Jan. 20, 2009
BERKELEY - Although the 2008 football season concluded less than a month ago, California is getting plenty of attention for its prospects in 2009. After completing the year with a 9-4 overall record, which included a 24-17 victory over Miami in the Emerald Bowl, Cal is receiving consistent Top 20 mention for next fall's campaign.
The highest preseason ranking to date comes from rivals.com, which pegs the Bears 12th in the country. CBS Sportsline puts Cal at 17th, while both espn.com and sportsillustrated.com have the Bears in the 20th spot.
College Football News has tabbed tailback Jahvid Best as the top returning running back and fifth-best returning player in the country, while cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson rates seventh at his position and 73rd overall.
Best finished the 2008 season with 1,580 rushing yards - the second-highest total in school history. His average of 131.7 ypg ranked third in the country. Named the Offensive MVP of the Emerald Bowl, Best ran for 698 yards on just 58 carries his last three games, which included a school-record 311-yard effort against Washington and 186 yards vs. Miami. Best's season average of 8.1 yards per rush was also a Cal mark, and only Navy's Shun White had a higher average among the NCAA's 1,000-yard runners in 2008.
Best earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, as well as second-team All-America notice from College Football News. He was also a three-time Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week.
Thompson, a first-team All-Pac-10 choice, paced the Bears with four interceptions and 128 return yards on the year. He established a Cal single-game record with 108 return yards at Washington State, bringing one pick back 90 yards. Thompson was chosen the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week after Cal's win over Colorado State when he returned a punt 73 yards for a score. His total of 18 passes defensed on the year tied the Cal record.