Golden Bear Football - 2008 Spring Notes

Feb. 28, 2008

The Golden Bears will open their 2008 spring football schedule on Monday, March 17. The 14-session training period will wrap up on Saturday, April 19. All spring practices are closed to the public. The April 12 (Saturday) practice will be open to all fans free of charge as part of Cal Day. The opening practice is sponsored by Peterson Tractor.

For the sixth straight season, the Cal football team has posted a winning record under the direction of head coach Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bears closed the 2007 campaign with a 42-36 victory over Air Forces in the Armed Forces Bowl - Cal's fourth bowl victory under Tedford, a school record. The 2007 campaign also marked the fourth straight year that the Bears climbed into the national top-10 during the season. Leading the way for the Golden Bears were three first-team All-Pac-10 selections: senior running back Justin Forsett, junior center Alex Mack and freshman special teams star Jahvid Best.

Justin Forsett became the second Cal back with over 1,500 yards rushing in a season and the third with over 3,000 career rushing yards ... Lavelle Hawkins was ranked as high as the No. 3 senior receiver in the nation by Mel Kiper ... Robert Jordan had receptions in a school-record 42 straight games ... center Alex Mack anchored an offensive line which allowed a Pac-10-best 11 sacks this year ... quarterback Nate Longshore has thrown for over 5,000 career yards and his 41 career touchdown passes rank sixth all-time at Cal ... DeSean Jackson ranks third all-time at Cal in receiving yards and sixth in receptions ... true freshman Jahvid Best had 21 plays of 10 yards or more and averaged 12.3 yards per touch ... senior tight end Julian Arthur had his first career reception against Stanford ... Cal's 91-yard scoring drive against Stanford was its longest by yards of the season ... Cal has not been shut out in a school-record 107 consecutive games dating back to Sept. 11, 1999.

Safety Thomas DeCoud recorded his 100th tackle of the season against Stanford and led the team with 116 takedowns ... linebacker Zack Follett led the Bears with 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks ... Anthony Felder (101 tackles) and Worrell Williams (105 tackles) joined DeCoud to give Cal three 100-plus tacklers for the second time in school history (1983) ... tackle Tyson Alualu's 52 tackles were the most by a defensive lineman at Cal since 2000 ... cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson has started every game in his career and led the team with 10 pass break-ups ... corner Brandon Hampton had two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2007 ... cornerback Chris Conte had 32 tackles, the most by a Cal true freshman since 2002 ... Cal forced a fumble in 11 of its 13 games and recovered a fumble in 10 of those ... the defense led the nation with three fumble-recovery touchdowns this year.

DeSean Jackson had six career punt returns for touchdowns ... Cal foes booted 21 field goals in 2007, matching 1983 for the most field goals by an opponent ... of Andrew Larson's 110 career punts, just 40 have been returned for 245 yards (6.1 yards per return) ... Jordan Kay was perfect on PAT's (48-of-48) ... snapper Nick Sundberg was perfect on 128-of-129 (99.2%) snaps this year.

All-America center Alex Mack announced on January 8 that he will return for his senior season with the California football team. Mack earned All-America honors from multiple entities, including first-team recognition by The Sporting News. 'This is a really great opportunity for me to help the team,' Mack said. 'There is a lot I can do at Cal to improve my game and to further my career. I didn't want to miss the experience of my senior season and helping the team get back on track and finish things right. This also gives me an opportunity to finish my degree and continue my education. I came to Cal because of the outstanding education and I want to finish that before I'm done. I'm really just looking forward to getting into spring ball and seeing how the team comes together for 2008.'

Mack was also a finalist for the Rimington Trophy which goes to the nation's top center and the winner of the Morris Trophy in the Pac-10. The Morris Trophy is a unique award given to the outstanding offensive and defensive linemen in the Pacific-10 Conference. What makes the award unique is the selection procedure, which has the starting offensive linemen in the Conference voting for the defensive winner and vice versa. Rated as the No. 1 junior center in the nation by Mel Kiper this past season, the Santa Barbara product was also one of just three unanimous selections to the All-Pac-10 first team and a semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award. He anchored an offensive line which allowed just 11 sacks in 2007 (best in the Pac-10, fourth in the nation). In addition to being voted the team's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman (Brick Muller Award), he leads the team in pancakes, knockdowns and cuts.

The 6-5, 300-pounder's excellence is not limited to the playing field either, a legal studies major, he earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors for the second straight year and was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic First Team. He is on track to earn his bachelor's degree in legal studies in May and hopes to pursue graduate studies in the fall.

DeSean Jackson, Cal's All-America receiver and return man, announced on January 15 that he will forego his senior year with the Golden Bears and enter the NFL Draft. 'My teammates at Cal are my family,' Jackson said. 'The counselors are my family. The professors are my family. The fans at Cal are my family and Coacf Jeff Tedford is my family. After considering the pros and cons, the strategic evaluating process that my family and I have experienced and the blessings from God above have helped make the decision clear. The last two weeks have been physically and emotionally tough and exhausting. At this time, I have decided to forego my senior season at Cal and enter the NFL Draft.'

In Jackson's three seasons, the speedster ranks third all-time at Cal in receiving yards (2,423), third in receiving touchdowns (22) and sixth in total receptions (162). He had 28 touchdowns in 36 career games and 52 career plays of 20 or more yards (23.0 percent of his 226 touches). ESPN's Mel Kiper rates him as the No. 1 junior receiver in the nation and he earned first-team All-America recognition as an all-purpose player by the American Football Coaches Association. During the 2007 season, he tallied a career-best 65 receptions for 762 yards and six touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2006, he had 59 catches for 1,060 yards and nine scores. For his career, Jackson also had six punt return touchdowns, the most in Cal and Pac-10 history.

Five high school All-Americans highlight the 21-player recruiting class head coach Jeff Tedford announced on National Signing Day Feb. 6. The Golden Bears have added 19 high school stars, as well as two junior college transfers. Eleven of the signees will bolster the offensive side of the ball, while nine are defensive players and one is a specialist. Two members of this year's class have already enrolled at Cal for the spring semester. 'We are very excited about this class,' Tedford said. 'It addresses all of our needs. While individual recognition is nice, what we look for are young men who will fit in with our program and with the university. We are excited about all of our signees and confidant that they all have the potential to succeed as student-athletes at the University of California.'

In addition to the All-America signees, 14 of Cal's newcomers were rated in the top 50 in the nation at their respective positions. The recruits include four from the Bay Area, five Central Valley players, three standouts from Southern California and one signee from the northern section of the state.

The most prolific position in the class is at wide receiver with five standouts signed. As a group, the receivers are rated in the top 10 in the nation by The other offensive additions include two offensive linemen, two tight ends (giving the Bears the fifth-rated tight-end class in the country), a running back and a quarterback. Defensively, the Bears have inked four new defensive backs, three defensive linemen and two linebackers.

The Golden Bears had a program-record seven players earn invitations to the annual NFL Scouting Combine in February. Safety Thomas DeCoud, running back Justin Forsett, offensive lineman Mike Gibson, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, punter Andrew Larson and tight end Craig Stevens were among the 300+ players invited to the event. Only three collegiate teams had more players invited to this year's combine. Some of the Cal highlights from the event included Jackson posting a 4.35 time in the 40-yard dash (best among wide receivers), Stevens tallying the top bench-press total (27) and third-best 40 time (4.59) among tight ends, Forsett placing fourth among running backs in the bench press (26) and Gibson ranking fourth in the bench press (31) and first in the three-cone drill (7.21) among offensive lineman.

Cal will have a few new faces in place for the 2008 spring practice slate. A pair of its 2008 signees graduated high school early and enrolled at Cal in January and will be in action in the srping. Running back Covaughn Deboskie was a high school All-American for Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., rushing for over 2,000 yards with 42 touchdowns in his last two years. Kendrick Payne is a powerful defensive lineman from Houston, Texas, who was his district's co-MVP after leading Klein Forest High to a 9-2 record. In addition, redshirt junior wide receiver Nyan Boateng, a transfer from Florida who sat out last year, will be in action this spring and is eligble for action in the fall.

California rallied from a 21-0 deficit behind redshirt freshaman quarterback Kevin Riley's 269 yards and three touchdowns to defeat Air Force, 42-36 in the 2007 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 31 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Golden Bears got on the scoreboard in the second quarter when DeSean Jackson made an acrobatic 40-yard grab for Cal's first touchdown. He finished with five catches for 81 yards. Robert Jordan had an 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter, then a 52-yard catch to set up the go-ahead 1-yard TD run by Justin Forsett with 1:33 left in the third quarter. That made it 28-27 and the Bears put the game away on a 21-yard TD run by Forsett on their next drive. Forsett, playing his final collegiate game a half-hour from his home with over 300 family and friends watching, ran for 140 yards and two TDs on 23 carries. Riley was named the Offensive MVP of the game.

The spring season will mark the debut of two new coaches for the Golden Bears. Frank Cignetti takes over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach; and Al Simmons returns to the Bears for his second stint as defensive backs coach. Cignetti, who brings 19 years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional levels to the program, joins the Bears after coaching the San Francisco 49ers' quarterbacks for the 2007 campaign. Simmons, a Bay Area product, returns for his second stint on the Golden Bear staff after serving as Cal's cornerbacks coach from 1998-2000. He coached at Arizona State last season.

Prior to joining the 49ers, Cignetti worked with the University of North Carolina (offensive coordinator, 2006), Fresno State (offensive coordinator, 2002-05), New Orleans Saints (quarterbacks, 2000-01), Kansas City Chiefs (quality control, 1999), Indiana University of Pennsylvania (offensive coordinator, 1997-98; quarterbacks, 1995-98; secondary, 1993-94; receivers, 1990-92) and the University of Pittsburgh (graduate assistant, 1989).

Simmons brings over 20 years of coaching experience to the Golden Bears' defense. He spent the last two seasons as Arizona State's cornerbacks and co-special teams coach. He had a one-year stop at San Jose State as the cornerbacks coach in 2005 after two seasons on the San Francisco 49ers staff. He has also coached at Oregon State (2001-02), Cal (1998-2000), Idaho State (1997), Montana State (1995-96), San Francisco State (1994) and Cal State Hayward (1986-93). As an undergrad, Simmons was an all-conference safety at Cal State Hayward.

The Golden Bears expect to have some spirited competition going on in spring ball as a host of positions have graduated starters leaving multiple players battling for the No. 1 slot on the depth chart. Wide receiver (with all three starters departed), running back and tight end are the most wide-open positions, while the performance of Kevin Riley in the bowl game gives the Bears an old-fashioned quarterback controversy as well. Defensively, the defensive line and the secondary will receive plenty of scrutiny, while the linebacker position returns plenty of players, but all will be fighting for starting roles through the spring.

Cal will have just five starters returning on offensive in 2008. Leading the way is senior All-American center Alex Mack, who will be a top candidate for multiple national honors. Alongside Mack on the line are tackle Mike Tepper and guard Noris Malele, who will be keys for an offensive line that has allowed just 24 sacks over the last two years (best in the ac-10, third in the nation). Brusing fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou also returns - the senior has had limited carries (10), but has never run for negative yardage. The other returning starter is quarterback Nate Longshore, who threw for 2,580 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007.

The Golden Bear defense has significantly more experience returning with nine starters back for 2008. The linebacking corps, led by seniors Zack Follett (25 TFL, 11 QS in last two years), Anthony Felder (101 tackles in 2007) and Worrell Williams (156 tackles over last two years), has the most experience and depth. Four starters return on the defensive line as well, though only junior Tyson Alualu (most tackles by a d-lineman since 200 with 52) is the only one to start all 13 games. In the secondary, junior cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson has started all 26 games in his Cal career, while senior Bernard Hicks has made 18 starts at both safety positions.

After battling an ankle injury for the entire second half of the 2007 season, senior quarterback Nate Longshore is expected to be at 100 percent entering the spring campaign. Longshore, who is tied for first all-time in career wins among Cal starting QBs, has thrown for over 5,000 career yards with 41 touchdowns (sixth all-time) in his Golden Bear career. Longshore finished the 2007 season completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,580 yards and 16 touchdowns. His best day of 2007 came in Cal's 31-24 win at Oregon, when he set career-highs in completions (28) and attempts (43) for a season-high 285 yards and two touchdowns. However, late in the game, he siffered an ankle injury and his numbers suffered for the remainder of the season. As a sophomore, he directed the California offense to a Pac-10 best 32.8 points per game and became just the second Golden Bear to pass for over 3,000 yards in a single season (3,021).

Already assured of receiving some playing time in the Armed Forces Bowl prior the game, redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Riley made the most of his opportunity, helping Cal rally from a 21-0 deficit by completing 16-of-19 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns (as well as a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter). He earned Offensive MVP honors for his performance in the 42-36 win over Air Force. Riley also saw action in the regular season when he filled in for an injured Nate Longshore in week seven against Oregon State, throwing for 294 yards and two scores. The Oregon product completed 64 percent of his passes for 563 yards and five touchdowns in 2007.

Cal had a trio of true freshman see significant playing time in 2007, led by running back/special teams star Jahvid Best. Despite missing the last three games due to injury, Best was a first-team all-conference selection on special teams. He averaged 27.0 yards per kick return (second in the Pac-10) and also had 12 coverage tackles. offensively, Best had 29 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 13 receptions for 74 yards and a TD. He recorded 21 plays of 10 yards or more (on 57 total touches).

In addition, cornerback Chris Conte and defensive end Cameron Jordan also saw regular playing time on the defensive side of the ball. Conte played in all 13 games with three starts, recording 32 tackles, the most by a Cal true freshman since 2002. Jordan played in all 13 games as well, collecting 18 tackles and scoirng his first career touchdown on a fumble recovery against ARizona State.

Senior running back Justin Forsett and junior center Alex Mack headlined 12 individuals from Cal on the annual Pac-10 all-conference football teams. Both Forsett and Mack collected first-team honors, while wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins garnered second-team honors. Freshman running back Jahvid Best earned first-team honors as a special teams player, while Jackson was a second-teamer as a punt returner. Zack Follett was also a second-team defensive choice at linebacker. Six Golden Bears were honorable mentions as well: Thomas DeCoud, Brian De La Puente, Anthony Felder, Mike Gibson, Robert Jordan, Craig Stevens.

Linebacker Zack Follett spent much of 2007 with a hair dye job featuring tiger/lion stripes (artwork courtesy of Greg Van Hoesen), earning himself the nickname 'Ziger' for the 'Z' dyed into the back of his head amongst the stripes. Even though the hair went back to normal for the final five games, the 'ziger' mentality remained after he recorded seven tackles (two for losses) and a forced fumble at Stanford, seven tackles and two sacks at Washington, six tackles and a pass break up vs. USC and six tackles, a sack and three pass break ups vs. Washington State. Follett finished the season with 64 tackles, 5.5 sacks (team-best), 12.5 tackles for losses (team-best), six pass break ups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 11 games played (he missed nearly three games due to injury).

Cal hopes to have a bit more luck with injuries in 2008 after seeing probable starters miss a total of 36 games in 2007. While Nate Longshore's injured ankle drew the most attention, an often-forgotten key injury was that to senior placekicker Tom Schneider. A top candidate for the Lou Groza Award entering the year, Schneider, who missed just two field goals inside 50 yards in 2006, was also slated to be Cal's kickoff man. Another critical injury-loss was junior defensive end Rulon Davis. After winning the starting job in fall camp, Davis played in just six games. He hurt his foot in the third game of the year and came back for limited action against Arizona State, tallying 1.5 sacks, before injuring his knee. Safety Marcus Ezeff missed five games due to a quad injury; linebacker Zack Follett missed nearly three games with a neck injury; starting tackle Matt Malele missed four full games due to an injured knee; fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou missed two full games and parts of others due to knee injuries; receiver Robert Jordan missed one game with an injured shoulder; tackle Mika Kane was out one game after a concussion; tailback/return specialist Jahvid Best did not play after the USC game due a hip injury; and receiver DeSean Jackson missed the second half of the Washington game and the entire Stanford contest, while also being hampered by a thumb injury in the first half of the season.

The Golden Bears finished 2007 with three different players recording more than 100 tackles. Thomas DeCoud was the first to cross the century mark after he recorded 11 tackles at Stanford. He finished with 116 on the season. linebacker Worrell Williams had 105 stops, while fellow linebacker Anthony Felder posted 101 takedowns. The only other time in Cal history that the Bears had three players with 100 or more tackles was 1983 when Ron Rivera paced the squad with 138 tackles and Eddie Walsh (109) and John Haina (100) also reached the milestone. The only other years that Cal has had as many as two triple-digit tacklers were in 1987 (David Ortega, 143; and Ken Harvey, 103) and 1988 (Steve Hendrickson, 134; and Ortega, 132).

Over the last two seasons, the California offensive line has allowed just 24 sacks, the least in the Pac-10 and the third-best mark in the nation in that time. And each year, Cal continues to excelw ith different pieces in place. After a successful 2006, Cal had to replace its left tackle and left guard. Mike Gibson, an all-confernece right tackle in 2006, took over the left tackle position last year and again earned all-league recognition. Brian De La Puente took over the left guard slot and also earned All-Pac-10 honors. Unfortunately, both of those standouts have graduated, leaving the Bears with more holes on the left side to address during spring ball this year.

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