Pac-12: Zack Follett

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: California

February, 4, 2010
California's class of 20 ranks 15th in the nation and includes three ESPNU 150 players.

Coach Jeff Tedford said the class was "as solid as any class we've ever had here."

Top prospects: Keenan Allen, who decommitted from Alabama, was a highly rated safety that Tedford said would play on both sides of the ball, though primarily at receiver. Tedford compared Chris Martin to former Bears outside linebacker Zack Follett. Cecil Whiteside is another guy who figures to challenge for playing time at linebacker. Defensive end Gabe King also figures to be in the mix early.

Under the radar: The Bears need help at receiver and Tedford called Terrance Montgomery "one of the more underrated guys that we have in our class." Tevin Carter also figures to be in the mix at receiver. Tedford gushed about running back Trajuan Briggs and compared tight end Jacob Wark to former Bear Craig Stevens.

Issues? Hard to find many problems with this class. There's no obvious, run-stuffing noseguard for the Bears' 3-4 scheme. Adrian Lee is the only cornerback, and he played tailback in high school.

Notes: Linebacker Chris McCain most likely will grayshirt in order to get his academics in order ... Receiver Coleman Edmond will get a look returning punts and kicks ... Quarterback Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, is Allen's brother and they were a package deal ... Quarterback Austin Hinder is the grandson of Cal Hall of Famer Jim Hanifan.

Why isn't Cal any good?

October, 5, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

A reporter who covers California and I were chatting during the late moments of USC's 30-3 whipping of the Bears, and I was blathering about various reasons why the home team was laying an egg for the second consecutive game.

"You know," he said patiently. "They just might not be any good."

At this point -- consecutive defeats by a combined 72-6 count -- that's probably the best explanation. And shortest.
  Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  Are coach Jeff Tedford's Cal Bears just plain bad?
But, I just can't let ... it ... go.

Here's what I wrote in August when ranking the Bears No. 2 in the preseason Pac-10 power rankings.

2. California: The Bears have 17 starters back from a team that went 9-4 in 2009, including a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Jahvid Best. The secondary will be one of the nation's best and the defensive line is as good as any in the Pac-10. Replacing three of four linebackers doesn't seem to be causing much stress in Berkeley. The only issue is how much the passing game improves. If it improves significantly, this is a potential BCS bowl team.

"Potential BCS bowl team."


Still, it doesn't make sense.

That 9-4 team, if you recall, beat Miami in the Emerald Bowl.

The Hurricanes welcomed back 16 starters from the 2008 team that went 7-6. After beating Oklahoma on Saturday, they are presently 3-1 and ranked 11th.

That suggests Cal's foundation for 2009 was strong. But somewhere, sometime, that foundation cracked.

So what's wrong? Here' are some possibilities.

The big preseason question -- the passing game -- hasn't been answered: It was not unreasonable to believe that quarterback Kevin Riley would be a better player this year. He's flashed ability the previous two seasons. He looked good this past spring. He looked good in the first three games, ranking as high as sixth in the nation in passing efficiency. Meanwhile, the receivers -- banged up and inconsistent in 2008 -- also looked poised to break through, led by talented sophomore Marvin Jones and a supporting cast that had plenty of experience. But the past two weekends, the passing game has been horrendous, with Riley completing just 27 of 71 passes (38 percent). The receivers haven't been helping the cause much, either. They are not getting open. They are dropping balls. They look sorta slow.

The rotating door at offensive coordinator hasn't helped: Andy Ludwig is the Bears fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons. Hmm. That can't help continuity. At this point, it would be fair to say fans at Oregon and Utah, where Ludwig suffered heavy criticism during previous stops, are giggling and pointing a mocking finger at Berkeley.

Replacing three starting linebackers in the 3-4 scheme was more difficult than originally thought: The big personnel loss from the 2008 team was almost entirely at linebacker, where Zach Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder needed to be replaced. Still, that was not a huge concern entering fall camp. Those guys were good college players but not exactly future NFL starters. The youngsters who were next in line were generally more athletic, while Mike Mohamed was expected to grow into an All-Conference player. This article does a good job of breaking down how things haven't gone well. Mostly, there's been a lack of continuity as coordinator Bob Gregory has tried to find who belongs where.

The offensive line misses Alex Mack and line coach Jim Michalczik: Mack is starting at center for the Cleveland Browns (so he's not much better off than his former teammates). Michalczik, widely regarded as one of the nation's best offensive line coaches, is now with the Oakland Raiders (so he's miserable, too). Entering the season, the general feeling was the line was talented and deep, considering injuries last fall forced many young players into starting roles. The line hasn't been terrible. It hasn't been as good as expected, either. And it certainly hasn't been good enough to beat defenses that are stacking the box to stop Jahvid Best.

The secondary has underachieved: The Bears secondary was the one area no one doubted. All four starters were back from a unit that ranked sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and grabbed 24 interceptions, which ranked third in the nation. The Bears presently rank 87th in the nation and have just four interceptions. Not to call one player out or anything, but did you see All-American cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson whiff on Joe McKnight's 38-yard TD run to open the scoring Saturday? That sort of play -- and pursuit angle -- won't help him get drafted.

Into the leadership void steps... who? What you keep hearing from players and coaches is that the Bears are close to making plays but it seems like at least one guy doesn't do his job on every play and therefore things go sour. A missed block. An inaccurate pass. An olé tackle. A dropped pass. A stupid penalty. A poor kick. Etc. The first blame for that goes to coaching because that's where the buck always stops in college football. But the players also are responsible for their lack of focus. Seems to me the Bears need a player -- or players -- who can rally the locker room, a guy who can stand in the middle of an 85-man huddle and deliver a passionate speech that will connect the important wires within his teammates. That is a cliché scene, of course. But it's a cliche because it often works. I remember one time see a video of Ed Reed doing that when he played for Miami. Made me want to suit up.

Or maybe it's something else. Or maybe the Bears are just stink.

Or maybe they don't.

The season isn't over. In fact, the Bears schedule is much easier going forward.

If a couple of things click into place, and the Bears approach their potential -- even if it isn't what many thought it could be in the preseason -- it is not ridiculous to see this team finishing with eight or nine wins.


Of course, things also could completely split apart -- see 2007.

Nothing can erase the two pitiful performances. The season is at its crisis point.

What comes next will be interesting to watch.

California spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

California Golden Bears
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 6-3

Returning starters

Offense 7, defense 8, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

RB Jahvid Best, LT Mitchell Schwartz, WR Nyan Boateng, CB Syd'Quan Thompson, DE Tyson Alualu, DE Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed

Key losses

C Alex Mack, FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, TE Cameron Morrah, LB Zack Follett, LB Worrell Williams, LB Anthony Felder

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Jahvid Best* (1,580)
Passing: Kevin Riley* (1,360)
Receiving: Nyan Boateng* (439)
Tackles: Anthony Felder (93)
Sacks: Zack Follett (10.5)
Interceptions: Syd'Quan Thompson* (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 Maryland
Sep. 12 Eastern Washington
Sep. 19 at Minnesota
Sep. 26 at Oregon
Oct. 3 USC
Oct. 17 at UCLA
Oct. 24 Washington State
Oct. 31 at Arizona State
Nov. 7 Oregon State
Nov. 14 Arizona
Nov. 21 at Stanford
Dec. 5 at Washington

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.

Pac-10 lunch links: Oregon's defense is looking good

April, 27, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Happy Happy Joy Joy. It's Monday!

  • A neck injury hurt former California linebacker Zack Follett in the draft.
  • Is Oregon's rebuilt defense going to become a surprising team strength? Oregon's top recruit, cornerback Cliff Harris, might not be in as much trouble as originally thought.
  • Looking at Oregon State's linebackers.
  • Stanford's draft day will be better in 2010.
  • What's going on with UCLA's struggles at quarterback?
  • Why don't 95,000 fans show up at USC's spring game?
  • Stars of USC's spring game: defense and offense.
  • If Jake Locker is this good, Washington could improve dramatically in 2009.
  • Washington State is facing money issues as it tries to increase its donor base.

UCLA's Carter ready for his close-up

April, 7, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

UCLA linebacker Reggie Carter likes being in the middle of the action. Not only because it allows him to make more plays. It also gives him an opportunity to provide his own special brand of play-by-play narration.

Yes, Carter likes to chat with opponents, and he appreciates guys who enjoy going back and forth with the ripostes unique to a football game.

  Cary Edmondson/US PRESSWIRE
  UCLA linebacker Reggie Carter backs up his talk on the field.
"I'm always talking -- offensive line, running backs, whoever is out there, I'm trying to have a conversation," he said. "After the play, during the play, before the play. I'm pretty active with my mouth. The referees have to tell us to be quiet at times. It's all fun and games. We talk trash during the game and give each other a hug after the game."

Sometimes the opponent doesn't cooperate. Carter said former Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart was a bit too quiet for his tastes. But he's big fans of Oregon State's Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James.

"We're were going at it a lot last year," Carter said. "We were talking back and forth. It was fun. Both of them. They're not big but they've got big hearts."

Carter's in-game libretto, however, didn't help get the word out on one of the West Coast's most underrated players.

Despite nagging injuries, Carter has started 32 games over the past three seasons at both inside and outside linebacker. He was a freshman All-American in 2006 and second-team All-Pac-10 last season, but he's busted noggins and ranted and raved mostly in anonymity.

Two reasons for that: 1. UCLA has mostly wallowed in mediocrity during his career; 2. That other LA program has sorta cornered the market on All-American linebackers.

Yet with Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Kaluka Maiava shipping out from USC to the NFL, and California's Zack Follett joining them, it's wide open this spring as to who is the Pac-10's best linebacker.

And just because Carter likes to trash talk on the field doesn't mean he's boastful off it.

"I know I'm not the greatest player in the world but I respect the game, I study it and I think I play it fairly well," he said.

When asked about his favorite player, Ray Lewis, he twice emphasized he's not comparing himself to the future pro football Hall of Famer.

"He's my guy -- I love his intensity," Carter said. "He has a great passion and love for the game. He shows it when he plays. He's very emotional. I'm not comparing myself to him -- I'm not as good as him -- but when I play football I get pretty emotional. Sometimes before a game I'm almost crying because I love the game and enjoy doing it so much."

Carter hit the weight room hard after dropping to as low as 215 pounds after the 2008 season. He's at 235 pounds now and ready to take the lead on what may be one of the Pac-10's better defenses.

That leadership started this spring when Carter and other seniors explained that "Over the Wall," the Bruins tradition of bailing out of one spring practice a year, has been suspended.

Some griped when told of the new order.

"They said it was tradition," Carter said. "And I said it was a tradition that started when UCLA was winning. We were 4-8 last year. We don't deserve to do anything that they did in the past because in the past they were winning. We need to take advantage of all 15 [practices] to get better."

And if some folks rebel and jump the wall at Spaulding Field?

"We'll squash that real fast," Carter said. "If anybody tries to leave, we'll go in the locker room and get them and they'll finish practice with us."

It's just a hunch, but here's a guess Carter can be fairly convincing.

Carter and the rest of the seven returning starters on defense know their unit is in transition. Respected coordinator DeWayne Walker was hired as New Mexico State's head coach in the offseason, and Chuck Bullough was promoted from linebackers coach to fill the void.

Not too much will change in terms of scheme -- some reads and calls might be simplified -- but it was a significant loss for other reasons.

"It hurt me personally because [Walker] and I had a close relationship, almost father-son. We talked all the time, even if it wasn't about football," Carter said. "As a football player, I'm hurt, but as a family member, I'm also kind of happy. He's living his dream. I wish him the best."

It's particularly poignant when Carter speaks of a "father-son" relationship. His father, Reginald Carter, Sr., was shot and killed by his sister's boyfriend. Reggie Carter was only 2-years-old.

"I think about it a little bit from time to time, wondering what it would be like to have a father, for him to see me graduate from high school and play football in college and all those different things," Carter said. "But I have a lot of uncles who got me involved in sports. I also think, if my father was here, would I have been involved in sports and would have my uncles been so involved in my life that they got me to playing football in college?

Carter has another source of inspiration. Before games, he listens to Tupac Shakur's song, "Dear Momma." It reminds him of his mother, Selena Adway.

"My mother is pretty much my motivation before every game," he said. "She gets joy from watching me play and I like to do that for her."

If things fall into place this year, Carter will continue to chatter and makes plays and give his mother joy well into the future. Only he'll be suiting up on Sundays.

Spring football Q&A: California coach Jeff Tedford

February, 25, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

A lot has been going on at California during the offseason.

Running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best will sit out spring practices while recovering from foot and elbow surgery, though neither injury is considered serious.

  Jeff Tedford is comfortable with the high expectations for his team entering the 2009 season.

Accomplished offensive line coach Jim Michalczik left to become Washington's offensive coordinator -- and then bolted for a post with the Oakland Raiders. He was replaced by Steve Marshall.

And, finally, offensive coordinator coach Frank Cignetti, after just one season in Berkeley, was hired for the same post at Pittsburgh.

Coach Jeff Tedford then quickly replaced Cignetti with Andy Ludwig, who'd just been hired away from Utah by Kansas State.

With all the transition on the offensive coaching staff, Tedford decided to delay the start of spring practice by four days, with practices now beginning on March 14.

Still, it seemed like a good time to check in with Tedford and get his thoughts on things heading into spring.

First, tell us about new offensive line coach Steve Marshall: How might his approach be different than the man he replaced, Jim Michalczik?

Jeff Tedford: Steve brings some great experience and knowledge from some of his college stops -- Tennessee, Virginia Tech, UCLA -- and then moving into the NFL, so he brings a great deal of knowledge and experience from all different backgrounds of offense. It's a great fit for what we're doing. Being a two-back offense, he comes from that background. I think it's a natural fit for him and for us. I also think he's going to bring an added dimension to our offense. Anytime you get new guys coming in there are going to be new ideas.

Same with Andy Ludwig: What does he bring to the staff that might be different?

Tedford: Not a whole lot is different to tell you the truth because there is a lot of familiarity there in our backgrounds. He followed me [as offensive coordinator] at Fresno State; he followed me to Oregon. We've been in touch a lot over the years. And, obviously, being a guy who just went 13-0 at Utah and beating Alabama in the bowl game, there's a couple of things that he brings -- some spread concepts -- that we've dabbled in a little bit. But the familiarity of our offense to him; he's not starting from scratch. More than anything he's going to bring some stability to the offense.

Any regrets about how things went at quarterback last year between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley?

Tedford: I don't think there are regrets. I just wish one of them would have taken it over. There were plenty of opportunities for one guy to take it over, here and there. But we didn't play consistently enough at that position for that to happen. We ended up having to go back and forth through the season.

(Read full post)

Senior Bowl adds Turner and Chung to Pac-10 list

January, 13, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

The Senior Bowl, the nation's premier college all-star game, has added USC receiver Patrick Turner and Oregon safety Patrick Chung to its list of invitees.

The game, whose selections are mostly dictated by the NFL, now will feature 14 Pac-10 players, including six from USC.

That means Trojans will have the largest contingent of players from any school for the second consecutive year. Nine Trojans were invited last year.

Kickoff for the January 24th game is set for 6 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised by the NFL Network.

The Pac-10 Senior Bowl invitees:

California: Center Alex Mack and linebacker Zack Follett

Oregon: Center Max Unger, safety Patrick Chung, running back Jeremiah Johnson

Oregon State: Offensive lineman Andy Levitre and cornerback Keenan Lewis

USC: Linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews and defensive linemen Fili Moala and Kyle Moore and receiver Patrick Turner

Washington State: Receiver Brandon Gibson

Best-Worst of the Pac-10 bowls

January, 13, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Superlatives from the bowl season. In both directions.

  Charles Baus/Icon SMI
  Mark Sanchez completed 28 of 35 passes, setting the Rose Bowl record for completion percentage.

Best performance by a leading man: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez accounted for five touchdowns -- four passing -- and completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards in the Trojans 38-24 blitzing of Penn State in the Rose Bowl. After being blamed much of the season for USC's inconsistent offense, Sanchez turned in the day's most spectacular performance, one that might have proved he's NFL-ready.

Best defense: With its offense struggling without James and Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State's defense throttled Pittsburgh to secure a 3-0 victory in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers had five sacks and held the Panthers to just 178 yards and 10 first downs and limited All-American running back LeSean McCoy to just 85 yards on 24 carries. Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers' 36-yard line. This is the same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon in the regular-season finale.

Worst start: Oregon's defense looked, well, defenseless to start the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma State, giving up 199 yards and 17 points in the first quarter. Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant hooked up seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the first frame. The Ducks, however, would surrender 270 yards and 14 points over the final three quarters.

Best defensive play: With the score tied and 3:28 left in the Emerald Bowl, California linebacker Zack Follett caught Miami quarterback Jacory Harris from behind and slapped away the football. Cal recovered on the Hurricanes' 2-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown pass from Nate Longshore to Anthony Miller. It was Follett's second sack of the game, but the savvy play was the cornerstone of the Bears' 24-17 win.

Worst way to set a record: Arizona receiver Mike Thomas had a great career but he didn't have a good Las Vegas Bowl. He entered the game needing just three receptions to eclipse former Arizona State great Derek Hagan's Pac-10 career record of 258. He broke the record on a 3-yard pass on the final play of the game, during garbage time when the Wildcats' victory was well in hand.

Best hit, quarterback class: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli set the Ducks physical tone in the second half of the Holiday Bowl by running over Oklahoma State safety Quinton Moore on a 41-yard touchdown run. Masoli finished with three rushing touchdowns and one passing.

Best Heisman Trophy showcase: California running back Jahvid Best was spectacular while rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Miami in the Emerald Bowl, accounting for well over half of the Bears' offense on the evening. 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.

Worst fourth quarter: USC probably lost a couple of potential No. 1 votes when it went to sleep in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl and gave up 17 points and 159 yards to Penn State. While the Nittany Lions deserve credit for fighting until the end, college football fans -- and pollsters -- were reminded how indifferent the Trojans can look at times.

Best way to go out as a record-setting senior: Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rewrote the Wildcats' passing record book but never led his team to a bowl game, much less a bowl victory, until the final game of his four years as a starter. And he saved his best for last, completing 24 of 35 for 325 yards and two touchdowns, leading Arizona to its first bowl win in a decade. He also ran six yards for a score.

Best bowl records (tie): Oregon State's Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in the postseason as the Beavers' coach. While you can't argue with perfection, it's hard to ignore that USC's Pete Carroll improved to 6-2 in bowl games since he took over at USC, including a 6-1 mark in BCS bowls.

Pac-10 bowl game helmet stickers

January, 12, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Helmet stickers for those who stood out during the bowl season.

Willie Tuitama: He ended an up-and-down career with perhaps the best performance of his four years as the Wildcats' starter, completing 24 of 35 passes for 325 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in the 31-21 Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU. helmet sticker

Mike Stoops: Stoops has taken plenty of shots from critics, and many of those shots haven't been unfair. But he's grown as a coach because Arizona AD Jim Livengood had patience instead of a quick firing trigger. Stoops' Wildcats were well prepared for their bowl game, the school's first bowl victory since 1998, and things appear to be trending up for a program long mired in the bottom half of the Pac-10.

Jahvid Best: All Best did was turn in one of the bowl season's most dynamic performances, rushing for 186 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns in California's 24-17 Emerald Bowl win over Miami. Best, who won the Pac-10 rushing title, laid substantial groundwork for a 2009 Heisman Trophy campaign.

Zack Follett: Follett posted two sacks for Cal in the Emerald Bowl, the second one from the linebacker forcing a fumble from Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris and setting up the Bears' winning score with 2:41 left.

Jeremiah Masoli: How physical is the Pac-10? Well, did you see Masoli run over two Oklahoma State defenders in the Ducks' manhandling of the Cowboys in the Holiday Bowl? The Ducks quarterback rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 258 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Bellotti: His Ducks trailed the Holiday Bowl 17-7 at halftime, but whatever Bellotti said at the break was golden. Oregon outscored the Cowboys 35-14 in the second half, and if the game went on for five quarters the Ducks would have scored 100 points. If that turns out to be his last game at the Oregon helm, it was a heck of a way to go out.

Victor Butler: Butler was unstoppable against Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl, recording five tackles for a loss and four sacks -- and four other quarterback hurries -- in the Beavers' 3-0 victory. He finished with 11 total tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Mike Riley: Sure, 3-0 wasn't pretty, but it was about as dominant as a 3-0 victory can be and the Beavers did it without Jacquizz and James Rodgers, who accounted for more than 50 percent of their offense this season. And you can't argue with Riley's scintillating 5-0 bowl record.

Mark Sanchez: Sanchez clearly saved his best for last, slicing apart overmatched Penn State in the Rose Bowl with four touchdowns and 413 yards passing. Oh, and he ran 6 yards for a TD, too. He completed 28 of 35 and could have done a lot more damage if not for a decisive 31-7 lead at halftime.

Damian Williams: If Sanchez returns in 2009, there's no question who his go-to receiver will be. Even if Sanchez doesn't come back, Williams showed himself to be first among the Trojans' talented crew of receivers with 10 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.

Pac-10 Players of the Week

November, 24, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

California tailback Jahvid Best of California, Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn and Washington State kicker Nico Grasu are the Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Best, a sophomore rushed 19 times for a career-high 201 yards (10.6-yard average) and two
touchdowns in the Bears 37-16 Big Game win over Stanford. He added three receptions for 35 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown. It marked his second offensive player of the week honor this season.

Laybourn, a senior from Portland, Ore., had a team-high 11 tackles, eight solo, including 1.5
tackles for loss in the Beavers 19-17 comeback win over Arizona that kept their Rose Bowl dreams alive. This is the third defensive player of the week honor for Laybourn this season.

Grasu, a sophomore from Encino, Calif., was three-for-three on field goal attempts in the Cougars 16-13 double-overtime victory over Washington in the Apple Cup. His first field goal came from 28 yards as time expired to send the game into overtime. He kicked a 19-yarder in the first overtime period and nailed the game-winner from 37 yards in the second overtime.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors was Oregon State wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. Also nominated on defense were linebackers Zack Follett of California and Louis Bland of Washington State. Kicker Justin Kahut of Oregon State and punter Bryan Anger of California were nominated for special teams play.

Pac-10 helmet stickers for Week 13

November, 23, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

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

Sean Canfield: Canfield is now 3-0 as the Beavers quarterback -- two wins as the starter, one win coming off the bench early in the second quarter for starter Lyle Moevao against Arizona State. The 19-17 win over Arizona, however, was by far his most demanding task and best effort. He completed 20 of 32 passes (63 percent) for 224 yards with a touchdown and, most importantly, no interceptions. And he was money on the game-winning drive, going 3-for-3 for 73 yards, including the critical 47-yard heave to a Sammie Stroughter. Canfield has completed 56 of 84 passes for 703 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of Moevao. Is there a question of who should start against Oregon in the Civil War, even if Moevao's shoulder is better?

Jahvid Best: I want to go "SEEE!" on this one. Spent a lot of time early in the season enthusing about the skills of Cal's Jahvid Best, but he's been banged up and the Bears O-line has been banged up so Best's game-breaking talent didn't go viral. But, golly, he had himself a day against Stanford: 19 rushes for 201 yards and two touchdowns and three receptions for 35 yards and a score. If Jeff Tedford sets him loose against Washington, he could gain 300 yards.

Louis Bland: Bland, a Washington State freshman, might be the Pac-10's smallest linebacker at 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds -- a generous listing, by the way. But he had seven tackles with three coming for a loss in the Cougars' 16-13 double overtime win over Washington in the Apple Cup. What those numbers don't show you is that two of those tackles for a loss killed consecutive Huskies overtime possessions. The Huskies faced a second-and-4 from the Cougars' 6-yard line in the first OT -- a touchdown wins the game -- and Bland tackled Willie Griffin for a 2-yard loss, creating a third-and-long. The Huskies faced a second-and-3 from the Cougars 18-yard line and Bland tackled Terrance Dailey for a 2-yard loss, creating another third-and-long. Big plays at big times from a little guy.

Zack Follett played with a lot of Bryan Anger: We're not supposed to give out a whole heap of helmet stickers, but it would be inconceivable to not salute the efforts of Cal linebacker Zach Follett and punter Bryan Anger. Anger, a freshman and owner of perhaps the biggest foot in the nation, crushed punts of 76 and 75 yards and averaged 60.2 yards on four kicks for the game, a school record. Meanwhile, Follett likely earned himself a first-team All-Pac-10 spot at linebacker with five tackles for a loss, which gives him a conference-leading 18.5 on the season. That's the best single-game total for a Bear since 2002.

Pac-10 helmet stickers for week 11

November, 9, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

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

USC's defensive stars: Linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing and safety Taylor Mays led the Trojans with 10, 9 and five tackles, respectively, but they also led by setting a tone. A very physical one. All three posted multiple hits that drew gasps from the crowd in the Trojans' 17-3 victory, another gem for the nation's best defense.

Sean Canfield: It's one thing to come off the bench and lead a team to victory, which is what Canfield, Lyle Moevao's backup, did for Oregon State two weeks ago against Arizona State. It's another to start a game and lead a team to victory, which Canfield did Saturday in a 34-6 win over UCLA. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns, and led the Beavers to a 31-3 advantage in the second half.

Keegan Herring and Michael Jones: This was supposed to be a big year for Herring and Jones -- both in their final years of eligibility -- but injuries and the general struggles of the Arizona State offense have mostly left them out of the picture. But both busted out against Washington. Jones hauled in 11 receptions for 146 yards with two touchdowns, while Herring rushed 144 yards on 22 carries.

California's defense: USC gained 411 yards and notched 22 first downs, but the Bears stiffened when the Trojans pushed into their territory. Nine such trips yielded just 17 points. The Bears were particularly tough on third down, holding the Trojans to a 4-for-11 conversion rate. Anthony Felder (team-high 10 tackles), defensive end Cameron Jordan (six tackles, a sack) and Zack Follett (five tackles, forced fumble) turned in noteworthy performances.

Sanchez, Follett and Maualuga are awards semifinalists

November, 5, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez is one of 15 semifinalists for the 72nd Maxwell Award for the Collegiate Player of the Year, while a pair of Pac-10 linebackers, California's Zack Follett and USC's Rey Maualuga, are among 15 semifinalists for the 14th Chuck Bednarik Award for the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year

The respective lists were selected by the Maxwell Football Club Advisory Committee.

The announcement of the winners of the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be made during the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show that will be broadcast on ESPN on Dec. 11, 2008.

Semifinalists for the 72st Maxwell Award

Bradford, Sam, University of Oklahoma QB Soph.
Brown, Donald, University of Connecticut RB JR
Clark, Darryl, Penn State University QB SR
Crabtree, Michael, Texas Tech WR Soph.
Daniel, Chase, University of Missouri QB SR
Greene, Shonn, University of Iowa RB JR
Harrell , Graham, Texas Tech QB SR
Maclin, Jeremy, University of Missouri WR Soph.
McCoy, Colt, University of Texas QB JR
McCoy, LeSean, University of Pittsburgh RB Soph.
Moreno, Knowshon, University of Georgia RB Soph.
Ringer, Javon, Michigan State University RB SR
Robinson, Zac, Oklahoma State University QB JR
Sanchez, Mark, University of Southern California QB JR
Tebow, Tim, University of Florida QB JR

Semifinalists for the 14th Chuck Bednarik Award

Berry, Eric, University of Tennessee S Soph.
Cody, Terrence, University of Alabama NT JR
Follett, Zack, University of California LB SR
Hughes, Jerry, Texas Christian University DE JR
Jenkins, Malcolm, Ohio State CB SR
Laurinaitis, James, Ohio State LB SR
Maualuga, Rey, University of Southern California LB SR
Maybin, Aaron, Penn State University DE Soph.
McCoy, Gerald, University of Oklahoma DT Soph.
McKillop, Scott, University of Pittsburgh LB SR
Orakpo, Brian, University of Texas DE SR
Rolle, Myron, Florida State University S JR
Spikes, Brandon, University of Florida LB JR

Jordan rising at Cal

November, 4, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Here's a nice stat line for a linebacker playing against Oregon's high-powered attack: 10 tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss.

  AP Photo/Ben Margot
 California sophomore defensive end Cameron Jordan, right, celebrates his sack of Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter (not shown) on Oct. 4.

When that stat line, however, belongs to a defensive end instead of a linebacker, nice becomes impressive. And when that line belongs to a true sophomore elevated into the lineup only because of an injury to the starter, well, it's time to find out who the heck this guy is.

Of course, we already sort of know who California's Cameron Jordan is.

A month ago, after replacing Rulon Davis in the starting lineup, Jordan posted eight tackles, two quarterback sacks and and a forced fumble in the Bears win over Arizona State and won Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

He's started just four games but his 30 tackles rank second among Bears defensive linemen, just two fewer than junior Tyson Alualu, who is one of the best ends in the conference.

Jordan's seven tackles for a loss rank second on the team behind linebacker Zach Follett and 10th overall in the Pac-10.

So, yeah, it's fair to say the word "upside" is being tossed around concerning the 6-foot-4, 286 pounder.

"We sure did miss out on the guy," said USC coach Pete Carroll, who admitted his recruiting machine didn't make a stop in Chandler, Ariz., to look at Jordan.

Carroll's Trojans will try to slow down Jordan's ascension as one of the conference's bright, young defensive standouts on Saturday when the Bears visit the Coliseum.

"He's getting after the quarterback and making things happen and putting a lot of pressure on people," Carroll said.

One thing that helped Jordan against the Ducks was he, at times, lined up in a two-point stance -- the "almost wanna-be linebacker stance," Jordan called it -- at the line of scrimmage. That helped him spy the Ducks backfield.

Still, 10 tackles is a highly productive afternoon for an end, no matter how he lines up. Jordan said he was surprised when he learned he'd been in on that many plays.

"I was impressed when my coach told me that too," he said. "I'd like to say it was pure hustle. Our coach is always trying to instill in us a non-loaf mentality. You have to run everywhere."

And Jordan can really run.

"He's very fast and he's very athletic," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He runs so well that he chases a lot of things down."

Jordan, who had 18 tackles and a pair of half-sacks as a true freshman, also has a strong initial strike on opposing offensive linemen that's beyond his years. He's good at keeping blockers from getting to his body as well as to his legs with cut blocks.

And he seems to find the ball, which is not typical for an end playing in a 3-4 scheme where the linebackers typically make most of the plays.

It's hard to believe that Jordan didn't really hit on the recruiting radar until his senior year, though most of the Pac-10 ended up offering him by the time he recorded 17.5 sacks as a senior at Chandler High School.

He's certainly got good football bloodlines. His dad, Steve Jordan, played 13 years for the Cleveland Browns and was selected six times for the Pro Bowl.

As for getting ready for big, bad USC, Jordan does show his age.

"I'm not treating it any differently," he said. "They're in the Pac-10 and every Pac-10 team has to be respected."

Or maybe that's actually another impressive line?

Pac-10 players of the week

November, 3, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Oregon State tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, California linebacker Zack Follett and USC kicker David Buehler are the Pac-10 players of the week.

Rodgers, a freshman from Richmond, Texas, rushed 30 times for 133 yards and added five receptions for 55 yards in the Beavers' win over Arizona State. This is his second player of the week honor this season.

Follett, a senior from Clovis, Calif., posted 11 tackles -- eight solo -- including three tackles for loss and one quarterback sack in the Bears' 26-16 win over Oregon. The Ducks entered the game averaging 41.5 points and 475 yards per game, but the Cal limited them to 290 yards and just 4 of 18 on third-down conversions.

In USC's 56-0 win against Washington, Buehler, a senior from Anaheim, Calif., was a perfect 8-8 on PATs and seven of his nine kickoffs forced the Huskies to take touchbacks.

Also nominated for offensive honors were Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and USC wide receiver Patrick Turner. Also nominated on defense were Oregon State end Victor Butler, USC linebacker Rey Maualuga and safeties T.J. Ward of Oregon and Troy Nolan of Arizona State.