Less star power

Not that we should be surprised by this, but watch list after watch list keep getting released and Cal keeps getting shut out. This is a big change from last summer, when it seemed like I was getting press releases every day with more news that a Cal player was on a watch list.

Cal had 16 watch list nominations heading into last season. They have only seven this year, although they could pick up one or two more with the Butkus Award list still to be released. Furthermore, those seven nominations are made up of just three players — center Alex Mack (Rimington Trophy, Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy; linebacker Zack Follett (Lott Trophy, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award; and quarterback Nate Longshore (Unitas Award).

This is not surprising in light of how last season ended. Longshore was on three watch lists entering last year — the Manning Award, O’Brien Award and Camp Award. The Unitas Award goes to the top senior quarterback in the country.

It’s just another example that it’s a different feel heading into last season, when expectations were so large. The Bears are in position to do the surprising, instead of getting surprised by others.

For those who want a refresher, here is a complete list of who was nominated for what last year:

Alex Mack — Rimington Trophy, Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy

DeSean Jackson — Biletnikoff Award, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award

Andrew Larson — Ray Guy Award

Tom Schneider — Lou Groza Award

Zack Follett — Lott Trophy, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award

Justin Forsett — Doak Walker Award

Craig Stevens — Mackey Award

Nate Longshore — Manning Award, O’Brien Award, Walter Camp Award



Position battles

With the beginning of training camp now just a few days away, let’s lookat some of the intriguing position battles that will take place this fall:

–Quarterback. Duh. We all know this will be the most closely watched competition as fifth-year senior Nate Longshore tries to keep his job away from redshirt sophomore Kevin Riley. Coach Jeff Tedford has said he will wait until the first week of the season to name a starter, possibly even later. There’s a chance he may play both quarterbacks in the first game against MIchigan State to get a better measuring stick on the two guys.

If Tedford names a starter before the first game, I believe it will go down like this: Longshore will be 1A and Riley will be 1B. I just don’t see how Riley will do enough in the practice setting to unseat Longshore. Longshore was outplaying Riley during the first week of spring before he suffered his pectoral injury that shut him down. If that trend continues (and Tedford said Longshore is completely healed), Longshore should still have an edge as the season starts. But if Longshore is ineffective, I don’t think Tedford will be hesitant to pull the plug immediately and replace him with Riley. And again, he may play Riley in the season-opener anyway.

–Left guard/right tackle: Mark Boskovich was pushing Noris Malele at right guard at the end of last season. With the departure of left guard Brian De La Puente, Boskovich figured to be the man with the first shot there. But in one of the surprises of the spring, walk-on Richard Fisher moved past Boskovich to run with the first team. Fisher, a walk-on and vegetarian, no less, is still listed as the backup to Boskovich on the depth chart, but offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said there is going to be a lot of competition on the offensive line in the fall.

Chet Teofilo looks pretty good as the leading candidate to take over at right tackle (Last year’s right tackle, Mike Tepper, has moved to the left side). But Mitchell Schwartz had a very good spring and could push for time there.

–Wide receiver: There are plenty of reps to be had with the departure of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Redshirt freshman Michael Calvin, the star of the scout team last year, is penciled in at one spot. Nyan Boateng and Jeremy Ross should be the other starters when the Bears use three-man sets, which they typically have done in the past. But I don’t think either guy is a done deal. Boateng’s physical ability is unquestioned, but he needs to improve his work habits at practice and is still unproven. Ross played well during the spring before getting injured, but he didn’t come to Cal as a highly ranked prospect so he really is an unknown commodity.

It’s doubtful LaReylle Cunningham will be more than a backup. That means it’s probably up to a member of the touted incoming receiver class to make an impact if one of the projected starters doesn’t pan out. Marvin Jones likely is the top candidate.

One wild card is Drew Glover, a converted defensive back who also played well in the spring before suffering an injury. He could work his way into the conversation if he picks up where he left off.

–Linebacker: We all know Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder will be on the field. But now that Cal is going to be using four linebackers in the 3-4 alignment, who will be joining them? Probably redshirt sophomore Mike Mohamed, who registered 46 tackles and broke up three passes last season despite limited playing time. It probably would be hard to find a player with a better tackles-to-plays ratio. 

But we all know about the Bears’ depth at linebacker — one of the reasons they are switching to the 3-4. Junior Eddie Young is also a strong candidate. He has looked like a player since Spring, ’07, just waiting his turn to see the field.

D.J. Holt, another player the coaching staff is very high on, may simply have to wait his turn. Holt is more suited to play the middle and should be a MLB in waiting after Williams and Felder leave following this season.

–Kicker: Jordan Kay is the returning starter, but he could be pushed by walk-on freshman David Seawright. Seawright probably already has kickoff duties locked up, but could also be the field goal kicker as well. Kay got off to a strong start last season but then was inconsistent, making just 7 of 14 field goals from beyond 30 yards.



Worrell Williams

ESPN.com’s Ted Miller posted a Q&A with Cal linebacker Worrell Williams today. Nothing groundbreaking, but still good stuff. One interesting note is Williams thinks that Eddie Young will be the fourth linebacker in the new 3-4 defense. Based on last year, I would think it would be Mike Mohamed, who is listed as the starter on the training camp depth chart. Perhaps Mohamed’s injury during the spring set him back. It may be just another good position battle to follow this fall.


Robert Jordan

Former Cal WR Robert Jordan was released yesterday by the 49ers. Apparently, Jordan is dealing with a death in his family and needs the time off. There is a chance Jordan could return to the team as a practice squad player.


SAHPC situation

For those trying to sift through the legal proceedings regarding the student-athlete center at Cal, here’s the situation: Both the Panaromic Hill Association and Save the Oaks have appealed Judge Barbara Miller’s ruling to lift the injunction against beginning construction. The appeal was filed Thursday, and with it comes an automatic 20-day extension for the court of appeals to determine if the injunction should be continued or not. So it appears Aug. 13, or 20 days from the date of the appeal, is the next important date in this saga. Presumably, it will be on that day that we find out if the injunction is lifted or not. The question is whether it will be the next important date, or the last important date, in this saga. Stay tuned.


More position rankings

Catching up on ESPN.com’s Ted Miller’s Pac-10 position rankings: He rates all three of Cal’s returning starting linebackers in the top-10 — Zack Follett at No. 3, Worrell williams at No. 5 and Anthony Felder at No. 8. Miller picks Bernard Hicks at No. 10 among safeties and Syd’Quan Thompson eighth at cornerback.




Better late than never

Cal has added to its offensive line depth for the upcoming season by securing an oral commitment from Diablo Valley College product Donovan Edwards.

Edwards, who played at Pinole Valley High School, committed to UCLA last month. But he took a recruiting trip to Cal last weekend, was offered a scholarship and he changed his mind.

The Bears have pretty good depth at offensive line and Edwards likely will be a backup at tackle. He was rated as only a one-star recruit by scout.com but did receive offers from three Pac-10 schools (Washington State was the other).

“UCLA was the best fit without Cal in the picture,” Edwards told our prep staffer, Ben Enos, today. “The visit changed my perception about Cal and I wanted to become a Bear after that.”



3-4 impressions

Since linebackers Worrell Williams and Zack Follett were two of the three players on hand at yesterday’s Bay Area Media Day, naturally some of the conversation focused on the switch to the 3-4 base defense. There is definitely a sense of excitement about the change, something that was palpable during spring practice. The defense seems enthusiastic about the new look, especially the linebackers, who now will have one more of their position mates on the field.

“It fits our personnel perfectly,” Follett said. “I think it will let our linebackers go out and make plays. The defense is basically dependent on the outside linebackers getting to the quarterback. That’s what I want. I want that put on me.”

In the new look, Williams and Anthony Felder figure to play inside while Follett and Mike Mohamed should man the outside. Eddie Young also is a candidate to play opposite Follett.

Follett said he’s looking forward to having a bookend to make plays, because he was a big focal point of opposing schemes last year.

“My biggest goal right now is to work with the other outside linebacker,” Follett said. “I need someone just as good on the other side so I don’t get all the attention.”

Follett also acknowledged the biggest concern about the switch is the fear that the defense could sacrifice something against teams that like to run between the tackles (such as Michigan State, the first opponent of the season). The onus will be on the defensive line to make more plays against the run, meaning Derrick Hill, Rulon Davis, Tyson Alualu, Mika Kane and Cameron Jordan all will be under the microscope a little bit more.

But Williams doesn’t seem concerned about what the team might give up against the run. He pointed to a drill the team ran during spring practice where only the front seven on defense had to go up against the entire 11-man offense and performed pretty well.

When asked what the team might have to sacrifice by going to the 3-4, Williams said: “Nothing. It’s still a gap control defense. We just have a lot more speed out there now. We’re prepared, we’re tested and it looks good.”




Last season’s second-half slide apparently hasn’t turned off Cal’s student body.

Cal sold out its student section season tickets last Wednesday. Those tickets didn’t sell out last year until Aug. 1, and Aug. 6 the year before that.