Pac-12: Brett Johnson

Dallas adds a dose of Berkeley

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
11:52
AM ET
Three former California players have signed free agent contracts with the Dallas Cowboys: receiver Verran Tucker and offensive linemen Chet Teofilo and Mike Tepper.

Linebacker Devin Bishop signed with Denver. The Pac-10 blog previously reported -- incorrectly -- that he'd signed with Dallas.

Meanwhile, former Bears safety Brett Johnson signed a free agent contract with Buffalo, while safety Marcus Ezeff will get a tryout next week with the New York Jets, according to a release from the school.

Cal had three players selected in the NFL Draft: defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars, 10th overall) and tailback Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions, 30th overall) were both chosen in the first round last Thursday. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (Denver Broncos, 225th overall) was picked up in the seventh round Saturday.

Ranking the Pac-10 safeties

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Pac-10 is solid at safety -- it's not all about Taylor Mays either.

In fact, the stockpile in the secondary likely will make choosing an All-Pac-10 team a big challenge.
  1. USC: It doesn't matter if Josh Pinkard stays at safety or moves to corner: The Trojans are stacked here, starting with Mays, a two-time All-American. Will Harris is hardly a stop-gap if he steps in for Pinkard, and there's good depth.
  2. California: While the Bears lack the Trojans' star quality, they are experienced, productive and deep with Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson leading the charge.
  3. Arizona: Cam Nelson is an all-conference-type player, while Robert Golden is an all-conference-type talent who is transitioning from cornerback.
  4. Oregon: T.J. Ward is one of the conference's premier hitters. He figures to become a complete player this fall. Javes Lewis won the competition at rover to replace Patrick Chung.
  5. Stanford: Bo McNally is a reliable veteran and Delano Howell, albeit green as the former running back switches to defense, will improve the Cardinal's athleticism.
  6. UCLA: Sophomore Rahim Moore looks like a budding star. Tony Dye leads the battle at strong safety over fellow sophomore Glenn Love.
  7. Oregon State: Junior Suaesi Tuimaunei will replace Al Afalava at strong safety and Lance Mitchell will set in for Greg Laybourn at free. While they lack experience -- Tuimaunei started twice in 2008 -- they are more athletic than their predecessors.
  8. Arizona State: Perhaps it's a sign of the Sun Devils' depth that expected starters Clint Floyd and Ryan McFoy are listed second-team on the depth chart behind Jarrell Holman and Keelan Johnson. Coach Dennis Erickson said Monday he hasn't decided who will start. This gives us pause, though there's no lack of athletic ability here.
  9. Washington State: The Cougars probably feel pretty good about Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, a solid pair of returning starters.
  10. Washington: Nate Williams is a solid strong safety and redshirt freshman Greg Walker has flashed ability at free, but the Huskies have a long way to go in the secondary.

Best case-worst case: California

August, 12, 2009
8/12/09
12:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ninth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting at the bottom and working up from my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.

Up next: California

Best case

Last year, California running back Jahvid Best blew a technicolor pizza on national television at Maryland. This year, he made the Terrapins nauseous.

In a tour de force performance that announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy like a bolt of lightning, Best rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 105 yards and a score -- most of which came on a 58-yard touchdown off a screen -- in a 44-10 victory.

Best produced touchdown runs of 55 and 68 yards but sat out the second half of a blowout victory over Eastern Washington.

The Bears overcame a shaky start at Minnesota and rolled in the second half for a 30-17 win.

That set up a marquee showdown for the No. 8 Bears at No. 5 Oregon with ESPN's College GameDay on location in Eugene.

Lee Corso donned the Duckhead. Kirk Herbstreit tapped the Bears.

"It's fair to say the winner of this game will send a player to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony," Chris Fowler said about Best and Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

The Bears led 17-10 at the half, a 76-yard run from Best being the difference.

With 3:05 left, the Bears led 24-20. From the Oregon 47, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley did a play-action fake to Best and launched a bomb.

But Ducks safety T.J. Ward didn't bite on the fake, and he out-leapt Marvin Jones for the interception.

Masoli drove the Ducks to Cal's 32, but faced a fourth-and-8 with 0:55 remaining.

Masoli set up to pass, but Bears end Cameron Jordan was on him. Masoli stiff-armed Jordan, and started to backpedal. Jordan was joined by Mike Mohamed in pursuit of Masoli, who reversed the field and started directing receivers downfield.

There was room to run. Masoli tucked and made a break, but just short of the line of scrimmage, he stopped and lobbed the ball into the corner of the endzone.

Tight end Ed Dickson leapt, but the ball was tipped away by safety Brett Johnson.

And onto the turf.

Autzen went silent.

"California might be the best team in the nation," Herbstreit said after the game.

"See you next week in Berkeley," Fowler concluded.

No. 2 USC vs. No. 4 California. Big. Perhaps the biggest game in Cal history.

"People have contemplated the origin and evolution of the universe since before the time of Aristotle," said George Smoot, Cal physics professor and Nobel Prize winner. "Very recently, the era of speculation has given way to a time of science. The advance of knowledge and of scientific ingenuity means that at long last, we can actually test our theories. But no body will be testing anything Saturday because the Bears are going to stomp 'SC. Go Bears! Whoooo! How 'bout another margarita!"

One piece of good news that emerged from the day as a sidebar was that Memorial Stadium, awaiting a major seismic retrofitting, proved it could withstand a minor earthquake.

We know that because the rumble inside Strawberry Canyon probably could have be heard across the Bay in San Francisco when Best went 75 yards for a touchdown on the Bears first possession, having outraced Trojans safety Taylor Mays the final 35 yards.

On the biggest stage, Best and Riley and an inspired defense pushed the Trojans around in a 40-17 victory, the worst loss of the Pete Carroll era.

Cal rose to No. 2 in the rankings. Texas coach Mack Brown complained. According to an ESPN.com poll, 78 percent of the college football nation believed he should quit whining.

When Texas' Colt McCoy and Oklahoma Sam Bradford combined for six interceptions in a 10-7 Sooners victory on Oct. 17, the door opens for the Bears.

"It's the matchup everyone wants to see," Fowler says. "Florida vs. Cal, Tim Tebow vs. Jahvid Best. SEC vs. Pac-10. It's freaking beautiful."

The Bears rolled through their next seven games by an average of 24 points. The offense ranked third in the nation with 41 points per game, the defense fifth with 13 ppg.

On a technicality, however, Cal didn't play in its first Rose Bowl since 1959.

"While disappointed we're not playing in the Rose Bowl, it is some consolation to play for the national title in the Rose Bowl Stadium against a fine team like Florida," Cal coach Jeff Tedford sighs.

Best, already called the best player in the nation by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, won the Heisman.

During a pre-BCS title game press conference, a reporter asked Best whether he won the Heisman because folks were tired of hearing and reading about Tebow.

"I hope not," Best says. "Because that would mean people are really stupid. Tim Tebow is the greatest college football player in history. And he's a great person. And I use the term 'great' in its true sense, not as a casual compliment. Why would people get tired of hearing about a guy who does so much good? A guy who remains humble despite all the accolades? I don't care if you don't subscribe to his religion. I don't care if you don't like Florida. I certainly don't like Florida this week. But the idea that people are tired of hearing about such an outstanding person bothers me and it should bother you. It's the worst type of cynicism."

Florida nipped Cal 43-42 in triple-overtime when Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes tipped away a Riley pass on a 2-point conversion.

Worst case

California opened 2-0 with wins over Maryland and Eastern Washington, but a team that wanted to contend for championships had to win on the road.

And Cal still didn't prove that it can, which became clear when the Bears fell at Minnesota, 28-24, the program's fifth consecutive road defeat.

That, of course, didn't bode well for a visit to Oregon. This time the Bears were sharp to start, but Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli led a fourth-quarter rally and the Ducks prevailed, 27-24.

A home loss the following weekend to USC left a season that started with such promise on the brink of disaster. Coach Jeff Tedford announced he was benching quarterback Kevin Riley in favor of Brock Mansion.

While the passing offense continued to struggle, running back Jahvid Best and a tough defense led the Bears on a five-game winning streak.

But Best hurt his shoulder in the overtime win over Arizona, meaning he missed the Big Game vs. Stanford.

In the second overtime of the Big Game, needing a field goal to tie, Stanford called a flea flicker, and quarterback Andrew Luck found Richard Sherman, who was uncovered, for the game-winner.

Stanford improved to 9-3 and earned a berth in the Holiday Bow
l.

Cal slipped Washington in the season-finale and headed to the Sun Bowl.

The Bears whipped Notre Dame 38-10.

The following day, Best, Jordan, Mohamed and cornerback Darian Hagan announced they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft a year early.

And Tedford was named the Oakland Raiders head coach.

Cal hired John Mackovic.

Best case, worst case: Oregon

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
8:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Eighth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting at the bottom and working up from my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.

Up next: Oregon

Best case

Just because Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is a chill dude doesn't mean he can't hold a grudge.

That became abundantly clear when he took a spread option keeper and smashed his shoulder into the chin of Boise State safety Jeron Johnson. It appeared that Masoli, who was knocked out of last year's upset loss to the Broncos on what some described as a cheap shot, had no interest in juking Johnson, who left the game with a broken jaw.

Call it revenge on the blue turf, but Boise State is no match for the enraged Ducks, who roll up 574 yards of offense in a 56-28 win.

"Guess our offensive line is going to be OK," Ducks coach Chip Kelly quips afterwards.

The Ducks don't let up, breaking the 50-point barrier in wins over Purdue and Utah. Masoli's newfound proficiency of as a passer starts to generate Heisman Trophy buzz.

"I always knew he could be a proficient passer," Kelly said. "It's not newfound."

[A Pac-10 blogger notes to himself that it's eerie that Kelly seems to be participating in a fantasy post about the Ducks].

"Why is it eerie?" Kelly asks.

[Voices ... in ... my... head. Quiet!].

Oregon ascends to No. 5 in the national rankings, and a visit from No. 8 California brings ESPN's College GameDay to Eugene.

Lee Corso dons the Duckhead. Kirk Herbstreit taps the Bears.

"It's fair to say the winner of this game will send a player to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony," Chris Fowler says about Masoli and Cal's Jahvid Best.

Cal's defense is a different animal. It bottles up Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount. The Bears lead 17-10 at the half, a 76-yard run from Best being the difference.

With 3:05 left, the Bears lead 24-20. From the Oregon 47, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley does a play-action fake to Best and launches a bomb.

But Ducks safety T.J. Ward doesn't bite on the fake, and he outleaps Marvin Jones for the interception.

Masoli takes over at the Oregon 5-yard line. He connects with Jamere Holland for 15 yards. He finds Ed Dickson for 26. He scrambles for 18. A screen to Blount goes for 12 to the Cal 34.

But Jeff Maehl can't haul in a tough ball over the middle, Blount drops a short pass in the flat and a scramble nets only two yards.

It's fourth and 8 with 0:55 left. Masoli sets up to pass, but Bears end Cameron Jordan is on him. Masoli stiff arms Jordan, and starts to backpedal. Jordan is joined by Mike Mohamed in pursuit of Masoli, who reverses field and starts directing receivers downfield.

There's room to run. Masoli tucks and makes a break, but just short of the line of scrimmage, he stops and lobs the ball into the corner of the endzone.

Dickson leaps, but the ball is tipped away by safety Brett Johnson.

And into the hands of Rory Cavaille. Touchdown.

Autzen erupts.

"Oregon might be the best team in the nation," Herbstreit says after the game.

The Ducks roll through Washington State, UCLA and Washington.

No. 2 USC heads to town to take on the No. 3 Ducks. It's billed as the biggest game in Autzen Stadium history. GameDay comes back to Eugene. It's impossible to get a seat at Beppe & Gianni's Trattoria.

But this is not the Ducks day. The Trojans have the offense to match and their defense is fast enough to keep up with the Ducks. USC wins 38-28.

"We should have won this game," Kelly said. "Why didn't we win this game?"

[Must ignore him... how does he do that? We knew he was a control freak but this is a little much.]

Predictions of a hangover prove overstated. The Ducks roll through their final four games, including a 40-28 win over Oregon State.

With USC playing Florida for the national title, it appears Oregon will head to the Rose Bowl to face Ohio State. But by some complicated BCS machinations that everyone agrees would make your head explode if they were explained, the Ducks head south to play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Masoli finishes third in the Heisman Trophy race.

"Neh," he says. "No big deal. I ate at Le Bernardin and hung out with Thomas Pynchon and the the Kings of Leon. That was cool."

Oregon, which has thrived on balance much of the year, throws only four passes but rushes for 388 yards against the Bulldogs in a 48-21 victory.

After USC beats Florida in the BCS title game, Oregon finishes No. 2 in both polls.

Worst case

Boise State doesn't lose on the blue turf, and the Broncos season-opening 38-35 victory over Oregon becomes the foundation of an unbeaten season and another BCS bowl berth.

The Ducks rebuilt offensive line plays fairly well, but it surrenders three sacks. The defense, however, is clearly a work in progress, with Boise quarterback Kellen Moore throwing three touchdown passes and the Broncos rushing for 190 yards.

Oregon whips Purdue and outlasts Utah, but quarterback Jeremiah Masoli suffers a concussion in the fourth quarter.

Nate Costa is the surprised starter the following week against California, but he goes down in the second quarter. With a thumb injury.

Darron Thomas comes off the bench and plays well, but the Bears roll 40-24 on 173 yards and two touchdowns from Jahvid Best.

The Ducks whip Washington State and UCLA, Masoli returning to action against the Bruins.

Then they head to Husky Stadium. The Ducks have owned rival Washington of late, winning five in a row in the series.

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns and rushes for 98 yards another score, but the key play comes when it seems like Oregon is driving late for the victory.

From the Huskies 8-yard line, Masoli throws the ball to his left into the flat toward the endzone pylon, but Washington cornerback Quinton Richardson snags the ball and sprints down the sideline.

"Quinton Richardson's gonna score!" screams Huskies play-by-play man Bob Rondeau.

Huskies win 31-20.

Richardson's 97-yard interception return for a game-clinching touchdown becomes known as "The Pick," and it will be played repeatedly in Husky Stadium whenever Oregon visits in the future.

The Ducks seem lethargic while losing 35-17 to USC, but they bounce back with wins over Stanford, Arizona State and, in double-overtime, at Arizona.

The stakes in the Civil War are mostly pride. Oregon State appears headed to the Holiday Bowl in any event, while Oregon could end up in the Sun Bowl with a victory.

Yet the Beavers clearly have revenge on their minds for the disaster of 2008. They pound the Ducks defense with Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 159 yards and three scores, and Masoli and company never find their rhythm in a 35-20 defeat.

Oregon then beats Boston College in the Emerald Bowl and finishes 8-5.

Three days later, Nike files for bankruptcy.

No swoon for California

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
8:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

California fans probably let out a sigh of relief with the Bears' fast start against Colorado State. Obviously, there's no post-Maryland swoon.

And talk about finding creative ways to score.

  • Blocked punt returned 30 yards for a touchdown by Bryant Nnabuife. 7-0
  • Brett Johnson, 43-yard interception return. 14-0
  • Kevin Riley 11-yard touchdown pass to Nyan Boateng. 21-0
  • Syd'Quan Thompson 73-yard punt return. 28-0.

And a shutout and four sacks from the defense (so far) is also encouraging.

Instead of being flat, the Bears are playing opportunistically, which means the Pac-10 appears on the cusp of notching its first win this season against the Mountain West Conference.

Against, er, five defeats.

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