August 2, 2011
Head coach Jeff Tedford emphasizes that the key for his 2011 California football team is to play together. If the Golden Bears accomplish that, Tedford believes everything else will fall into place for a program that over the past decade has established itself as one of the best in the Pac-12 and often times the nation. During that period, Cal has played in a school-record seven consecutive bowl games (2003-09) and compiled a school-record-tying eight consecutive winning campaigns (2002-09) before missing both marks in 2010.
"I think that if we play together, we will have a very good football team, and I underline team," Tedford said. "If we believe in each other, play hard and play disciplined, we have a chance to win every game that we're in."
The Bears' 2011 roster features 20 players with significant experience as a collegiate starter, including four that have earned at least one 2011 preseason All-American honor in Bryan Anger (Sr., P), Sean Cattouse (Sr., DB), Mychal Kendricks (Sr., LB) and Mitchell Schwartz (Sr., OL).
A total of nine Bears have been bestowed with preseason All-Pac-12 honors, with the All-American foursome being joined by Keenan Allen (So., WR), Trevor Guyton (Sr., DL), D.J. Holt (Sr., LB), Marvin Jones (Sr., WR) and Giorgio Tavecchio (Sr., PK).
Cal will be an experienced group with 13 of the 24 positions on the team's preseason two-deep occupied by seniors and another eight manned by juniors.
Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard and Isi Sofele, both juniors, moved into the starting quarterback and tailback roles last spring. Tedford also learned a tremendous amount about a solid core of younger players during spring workouts that were members of back-to-back recruiting classes the last two years that have been ranked as high as No. 11 and No. 14 nationally. Members of those classes are expected to challenge the veterans for playing time in 2011.
"There were a lot of new players in spring ball," acknowledged Tedford, who was named the Pac-12's top recruiter prior to the 2011 season by Sporting News. "Spring ball is a time you try to evaluate a lot of different players. I think we found out about a lot of people, and really got some of the young guys incorporated into what we're doing."
"In recruiting, we really focus on the whole person, not just a great athlete, but also a quality student and person to be a part of our team and family here at Cal," Tedford added. "Recruiting is a team effort and our philosophy is to saturate the Northern California market and try to keep as many local kids as we can home, then really to search for the right fit of person that's going to fit into our program and be successful here."
The mix of veterans and young players will be coached by an experienced staff that is led by the longest-tenured head coach in the Pac-12 in Tedford, who begins his 10th season at the helm of the Bears, two victories shy of the school's all-time record for wins.
His 2011 staff on the offensive side of the ball features two coaches returning for their second stints at Cal that were part of the team's successful run during much of the last decade in Jim Michalczik (offensive coordinator/offensive line) and Eric Kiesau (passing game coordinator/wide receivers). Veteran running backs coach Ron Gould, who was promoted to run game coordinator in the offseason, is in his 15th campaign at Cal in 2011. Second-year tight ends coach Jeff Genyk and first-year quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo will join the veteran group in preparing the team's offense game plan.
"It kind of feels like the band is back together," Tedford said with a laugh. "It's a real luxury to have the knowledge and experience of the guys that have been here a long time on the offensive staff. It makes the preparation and the planning enjoyable because they understand the foundation of what we're trying to accomplish on offense. We're not in a situation where we have to explain terminology. We all have a comfort level with the things that have been successful here. We speak the same language and have a lot of experience together to draw from."
The defensive coaching staff is led by former NFL and Super Bowl coordinator Clancy Pendergast, now in his second season in the role at Cal. Tosh Lupoi (defensive line) and Kenwick Thompson (linebackers) also return to a group that coached the Bears' 2010 defense to Pac-10-leading numbers in total defense, pass defense and sacks. Ashley Ambrose (defensive backs) is in his first season as part of the team's defensive staff.
Genyk is also Cal's special teams coordinator, where in his first season in 2010 the Bears improved in all three phases of special teams to No. 19 nationally in net punting (38.51 avg.), No. 23 in punt returns (12.16 ypr) and No. 72 in kick returns (21.3 ypr). Anger broke a 23-year-old school record by averaging 45.6 yards per punt and Tavecchio had by far his best season as he emerged as the team's full-time starting placekicker.
The Bears will play in the North Division in the first season of the Pac-12, newly aligned with six teams in each of the league's two divisions. Cal will be joined in the North by Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Washington State. The South Division will feature Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, USC and Utah. The winners of each division will meet in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game to be played at the home of the team with the league's best record on Friday, Dec. 2.
"It's obviously something new," Tedford said. "It will be exciting as we go down the stretch to see how the conference championship format plays out in the first year. I think it is going to be something everyone is looking forward to."
The team will also partake in something new by playing its 2011 home schedule outside of Berkeley for the first time in school history as the club's five home games will be contested at San Francisco's AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium undergoes an extensive renovation and retrofit before reopening in 2012.
"Playing at AT&T Park will be a little bit new to us, but it will definitely be new to our opponents," offered Tedford. "Our fans enjoyed the experience a great deal when we won the bowl game there in 2008. Every fan that I've talked to that attended that bowl game really enjoyed the experience. I believe our fans will fill the seats and create a lot of positive energy in that stadium. Everybody's going to enjoy the experience there and we're looking forward to playing there for a year."
Cal's schedule at AT&T Park includes the Sept. 17 home-opener vs. Presbyterian, a highly anticipated Thursday night ESPN national telecast against USC (Oct. 13), and games against new Pac-12 foe Utah (Oct. 22), Washington State (Nov. 5) and Oregon State (Nov. 12).
Cal will open the 2011 season on Sept. 3 in the TicketCity Battle by the Bay against Fresno State in a neutral-site game at San Francisco's Candlestick Park to be televised by Comcast SportsNet California.
The Bears will play seven road games, starting with a non-conference contest at incoming Pac-12 member Colorado on Sept. 10. After their home opener, the Bears travel to Washington (Sept. 24). After a bye week. Cal will head back north to face Oregon (Oct. 6) in Eugene, where they will play the first of two back-to-back Thursday night nationally televised ESPN games. Only one more road game will be on the Bears' schedule over the next month and a half at UCLA on Oct. 29. The Bears conclude their regular season with a pair of road contests in the 114th Big Game at Stanford (Nov. 19) and another ESPN national telecast at Arizona State on Friday, Nov. 25.
"Every game you play in our conference is going to be competitive," Tedford said. "There's no question that you have to bring your `A' game every week if you're going to be successful. We also have a challenging non-conference schedule, with a road game at Colorado and the neutral-site contest against Fresno State, which has a great program and has always proven to be a strong competitor no matter who it plays."
Additional television broadcast dates are expected to be announced at a later date.
The following is a position-by-position look at the Bears heading into the 2011 campaign.
"The strength of our offense should be in the playmakers we have on the outside, plus I think our offensive line will be very good," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "They will be athletic and physical enough to both protect the passer and allow us to run the football. We are eager to see the production we will get from the quarterback and tailback positions. There may be a lack of gameday experience at those spots, but I feel comfortable and confident that the ability is there. Now, it's just a matter of them performing on gameday."
The offensive coaching staff has been revamped in 2011, including a vow by Tedford to return to a more prominent role in the day-to-day planning as well as play-calling, and the return to the staff of Jim Michalczik (offensive coordinator/offensive line) and Eric Kiesau (passing game coordinator/wide receivers) after stints as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders and Colorado, respectively.
Much of the focus in the offseason has been on the team's quarterback position. Head coach Jeff Tedford gave his answer a couple of weeks after the end of spring football practice when he named Zach Maynard the starter heading into the training camp. Maynard, who transferred to Cal from Buffalo, entered the team's 2011 spring practice sessions in a five-way battle for the starting job that was quickly pared down to a three-way competition with Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgford. Maynard, who sat out the 2010 season due to the NCAA's transfer rule, took most of the first-team snaps in spring ball and showed the skills that made him Buffalo's starter as a sophomore in 2009 when he completed 218-of-379 (57.5%) passes for 2,694 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also is a threat to run as evidenced by the 300 yards and one touchdown he rushed for on 87 carries during his single season as Buffalo's starter. Athlon listed him among the nation's top transfers, while Lindy's called him Cal's top newcomer in their respective preseason publications.
"I was very pleased with what Zach did in the spring in both his knowledge of the game and his understanding of the offense," Tedford said. "He's a very good passer and can throw all of the balls on the field, plus he brings an added dimension with his athleticism and ability to run."
Although Maynard will begin camp as the starter, Mansion and Bridgford are both listed at No. 2 on the team's preseason depth chart and will continue to compete with him for the starting role. Mansion has the most collegiate experience, having started four games when third-year starter Kevin Riley suffered a season-ending injury with a month to go in the 2010 campaign. Bridgford has not played a down in his first two seasons at Cal but led the nation with 3,158 passing yards as a high school senior in 2008.
"There will continue to be a very strong competition with all three of them," Tedford noted.
Whoever ends up as the team's top quarterback will be Cal's first new starter since 2008, replacing Riley after he posted career totals of 468-of-844 (55.5%) passing for 6,182 yards, with 50 touchdowns in 36 games played and 31 starts, ranking among the school's all-time passing leaders in nearly every category.
Tedford, who has developed six quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft during his collegiate coaching career, also plans a return to working with the quarterbacks on a daily basis along with first-year quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo.
"Coach Arroyo does a great job of communicating with our players," Tedford said. "He understands what he's doing and what it takes to be a productive quarterback. He's very detailed and prepared, and I have confidence that we will work great together in preparing our quarterbacks. He's young and enthusiastic, but also has more than a decade of experience coaching and playing the position at the collegiate level."
RUNNING BACKS (15)
Cal is in a scenario it has not been in for a long time at the tailback position without a veteran with extensive playing time returning for the 2011 campaign. The Bears have successfully employed a two-tailback rotation in recent years and 2010 backup Isi Sofele is expected to step into the starting role, but was more limited last year than most of the team's No. 2 tailbacks have been in recent history, rushing for 338 yards on 69 carries as the backup to workhorse Shane Vereen.
Sofele's contribution to the team's rushing total managed to extend the Bears' string of having two running backs combine for 1,500 yards or more to eight consecutive years. But in most seasons the yardage between the top two backs has been more balanced than it was in 2010 when Vereen provided the bulk of it with his career-high 1,167 yards.
"Isi Sofele will go into camp as the No. 1 tailback," Tedford said. "But there's a host of people behind him that will be pushing for significant playing time. Training camp is going to dictate just who those guys are."
Some might be true freshmen.
Bigelow sat out his senior prep campaign in 2010 with an injury after a dynamic season as a junior when he rushed for 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns on only 87 carries. He has been rated as high as No. 11 nationally among freshman tailbacks and is considered Cal's No. 2 recruit overall by Sporting News.
Lasco rushed for 3,821 yards and 43 touchdowns over three prep campaigns. He was rated the No. 13 tailback nationally in the 2011 class by Tom Lemming.
"We're going to count on some of the young guys coming in to contribute at that position," Tedford said.
The top returnee after Sofele is Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, who heads into the 2011 campaign listed second on the depth chart after contributing a combined 281 rushing yards and one touchdown over the last two seasons at Cal.
Junior college transfer Mike Manuel enrolled at Cal in January of 2011 and made a strong impression during the team's spring workouts.
The group of inexperienced backs will have the advantage of learning from the team's most experienced coach in Ron Gould, who is in his 15th season working with the Bears' running backs in 2011.
"Coach Gould has been here a long time and has done a great job of producing big-time running backs, not just with their talent but with their knowledge and fundamentals of the game," Tedford said. "He always does a really nice job of developing the whole player, not just a runner but a pass protector and a receiver. It will be a challenge for him this year because we are going in with people that don't have a lot of experience, but if anyone's up to that challenge it is coach Gould. I have tremendous confidence in his ability to prepare the players that are on the field."
"The fullback position is one of experience for us," Tedford said. "We have three guys that we can rotate in that have all done a nice job. They can block and catch, that's really what they do."
WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
"I feel like the receivers are one of the strengths of our offense," Tedford said. In addition to his play on the field, Jones is expected to provide veteran leadership in his final season at Cal. He has been the team's leader in both receptions and receiving yards the last two seasons and has career totals of 94 receptions for 1,424 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his first three campaigns. Jones has an opportunity to finish his career on Cal's career top-10 list in all three categories.
Allen, a fourth-team freshman All-American in 2010 according to Phil Steele, is coming off a record-setting rookie collegiate campaign in which he broke DeSean Jackson's single-season Cal freshman record with 46 receptions for 490 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. He made quite an impression in his first collegiate contest against UC Davis when he caught four passes for 120 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown, and also ran for another score.
Maurice Harris, who is listed as high as the nation's No. 25 wide receiver recruit by Athlon, is the team's top newcomer at wide receiver. He put together back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving in his final two prep campaigns.
The group will be coached by passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, who returns for his second stint on the Bears' staff after a successful four-year run from 2002-05 in which he coached the likes of some of the top receivers in Cal history in Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan and Geoff McArthur.
"We're excited to have Eric rejoin the Cal football family," Tedford said. "He did a tremendous job in all aspects of coaching our wide receivers during his first stint at Cal, and he understands what we expect of both our coaches and players. Eric has a strong work ethic, and is an excellent teacher of the wide receiver position and all aspects of the game of football. He is someone that will do a great job with the receivers, both conceptually and with technique."
TIGHT ENDS (10)
Cal's tight end group has the luxury of being led by one of the best players at the position in the Pac-12 and arguably the nation in Anthony Miller, a threat both as a receiver and an outstanding blocker in the run game. The John Mackey Award Watch List candidate for the honor given annually to the nation's top tight end had his biggest statistical year as a sophomore in 2009 when he tallied 26 receptions for 357 yards to rank third on the team in both categories to pick up an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection.
"Anthony is a versatile tight end who is very physical at the point of attack in the run game and is also a big threat down the field with his receiving skills," Tedford said. "We look for him to be a leader in our offense this season."
Spencer Ladner is the top backup and will see plenty of action spelling Miller and on two-tight end sets. Richard Rodgers is the top newcomer and ranked No. 26 by Phil Steele among the nation's incoming tight ends.
Jeff Genyk is in his second season as the group's position coach.
"Coach Genyk does a good job of teaching the schematics of what we're trying to get done on offense as well as the fundamental play of the tight ends as well-rounded players at the line of scrimmage in the run game and the pass game," Tedford said.
OFFENSIVE LINE (16)
The Bears' 2011 offensive line features several players with a significant amount of experience as five members of the group have combined to make 85 collegiate starts in Mitchell Schwartz (38), Justin Cheadle (22), Brian Schwenke (12), Matt Summers-Gavin (12) and Dominic Galas (1).
"The offensive line should be very solid," Tedford said. "We're fortunate to have several guys who have played quite a few snaps there. Mitchell Schwartz brings a wealth of experience and is the leader of that group. We also have some other guys that should push for playing time. Our goal is going to be to create the chemistry of the top eight to nine."
Schwartz, who has not missed a start in the last three seasons, is a 2011 third-team preseason All-American according to GoDaddy.com and a national honors candidate who was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection as a junior a year ago when he anchored a line that paved the way for 1,167-yard rusher Shane Vereen. He is expected to man the left tackle position.
Schwenke started all 12 games in 2010, playing the first eight at left guard before moving to right guard for the final four. He is slated to return to left guard in 2011.
Cheadle was a second-team midseason All-Pac-10 choice of Phil Steele in 2010 and started the first eight contests of the year at right guard, where he begins the 2011 campaign as the starter.
Summers-Gavin started the final four contests of 2010 at left guard, replacing Cheadle as a starter, after coming off the bench in his first seven contests following an injury suffered on the first day of training camp that forced him to miss the season opener and knocked him out of the starting lineup until late in the year. He also started eight times at left guard as a 2009 freshman, with Cal sporting a 7-1 record in those contests as he earned second-team Freshman All-American recognition from Rivals and a third-team nod by Steele.
Galas has seen action in all 25 games over his first two seasons, mostly on special teams, and is slated to replace the departed Chris Guarnero as the team's starting center. He started one game at the position in 2010 when he filled in for an injured Guarnero against UCLA.
Jim Michalczik returns to coach the offensive linemen in addition to his role as offensive coordinator. Michalczik spent the last two seasons in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders after having been at Cal for seven seasons the first time around from 2002-08.
"Coach Michalczik does a great job not only with run schemes but is a very good technician," Tedford said. "He has always built toughness in an offensive line that is fundamentally sound. We welcome him back to continue where he left off when he was here before. He had a lot of success in previous years. We're relying on him to not only guide the guys with experience but to be a mentor to the young players and bring them along so they can contribute as well."
The Bears were also first in the Pac-10 in 2010 in first downs allowed (217) and second in opponents' third-down conversion percentage (34.7%). The team's pass efficiency defense and scoring defense, which held opponents to 17 points or less in eight of 12 games, were both third in the Pac-10 as well as 31st and 40th nationally. Cal was fifth in the Pac-10 and 35th nationally in rushing defense in 2010 and significantly better in nearly every major defensive team category compared to 2009 when the Bears were seventh in the Pac-10 and No. 72 nationally in total defense (378.85 ypg).
"Clancy will continue to gain a better and better feel for the college game and how each week you have different offensive approaches by your opponents," Tedford said. "He has done a great job of teaching the entire defense what we're trying to get done, keeping the terminology simple but still being very multiple. I think our guys have really gravitated towards his knowledge and leadership."
In addition to its returning veterans, Cal has recruited what should be an extraordinary freshman class on the defensive side of the ball including five members - Jason Gibson, Stefan McClure, Viliami Moala, Brennan Scarlett and Avery Walls - that were selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and another - Todd Barr - that played in the equally prestigious Under Armour All-America Game.
"As of now, without having seen them on the field yet at this level, this is probably the most balanced group of guys who have the ability to contribute early," Tedford said. "They're going to have to make the transition from high school to college, but I think they all have the potential to do that."
DEFENSIVE LINE (13)
Seniors Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu step into the top spots on the depth chart at the two defensive end spots but are expected to be challenged for playing time quickly by a bevy of young players including Todd Barr, Deandre Coleman, Gabe King, Puka Lopa and Brennan Scarlett.
Coleman and King are currently the backups to Guyton and Owusu and certainly expect to see ample playing time, but true freshmen Barr, Lopa and Scarlett are all part of a group that ranks as high as second in the Pac-12 for incoming defensive linemen by Phil Steele.
Barr and Scarlett come to Cal ranking No. 16 and No. 23 according to Steele among the nation's incoming defensive ends, respectively, while Sporting News has Scarlett as Cal's top newcomer. Lopa is also expected to challenge for playing time.
Tipoti and Payne have each started four games at the position over the last two years filling in for graduated starter Derrick Hill. Tipoti will head into 2011 training camp listed on top of the depth chart, but both players will seemingly have to share playing time with Moala, who is ranked as high as the nation's No. 8 defensive tackle according to Lindy's.
"It's important to have depth on the defensive line," Tedford said. "It's great to be able to substitute and keep people fresh and not have a great deal of falloff when you change personnel. I think this year's freshman class is one of the better groups as a whole that we've had on the defensive line. I'm really anxious to see how they perform. They all have the capability of making a strong impact this year."
The defensive line is coached by Tosh Lupoi, who begins his fourth season in the role and his 12th associated with Cal football as a player, coach or member of the team's football staff.
"Tosh has done a nice job of developing our defensive line," Tedford said. "He brings a lot of energy and passion to what we do on defense. I think he has become a very good schematic coach and has done a real nice job fundamentally with preparing these guys to play."
Cal looks to have two seniors in Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt step up and accept the challenge of replacing graduated linebacker Mike Mohamed, who has been the Bears' leading tackler the last two seasons and also paced the Pac-10 as a junior 2009. Kendricks will move from his previous spot on the outside to take Mohamed's inside position joining Holt in the middle.
Kendricks has been receiving significant national recognition in the preseason as an honorable mention All-America choice of GoDaddy.com, and as a member of watch lists for the Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, College Football Performance Awards Linebacker Trophy, Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award. He is a first-team preseason All-Pac-12 selection of Athlon, Lindy's and Phil Steele.
Kendricks is coming off a breakout junior year in which he earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors as one of the top big-play players in the league. He led Cal while ranking among the per-game conference and national leaders with 8.5 sacks (0.71 per game, No. 2 Pac-10, No. 26-T NCAA) and 15.0 tackles for loss (1.25 per game, No. 4 Pac-10, No. 28-T NCAA). He also tied for first in the conference with three fumble recoveries (0.25 per game), while his 66 tackles were fourth on the team.
Holt put up strong numbers in his first season as a full-time starter in 2010 after seeing part-time action as a starter in 2009. He ranked second on the club last year behind Mohamed with 85 tackles and paced the squad with three forced fumbles (0.25 per game, No. 4-T Pac-10).
"Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt have played a lot of games for us," Tedford said. "They understand the game and have a great feel for what we're doing as far as a defensive scheme is concerned. They are also very fast and physical players. I think we will be solid at that position."
The team's outside linebackers will be much less experienced, but certainly not short on talent.
Ryan Davis and David Wilkerson begin the campaign as starters after both received limited playing time in 2010. Greyshirt freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain, both members of Cal's highly-touted linebacker group from the 2010 recruiting class, should also see action. Whiteside, who was ranked as high as the nation's No. 4 linebacker by both Rivals and Scout when he signed with Cal, was particularly impressive during spring workouts.
Incoming freshmen Jason Gibson and Jalen Jefferson could also contribute in their first collegiate seasons. Gibson, who is touted as the nation's No. 17 freshman linebacker by Steele, played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his final prep season. Jefferson was a second-team All-State choice.
"Some of our young linebackers are very talented and should be strong contributors this year," Tedford said. "We have some gifted athletes at that position."
Kenwick Thompson is in his fifth season coaching the group that has featured at least the top two tacklers on the team in each of the past three seasons.
"A coach at that position needs to understand the front end of the defense as well as the back end," explained Tedford. "Kenwick does a great job of communicating with the players, and gets them to play hard and understand what they're doing. I have no doubt that this group of linebackers will play very well under his leadership. He always does a fine job of putting our linebackers in position to be successful and makes sure they understand what they're doing so they can play fast."
DEFENSIVE BACKS (18)
Third-team preseason All-American Sean Cattouse is expected to be the vocal leader of Cal's defensive backfield in 2011. Cattouse will move over to the free safety position from the strong safety spot he manned in 2010 following the departure to the NFL of Chris Conte. Cattouse is Cal's active leader in both career interceptions (5) and pass breakups (15) as well as third in tackles (109). He has been an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection the past two seasons. Last year, he had career highs of 59 tackles and seven pass breakups, with the latter also leading the team.
D.J. Campbell will look to take over the free safety spot previously occupied by Cattouse. He has played in 33 games over the last three seasons primarily on special teams and as a reserve safety, but did make his first collegiate start last season and also came up with career highs of 21 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and two pass breakups.
"We have two seniors that have played quite a bit at safety and both had a really good spring," Tedford said. "It's critical that the safeties understand what we're trying to get done on defense and I think they have both learned it."
Anthony totaled 48 tackles and a pair of interceptions while starting 11 of 12 games in 2010, and is Phil Steele's No. 34 draft-eligible cornerback heading into the 2011 campaign.
Williams played in all 12 games and started three times in 2010. He had 26 tackles and an interception, and was named Cal's Most Valuable Freshman on defense.
"We have a couple of guys that gained quite a bit of experience playing corner last year and also did a nice job in the spring," Tedford said. "I think they're much more comfortable with their recent experience."
Josh Hill also figures to be in the mix both at cornerback and nickelback, and is arguably the team's most experienced defensive back other than Cattouse. Hill has played in 23 games with 14 starts over the last two seasons and posted 78 tackles along with a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups.
In addition to the returnees in the defensive backfield, Cal has several newcomers that could contribute early in their collegiate careers, with cornerbacks Kameron Jackson, Stefan McClure and Joel Willis, and safety Avery Walls high on that list. Walls and McClure are the most decorated, ranking as the nation's No. 17 and No. 18 defensive back recruits, respectively, by Athlon. Both played in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl following their senior season in high school.
"We are really going to rely on some of the young guys coming in," Tedford said. "We have some gifted players that I'm sure are going to play a significant role in the defensive backfield."
The defensive backs will work with first-year coach and former NFL standout Ashley Ambrose, who spent 13 seasons in the league and is in his fifth campaign in the coaching profession.
"Ashley brings a lot of credibility to the position being an NFL player himself," Tedford said. "When he talks to players about fundamentals, confidence and the way to play that position, they have a great deal of respect for him. He's brought a lot of energy to that position and I'm looking forward to our players learning a lot from him."
The Bears will look to continue the improvements they showed in 2010 under first-year special teams coordinator Jeff Geynk when Cal improved 11 spots to No. 19 nationally in net punting (38.51 avg.), a single position to No. 23 in punt returns (12.16 ypr) and 24 places to No. 72 in kick returns (21.3 ypr).
Bryan Anger is one of the nation's best punters and is again expected to make a run for the coveted Ray Guy Award. He's been a semifinalist twice and is coming off a 2010 campaign in which he broke a 23-year-old single-season school record by averaging 45.6 yards per punt to rank second in the Pac-10 and sixth nationally. He is only the second Cal punter, along with Nick Harris, to have ever earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in two consecutive seasons (2009, '10). Anger has a 43.3 career average that is second on the school's all-time list with an opportunity to make a run at Scott Tabor's school record of 44.0 (1996-97).
"Bryan Anger is deservedly a preseason candidate for a lot of awards," Tedford said. "He's a guy that can affect the game with field position. We're fortunate to have one of the best punters in America. He is always a great weapon, and I feel like he'll be even better this year as a senior."
A fourth-team preseason All-Pac-10 choice of Phil Steele, Giorgio Tavecchio established himself as the team's full-time starter in 2010. He is Cal's active career leader in scoring with 160 points, making 28-of-41 (68.2%) field goal attempts and 76-of-78 (97.4%) extra-point tries.
Tavecchio had some excellent moments in 2010 when he was second on the club with a career-high 70 points (11-16 FG, 37-39 PAT), including a single-game career-high 14 points against Arizona State and a career-long 53-yard field goal vs. Washington. He also made a tremendous improvement in kickoffs, averaging 64.8 yards per kick (6.7 yards better than his 2009 average). But he also had some rough patches, including a false start penalty and subsequent missed 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of a 15-13 loss to No. 1 Oregon and a missed 33-yarder late in the game at Arizona that opened an opportunity for the Wildcats to steal a 10-9 victory by driving for a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Vincenzo D'Amato shared the kicking duties with Tavecchio as a true freshman and could be back in the mix after playing in just one game in 2010. D'Amato scored 52 points in 2009, connecting on 7-of-12 field goals and all 31 of his extra-point tries. He booted a career-long 47-yarder for Cal's only points at Oregon.
"The kicking position is going to be competitive," Tedford stated. "Tavecchio will be the guy going into camp that will get the first shot. He's gained a lot of strength, knowledge and poise through the experience he's had over the last couple of years. He'll go in with a lot of mental toughness."
Matt Rios has a clear cut track on the starting long snapper role after making all of the team's long snaps for the past two seasons without yet being tagged with a bad snap.
"Long snappers are generally overlooked until you don't have one," Tedford said. "Matt is a guy that has been very consistent for us and has allowed us to be successful in the kicking game. We can always count on a quality and consistent snap, whether it be with field goals, extra points or in the punt game."
The specific players in the team's return game have yet to be determined, but the Bears will need to find a way to replace their top returner from a year ago in Jeremy Ross, who led the club with an average of 12.7 yards per punt return and was third on the team with an average of 21.6 yards per kick return.
Keenan Allen could end up a major factor on both returns. Last year, Allen led the Bears with 18 kick returns for 406 yards and an average of 22.6 yards per return that was second on the club behind Coleman Edmond's mark of 24.8.
Edmond along with fellow wide receivers Marvin Jones and Kaelin Clay joined Allen in the return game during the spring. Tailbacks Mike Manuel and Isi Sofele, as well as defensive back Avery Walls are other possibilities. Sofele has the most experience returning kicks, bringing 22 back for 442 yards over his first two seasons, but would probably play a limited role at best if he remains the team's starting tailback.
"We have a lot of skill position players that can handle the return game," Tedford said. "We'll continue to incorporate them into those roles during training camp."
Note: *has utilized redshirt season prior to 2011