Football: Media Day Q&A — Josh Hill

Cal senior safety Josh Hill returns off a unit that led the Pac-12 in pass defense and total defense a year ago:

Q. There are concerns that Cal’s defense, having lost so many players who were drafted into the NFL, won’t measure up this season. How do you respond to that and how good can your defense be?

A. We don’t have any concerns. We feel like even we lost a lot of key guys, we feel like we’re going to be better than last year. We have a young team, we have a very experienced team as well. I know the D-line is going to be a lot better. And the secondary. We’re going to surprise a lot of people.

Q. You have played cornerback and safety during your college career and now you are a starter at safety. What do you bring to the field that fans may not have recognized to this point?

A. A lot of leadership. I played the corner, I played the safety, but I wasn’t really considered the leader. Now I am. So now a lot of eyes will be on me. We’ll will have a different kind of swagger on defense. I’ll try to bring that. I like that role because now everything’s on me. If we succeed it’s on me. If we fail it’s also on me. It’s a big role and I’m ready for the challenge.

Q. On Sept. 1, your team will have the distinction of christening the renovated Memorial Stadium. Envision for me the pre-game atmosphere in the locker room and what kind of performance effort that emotion will translate to on the field. Does Nevada have a chance?

A. The atmosphere is going to be crazy. We’re going to have so much energy, we just can’t wait. The chemistry between us is going to be great. Just the new stadium, the whole atmoshere is going to be something I’ve never felt before. We’re going to be the first team in history to be in that stadium. We just plan on making a statement early. You don’t want to be anybody that day. We plan to keep that going the whole season.


Football: Media Day Q&A — Keenan Allen

Cal junior wide receiver Keenan Allen, caught 98 passes in 2011, is expected to be healthy after undergoing surgery on his right ankle in March following a pickup basketball injury:

Q. Have you dunked a basketball lately?

A. Oh no, no basketball for me. It’s strictly football. I can go out there and play H-O-R-S-E. I feel pretty good. If I had a game Saturday, I could play. I don’t know how long it would hold up because it doesn’t have all its full capacity and flexibility yet. I’ve still got a long time (before the opener).”

Q. The Pac-12 may have the best wideouts in the country, including Robert Woods and Marqise Lee at USC and Marquess Wilson at Washington State. Tell me why you are better than any of them and how you’re better than you were a year ago:

A. I feel like I bring a lot of things to the table, being able to catch the ball, being able to run after the catch, go deep, run a screen. Being able to make a quarterback play, throw the ball if the team needs me to. I have a lot of versatility on the field. Those guys, you’re used to seeing them at wide receiver or punt return. I like to go out there and be versatile.

Q. There has been a buzz since last spring that the eligibility of your half-brother, senior quarterback Zach Maynard, is in jeopardy because of academics. How is he coping with that talk and who do you expect to be under center on Sept. 1 when you guys open the new Memorial Stadium against Nevada?

A. I definitely expect Zach to be under center on Sept. 1. Being with Zach my whole life, I know he’s good under pressure. He’s always struggled, always been in hard times, he’s always under pressure. I have the utmost confidence in him. I know he’s going to come out there and do great things. He’s going to take care of the academic stuff and he’s going to be ready to play football. He’s actually doing pretty good. He’s taking care of his academics. I have no doubts.

Q. After two home games, you guys are on the road for a pair of high-profile road games  — at Ohio State and at USC on back-to-back weekends. Tell me what kind of performance will you expect from yourself on those Saturdays and how important those games will be to Cal’s season?

A. I take the motto that big-time players show up in big-time games. I’m going to come out there and give it my 100 percent for four quarter. They  definitely excite me, but I think all games excite me. Every time I go out there I feel like it’s my turn to shine. I’ve got to impress somebody so I just go out there with that mindset. As far as the team, playing Ohio State and USC back-to-back, that’s going to show our character. It’s definitely going to develop a path for this season.



Football: Another preseason honor for Allen

The preseason honors continue to roll in for Cal junior wideout Keenan Allen, who has been named to the watch list for the Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year award.

Allen also has been named to the preseason lists for the Biletnikoff and Maxwell awards. The Walter Camp award is the nation’s fourth-oldest college football trophy.

Fifty players have been named to the Walter Camp preseason list, including USC quarterback Matt Barkley, USC defensive back T.J. McDonald, Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas, Utah running back John White and USC wide receiver Robert Woods of the Pac-12 Conference.


Football: Sofele finds spot on Doak Walker list

Senior Isi Sofele was named as a candidate for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top college running back.

Sofele rushed for 1,322 yards last season — the ninth time in the past 10 seasons Cal has had a 1,000-yard back.

Fifty-two players are on the Walker Award’s preseason list, including eight Pac-12 Conference backs. Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and Utah’s John White are among those. 

Headliners on the list include Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis of Arkansas.


Football: Allen on Biletnikoff Award watch list

Cal junior Keenan Allen was named to the watch list for  Biletnikoff Award, recognizing the nation’s top wide receiver. Allen caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Named in honor of former Oakland Raiders great Fred Biletnikoff, the award’s early list also includes USC’s Robert Woods, Washington State’s Marquess Wilson, Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton and Arizona’s Dan Buckner. Also on the list is Noel Grigsby of San Jose State.


Basketball: Dickie V praises Monty

I sat in on a national teleconference call today with ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, who is beginning his 33rd season in broadcasting.

I asked Vitale about where Mike Montgomery fits in among the nation’s elite coaches and his impressions of Cal’s 2011-12 team. Here’s what the always expansive one had to say:

“First of all, please pass on to Mike . . . I wrote him a letter and sent him my best wishes for a speedy recovery of his surgery for bladder cancer, a disease that has really run rampant on so many good people. It’s great that ol’ Mike is coming back.

“You know, Mike among his peers, and people like myself as well, is one of the great teachers in the game. He’s a teacher. He’s a purist. He loves being in the gym. He likes taking a player, making him a better player and ultimately putting him into a team concept and having him play.

“You’ve got to make the commitment as a team. Kids have to learn. For example, I think one of the biggest adjustments for players, especially when you’re a talented superstar out of high school, is all of a sudden now you might not be option No. 1. You might be option No. 3 or No. 4. How do you handle that? How do you make that adjustment? How do you make that situation a positive and not go into a pout?

“I think Mike does a great job of blending his team to play as a unit. And right now, Cal is going to be right there in the hunt in the Pac-12. I have not seen them, but based on reports I’m getting from people, Cal is going to be right there, knocking on the door. Look at Arizona and UCLA and you certainly can’t count out Washington, but Cal’s going to be right in that mix.”


Basketball: No Cal players, only 3 from Pac-12 on Naismith Award preseason top-50 watch list

Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe were left off the Naismith Award’s preseason top-50 watch list, released Monday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Pac-12 Conference was represented by just three candidates — Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith of UCLA and Terrence Ross of Washington. The Southeastern Conference, by contrast, has 10 players on the list.


Basketball: Pac-12 writers roundtable

For the second straight season, Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic has organized a Pac-12 writers roundtable where we address questions related to the conference.

Participating this season, besides myself and Haller, are Percy Allen of the Seattle Times, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times and Bob Clark of the Eugene Register-Guard.

Here’s our first roundtable of the 2011-12 season:

— True or false: The Pac-12 is destined for a disappointing season after losing so much talent to the NBA.

Allen: “False. I think 2010, when the Pac-10 sent two teams to the NCAA
Tournament, was an aberration and won’t occur again any time soon. Last season
four conference teams made the 68-team tournament. I predict five will receive
invitations in March, although four is a safer bet.”

Bolch: “True. It’s another hodgepodge of mediocrity, with no team poised to earn
the national spotlight for a third consecutive season. Even the conference
favorites have severe flaws that likely will be exposed during the NCAA
Tournament. UCLA and coach Ben Howland  have shaky wing players. Cal has a nice starting five but questionable depth. Arizona? Two words: Seattle Pacific.”

Clark: “I’m saying false, on the basis that not much is expected, so with the
bar set low, there’s a chance for the league to exceed expectations.”

Faraudo: “False. I think the league has lots of intrigue this season, partly
because traditional powers UCLA, Arizona and Washington saw players defect to
the pros. Cal has great experience, Oregon is coming on and there is plenty of
young talent. I predict a great conference race, where no team avoids losing at
least two or three times.”

Haller: “False. There may not be a Final Four contender among the bunch, but
1-through-8 this conference should be pretty competitive. Outside of the big
four, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State are poised to make an upper-division
push, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin O’Neill finds a way to keep USC
relevant, even without injured point guard Jio Fontan.”

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Basketball: CBSSports.com ranks Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez 47th-best player nationally

CBSSports.com has ranked the top 100 players in college basketball this season and Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez is No. 47 on the list:

47. Jorge Gutierrez (senior guard, California). It’s hard not to love this kid. Terrific work ethic and can do it all for the Bears. — Jeff Goodman.

Allen Crabbe checks in at No. 77 on their list:

77. Allen Crabbe (sophomore guard, California). A lights-out perimeter shooter who needs to develop more versatility in his game this season. — J.G.

Curious that Oakland native and Oregon freshman Jabari Brown, who plays essentially the same wing position as Crabbe, is No. 49 — without having ever played a college game:

49. Jabari Brown (freshman guard, Oregon). Could wind up being Dana Altman’s leading scorer. Strong, athletic and can fill it up. — J.G.

Other top-100 Pac-12 players: No. 23 Terrence Ross, Washington; No. 24 Reeves Nelson, UCLA; No. 42 Josh Smith, UCLA; No. 46 Josiah Turner, Arizona; No. 85 Jared Cunningham, Oregon State; No. 88 Trent Lockett, Arizona State.

Two other players with local roots: No. 84 Damian Lillard (Oakland) Weber State; No. 94 Kevin Foster, Santa Clara.

The full list is here. 




Basketball: Bears No. 24 — again — in power rankings

ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com have released their joint preseason college basketball “Power Rankings,” and they look awfully familiar. Compare them to both the preseason AP top-25 and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, and there’s hardly a difference.

Cal is No. 24 in the “Power Rankings,” the same spot it occupies in the AP and coaches polls.

Here are ESPN’s “Power Rankings:”

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kentucky
  3. Ohio State
  4. Connecticut
  5. Syracuse
  6. Duke
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Florida
  9. Memphis
  10. Louisville
  11. Pittsburgh
  12. Baylor
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Kansas
  15. Xavier
  16. Arizona
  17. Marquette
  18. Alabama
  19. Cincinnati
  20. UCLA
  21. Texas A & M
  22. Michigan
  23. Gonzaga
  24. California
  25. Michigan State