Cal Football Opens Preparations for 1999 Season
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  08/03/1999

Aug. 10, 1999

It's not often when you hear a group of vibrant college-aged men talk about how excited and anxious they are to spend nearly two weeks in a distant farming community, sweating from sun-up to sundown. However, that's the vibe around the Cal Football team, which leaves the Bay Area for Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock on Wednesday night, August 11, the team's pre-season training camp. The sessions wrap up with a morning scrimmage on Saturday, August 21. The reason for the enthusiasm is an optimistic outlook concerning the upcoming 1998 season, thanks largely to a dominant defense that will lead a bid for the program's fifth bowl appearance of the current decade. Some 104 players, including 27 new scholarship players (20 freshmen, 7 JC transfers) will begin two-a-day workouts on Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. Practices are scheduled daily at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., except for Sunday, August 15, when the sole practice will be at 2:30 p.m. Below are some key dates associated with Cal's pre-season.

Cal Football Pre-season Dates

Wed., Aug. 11   Media Kickoff Lunch at Planet Hollywood (SF)         10:30 a.m.
Wed., Aug. 11   Arrival by bus at Cal State Stanislaus (Turlock)      8:00 p.m.
Thur., Aug. 12  First Practice (shorts)                               9:30 a.m.
Sun., Aug. 15   First Practice in Pads                                2:30 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 18   Intrasquad Scrimmage                                  4:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 21   Intrasquad Scrimmage                                  9:00 a.m.
Sun., Aug. 22   KGO Family/Picture Day at Cal's Kleeberger Field    12:00 noon
Tues., Aug. 31  Weekly Media Conferences Begin in Hall of Fame Room  11:30 a.m.
Sat., Sept. 4   Season Opener vs. Rutgers in Memorial Stadium         2:30 p.m.

This year will mark the fifth consecutive season Cal has spent its fall training camp at Cal State Stanislaus. The college is located at 801 West Monte Vista Ave., Turlock, CA 95382. Directions: 580 East to Highway 132 East toward Modesto. In Modesto, take Highway 99 South and take the Stanislaus State exit, turning left on West Monte Vista Ave. Go one mile and take left on Geer Road. The field is on the left near the corner of Geer and Calaveras Way.

Cal has been called by more than one so-called expert as the potential "surprise team in the Pac-10" this season. Everybody is impressed with a defense that many believe will be the premier unit in the conference this fall. Nobody is enthralled with a Cal offense that needs to install a new quarterback along with a receiving group that enters the season with virtually no experience. With the defensive prowess and offensive uncertainty, predictions about how Cal will fare in 1999 are all over the board. In the annual pre-season poll by the Pac-10 media, Cal was picked as high as 2nd by some media members and as low as 10th by others. Overall, Cal was ranked 7th in the league by the media. The Bears are ranked 5th in the league and 35th nationally by Lindy's magazine, 6th in the league and 42nd nationally by Athlon and 7th in the league and 44th by The Sporting News. In addition, Sports Illustrated predicts a 6th-place Pac-10 finish for the Golden Bears.

Part of the reason why Cal is excited about the prospects of a turnaround offensively is the influx of new coaches and new player talent on the offensive side of the football in 1999. The most notable addition is offensive coordinator Steve Hagen, who was the architect of the Nevada offense that led the nation in total offense (569.1 ypg) and passing offense (397.5 ypg) in 1992 and broke 20 school offensive records at Nevada-Las Vegas in 1994 and '95. Just as significant is new offensive line coach Ed White, who has already had a major impact in rebuilding a group that struggled last season. The Bears will utilize a more wide-open system that will keep opposing defenses off-guard. From a personnel standpoint, all eyes will be on the quarterback position where sophomore Samuel Clemons hopes to hold off the engaging talents of incoming freshmen Kyle Boller and Ryan Sorahan. One of the issues the quarterbacks will face is a receiving corps that has a serious lack of experience in its arsenal. Senior Joel Young, a former walk-on, is the senior leader of the group (28 catches in 10 games last year), but a host of younger players will have to step forward if the Bears expect to move the ball through the air this fall.

The eight months between the final game of the 1998 season and the start of Cal's fall camp was one of the most significant in the many years. Anybody who saw the team's spring practice sessions this past April noticed that many of Cal's standouts did not participate due to various injuries. In all, 12 potential starters had some type of surgery or injury during the off-season. That group's successful rehabilitation has been a major priority and, for the most part, the results have been excellent. Matt Beck (knee), Andre Carter (ankle), Jerry DeLoach (knee), Marcus Fields (shoulder), Saleem Muhammad (shoulder/neck), Jeremiah Parker (ankle), John Romero (shoulder), Sekou Sanyika (knee), Ignacio Brache (knee), Corey Smith (shoulder), Mawuko Tugbenyoh (wrist) and Joel Young (knee) all appear healthy, are cleared to participate in pre-season drills and should be at or near 100 percent by the season opener on Sept. 4. Reserve defensive linemen Nate Geldermann and Zech Whittington have retired from the sport after failing to be cleared medically due to cervical injuries. Others which will not be present for the pre-season practices are redshirt-freshman Chris Hanks, who will miss most of the season with a knee injury, and incoming freshman lineman David Hays, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery in late July. Also, reserve offensive lineman Robert Truhitte continues to have health problems and is out indefinitely.

All-America candidate Matt Beck has been granted his request to move from No. 59 to No. 99. Beck is making the change in honor of teammate Nate Geldermann, the former No. 99, who was forced to retire from football during the off-season due to neck problems. Both players have similar reckless, aggressive styles of play on the field. Other number changes include Atari Callen moving from No. 21 to No. 23, Saleem Muhammad from No. 38 to No. 34, Ryan Sorahan from No. 14 to No. 16 and Keala Keanaaina from No. 46 to No. 42.

Cal's defense has the type of ability that could make it one of the premier units in all of college football and there has been a lot of attention on both the unit and individual players during the off-season. Sekou Sanyika is a first team pre-season All-American and the pre-season Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News. Matt Beck is a third team pre-season All-America selection by Football News. Andre Carter is ranked the No. 4 defensive end in college football by the Sporting News. Carter and Sanyika are rated by Sports Illustrated as two of the top five defensive players in the conference. Jerry DeLoach is ranked the No. 5 defensive tackle in the country by The Sporting News. Deltha O'Neal is a first team Pac-10 pre-season selection by Athlon, while both Lindy's and The Sporting News rank him among the Top 10 return specialists in college football. Cal's linebackers are ranked the No. 1 group in all of college football by Street & Smith's with the comment, "Senior outside linebacker Sekou Sanyika and senior inside linebacker Matt Beck are in the opponents' backfield so often, Cal fans wouldn't be surprised to see them sack the quarterback while he's still in the huddle."

Strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice reports that he had a core group of 50 players, a number that reached as high as 70 toward the latter stages of summer, working out religiously during the off-season. That effort seems to have paid major dividends as the great majority of Cal's returning players appear to be in the best physical shape of their respective careers. Most of the players have added some bulk, with a few players shedding some unwanted poundage. Among those singled out by Rice are center John Romero, who is up to 324 pounds from 315 last year, offensive tackle Reid Diehl who is up to 306 pounds from 285, defensive end Andre Carter who is at 254 from about 240 last season, tailback Marcus Fields who is at 217 from 202,linebacker Matt Beck who is at 238 from 225, and defensive end Mawuko Tugbenyoh who is now 250 pounds, up from 235. The two players who have worked hard to slim down are offensive tackle Langston Walker, who is down to 332 pounds from 350 last year and Jerry DeLoach who is back to 305 pounds after being over 320 during the off-season. Rice also said it was difficult to single any players out among the incoming freshmen, because the group was so impressive across-the-board. He did mention linebacker Calvin Hosey, along with defensive linemen Wayne Hunter and Daniel Nwangwu, however.

Cal has moved its first two home games in September to 2:30 p.m. The decision was made due to the popularity of late-afternoon games in the early part of the season, allowing families to engage in morning activities such as youth soccer...The Cal-Rutgers opener has been picked up by Fox Sports Bay Area for a live telecast on Sept. 4...The coaching staff has indicated Deltha O'Neal will play an even more prominent role on offense this season, but in the new offense, he's most likely to line up in a receiver or slot position when he moves to the offensive side of the football...The coaches may also experiment with a couple other Cal defensive backs at the receiver positions during the fall camp...The staff is also extremely pleased with the addition of 16 walk-ons, many of whom turned down scholarship offers from other schools to come to Cal. Among the notables in that regard are tight end Tom Swoboda from Rancho Palos Verdes, safety Cameron Bunce (the son of former Stanford QB Don Bunce) from Menlo-Atherton HS and tight end Cale Garamendi (the son of former Cal player and current politician John Garamendi) from Hanford HS...Running back coach Ron Gould spent the summer working in the NFL coaching internship program with the Atlanta Falcons...Yauger Williams is awaiting word from the NCAA whether his appear for a sixth year of eligibility will be approved. His status could be key for an offensive line that lacks quality depth as he has gained nearly 40 pounds in the last few months and currently checks in at 303 pounds. The latest thinking is that he will miss the first week of practice in Turlock before the NCAA makes a final determination...This season marks the 50th anniversary of Cal's 1949 team that was undefeated in the regular season, going 10-0, until dropping a 17-14 decision to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl...It is also the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous plays in Cal history when Frank Brunk took a kickoff 102 yards in the fourth quarter to give Cal a 16-10 victory over USC.