Pac-10 Offensive Grades: California Golden Bears
The California Golden Bears have been a model of consistency over the past few years, winning eight or more games in five of the last six seasons.
While many surrounding the program may enjoy annual trips to El Paso, Las Vegas, and San Diego, Coach Tedford has bigger plans for his 2009 squad.
The 2008 Bears finished the season 9-4 and rode the legs of sophomore sensation Jahvid Best to an Emerald Bowl victory over the ACC's Miami Hurricanes.
Tedford's Bears don't lose too much on offense and again are in preseason talks as a contender for the Pac-10 Conference title.
That, of course, reliant on whether or not USC wants to repeat yet again as kings of the West.
Will the Bears be able to piece together an entire season and find the path that leads to Pasadena?
Let's explore further into the make up of the 2009 California Golden Bears offense.
Runningback: A+ Bursting on the scene in 2008, Cal's Best opened eyes and gave defensive coordinators fits with his ability to get to the outside, and once there, explode up field with tremendous "you can't catch me" speed.
The Pac-10's leading rusher with 1,580 yards and 15 TD's, is as explosive and dynamic as any back in the nation.
Best rushed for over 200 yards in three games last season and broke the century mark in eight. His shocking 698 yards in his last three games could be an indication of what's to come in 2009.
What's more intimidating, is Best is just now entering his Junior year. To have to line up against Best for another two years is enough to make any head coach lose sleep the night before.
If Best can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this Bear's offense. I expect another 1,200+ yard season and strong consideration for a very prestigious award handed out at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
Concerned about depth if Best goes down?
Now-sophomore back-up Shane Vereen filled in more than admirably for Best at times, rushing at five yards a clip and amassing 715 yards in his freshman season. Vereen is a perfect mix of low to the ground power and quickness.
The two returning runningbacks also hauled in 27 receptions each for a combined 467 yards and two touchdowns.
The dual threat that California has in their backfield is more than deserving of the grade they received.
Quarterback: B Kevin Riley has been ridiculed most of his career for spotty (at best) quarterback play. This year he doesn't have the shadow of Nate Longshore following him and seems to be the pick for the starting spot at first glance.
It's hard to fully gage Riley's success over the past two seasons with the quarterback carousel the Bears had going in 2007/2008.
Riley's completion percentage was over 50 only five times on the season; four of which came in Cal Bear victories.
When given the keys to the car that is the Bear's offense, Riley seems to excel and get the job done. Less distractions this year should equate to better numbers.
Riley never fully felt comfortable last season, yet his 14 touchdowns to only six interceptions would be welcomed by almost any head coach you'd ask.
An added intangible is his ability to escape pressure and make something happen with his feet, something his counterpart Longshore did not posses.
Backing up Riley is sophomore QB Brock Mansion, who's 6'6" 237lb frame has coaches foaming at the mouth. He will compete with Riley over the next few months for the starting nod.
Riley's game time experience should be what propels him ahead of Mansion. But if last year served as an example, Coach Tedford will not hesitate to pull the plug on Riley and plug in the Dallas native, Mansion.
Receivers: B+ Overshadowed by the immense talents of Best was the receiving corps for the Bears. The unit did not have a single receiver surpass 500 yards on the season, but the numbers were still there through the air.
Seven Golden Bears caught passes for more than 200 yards during the '08 campaign, and while the passing game tended to play second fiddle to the potent run game, Cal's 2,467 yards through the air balanced the offense and saw 11 different names cross the goal line.
The 2009 Mighty Tedford's return leading receivers Nyan Botang (429 yards, five TDs), Verran Tucker (362 yards, three TDs), and TE Cameron Morrah (326 yards, eight TDs).
Three returning go-to senior pass catchers have the Bears looking potent and effectively two dimensional on the offensive side.
Not only does the receiving crew return as seniors with more experience, they have good size and speed. Botang goes 6'2" 210, Tucker 6'1" 192, and Morrah at 6'4" 250.
With another offseason for Riley and Co. to mesh, this crew could be ready for a break out year with all the attention that will be paid to Best.
Offensive-Line: B- All-World and NFL bound center Alex Mack will be a big loss for the Bears in terms of production, but more importantly, leadership.
The Bears will need players to step in and fill spots. With the abilities of Best, they can ill afford to waste his talent and have him become ineffective.
Only two of the 2008 starters have since graduated and lost are RT Noris Malele, and before-mentioned C Mack.
Right tackle and left guard spots look to be filled with 6'3" 326lb Chet Teofilo manning the right tackle position and Mark Boskovitch at right guard, who saw time in all 13 games last season.
Teofilo and Boskovitch were in the mix regularly last season and are expected to fit in well.
The return of the mountainous 6'7" 319lb LT Mike Tepper to Riley's blind side will be comforting and should allow for less rushed throws with the added sense of security.
Replacing Mack will most likely be a reliable senior in Chris Guarnero. Guarnero was listed as second string to Mack all season in '08.
Right guard will be the big question for the Bears as they piece together their line.
If the offensive line can mesh early on and provide the starting quarterback with enough protection the Bears could average 30+ points per game and make a serious run for the pac-10 title.
Offensive Outlook: With essentially half their line returning, all three leading pass catchers, veteran quarterback, and two lethal running-backs, the Bears look to have the most well rounded offensive attack heading into next season.
The offense will live or die by the performance of their offensive line and whether or not Riley can show progression in the system and play up to his potential, this of course assuming he's the man for the job in Coach Tedford's eyes.
I see good things for the 2009 Cal Bears offense.
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