For the rest of the summer, the National Football Post will break down every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) to identify players who might warrant interest from NFL teams in the 2010 draft.
The California Golden Bears finished the 2008 season with a 9-4 record, good enough for fourth place in the Pac-10.
Expect them to be in the mix again for a possible run at a conference championship as they are led by one of the most electrifying running backs in the nation.
Here’s our first look at the Golden Bears:
Jahvid Best: No. 4, RB, 5-10, 195
An explosive stop-and-start athlete who has a great first step and gets up to top-end speed instantly out of his break. Is very agile and shifty in the open field and consistently knows how to make the first man miss.
Displays a sudden jump-cut and quickly hits the cutback lane and attacks upfield. Runs with a low pad level and good balance and doesn’t absorb many big hits to his frame. Lacks ideal power at the line of scrimmage and is tripped up too easily by arm tackles.
Possesses a rare second gear and has the ability to separate from almost anyone once he reaches the secondary. However, it’s his natural feel for the game and instincts at the line of scrimmage that make him such a dynamic runner.
A coordinated receiver out of the backfield, he’s also a tough little blocker who has the body control to cut down defenders on contact.
Impression: He’s as explosive and sudden as you can get. I love his natural running instincts and toughness for a back his size. Looks like a big-play threat at the next level.
Nyan Boateng: No. 8, WR, 6-2, 210
A big, muscular target who displays the body control and ball skills to shield a defender and pluck the ball at its highest point. Has a good first step out of his stance and gets up to full speed quickly.
However, he lacks a second gear and isn’t a threat to get behind defenses. Displays good short-area quickness and has the ability to gain inside position on corners and drive toward daylight.
Exhibits some suddenness as a route runner, but has a tendency to round off his routes and gets sloppy out of his breaks. Possesses good instincts and does a nice job finding soft spots in coverage and making himself available to the quarterback.
Impression: A nice-sized target with good body control and feel in the pass game. Looks like he could fill out a roster spot as a possession-type receiver in the NFL.
NOTE: Cal offensive tackle Mike Tepper was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing the 2008 season with a pectoral injury. He started all 13 games in 2007 and is a guy to keep an eye on in the coming season.
Cameron Jordan: No. 97, DE/DT, 6-4, 287
A tall, long-armed athlete who is asked to play both defensive end and defensive tackle on the Cal defense. Isn’t really flexible in his stance and lacks the ability to fire off the ball and gain an initial first step off the edge.
Gets too high on contact and really struggles disengaging from blocks when asked to play DT. However, he does a great job at DE using his length and upper body strength to shed blockers and make his way toward the football.
Doesn’t play with the leverage to consistently get under linemen and bull rush, but has the suddenness to slip blocks vs. the pass game and close on the QB.
Displays the coordination and base strength to consistently beat slide-down blocks on the outside and knows how to set the edge vs. the run.
Impression: A young, moldable defensive lineman with a great frame and the ability to mature into either a 4-3 or 3-4 DE.
Tyson Alualu: No. 44, DE/DT, 6-3, 295
A bit of a tweener who is asked to play both defensive end and defensive tackle on the Cal defense. Displays a great motor and consistently chases the ball down the field and works until the whistle.
Exhibits good range inside and has the athleticism to get after the ball across the line of scrimmage.
Plays with a wide base, and although he possesses some natural flexibility, he consistently fires off the snap too high and either gets washed out of plays or is stalled at the point of attack.
He’s a good athlete who’s at his best when asked to shoot gaps inside and fight his way through blocks on the move. Possesses some explosion to his game and can work his way into the backfield.
However, he needs to do a better job dropping his pad level and using his hands on contact.
Impression: A versatile, blue-collar lineman who is very raw but has some athleticism and could develop into a decent rotational guy.
Syd’Quan Thompson: No. 5, CB, 5-9, 190
Isn’t really comfortable in his back-pedal near the line of scrimmage and has a tendency to open his hips very quickly and side-saddle his way into his drop.
Will get crossed up with his footwork and lose balance when side-saddling, especially when trying to get back outside. Shows a commitment to the run game, but drops his head into tackles and loses sight of the ball carrier.
Displays much more confidence and effectiveness in off-coverage as he is very clean with his footwork and explosive driving on the football.
Exhibits good fluidity in space but has a tendency to over-trust his closing speed and at times gives up too much cushion between himself and the receiver down the field.
Impression: Showcases the natural burst and closing speed to get after the ball but needs to clean up his back-pedal off the line.
Chris Conte: No. 17, CB, 6-3, 205
A tall, long-armed corner with good athleticism and coordination for his size. Has some closing range in off-coverage and does a nice job using his length to get his hands between receivers and the ball.
Lacks the fluidity to play near the line and doesn’t showcase the quickness or burst to stay with receivers out of their breaks.
Is at his best in off-coverage where he displays good straight-line speed down the field and has the ball skills to high-point the football.
Is a tough tackler who is quick to diagnose plays and commit to the run game. Uses his length well to keep himself clean and breaks down well in pursuit.
Impression: A well-built DB who possesses good ball skills and coordination, but he needs to learn to press receivers effectively to have any chance of playing man-to-man at the next level.
Marcus Ezeff: No. 29, SS, 5-11, 219
Lacks instincts inside the box and has a tendency to get caught ball watching, which causes him to lose track of his man. Is slow to find the football in the pass game and doesn’t recognize his run/pass keys quickly.
Isn’t much of a physical presence in the run game and is always late to the play. Displays some coordination and power when asked to break down and tackle in a phone booth, but doesn’t make many plays in pursuit.
Impression: Has a solid build and decent power, but lacks the instincts to give himself a chance to make many plays in any area of the game.
Be sure to check out the rest of my breakdowns at Nationalfootballpost.com.