Pac-12: Zach Follett

Lunch links: Stanford is QB shopping

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
2:30
PM ET
Looking good, Billy Ray!
Feeling good, Louis!

Pac-10 lunch links: Nonconference games, recruiting and the NFL

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who. 

Big East nips Pac-10 for draft lead

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
10:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

[Note this is a corrected post... apologies for not factoring in the underrated Big East].

The Big East nipped the Pac-10 for the lead among conferences in the 2009 NFL draft.

The eight-team Big East supplied 27 total players in the draft, or 3.4 players per team. The Pac-10 supplied 32 selections (3.2 players per team). The 12-team SEC was third with 37 selections overall, or 3.1 per team. The 12-team ACC was third with 33 (2.8 per team).

Last year, the Pac-10's led with 3.4 per team vs. 2.92 per team for the SEC and ACC (2.75).

USC led the way with 11 players selected, including three in the first round, though many are shaking their heads of linebacker Rey Maualuga's tumble into the second round. Every draft-eligible Trojan who started last season was picked.

Oregon State was second with seven players selected and Oregon was third with six. Arizona State, with a pair of seventh-round selections, maintained a 45-year streak with at least one player drafted.

Not all the news was good: Stanford, UCLA and Washington each had no players selected.

Here's the complete list

Arizona

Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville, second
Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville, fourth

Arizona State

Troy Nolan, S, Houston, seventh
Paul Fanaika, OG, Philadelphia, seventh

California

Alex Mack, C, Cleveland, first
Zach Follett, LB, Detroit, seventh
Cameron Morrah, TE, seventh

Oregon

Patrick Chung, S, New England, second
Jairus Byrd, CB, Buffalo, second
Max Unger, C, Seattle, second
Fenuki Tupou, OT, Philadelphia, fifth
Ra'Shon Harris, DT, Pittsburgh, sixth
Nick Reed, DE, Seattle, seventh

Oregon State

Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo, second
Keenan Lewis, CB, Pittsburgh, third
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas, fourth
Slade Norris, OLB, Oakland, fourth
Brandon Hughes, CB, San Diego, fifth
Al Afalava, S, Chicago, sixth
Sammie Stroughter, WR, Tampa Bay, seventh

Stanford

NONE

UCLA

NONE

USC

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets, first (No. 5)
Brian Cushing, OLB, Houston, first (No. 15)
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay, first (No. 26)
Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, second
Fili Moala, DT, Indianapolis, second
Patrick Turner, WR, Miami, third
Kaluka Maiava, LB, Cleveland, fourth
Kyle Moore, DE, Tampa Bay, fourth
David Buehler, PK, Dallas, fifth
Cary Harris, CB, Buffalo, sixth
Kevin Ellison, S, San Diego, sixth

Washington

NONE

Washington State

Brandon Gibson, WR, Philadelphia, sixth

Family man Alualu will be a force on Bears defense

March, 16, 2009
3/16/09
1:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Tyson Alualu is a "man" on California's defensive line, and we mean that in more ways than one.

For one, the second-team All-Pac-10 selection ranked third in the conference among defensive linemen with 62 tackles in 2008. He added 6 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries.

 
  Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
  Tyson Alualu racked up 62 tackles, 6 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2008.

Second, when Alualu is done with classes, team meetings, workouts and practices for the day, he heads home to a wife and two young children.

"It's pretty busy," Alualu said. "My day is pretty much filled up from when I wake up until I get home."

"Busy" is also how the Hawaii native would describe the Bay Area. It was a big transition going from the island lifestyle to the, er, colorful Berkeley community.

"It's way different than Hawaii," he said. "Everything goes by faster here. In Hawaii, everything is laid back."

Alualu saw extensive action as a true freshman and led the line with 52 tackles in 2007, a total that was the most by a Bears defensive lineman since Andre Carter had 60 in 2000.

After he considered entering the NFL draft a year early, though, Alualu thinks he can get better in 2009, a process that started when spring practices began last Saturday.

"I'm working on everything, from playing the run and pass, to working on better technique," he said. "One thing I can get better at is being more violent with my hands."

Alualu will team with junior Cameron Jordan to give the Bears' defense one of the best defensive end combinations in the conference.

Of course, with both weighing around 290 pounds, defensive ends in the Bears' 3-4 aren't your typical 4-3 speed rushers. Alualu projects as a tackle in the NFL.

With a family to think about and take care of, Alualu admits he thinks about playing at the next level. But Alualu, humble and soft-spoken, said he's focused on Cal's season, not personal goals. 

"I'll do whatever it takes for my team to win games," he said.

The big question for Cal's defense is how to replace a trio of marquee linebackers -- Zach Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder -- each of whom figures to be drafted this April.

Alualu isn't worried.

"Last year was a learning process running the 3-4," he said. "This year, everybody who's coming back will know it a little better. We lost three great linebackers, but we've got great depth at that position. I don't see that as a flaw. I still think we can be better as a team."

In other words, Alualu expects to keep busy this fall.

Pac-10 Senior Bowl selections

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
11:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is the premier postseason college all-star game. Everyone invited to the game has significant NFL prospects.

And just about every NFL coach and personnel guy will be on hand. Watching. Closely.

So the 12 Pac-10 players invited should feel honored. And a bit nervous.

Here's the list:

  • California: Center Alex Mack and linebacker Zach Follett
  • Oregon: Center Max Unger and running back Jeremiah Johnson
  • Oregon State: Offensive lineman Andy Levitre cornerback Keenan Lewis
  • USC: Linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews and defensive linemen Fili Moala and Kyle Moore.
  • Washington State: Receiver Brandon Gibson

Best a one-man show for California

December, 27, 2008
12/27/08
11:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Jahvid Best and Zach Follett saved California from an embarrassing loss in the Emerald Bowl, what amounted to a home game against a young Miami team starting a true freshman quarterback.

 
  AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
  California running back Jahvid Best carried the majority of the load -- and the credit -- for the Bears Emerald Bowl win over Miami.

Best's 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries represented nearly all of Cal's offense in the 24-17 win, while Follett's second sack of the night forced a fumble from Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris and set up with winning score with 2:41 left.

That winning score came on a Nate Longshore pass to Anthony Miller on second-and-goal from the 2. It appeared Longshore was throwing to tight end Cameron Morrah, but Longshore will take any smidgen of good fortune he can get.

The final start of Longshore's career was mostly forgettable. While he didn't throw an interception, he completed just 10 of 21 passes for 121 yards, 74 of which came on dump to Verran Tucker that turned into a big play and set up Best's first score.

Longshore, who's been in a sometimes strange, season-long battle for the starting job with Kevin Riley, also tripped and fell to the ground on a third and goal play from the Miami 1-yard line with the score tied 14-14 late in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Harris completed 25 of 41 for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He outplayed Longshore for much of the game before the late fumble and some remarkably bad clock management at the end that prevented Miami from mounting a potentially game-tying drive in the final two minutes.

Said the Cal fans: Whew.

And so Longshore, after a star-crossed career that included more than a few boos from the home fans, finished with a win. That counts for something.

Cal fans will be eager to see what Best will do next fall, hopefully with just one quarterback handing him the ball. The sophomore had runs of 42, 32, 28 and 25 yards, and probably earned a spot on most short lists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

He hurt his thumb with nine minutes left in the game and didn't gain another yard, but was on the field when Longshore notched his redeeming moment.

Cal's win, though underwhelming, makes coach Jeff Tedford 5-1 in bowl games. The Bears finish the year at 9-4 and could enter the final top-25 poll.

The win also makes the Pac-10 2-0 in the bowl season.

California season review

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

There's some "what-could-have-been" to California's season, but ultimately 2008 should be viewed as a success for a team that began with a lot of questions, not the least of which was last year's second-half collapse.

The team went from No. 2 in the nation to six defeats in seven games in 2007 -- playing indifferently with a divided locker room, which provoked the first questions about coach Jeff Tedford's leadership -- to one that didn't yield during an inconsistent 2008. Eight regular season victories and a potential final national ranking with an Emerald Bowl victory over Miami would be a satisfying finish for a squad that completely rebuilt its receiving corps, changed its defensive scheme and had huge injury issues on the offensive line.

The Bears were in and out of the rankings multiple times this season. A 2-0 start, including a solid win over Michigan State, was followed by a sleep walk through a trip to Maryland. A couple more wins were followed by a second half implosion at Arizona. Cal beat UCLA and Oregon, then lost at USC and Oregon State.

It was a back and forth season, just like the quarterback merry-go-round featuring Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley.

Turning Point
Are you a glass half full or half empty sort? If you prefer half full, then the win over Oregon on Nov. 11 -- played in a deluge at Berkeley -- established that the season would not be a failure. Half empty? Then the loss at Arizona on Oct. 18 established that the season wouldn't be anything special.

Offensive MVP
When healthy, running back Jahvid Best was the Pac-10's most dangerous offensive weapon -- a potential scoring threat every time he got the ball in space. His 126.7 yards rushing per game ranked fifth in the nation and his 311 yards in the season-finale vs. Washington won him the conference rushing title with 1,394 yards. He also scored 13 touchdowns.

Defensive MVP
Linebacker Zach Follett didn't lead the Bears' linebacker-heavy 3-4 defense in tackles but he did lead it in putting pressure on opposing offenses. Follett finished second in the conference with 19 tackles for a loss -- including 8.5 sacks -- and he forced four fumbles.

What's next
Cal figures to be among the small crew of annual challengers in the top-third of the conference behind USC in 2009. Best could become a Heisman Trophy candidate, while Riley should be better without having to look over his shoulder. With the departure of three of the four starting linebackers, it will be interesting to see if the Bears stick with the 3-4 look; Tedford said this week they will. End Cameron Jordan is a budding star on the defensive line, while the secondary will return intact.

Pac-10 helmet stickers for week 10

November, 2, 2008
11/02/08
8:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Helmet stickers for those who stood out during the weekend's games.

California's defense: The Bears held an Oregon offense that was averaging 42 points and 475 yards per game to just 16 points and 290 yards. Sure, the Ducks had 206 yards rushing, but 141 came during an effective spurt in the third quarter. New starting linebacker Mike Mohamed led the effort with 14 tackles (10 solo), while linebacker Zach Follett (11 tackles, sack, three TFL) and defensive end Cameron Jordan (10 tackles, sack, three TFL) put constant pressure on the Ducks.helmet sticker

Sean Canfield: Oregon State's backup quarterback, once a hot-shot recruit, was mostly a forgotten man as Lyle Moevao asserted himself as the starter while Canfield struggled with a shoulder injury. But when Moevao went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter against Arizona State, Canfield came on and secured the win that keeps the Beavers in the Rose Bowl race. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 217 yards with two touchdowns. He also didn't allow an interception returned 41 yards for a go-ahead TD on the Beavers' first series of the second half to put him into a funk.

The Rodgers brothers: Where would Oregon State be without the Rodgers brothers? Freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, the Pac-10's leading rusher, rushed for 133 yards on 30 carries and also had five receptions for 55 yards in the win over Arizona State. His brother, James, hauled in eight passes for a game-high 102 yards.

California's offensive line: California's offensive line was missing five players from its preseason depth chart against Oregon -- three projected starters and two who have filled in for those injured starters. But the makeshift unit, which included two first-time starters, held the Pac-10's best pass rush to just one sack and created enough running room for the Bears to rush for a respectable 132 yards.

2008 Preseason All-Pac-10 team

August, 26, 2008
8/26/08
10:41
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

I really labored over some of these.

Offense

QB: Rudy Carpenter, Sr., Arizona State
RB: Jahvid Best, So., California
RB: Jeremiah Johnson, Sr., Oregon
TE: Rob Gronkowski, So., Arizona
OL: Alex Mack, Sr., California
OL: Jeff Byers, Sr., USC
OL: Juan Garcia, Sr., Washington
OL: Max Unger, Sr., Oregon
OL: Andy Levitre, Sr., Oregon State
WR: Mike Thomas, Sr., Arizona
WR: Brandon Gibson, Sr., Washington State
K: Thomas Weber, So., Arizona State

Defense

DE: Nick Reed, Sr., Oregon
DT: Fili Moala, Sr., USC
DT: Brian Price, So., UCLA
DE: Dexter Davis, Jr., Arizona State
LB: Rey Maualuga, Sr., USC
LB: Brian Cushing, Sr., USC
LB: Zach Follett, Sr., California
CB: Jairus Byrd, Jr., Oregon
CB: Alterraun Verner, Jr., UCLA
FS: Taylor Mays, Jr., USC
SS: Patrick Chung, Sr., Oregon
P: Keenyn Crier, So., Arizona

KR: Ronald Johnson, So., USC
PR: Sammie Stroughter, Sr., Oregon State

Cal's Worrell Williams talks Pac-10 linebackers

July, 31, 2008
7/31/08
1:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Rob Holt/Icon SMI
 Worrell Williams on how Cal's LBs stack up with those of other teams in the conference: "I think we rate No. 1."

California senior Worrell Williams is the man in the center of the Bears defense, a 250-pound three-year starter who forced three fumbles in 2007 while recording 105 tackles.

While he's in position to play his way into the first day of the NFL draft, and he and Zach Follett and Anthony Felder are as good as any threesome of linebackers in the country, few folks outside of the Bay Area have even heard of him.

Maybe that's because of the way Cal finished its 2007 season: six losses over the final seven regular-season games after being unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country.

Or maybe it was because the Bears defense hung up decidedly mediocre numbers last year, including a piddling, conference-worst 22 quarterback sacks.

So, with head coach Jeff Tedford giving up play-calling duties so he can pay more attention to his team, and the defense adopting a 3-4 look, it made sense to check in with the younger brother of Denver Broncos LB D.J. Williams.


Who's the best linebacker in the Pac-10?

Worrell Williams: [Laughs] That's a trick question, right? I honestly think, with my abilities, I bring a lot to the table. So you can put that I think I'm one of the best linebackers.


Do you think USC's linebackers get too much hype and too much credit?

WW: They are always in the top patch of linebackers each year. If the scouts are looking at them as the top guys, I ask myself what am I not doing that they are doing. Sometimes, it comes with the school. But those guys can play. They're always big and athletic and fast. They can punch a runner. So I don't knock them at all. They can't help it that they went to a school that gets a lot of publicity.


As a group, where do you think Cal's linebackers rate in the conference?

WW: I think we rate No. 1. I think we've got a lot more depth than the other schools.


Who's the best of you Cal linebackers?

WW: Of me [Zach Follett and Anthony Felder]? You're killing me here! We all bring something to the table. Zach is versatile off the edge and me and Tony are both stout in the middle.  Tony's a big, rangy guy who can do a lot of things. So I really don't know who's better.


Tell me more about Zach.

WW: Zach shows it all the time, coming off the edge with his blitz presence. He's got a lot of moves, a lot of ability out there. He's extremely fast.


And Felder?

WW: Tony is physical and strong next to me. He can get to the ball.


And you?

WW: I think I have a lot of athleticism for my size -- you know, speed. I'm just trying to get my knowledge of the game up now so I can be prepared before the ball's even snapped.


Word is you guys are going to use a 3-4 look this season. So who's the fourth guy?

WW: It will probably be Eddie Young. He's a young guy who's explosive and strong. He's similar to Zach in that he's coming off the edge, but he's playing the SAM, so he's a little more roughneck in there. I wouldn't say he's tougher than Zach, but he's more built for the contact.


How do you feel about switching from a 4-3 look to primarily a 3-4?

WW: I feel good about it. At first, I was kind of skeptical because as a linebacker you want defensive linemen in front of you -- [In a 3-4] you go, 'Oh, there are offensive linemen who are going to be free to get you.' But you've got to trust and believe that the coaches are going to put you in the right place to make plays and make the team successful. When we put it in during the spring, it worked pretty well when everybody handles their job. I actually kind of like it. We've been watching other teams run it [on film] and be successful with it. For the most part, it causes an offense fits.

I'm going to take you back to last season, but I want to ask you about the positive side first. Before you guys played Oregon State last year, were you aware that if you won that you'd become the No. 1 team in the nation?

WW: It showed up on the big screen that whoever was in front of us lost, so we were kind of aware, but we weren't focused on it. We were just trying to win that ballgame.

Now the Cal team that beat Tennessee and Oregon didn't seem like the same team over the second half of the season, losing to teams like Washington and Stanford. I know you've been asked this a bunch, but tell me what you think went wrong?

WW: It was a matter of two things. First, was execution. Early in the season, we were hungry and we were executing our plays. Being rated that high early in the season, I think some guys got kind of lackadaisical. I won't say we weren't hungry to win any more, but the little things you've got to focus on got away from us. And those little things take care of the big things. So we got away from executing. If you look back at the film, it was execution mistakes. Little things here and there that turn into big things.

Then, there was a lack of leadership. We had leaders on the team, but they hadn't been in that position before. It was adversity that no one on the team had ever faced. I think leadership could have helped us. Zach and I and Tony and other guys on the team who are leaders, got together this offseason and said, 'Hey, we can't let something like that happen. At some point last year, one of us should have stepped in and tried to spark this thing.' But it never happened. So you learn from it and make it a positive coming into this season.

Jeff Tedford has been pretty open talking about chemistry problems. Can you give me an example of what a chemistry problem meant to you last year?

WW: Chemistry problems ... That's something like: I have the C-gap and the ball goes out on a stretch play and you run out there fast [out of the C-gap] because you don't think the safety is going to be there, and then the running back cuts back into the C-gap and gashes you for a big play. You know what I mean? Do your responsibility. That's a trust issue. A major trust issue. I can't speak for offense, but on defense it's stuff like that. You're trying to do too much. It's not about guys not liking each other. It's guys trying to do too much and not trusting guys. You need to do your own job first, then rally to the ball.

Coach Tedford gave up play-calling duties in large part because he wanted
to pay more attention to the team as a whole -- namely, the defense. Did you see a difference during spring practices?

WW: Yeah. It was kind of crazy. It was the first time since I've been here -- four years almost -- that I see him on our side of the ball, over here watching us. I was like, 'What's going on? Are we in trouble?' He wants to make his presence felt everywhere. He wants to be involved in everything a little bit. He didn't put the clamps on. Spring ball was fun. It was loose. We were laughing, joking and playing hard-nosed football. I got asked the question about our laughing and having fun and how we could be doing that coming off the season we'd had. And I said, 'Coach Tedford wants us to know that was one season and it's behind us. Let's move on. We can't dwell on that.' We've got a season ahead and that's the beautiful thing.


That leads into my next question: We know about the linebackers, but who else is going to step up on defense this year?

WW: A lot of guys. [Defensive end] Rulon Davis is going to make a big impact for us. I think or D-line as a whole is going to make a tremendous impact. Our safeties are solid guys. I don't see one guy shooting out. There's plenty who can. [Cornerback] Chris Conte or [free safety] Bernard Hicks, who can get the job done -- but I don't know which individual is going to spark out to be a headliner, but I know we have a defense built for success.

Last year, you guys had some big names. This year, you guys are kind of a no-name team. What's your expectation this year?

WW: I expect to win every game. You prepare and get yourself ready and you believe in your ability. There should be no doubt in your mind that you won't win the game. I think we can win every game, and I'm serious. Our guys may be no-name, but this is an opportunity to make themselves known.

Is 6-foot-5, 316-pound All-American center Alex Mack a pain in the butt in practice?
WW:
[Laughs] Oh, my goodness. I see him the most of anybody. We're real close to each other; we're good pals. But he's whupping my butt all the time. He causes me fits, but he's making me better. He's huge.

Ranking the Pac-10 linebackers

July, 25, 2008
7/25/08
4:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It's not easy being a linebacker in the Pac-10 if you don't play at USC. From Lofa Tatupu, to Keith Rivers to, now, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, the Trojans lead the charge at the position and receive the national plaudits.

But there are some pretty good linebackers in the conference this season who don't wander the passages of Heritage Hall. In fact, California's threesome of Zach Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder is a close second to the Trojans and may even deserve a 1B classification.

And, get this, plenty of teams across the country would trade for Stanford's troika of Clinton Snyder, Pat Maynor and young talent Chike Amajoyi.

The final cuts on this list -- let's call them honorable mentions -- were Washington State's Gary Trent, Arizona State's Travis Goethel and Oregon's Jerome Boyd. And, yes, Oregon State fans, one of your new starting linebackers surely will make a post-season list.

  1. Rey Maualuga, Sr., USC: Huge hitter who would have been a first-round NFL draft pick last spring. He could play his way into the top 10 in 2008, and it's a dead-heat between him and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis to be the first ILB selected.
  2. Brian Cushing, Sr., USC: Also a likely first-round pick, though he needs to avoid injuries. The Playboy Preseason All-American was MVP of the 2006 Rose Bowl.
  3. Zach Follett, Sr., California: Leader of an outstanding trio, he ranked among the conference leaders in 2007 with 12.5 tackles for a loss
  4. Clinton Snyder, Sr., Stanford: Word is he's had a very productive off-season after ranking fifth in the conference with 14.5 tackles for a loss.
  5. Worrell Williams, Sr., California: The 250-pounder could play himself into the first-day of the NFL draft with a big season. Had 105 tackles and forced three fumbles in 2007.
  6. Reggie Carter, Jr., UCLA: He's not big at 225 pounds, but he's quick, tough and instinctive and folks in Westwood believe he's going to break out in 2008 after recording 12 tackles for a loss last year.
  7. E.J. Savannah, Jr., Washington: He broke his arm in June and likely will miss at least a couple of games early in the season, but he led the Huskies with 111 tackles, including 14 for a loss in 2007.
  8. Anthony Felder, Sr., California: He has the talent and measurables to play himself into the first day of the NFL draft. Had 101 tackles, two sacks and an INT last year.
  9. Ronnie Palmer, Sr., Arizona: Three-year starter with good size should fill the shoes of tackle-machine Spencer Larsen nicely. Good in run and pass defense.
  10. Pat Maynor, Sr., Stanford: He's not very big at 220 pounds but he's started 20 games and recorded six sacks and averaged eight tackles per game in 2007.

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