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California spring wrap-up

5/8/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

1. On the run: California will again be one of the best rushing teams in the Pac-10 next fall with tailback tandem Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, who combined for nearly 2,300 yards last year, even though two starting offensive linemen are gone, including All-American center and first-round NFL draft pick Alex Mack. All five of the linemen topping the depth chart after spring practices have previously started games, with mammoth 6-foot-6, 335-pound sophomore tackle Mitchell Schwartz stepping in for Mack as the designated star. Best, the conference's top Heisman Trophy candidate, sat out spring practices recovering from foot and elbow surgery, but he's expected to be full-go well before fall practices begin.

2. Is this the Pac-10's best secondary? While USC's secondary should be exceptional in 2009, Cal's might be every bit the Trojans' match. All four starters are back from a crew that ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense last year and intercepted 24 passes (third in the nation). Moreover, the depth is strong with youngsters pushing for playing time.

3. Bears up front: This could be an exceptional defensive line. Few teams in the country will have a better pair of defensive ends than senior Tyson Alualu and junior Cameron Jordan, and nose tackle Derrick Hill is no stiff either. Further, the play of the backups this spring suggested this crew could go six or seven deep.

Fall questions

1. QB still undecided: The post-spring depth chart featured two "Ors" between junior Kevin Riley, sophomore Brock Mansion and redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney, though the general belief is Riley finished spring ahead of the other two. While it may be Riley's job to lose, those "Ors" mean coach Jeff Tedford doesn't want him to feel secure just yet.

2. Replacing the big three: The spring question on defense was obvious: How will the Bears replace linebackers Anthony Felder, Zack Follett and Worrell Williams, the anchors of their successful transition to a 3-4 defense in 2008? After the linebacking corps -- Mychal Kendricks, Devin Bishop, Mike Mohamed and Eddie Young -- turned in a strong spring, that question lost some urgency. Still, how well those linebackers perform when the games begin likely will determine if this is a great or merely good defense.

3. Who will receive? Strong springs from sophomores Marvin Jones and Alex Lagemann mean the receiving corps, which returned intact, will be highly competitive for playing time. The post-spring depth chart lists seven names and all seven are in the running for significant action, but it's unlikely more than four or five will see many passes.