California 2003 Football Outlook
Aug. 19, 2003
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Overview: Jeff Tedford took over as a rookie head coach at California last year and engineered one of the more remarkable turnarounds in recent history. The Golden Bears went from a dismal 1-10 in 2001 to 7-5 last year, Cal's first winning season since 1993. Tedford earned a well-deserved Pac-10 Coach of the Year award from his peers. And while year one looked daunting going in, year two may be even more so, as the Bears return just nine starters, fewest by far in the Pac-10. Included among the departed starters is quarterback Kyle Boller and his school-record 64 career touchdown passes. Plus the schedule does Cal no favors, as nine of 13 opponents played in bowl games last year.
Offense: Last year, coach Jeff Tedford came in with a reputation as an offensive specialist. He enhanced that reputation immediately as California put up 35.6 points per game to rank second in the the Pac-10 in scoring offense. It almost doubled the Golden Bears' total of the previous year. Cal returns six starters to the offensive unit, but such big-time contributors as quarterback Kyle Boller and 1,000-yard rusher Joe Igber are among the missing. Replacing Boller will be a major chore. Junior Reggie Robertson came out of spring practice ahead of Richard Schwartz, but he could face a challenge from incoming JC hotshot Aaron Rodgers. Robertson threw just two passes last year, but did get two starts in 2001. A number of experienced hands are available to pick up Igber's carries. Achimchinobe Echemandu (formerly Joe Echema) and Terrell Williams have both shown productivity in the past, although both are returning from knee surgery. Redshirt freshman Marcus O'Keith also may play his way into the mix. Solid blocking fullback Chris Manderino returns. Jonathan Makonnen was Cal's leading receiver last season with 54 catches and had at least three receptions in 11 of 12 games. Geoff McArthur has seen some starting duty as well. Some speedy freshmen arrive in the fall and the likes of Devin Stearns or others might make immediate contributions. Brandon Hall is the leading candidate to replace Tom Swoboda at tight end. The offensive line should be a strength for the Bears as three starters return led by tackle Mark Wilson, back for his fourth year as a front-liner after starting 34 games the last three years. He is joined by fellow starters Chris Murphy and Jonathan Giesel. Marvin Philip, who has some starting time at center, is back after a two-year Mormon mission and will try to claim that spot. Sophomores Ryan O'Callaghan and Andrew Cameron appear ready and will push for playing time.
Defense: Questions abound on a defensive unit that forced three turnovers per game last year. Just two starters return leading to open competition throughout the unit. The headliner is tackle Lorenzo Alexander, who came into his own last year and is expected to become a dominant player this season. Combined with fellow tackles Josh Beckham and Tom Svercheck, the Bears find themselves with experience and strength in the interior line. The same cannot be said at end, where All-Pac-10 pick Tully Banta-Cain, who led the Bears in sacks the last two years, is among the missing. Incoming JC transfers Ryan Riddle and Ray Tago may be counted on to shore up the ends. Three new starters must be found at linebacker, but early indications are that there will be a significant increase in speed at the position. Hard-hitting junior Wendell Hunter is the only returnee with any starting experience, with Ryan Estes and Joe Maningo possibilities to join him in the starting lineup. Rover Donnie McCleskey is the only returning starter in a secondary that must replace the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha and Jemeel Powell, although corner James Bethea also boasts some starting time. Redshirt freshman Tim Mixon looks like a good bet to start at one corner.
Kicking Game: Punter Tyler Fredrickson returns for his third year as a starter and will be one of the candidates to take over the placekicking duties of steady departed booter Mark Jensen.