's fast and instinctive enough to limit Forsett's big plays. McCoy is only a sophomore, but he showed tremendous potential in his first season and he's athletic enough to keep with Forsett when he releases as a receiver out of the backfield.
| Cal QB Nate Longshore vs. Tennessee DS Jonathan Hefney |
Longshore's biggest challenge will be accounting for the whereabouts of Hefney, the Vols' returning leader in total tackles and interceptions. What the 5-foot-9, 185-pound roaming defensive back lacks in size, he more than makes up for with speed, athleticism, instincts and toughness. A year ago, Hefney was crafty enough to keep Longshore guessing and Longshore wasn't patient enough to ignore the bait. But the Jeff Tedford protégé has made lots of progress since last season's opener and he should show far more poise the second time around. Hefney will spend a majority of his time sliding over in deep-coverage support to limit the big-play potential of Longshore's most dangerous weapon, WR Jackson. When that's the case, Longshore will have plenty of real estate on the opposite side to utilize complementary receiver's Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins. Eventually, Longshore will catch the Vols gambling with Hefney cheated up near the line in run support. That's when the deep ball will open up with Jackson exploiting rare man-to-man coverage. With three new secondary starters being broken in around him, Hefney may simply be outnumbered.
Tennessee enters this contest with a mental edge after dispensing Cal in a 35-18 smackdown in Knoxville last season. One year later, the Vols do the honors of traveling cross-country for a tough season-opening nonconference tilt. While Neyland Stadium is in a class of its own, the Bears will certainly enjoy the comforts of Memorial Stadium while seeking revenge for last year's embarrassing defeat. The key to last year's game was Tennessee jumping out to an early lead. Once it did, Cal's offense was forced to abort the running game, which put too much pressure on the inexperienced Longshore. But a lot has changed in one year. Ainge no longer has WR Robert Meachem to rely upon and Longshore is far more capable of carrying the Cal offense if necessary. In fact, the game's biggest playmaker is now Cal's Jackson, who is a threat as a receiver and as a punt return specialist. The Bears' inexperienced defense will keep Tennessee within striking distance deep into the fourth quarter. However, we do anticipate Tedford's team evening the score in a Week 1 game with major national implications.
Prediction: Golden Bears 28, Volunteers 24
But one of their recent posts was just wrong (read entire post here). It is an example of my frustration with Cal fans and their off and on attitude. Here are some excerpts.
" The time until kickoff is legitimately being measured in hours, not days or weeks. (114 hours and counting down...) Yet, for some reason, Cal fans just don't seem that excited. I know that I am not."Speak for yourself, not Cal fans in general. I think that Cal fans have been excited about this game for a long time. Go check out the message boards on BearInsider.com. Look at the comment by Robertson17 after the TBIOOTF post. For you to be unable to get excited about the upcoming Tennessee game just reeks of bandwagon.
"I am not confident heralding Tedford's return to playcalling as the second coming."Good thing you change the name of your blog from Tedford is God. You have to be kidding me if you think that the offense will not be significantly better with Tedford calling the plays and with nearly all key skill players returning.
"I may have once declared that SQT would easily fill the shoes of Dante Hughes, but I really wish I hadn't."Watch game tape of the last couple games last year and tell me who was playing better, SQT or Hughes. Also, SQT is still young, I have no doubt he will be able to fill Hughes large shoes.
And possibly the worst line of all...
"If I know one thing, it is this - if we lose we have to wait another year to declare Cal one of the best programs in the nation."Why? Because of 1 loss. What if Cal runs the table and makes it to the Rose Bowl, will you still be waiting till next year to talk about Cal? Win or lose to Tennessee, I will always declare Cal as one of the best programs in the nation. But this is a moot point because we will beat Tennessee this year.
Maybe you were having a bad day or going through some turmoil that day, Kevin. Hope you post something better before the game and get fired up.
For everyone else who might be wavering, get off the fence and support your Bears.
- Ranking: is ranked #12 in both polls. People expect big things from this year's team you should too.
- Offense: Best in the Pac 10 and one of the best nationally (West Virginia might be better)
- Defense: Faster, more athletic and more talented than before. True, they are young, but when teams recruit well, like Cal has done, that is less of an issue.
- Special teams: Best in the nation as a unit.
- Coaching: What's not to love. Tedford took us from the abyss of 1-10 to national power. Now he will take us to the promised land.
- Schedule: Tennessee at home, USC at home. The stars are aligned for this season.
Seriously??? That is news. Coach Weis is excited for 2007. Stop the presses. An actual news headline would be - Coach Weis is not excited about 2007 because he knows that his offense will sputter and his defense was never good.
We now return you back to your regularly scheduled Cal Football blogging.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The injury does not appear to be serious but if Ainge does not practice the rest of the week that could affect game planning. Tennessee was adding a no huddle feature to their offense and, without practice, that offensive wrinkle could be seen less against Cal.
KNOXVILLE – Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge jammed the pinkie on his right (throwing) hand during practice on Monday and may not practice the rest of the week, UT Coach Phillip Fulmer said today.
Ainge is still expected to start for the Vols when they open the season at California on Saturday.
WR - Robert Jordan
LT - Mike Gibson
LG - Brian De La Puente
C - Alex Mack
RG - Noris Malele
RT - Mike Tepper
TE - Craig Stevens
WR - DeSean Jackson
QB - Nate Longshore
FB - Brian Holley or Zach Smith
RB - Justin Forsett
The offense looks great. Lavelle Hawkins is 1A behind Jordan and will get plenty of touches when Cal goes 3 wide. The offensive line should be solid. Though we are replacing 3 starters from last year, all the guys have experience. No real surprises here.
DE - Rulon Davis
DT - Matt Malele
DT - Mika Kane
DE - Tyson Alualu
SLB - Zack Follett
MLB - Worrell Williams
WLB - Anthony Felder
CD - Syd Thompson
FS - Thomas DeCoud
ROV - Bernard Hicks
CB - Brandon Hampton
Davis and Alualu at the end will suprise people this year. And the line will stay fresh with little drop off with Cody Jones, Tad Smith and Cameron Jordan providing depth.
As mentioned before, the linebackers are the strength of the defense.
One surprise is that Chris Conte is listed as the backup for Brandon Hampton. While the true freshman has been getting a ton of praise from coaches, it is surprising that he was able to beat out Darian Hagan or Charles Amadi for the spot.
P - Andrew Larson
PK - Tom Schneider
PR - DeSean Jackson
KOR - Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins, Jahvid "The Beast" Best
Best special teams unit in the nation, top to bottom. Larson, Schneider and Jackson are at or near the top of their respective positions in the conference if not the nations.
Personally, I don't like to see starters returning kickoffs. (Anyone remember the Jason Sehorn incident with the NY Giants. Sehorn was coming of a Pro Bowl season and begged the coaches to let him return kicks. What happens? Broken leg on his first kick off return.)
Tedford is still considering Jackson for kickoffs. Personally, I think his size is better suited for punt returns. Also, with Best, Hawkins, Vareen and other talents players available for kick off duty, why risk it?
Monday, August 27, 2007
Here are the mentions Cal received:
- Best Wide Receiver - #1 DeSean Jackson
- Dream Offensive Line - #1 Alex Mack
- Best Tight Ends - #5 Craig Stevens
- Best Quarterbacks (Old School: Classic Dropback Style) - #6 Nate Longshore
- Top True Freshmen - Jahvid "the Beast" Best (in a previous post I noted that the best new nickname for Jahvid would be used and there was only one submission, so I am going with that. Thanks Rishi)
- What's My Name (Players who will be household names by Oct. 1) - Justin Forsett
- Favorite Playcallers - #3 Jeff Tedford
1) Nothing really new on the offensive side. DeSean and Alex Mack are on almost every list out there. It is nice to see Craig Stevens get some love.
2) I have no problem with Tedford at #3 for playcalling, except for the fact that USC's Steve Sarkisian is #2. Are you serious? Maybe in 5 years but not yet.
3) There is a section for Prettiest Coeds. The SEC dominates this list with 8 of the top 10. Must be something in the water down there.
4) No love for the defense. But don't worry, I imagine that a couple defensive players will make the year end list. Most likely candidates, Follet, DeCoud, Thompson.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
For those of you just chomping at the bit to see live action, the start of the college football season is only 5 days away.
Expect a lot of coverage on the Bears this week in the media. Cal vs Tennessee is the premier game of the opening weekend and should receive the bulk of the features. Should be great reading for Cal fans everywhere.
Side Note: For those of you that live outside the Bay Area and are not attending the game, what are your local alumni clubs planning for this huge game? I am in NYC and I am underwhelmed by the festivities. I actually have not heard of any large events planned and I know there is a large contingent of Cal fans in NYC. Am I a little early in my excitement?
Friday, August 24, 2007
Reed was a local product who is suppose to be a dual threat QB. He is know for having a fantastic arm and great mobility.
Riley was Oregon's Gatorade State Player of the Year before coming to Cal. From what I have read, he seems similar to Aaron Rodgers. He has great accuracy and pocket presence.
While it is important to have the depth chart set before the start of the season, I don't expect this to settle who the successor to Longshore will be in the future. Expect Reed and Riley and freshman Brock Mansion to continue to battle it out in the upcoming seasons.
But you have to love the fact that Cal has finally reached the level where top rated recruits can get buried in the depth charts because newer great recruits keep signing with Cal. I remember the day when Kyle Boller signed with Cal and from day one he was declared the starter. No way that happens at Cal now and that is a good thing.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
But let's talk about the defense. Defense is being labeled as the team weakness. I, for one, think that this year's defense will be much better than last year's.
Gone: 3 starters were lost including all world DT Brandon Mebane.
New: Redshirt freshman and true freshman who are making big plays in camp. 2 players coming back from injury. Kane, returning as the leader on the line.
Comment: Mebane is a big loss but was the D line dominating last year? I thought they did a good job against the run but Cal lacked any consistent pass rush from the line.
Cal is at the point where the program reloads not rebuilds. Tedford and staff have done a great job recruiting. True the D Line lacks experience but there are some talented RS freshman and a couple true freshman who are ready to show what they can do.
Gone: Desmond Bishop, leading tackler.
New: Zack Follett, William Williams, Anthony Felder. All have logged significant playing minutes over their careers so there is experience here. Follett and Felder are now taking on a starting role and Williams is moving into Bishop's shoes.
Comment: True, Bishop was the heart of the defense, but Williams is ready to step into that role. This unit is the most athletic LB unit Cal has ever had. They are fast, strong and can knock the crap out of people. Follett is a big time playmaker that has a nose for the ball. Williams is a tackling machine and can roam sideline to sideline. Lastly, Felder is probably the most athletic but has been hampered by injuries. Watch him shine this year.
Gone: Daymeion Hughes, Pac 10 defensive player of the year
New: Brandon Hampton, Darian Hagan, Robert Peele, etc
Comment: The safety positions are in good hand with DeCoud and Hicks. Syd Thompson has locked down one corner spot. He improved significantly over last year and should be a blanket this year.
So how does Cal deal with the loss of Hughes? You don't replace a Daymeion Hughes (though I predict Thompson will be better by his senior year). What we need to look at is the unit as a whole.
The safeties have another year under their belt. Hampton has locked down the other DB spot and has a lot of in game experience. While the unit might not be better, there is little doubt that they can perform up to par with last year's unit.
This year's defensive squad is flying under the rader but expect big things from them. If the defense plays up to my expectations expect even bigger things for Cal this year. With a favorable schedule and an unstoppable offense, this defense could lead Cal to the promised land.
Monday, August 20, 2007
They also have a mention about freshman Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen and the nicknames they have been given:
Jahvid Best --> Jahvid the Jet
Shane Vereen --> Shane the Train
Dora --> Dora the Explorer
Compare those to past nicknames like:
- Marshawn "Money" Lynch
- DeSean "Tha1" Jackson
- Joe "Booya" Ayoob (ok, so that never caught on, but the other nickname he got is unprintable on this blog)
- Adimchinobe "Joe" Echemandu
If you have a better nickname for these players, drop it in the comments and we will use the best one everytime that player is mentioned on this blog.
How They'll Finish
1) 3 conference losses by Cal??? On the bright side, they do pick us to beat Tennessee. I can understand 7-2 (loss to USC and an surprise loss) but 3 losses? Ridiculous.
2) Who do they expect Stanford to beat in the conference?
3) Not sure why people are so high on Oregon (the QB situation is probably worse, not better).
4) Not sure why people are so low on Oregon St. (The loss of Matt Moore could be a plus rather than a minus.)
5) Coach Tedford and Zack Follett were also individually mentioned in the article.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Hayes: Defense wins championships. UCLA's defense is terrific.
RBBID: I agree with the first part, not so much with the second. It is like UCLA's defense played only one game last year, USC. No one saw them get blown away by Cal and FSU. Anyone see that great defense choke it away against Notre Dame?
Hayes: They return 20 starters.
RBBID: They return 20 starters from a .500 team. Great... Stanford returns 19 starters, should we pencil them in for the Rose Bowl?
Hayes: The Florida St. loss was an aberration.
RBBID: The USC win was an aberration.
Hayes: "If you can rush the passer and cover in the secondary, you're going to win a lot of games in the Pac-10. And there are two teams in the country who do that as well as anyone: USC and UCLA."
RBBID: Are you serious? Did the USC's D-line and LSU's DB's transfer to UCLA in the offseason? These are the same guys that gave up 29 points to Washington, 30 to Oregon, 37 to Washington St, 38 to Cal, and 44 to FSU.
Hayes: "The x-faxtor: quarterback Ben Olson has to play to his potential. We've heard of his ability for years, but saw only flashes last season..."
RBBID: Replace Ben Olson's name with Joe Ayoob and reread the sentence. Moving on...
Hayes: The Bruins have a strong running game with Chris Markey, a powerful plugger who can move the pile and a guy with deceptive speed. They're deep on both interior lines and they're hungry.
RBBID: No argument here. Hayes is actually correct. I just have one final reason why UCLA will not compete for the BCS title nor the Pac 10 title: Karl Dorrell!
Finally, please stop using the fact that the home team has won the Cal-UCLA game each year as a reason for penciling in a win against Cal this year. Do you really think that is the overriding factor in determining the outcome of THIS year's game?
1) Cal Media/Blog Updates
- DeSean Jackson on the cover of ESPN the Mag along with a great article inside. (Sadly, my issue had Brian Brohm on the cover. It sucks living on the East Coast.)
- Congrats to Ken and Jason on their new blog, Excuse Me For My Voice. I have been reading both their personal Cal blogs for a while, so I can't wait to see what their combined efforts will produce.
- Jonathon Okanes over at Bear Talk the CC Times Cal Blog, has really stepped it up. I was a little hard on him earlier but once he got his rhythm his postings have been great. Check out his latest post on Cal's first scrimmage.
2) Cal Rankings
I have seen as high as #9 and as low as #22. Can't remember the exact publications. Most importantly, Cal is #12 in the AP poll. A solid start. A big win over Tennessee probably gets us into the top 10 which lead to an undefeated season and a RBBID.
- Jahvid Best is getting lost of love in the media. Bruce Feldman, ESPN CF writer, was at a couple Cal practices for his article on DJax. He says Best is his Freshman sleeper. Best ran back a kickoff today and showed off his speed again.
- Chris Conte, CB/FS, made a name for himself by leading the team in tackles at the first scrimmage. The kid has size and speed and is pushing for time on the field. But honestly, I am still wary about true freshman DB's.
- Shane Vereen, Cal's other stud freshman RB, is quietly having a great practice and it might be hard to keep him off the field also.
- This might turn out to be Tedford's best recruiting class.
- I don't know why this unit is so underrated in the media. I truly feel that Follet, Felder and William match up with any linebacking unit in the country, including USC vaunted trio. Bishop was a beast in the middle, but this unit will be more athletic, fast and harder hitting than any Cal has had before.
- Also there is great depth with Van Hoesen, Moye and McIntyre.
That is all for now, hope to be posting more frequently.