RB Marshawn Lynch (PHOTO CREDIT - Tom Hauck)

2005 Statistics

Coach: Jeff Tedford
33-17, 4 years
2005 Record: 8-4
at Washington WON 56-17
at New Mexico State WON 41-13
at UCLA LOST 40-47
at Oregon LOST 20-27 (OT)
USC LOST 10-35
at Stanford WON 27-3
vs. Brigham Young WON 35-28

2005 Final Rankings
AP-25, Coaches-25, BCS-UR

2006 Outlook

Jeff Tedford has quickly taken a struggling program and built it back into a power. Cal has gone 33-17 under Tedford, been ranked as high as No. 4, and reached three straight bowls for the first time in more than 50 years. Last season's disappointing 8-4 finish, which ended in a Las Vegas Bowl win against BYU, would have been considered a solid year not that long ago. But after being the major thorn in Southern Cal’s national championship efforts for three years (beat them in 2003 in the Trojan’s only loss, and lost other two tilts by a total of eight combined points), last year was a step back from them being both in the conference and national picture. "It's great to see our program is at that level that we get criticized for four losses," graduating rover Donnie McCleskey said after the LV Bowl.

The rub is that the program's growth has been overshadowed with USC's coinciding rise into the nation's top program, so they could easily fly under many radar(s) this campaign. Entering Tedford's fifth season, the focus has evolved from reaching bowl games and hoping to pull the occasional big upset to taking the next step. That means competing again with the Trojans for Pac-10 supremacy, getting BCS bids and contending for the national title. "It's nice to go to the bowls," Tedford told the Modesto Bee in March, "but there is more for us to accomplish."

On paper at least, this team has the potential and/or talent to challenge the Trojans for top-dawg status in both capacities. Even with a somewhat shaky secondary, the defense will be among the best in the conference. On offense, the ground game should be among the most explosive in the nation, especially as a young line gels. A talented, experienced WR corps leads a strong group of targets in the new spread attack that should ease the transition of whichever of the four contenders wins the QB derby.

That QB must quickly earn the confidence of his teammates while developing into a leader. That makes an already pivotal opener at Tennessee that much more crucial and one of the best non-con matchups of the year. An upset there could set the tone for a special season. On the other hand, with some of these guys talking national title after the LV Bowl, a big loss in Knoxville could be devastating to the team confidence, and will least of all show the Bears which areas need work. That would turn the Week 2 matchup with Minnesota at Berkeley into an early character test that would genuinely set the tone for the rest of the season.

The conference schedule is favorable with five home dates. It gets gradually tougher, leading up to the big Nov. 18 showdown at USC. Barring last year's disaster at QB, this team should be clicking by then after going through the early-season fires, giving the Bears at least a puncher's chance of duplicating their 2003 upset. But UCLA and Arizona State won’t be pushovers, though both come into the Bay area.

Win or lose that tilt, this might not be the year Tedford catches up to Pete Carroll. But his program has a shot at greatly narrowing the sizeable gap, and he has succeeded with what many thought were questionable groups. A quality year has to be measured by the national standard, though, and this group of hungry Bears should vault back into the BCS picture sooner than most know, unless you are reading this.

Projected 2006 record: 9-3
DB Daymeion Hughes (PHOTO CREDIT - Michael Pimentel)
QB - 3.5 DL - 4
RB - 5 LB - 4
WR - 4 DB - 3.5
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Joe Ayoob, 254-125-14, 1707 yds., 15 TD

Rushing: Marshawn Lynch, 196 att., 1246 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 38 rec., 601 yds., 7 TD

Scoring: Tom Schneider, 9-16 FG, 50-52 PAT, 77 pts.

Punting: none

Tom Schneider, 9-16 FG, 50-52 PAT, 77 pts.

Tackles: Desmond Bishop, 75.5 tot., 62 solo

Sacks: Brandon Mebane, 7 sacks

Interceptions: Daymeion Hughes, 5 for 159 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff Returns: Marshawn Lynch, 13 ret., 20.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Tim Mixon, 24 ret., 14.9 avg., 1 TD


OFFENSE: Chris Manderino-FB, Marvin Philip-C, Aaron Merz-OG, Ryan O'Callaghan-OT
DEFENSE: Tosh Lupoi-DE, Ryan Foltz-OLB, Donnie McCleskey-ROV, Harrison Smith-FS, David Lonie-P

An interesting wrinkle was tossed into the four-way QB derby when the Bears hired Northwestern OC Mike Dunbar to replace NFL-bound George Cortez. Dunbar was the mastermind of the Wildcats' innovative spread attack, and his addition signals a change in the balanced Cal offense. The job could go to the QB who best fits the altered look. The winner of that derby is one of the keys to this team's '06 fortunes. Heading into spring ball, the ever-so slight favorite was senior Steve Levy, who stepped into the starting role in the final two games and gained his teammates' confidence with a pair of wins. The former-FB has decent accuracy (61.5 completion %) and arm strength, and is tough to stop when he decides to run (4.0 yards per carry). He's a guy who would get it done behind a standout group of skill people, but don't expect him to win the Heisman. Any of the other three more talented candidates could emerge as the starter. Nathan Longshore, a redshirt soph, is a 6-5 big-armed pocket passer who won the job entering last season, then broke his ankle in the opener. He has all the technical tools to be The Man, though he lacks foot-speed and experience. Senior Joe Ayoob, a JUCO-transfer two years ago, has the arm, speed and experience. Physically, he resembles Dunbar protégé Brett Basanez. But he was close to a disaster in his nine games as starter and needs to rebuild his confidence after completing under 50 percent of his throws and costing his team some wins. The wild card is Kyle Reed, a quick redshirt frosh out of Oakland who Rivals.com ranked the No. 5 dual-threat QB in the 2005 class.

Running Back
One of the nation's best RB duos returns for what could be the strongest ground game in the Jeff Tedford era. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett keyed the nation's No. 9 rushing offense despite a lack of help from the passing game. With pieces of Dunbar's spread being implemented, we should see more balance and even more production here. Lynch is a mid-sized speed demon (4.4 in the 40) with good power, while the smaller speedster Forsett brings the change-of-pace. Both are explosive, as evidenced by averages of 6.4 (Lynch) and 7.6 (Forsett), though Lynch needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball. Their speed and under-utilized pass-catching ability makes them an excellent fit as both are a chore to contain in the open field. Senior Byron Storer, who caught a 58-yard TD pass two years ago, takes over at a FB position that accounted for just 19 carries and could see even less use under Dunbar.

This talented and tested group should make the transition to full-time starter a little easier on whichever hurler wins the QB race. Everyone who caught a pass for this team is back, with the exception of FB Chris Manderino. All-world recruit DeSean Jackson, who stepped right in last fall with seven TDs and 15.8 yards per catch, is the top playmaker here. Jackson is a 5-11 deep burner whose growing maturity will add to the vertical dimensions of this offense. Robert Jordan, a junior, is an experienced underneath guy with sure hands. An X-factor is junior Lavelle Hawkins, another potential deep threat with who could be ready to break out. He averaged 22.8 yards per catch at the JUCO level two years ago, but failed to show much big-play ability in nine games last fall. This field-stretching group has had the ability to be special. Now it has the experience to go with that talent. The key is simply finding a way to get these guys the ball.

Tight End
This position will be solid with the return of starter Craig Stevens and backup Eric Beegun, though not exactly exceptional. Stevens, a 6-5 junior, is to see a lot of action under Tedford. He has nice speed (12.7 yards per catch), but is more dependable as a blocker. Beegun, a 6-3 senior, has just begun to show his potential. Both of these guys are nice, big targets off the line who should come in handy from time to time across the middle or in the flat, but their true value will be in helping to spring Lynch and Forsett off the edge.

Offensive Line
The QB derby will get all the attention, but what develops here is just as important as three starters are gone for sure. A fourth, tackle Andrew Cameron, might not return for his senior year. There's reason for hope, though, as the line has remained strong each season under Tedford, and several of last year's backups got reps thanks to injuries. Tedford also brought in four O-linemen in his latest recruiting class, including JUCO transfers Mark Gibson and Mike Gray, who should step in right away with impact. The left side should be OK with returning starter Erik Robertson at guard and Scott Smith, who got eight starts in place of the injured Cameron, at tackle. The key is replacing the leadership of all-Pac-10 center Scott Philip and conference O-lineman of the Year Ryan O'Callaghan at right tackle. The line is sure to take a small step back, at least early on, as new faces like redshirt soph center Alex Mack settle into their roles, but the speed of Lynch and Forsett should help offset some of those early struggles.

With a potentially explosive running game, this team needs to find someone who can get the rock to a proven group of targets, or defenses will jam the box and pick on a young O-line in hopes of containing Lynch and Forsett. Tedford brought in a coordinator who favors the spread, but he'll remain active enough in the offense that Dunbar's schemes will simply be added to his already complex system. Getting a QB who can grasp the entire thing, and who can be a leader of an overall youthful offense, is essential. Cal went 8-4 and managed to score 33 points a game with the 90th-ranked pass offense in the nation. A more balanced, variable attack would be too much to handle for most teams in a conference with several shaky defenses, and would vault Cal back into the national picture. The potential is there. It's just a matter of finding the best fit at QB and sticking with him. A rotation could occur, waiting to see who will actually be superior through field testing. But moreover, a sure starter by the first game would bode better.


TE Craig Stevens (PHOTO CREDIT - Evan Kerr)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Nate Longshore-So (6-5, 230) Joe Ayoob-Sr (6-3, 223)
Steve Levy-Sr (6-1, 229)
FB Byron Storer-Sr (6-1, 227) Will Ta'ufo'ou-So (6-0, 250)
TB Marshawn Lynch-Jr (5-11, 223) Justin Forsett-Jr (5-8, 183)
Marcus O'Keith-Sr (6-1, 190)
WR Robert Jordan-Jr (5-11, 166) Noah Smith-Jr (5-11, 188)
WR DeSean Jackson-So (6-0, 160) Sam DeSa-Jr (5-11,199)
WR Lavelle Hawkins-Jr (5-11, 183) LaReylle Cunningham-So (6-2, 195)
TE Craig Stevens-Jr (6-5, 255) Eric Beegun-Sr (6-3, 251)
OT Scott Smith-Sr (6-4, 276) Mike Gibson-Jr (6-5, 290)
OG Erik Robertson-Sr (6-2, 311) Bryan Deemer-Sr (6-4, 311)
C Alex Mack-So (6-5, 295) Mark Gray-Jr (6-2, 275)
OG Noris Malele-So (6-4, 298) Brian De La Puente-Jr (6-4, 301)
OT Mike Tepper-So (6-6, 334) Kevin Bemoll-Fr (6-5, 305)
K Tom Schneider-Jr (6-0, 194) ..



Defensive Line
Every D-lineman on the Las Vegas Bowl two-deep returns to lead what should be another solid run defense (third in conference; 24th nationally). The leader is all-conference DT Brandon Mebane, a big run-plugger with LB quickness. The senior is a menacing pass rusher with all-America potential. Junior DE Philip Mbakogu is another big, talented guy who gets plenty of penetration and makes the big plays. Overall, this group is big, quick, aggressive and deep. It will wear on opposing lines, drawing double teams and freeing up a strong group of backers to make plays, while putting enough pressure on the QB to help out a young secondary. And with diverse names like Mebane, Mbakogu, DE Nu'u Tafisi, DT Albert Ma'afala and DE Fahim Mujaahid Abd Allah, they'll leave plenty of broadcasters tongue-tied as their successes will demand that each is called out.

Strong-side backer Ryan Foltz is definitely replaceable in what should be a deep and experienced unit. Desmond Bishop (no Tutu jokes, please), a former JUCO star, returns in the middle and is the corp’s leader. A 240-pounder with 4.5 speed, Bishop is a big-hitter with excellent quickness who should be an all-America candidate. True soph Anthony Felder is another big, athletic force on the weak-side. A four-star recruit out of Seattle with as much speed, he eventually won the starting gig last fall and will be more adapted to the speed of I-A ball. There's plenty of experienced, capable LBs to plug in on the strong-side, too, including JUCO transfer Mickey Pimental (two picks last fall) and redshirt soph Worrell Williams. Opponents will again struggle to outrun or pass against this quick unit, which will be allowed to roam free by that tough D-line. It will be how much this group can aid the underneath coverage(s) that will dictate what impact this D has overall.

Defensive Back
A somewhat shaky pass defense will have to be better, though their 80th ranking was buoyed by a much lower efficiency ranking (24th). That means they keep the play in front of them well, not often getting burned. The foundation will be senior corners Daymeion Hughes and Tim Mixon. Hughes developed into a playmaker, grabbing a team-high five picks and breaking up 12 passes. The smaller Mixon, who is well removed from his 2003 knee surgery, has regained his pre-injury quickness. Both safeties need to be replaced, but there's plenty of capable plug-ins, including speedy soph Bernard Hicks, lanky junior Thomas DeCoud and former walk-on Brandon Hampton. All three have cut their proverbial teeth in back-up roles and provide hope for improvement against the pass. With a strong pass rush and help from a talented LB trio, there's no excuse not to get better. There's not enough talent here to expect anything dramatic, though, especially given some of the potent passing attacks on the schedule.

While there's some concern at secondary, this defense will be one of (if not) the best in the Pac-10. That's a luxury in a high-scoring conference that hasn't had an abundance of daunting defenses the past couple of years. The front seven boasts that desired combo of size and quickness and should continue to contain the run and effectively blitz. That leads us back to the secondary. Their rankings don't figure to drop dramatically, if at all. The key is forcing more turnovers while continuing to limit the big plays. The group excelled at the latter, allowing 14 receiving TDs while leading the conference in pass efficiency defense (110.2) and opposing first downs (201). That bend-but-don't-break mentality is the way to go for a decent but unspectacular group of DBs facing several spectacular passing games.


Dt Brandon Mebane (PHOTO CREDIT - Michael Pimentel)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Abu Ma'afala-Sr (6-4, 281) Phillip Mbakogu-Jr (6-3, 265)
DT Matthew Malele-Jr (6-3, 333) Mika Kane-So (6-3, 303)
DT Brandon Mebane-Sr (6-3, 306) Tyson Alualu-Fr (6-2, 309)
DE Nu'u Tafisi-Sr (6-2, 260) Fahim Abd Allah-Sr (6-3, 236)
OLB Anthony Felder-So (6-3, 229) Justin Moye-Jr (6-1, 228)
MLB Desmond Bishop-Sr (6-2, 243) Greg Van Hoesen-Jr (6-3, 231)
OLB Worrell Williams-So (6-0, 257) Zack Follett-So (6-2, 230)
CB Daymeion Hughes-Sr (6-2, 188) Randy Bundy-Sr (6-0, 159)
CB Tim Mixon-Sr (5-10, 187) Syd'Quan Thompson-Fr (5-11, 180)
ROV Brandon Hampton-Jr (5-10, 187) Robert Peele-Fr (5-11, 182)
FS Thomas DeCoud-Jr (6-3, 200) Gary Doxy-Fr (6-2, 186)
P Andrew Larson-Jr (6-1, 190) ..




Junior PK Tom Schneider returns, unfortunately putting plenty of pressure on the offense to get it into the end zone. Schneider was 9-for-16 on FGs, which matched his freshman totals, yet he's 9-for-22 during his career from 30-plus yards. His weak leg means Larson will handle KOs, as Lonie did last year. That's OK as Larson shouldered the same role at the JUCO level and got his average kick to the 6. That should help sustain a decent coverage effort that ranked 57th nationally.

JUCO transfer Andrew Larson takes over and should make this unit better. Larson has a strong, consistent leg. The two-time all-conference selection, who was also sought after by USC, averaged 42.1 yards his first season, then 42.2 as a soph. He'll have to work on his hang time, though, as Cal struggled in coverage (102nd nationally at 12.8 yards per try brought the net result ranking to a pedestrian 51st). With improvements in defensive depth, field position battles can now be won.

Return Game
The explosive Tim Mixon earned some all-Pac-10 recognition on PR duty, where he ran one back and was third in the conference at 14.9 yards per try. With his knee surgery well behind him, he should continue to post big numbers. Speedster Justin Forsett and Daymeion Hughes are expected to be the focus on kicks, where the team's quick skill-position personnel should improve also.