OK, the bowls are (almost) over, and now it's finally time to focus on CFB's second season - recruiting. The dead period ends today, so expect lots of breathless speculation, broken verbals, and TV commitments leading up to LOI day on February 7. Some tips from the Hill:
Stars don't matter - to the extent they're relevant at all, it's because they're reflective of the interest that a kid is getting from top programs. Fives are usually better than twos (but not always) and threes are often much better than fours. Forget the stars, and please don't pay attention to the "national rankings" that purport to judge teams based on average stars per recruit.
Who's recruiting a kid does matter - when Tedford started he was slugging it out with Fresno and Oregon State for guys. Times have changed. The remaining undecideds on Cal's board are also considering teams like Notre Dame, USC, Georgia and Penn State. We may lose most of them, but at least we're in the right area code.
Balance matters - coaches can occasionally fall into the trap of passing on a position because things on the current roster look good. Then guys get injured, fail out, or don't perform, and suddenly you've got a depth problem. Or, you're Rick Neuheisel, and you just don't care about offensive linemen.
You can have too many recruits - just ask Karl Dorrell how happy he is to have 8-10 available scholarships this year. UCLA gave out 26 scholarships in the 2004 class, 22 in '05 and 22 in '06. They should have passed on a handful of these kids.
With that said, let's look at the current situation by position group. One caveat right up front - nearly every year Tedford offers at least one kid that no one has heard about. Last year there were two - linebacker Mike Mohamed from Brawley and WR Jeremy Ross, who's going to be amazing (just trust us on this). Oh, one other caveat. The category "went elsewhere" doesn't necessarily mean that those guys were priority recruits for Cal. Just means that Cal was reported to have offered at some point in the process - there's a difference.
QB: We believe you need to average one QB a class. We're due for one in '07. Verbals: Brock Mansion (Episcopal School, Dallas). He's a tall (6'5") and a runner (900 yards as a senior), which is interesting. Played at the private school level in Texas, which is a far cry from 4A or 5A ball and may have limited his exposure. Also plays basketball and baseball. Good enough to get a Tedford offer, so good enough for us. Cal missed on a couple of other guys, including Kellen Kiilsgaard, who for some reason will attend Stanford next fall. Undecided: No one - Mansion will be the only QB in this class. Went Elsewhere: Aaron Corp (USC); Logan Gray (Georgia); Kellen Kiilsgaard (Stanford); Ronnie Fouch (Washington); Stefan Loucks (Texas Tech) Outlook: Hard to say, but we'll trust JT on this one.
RB: You can't have too many talented backs - if there's not enough room on the depth chart, some get switched to defense or contribute in the return game. Cal doesn't have an acute need here, having picked up Slocum and Montgomery in last year's class, but you never look a gift horse in the mouth. Verbals: Jahvid Best (Salesian HS, Richmond); Shane Vereen (Valencia HS) Undecided: none Went Elsewhere: Brandon Johnson (Washington); Curtis Shaw (Washington) Outlook: Pretty darn good. Both committed backs are very fast (4.4). Best would probably not blueshirt and see time in the backfield rotation and kick return. Vereen could be switched to DB if he looks to be bottled up behind Slocum, Monty et al.
WR: A need position. DJax is likely gone after next year, and Jordan and Hawkins are certainly so. Getting two productive receivers from this class is a priority. Verbals: Mike Calvin (San Lorenzo HS); Alex Lagemann (Saratoga HS) Undecided: none Went Elsewhere: Kayne Farguharson (Miami); Brandon Carswell (USC); Drew Davis (Oregon); Kerry Taylor (Arizona State); Zion Babb (Michigan) Outlook: Would have been better to get three guys, but both Calvin and Lagemann are highly regarded and non-smurfs (6'2" and 6'3", respectively)
TE: A need position for the long run - Graffort was the only TE in last year's class, and he's a walk-on who's not on the level of previous Cal TEs. Verbals: Skylar Curran (Butte JC); Savai'i Eselu (Moanalua HS, Honolulu) Undecided: none Went Elsewhere: Blaine Irby (Texas); Steve Watson (Michigan); Aron White (Georgia); David Paulson (Oregon); Brian Linthicum (Clemson) Outlook: Mission accomplished.
OL: Always a big need, considering injury issues and the fact that many guys just don't project to the collegiate level. Cal is coming off a good class (Bemoll, Laird, Guarnero) but more depth is always welcome. Verbals: Matt Summers-Gavin (St. Ignatius Prep, San Francisco); Sam DeMartinis (Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks); Justin Cheadle (Bakersfield HS); Mitchell Schwartz (Palisades Charter HS); Todd Huber (Palos Verdes Penninsula HS). Undecided: none Went Elsewhere: Carson York (Oregon); Sione Tau (Arizona); Devan Cunningham (Fresno St); Edwin Alvarez (Rutgers); Outlook: O-linemen are the toughest to predict - lots of two and three-star guys make all-conference teams, and four-star guys are bombs. But this looks like a great class. Summers-Gavin turned down Notre Dame; DeMartinis had 14 offers and was a priority recruit for ASU; Schwartz is a late bloomer who got offers from the Ducks and Virginia; Huber and Cheadle each had a handful of Pac-10 offers. DeMartinis projects as a tackle; MSG and Schwartz at guard, and Huber at center. Cheadle will most likely switch to defense, which is just fine by us.
DL: An immediate need, given how thin the Bears are at the ends. Would be nice to get a DT. Verbals: none (though Cheadle probably fits in here - can he play end?) Undecided: Kenny Rowe (Long Beach Poly HS); Matthew Masifilo (Campbell HS, Hawaii); Cameron Jordan (Chandler HS, Arizona); Scott Smith (St. Louis HS, Honolulu). Went Elsewhere: Brian Price (UCLA); Akeem Ayers (UCLA); Duke Lemmens (Florida); Kevion Latham (Penn State) Outlook: This is an area of concern, given that we have only one commitment to date (and none at DE, where we need help the most). We're guessing that JT's first phone call after the dead period will go to the Rowe residence. Smith and Jordan are also DEs; Masifilo is a tackle. This could be a surprise area where the staff pulls a rabbit out of its hat.
LB: Mohamed was the only LB in last year's class, so it's important to pick up a couple of guys here. Verbals: D.J. Holt (Crespi HS, Encino) Undecided: Malcolm Smith (Taft HS, Woodland Hills); Malachi Lewis (Rio Mesa HS, Oxnard); Tony Fein (Scottsdale HS); Devin Bishop (CCSF); Robert Mullins (Dorsey HS, Los Angeles) Went Elsewhere: Steve Sloan (UCLA); Casey Matthews (Oregon); Marshall Williams (Auburn); Outlook: The Bears wouldn't mind three commits at this position given the caliber of the undecided players, and need to add at least one more to feel good about the class. People think we're in the final three for Smith (with USC and Notre Dame) and have a reasonable shot at Lewis, Bishop and Mullins.
DB: Cal has lots of young talent at corner (SQT, Peele, etc) and could use experienced depth; the Bears have experience at safety but not much youth behind them. Juco commits could help facilitate position switches among returning players. Verbals: D.J. Campbell (Cheyenne HS, Las Vegas); Chris Conte (Loyola HS, Los Angeles); Sean Cattouse (Hubbard HS, Chicago) Undecided: Terry Mixon (Grossmont JC); Donovan Warren (Long Beach Poly HS); Chaz Thompson (Siskiyous JC); Glenn Love (Hamilton HS, Chandler AZ) Went Elsewhere: Courtney Viney (UCLA); Anthony Gildon (Oregon) Outlook: Cattouse is a converted QB who will play safety; Conte and Campbell are corners. If Mixon and Thompson commit, they will immediately compete for starting roles (Mixon at the free and Thompson at corner opposite SQT). Warren is a long shot and will probably go to SC, but the Bears would make room if he accepts the offer. If all three come (highly unlikely) that would be six scholarship DBs in a class of about 23 - too many considering Cal's needs at other positions.
Summary: Things look pretty set on the offensive side of the ball - there aren't any undecided kids who are priorities for Cal. The OL class could be the best in Cal history. Defense is another question, where lots of coveted recruits have yet to make their choice. The overall balance in the class isn't very good right now, unless Tedford can convince some of these guys to choose Cal.
USC has a pretty good basketball team...and a very good basketball coach. Not that anyone will notice, until OJ Mayo shows up next year.
Pac-10 refs blow in more than football. Check the foul call in the Oregon/SC game - they ruled that Brooks was in the act of shooting 36 feet from the basket on the drive. Actually, maybe it's just the state of Oregon. On second thought, it's Campanelli's fault.
Speaking of, it will be delightful to see how Coach Mexico (look it up) props up the emotional house of cards in Eugene after their first taste of adversity.
Arizona is an NBA team without a center. UW came out and gave them everything they wanted and the Wildcats still out-shot them. If you're making out a short list of teams who can win the NCAAs and Arizona isn't on it, then start over.
WLB: Worrell Williams (Junior)/Shea McIntyre (Sophomore) Others: Kyle Kirst (Sophomore) Outlook: Williams is a very good athlete who is becoming a good linebacker. He doesn't seem to get much love from Cal fans, but there's a reason he started over Follett this year - he's got a rare combination of size and speed which is perfect on the weak side. He does need much better discipline in attacking the run. McIntyre was unheralded out of Skyline HS, but will probably be called on to play back up. We're thin here - would be a good spot for a HS recruit. Kirst is an undersized walk-on and special teams contributor who will probably stay in that role. Eddie Young could be a possibility if he doesn't play WDE.
MLB: Zack Follett (Junior)/Greg Van Hoesen (Senior) Others: Matt Russi (Sophomore) Outlook: Zack Follett was born to play middle linebacker. We love Desmond Bishop, but we believe this switch might be a push, because Follett is better than Bishop at shedding blocks, and doesn't take himself out of as many plays. He doesn't possess Bishop's lateral speed, though, which will put some added pressure on the two outside guys. Van Hoesen is a capable backup; Russi is a bowling ball who contributes on special teams.
SLB: Anthony Felder (Junior)/Justin Moye (Senior) Others: D.J. Holt (Freshman) Outlook: Felder was nursing some injuries this year, which helps explain the huge drop-off from a freshman All-America season in 2005. His return to form could make this unit special in '07. Moye is a fine backup - limited athletically but plays with sound technique and a good motor. Had a very nice 2nd half in the Holiday Bowl when Gregory moved him to a stand-up role on the line. Holt played DE in high school and will need to learn cover skills. Doubt he will blueshirt.
Summary: This is a slightly less athletic group than the '06 unit - Bishop is quicker than Follett, and while Felder is a terrific athlete he's not a freak of nature like Pimentel. It's worth noting that all three guys will be playing their third season of varsity football. We don't have the data to back this up, but it seems that the sophomore-to-junior jump is often a big one in terms of performance. Williams and Felder aren't limited by their athletic skills - they need to make better decisions on the field and an extra year should help in this respect.
First a question: how many better songs have been released since this one back in 1992? (Not many) Second, Rocky Top Talk is citing reports that Robert Meachem is turning pro. Glad that we could play a small part in that decision.
The 50 Greatest List is done - our team of web-savvy Sherpas has wrestled it to the ground and killed it. Hope you enjoyed it. For a much more irreverent list that promises to be lots of snarky fun, check out Hey Jenny Slater. Though we think he's got #43 much, much too low.
Speaking of lists, should we do one for hoops (not as long, maybe 25 guys)? We'll take silence as a yes. Does anyone care about Cal hoops, or are we all staring at pictures of Phillip Fullmer and discussing verbals in the Cyberbears chat room?
The dead period for FB recruiting ends Friday. We'll have some stuff up soon on the process and a pretty uninformed take on Cal's incoming class (aren't they all?). Ridiculously early depth charts will continue over the weekend.
Reason #693 why college football is the greatest thing ever: stores are struggling to stock enough alligator meat to satisfy the hordes of hungry Buckeye fans. Oh, and for what it's worth take Florida and the points in the NCG. Not that we're advocating that sort of thing.
What's wrong with the Tree? It's been denuded. That school is either going to hell in a hand basket, or this climate change thing is a really big deal. Or both.
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #1 - HAROLD "BRICK" MULLER
#1 - HAROLD "BRICK" MULLER - END (1920-1922) Most accounts of Brick Muller start with his hands. We've never seen a picture that confirms it, but many believed that Muller had the biggest hands of a man his size (6'2"/210) they had ever seen. The football that was used in the Prohibition era was much bigger and rounder than the one used today, which in part accounted for the lack of passing. It was reported that Muller could wrap his fingers almost entirely around this bigger ball, allowing him to throw more effectively than his rivals and catch passes with one hand.
Andy Smith saw this up close when Muller and his freshman teammates pounded the varsity in scrimmages; he had seen it up close when scouting Muller as a senior at Oakland Tech. No doubt the Cal coach couldn't wait for Muller to hit the practice field in August of 2000, when he became eligible for varsity play. But first there was the matter of a boat trip to Antwerp, Belgium.
You see, Muller was also a track star who had won state titles in the broad and long jumps and finished third in the high hurdles as a senior in high school. On the encouragement of Cal track coach Walter Christie, Muller trained to Pasadena and qualified for the US Olympic Track & Field team in the high jump. The year was 1920 - a time when most Olympians were upperclassmen or even college graduates. And yet the unheralded college freshman captured the silver medal with a jump of 6'3". He had just turned 19 years old.
Brick returned with his hardware to Berkeley, and helped lead Cal to one of the greatest seasons in college football history. Muller started both ways immediately - catching passes, running around end, and savaging opposing ball carriers with ferocious tackles. It's not for nothing that the Brick Muller award today goes to Cal's most valuable defensive lineman, because Muller was a beast along the line. Of course, Smith took note of those hands, and featured Brick frequently as a passer who surprised defenses and opposing fans with the long, low spirals he could manage with the rounded football.
Muller the Olympian (at right)
The Bears outscored their opponents 424-14, but remained an unknown commodity to the east coast sportswriters who dominated press coverage of the game. Thus, Cal entered the 1921 Rose Bowl as a decided underdog to mighty Ohio State. Ohio State took the opening kickoff, and Brick Muller took over the Rose Bowl. On the first series he drilled Buckeye back Pete Stinchcomb, forcing a fumble on OSU's 28 yard line. On the next play he took a short pass and threaded through defenders to set up a Pesky Sprott touchdown run: 7-0 Bears. On the next series he again forced a Buckeye fumble, though he recovered this one. Then came a play that became Rose Bowl legend.
QB Charley Erb called for the "dead man's play," a favorite trick play of Andy Smith's that required some advance preparation. It called for Archie Nisbet to fake an injury and hobble around with his teammates after the previous down. The Cal backs stood hands on hips as Nisbet edged closer to where the football sat. In a flash he bent down and lateraled it to Pesky Sprott, and the play was on. Ohio State reacted quickly to Sprott's run around end, but then the halfback stopped and lateraled across the field to Muller. Cal's end was now well behind the line of scrimmage, at about his own 45 yard line.
The Ohio State defense and the Rose Bowl crowd were puzzled by the play - what would Muller do so far behind the line? What he did became headline news in newspapers across the country the next day. Rather than run, he heaved the ball higher and farther than anyone had ever seen a man throw a football. Ohio State had committed no deep defenders, and the Buckeyes watched in awe as Muller's pass traveled over their heads to fellow end Brodie Stephens, who caught it on the goal line and walked in for a 14-0 Cal lead. Muller was credited with a 53 yard pass, though witnesses claimed the ball actually traveled 70 yards in the air on the diagonal. Not impressed? It was such an unexpected feat that Ripley's Believe it Or Not featured it in one of their popular newspaper serials.
That play broke the Buckeye spirit, and Cal coasted to an easy 28-0 win that put west coast football on the national map. Muller was named the game's MVP - in addition to the touchdown pass he completed two other throws, caught two passes for 33 yards, made countless tackles on defense and punt cover, and recovered three fumbles. The Bears were 10-0, and national champions.
Over the next two years, Cal would continue its unbeaten streak, tying only in the 1922 Rose Bowl against Washington & Jefferson. Muller's play continued to gain headlines and demoralize opponents. After the 1921 season, in which he was slowed by a serious leg infection, he became the first player west of the Mississippi to be named a first team All-America, by both Walter Camp and the Helms Foundation. In his finale at Cal, he helped the Bears crush Stanford 28-0 by starting off the scoring with a memorable catch and run through Indians defenders. He was again named a first-team All-America.
Professional football was in its infancy in the early 1920s, and Muller concentrated on getting his degree and attending medical school. He was lured back to the game twice - first in 1925 when a group of San Franciscans conceived of a new post-season all-star game pitting stars of the west against their better-known eastern counterparts. Despite not having played a game in more than two years, Muller was the star of the first East-West Shrine game. He also won national notoriety for catching a ball thrown from atop the San Francisco Telephone building in a pre-game publicity stunt. In 1926 Muller played for one season for the Los Angeles Buccaneers of the NFL, who promptly folded.
Probably better that Brick Muller chose to be a physician in the long run. In those dark days of pro football barnstorming, the NFL would have only diminished his legend. At the half-century mark, Muller was named to the all-time All Star college teams by the Helms Foundation and AP. He was a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame when it opened its doors in 1951.
As a physician, he became a distinguished family doctor and, eventually, an orthopedic surgeon who served as team physician for California athletics and the 1956 US Olympic team. Those massive hands that had once enveloped a football found better use delivering babies and mending the bones and joints of his patients. Brick Muller died on May 17, 1962.
WDE: Rulon Davis (Junior)/Keith Browner (RS Freshman) Others - Tad Smith (Sophomore); Eddie Young (Sophomore) Outlook - We expected a bit more out of Rulon this year, who seemed to be limited even before he went down with a severe bone bruise. He will likely come back healthy and prepared to show fans the pass rush that was promised out of Mt. San Antonio JC. Browner was something of a mystery coming out of HS - great bloodlines and reputation, but some raised questions about a subpar senior season. We have a hunch that Delgado can coax him into eventually becoming a top performer, and he'll need to start that climb in 2007. Smith is coming off his blueshirt; Young came out as an OLB but may fit in for depth here.
DT: Matthew Malele (Senior)/Mike Costanzo (RS Freshman) Others - John Allen (Senior) Outlook - We might have had Costanzo here before the Holiday Bowl, but Malele had his best game of the year against the Ags. Was he dinged up before? He's not a space-eater on Mebane's level, but he's a very serviceable DT. Costanzo is reputed to be ready to compete for playing time; he's one to watch in the spring. Allen is potentially a good ST guy and very smart (2nd team All-Academic)
DT: Mika Kane (Junior)/Derrick Hill (RS Freshman) Others - ???? Outlook - We expect that Hill will start by the middle of the season. Kane's been OK and he did play with a padded cast earlier in the year, but we're not convinced he's ready to be a major contributor. Hill was all-everything out of HS, and we are very eager to see if he's in condition to compete for the starting job. The Bears would like to find someone else to add depth here; Tyson Alualu's a possibility if Mbakogu gets healthy or someone else steps up at DE. A recruit would be nice.
SDE: Phillip Mbakogu (Senior)/Tyson Alualu (Sophomore) Others - Cody Jones (Sophomore) Outlook - This is probably the least settled position on the team. Many think Mbakogu is done after surgery on his left knee. If he is, then expect Alualu, who has already been told he's switching positions, to step in and start. We like what we've seen from him at DT - he's very active and was fourth in tackles among linemen as a true freshman. We think he'll make a much better adjustment to DE than Ma'afala, who never seemed to be a good fit. Jones got some game experience in '06.
Summary: OK, we've found an area to worry about. In some ways, Cal never recovered from Mbakogu's knee injury; Ma'afala was an awkward fit at DE and Malele struggled to adjust to a starting role. Of course Cal had Mebane, who made Desmond Bishop look even better than he was by swallowing opposing linemen and forcing backs to dance around his gap. None of our DTs will play at that level in 2007.
On the other hand, our pass rush off the edge can hardly be worse. A healthy, experienced Davis figures to be an upgrade at WDE. Should Mbakogu confound the experts and return, then Alualu can play tackle and Cal looks pretty strong along the line - that's how important his return could be. Alas, few seem to think he'll be back.
What Cal desperately needs is depth at all of these positions. At present, it doesn't appear that we're in the mix for any incoming JC D-linemen, which is a shame 'cause we could use one. Look for any really promising recruits to burn a blue-shirt and help out here.
First off, any win in Palo Alto is a good win. We're tempted not to analyze it at all, and just up our Bear Backer check. But then this blog would really be a waste of time. Therefore, our thoughts on getting the Maples Monkey of our collective back:
* Stanford's not a very good team. They shot 36%, and we wish it was all due to Cal's scrappy defense. Some of it certainly was, but Stanford failed to convert on about a dozen offensive boards. The Lopez twins will eventually be terrific, but they lack touch around the basket right now. Brook Lopez must be struggling with his back, as he only played 16 minutes. Cal's zone did look a bit more active, and the Bears did a better job of rotating and preventing entry passes.
* The back court match-up went basically as expected. Goods had a little run in the 2nd half, but finished 4-11 and 2-7 from beyond the arc. Washington had a very nice game. Mitch Johnson is the worst PG in the conference and his father has got to stop starting him - it's getting Kyle Campanelli-esque. Ubaka used him all game long on both ends.
* Ayinde was just tremendous, and had the breakout game we needed to win. He disappeared a little bit in the first part of the 2nd half, when he tried his best to distribute the basketball. When he figured out that his teammates - especially Ryan Anderson - were gassed and not really looking for their shots, he took over:
* Ubaka's fadeaway after the held ball at the 5:45 mark started a mini-run that regained the momentum for Cal - it was followed by Patrick Christopher's strong rebound and circus layup on the other end. Two minutes later, he answered the Lopez dunk with a quick two on the other end. Then he had the beautiful backdoor from Anderson, and finally the free throw to help ice it.
* Watching Cal without Hardin is draining. Nothing can go wrong - we can't afford to have anyone foul out, we can't waste possessions, we can't miss free throws. It's a credit to Ben that he can get young guys to keep their shit together under these circumstances...well, usually keep their shit together. Ben needs to tell Christopher and Anderson that 1 on 3 shots aren't advised with a lead inside of three minutes.
* We question Ben's decision to scrap the zone in the 2nd half. Cal was getting worked on the glass in zone, but we got worked everywhere in man. Theo Robertson played the entire game, and was doing the matador routine on D for the last ten minutes. Fortunately for the Bears, Stanford shot 61% from the line and Ayinde and friends had answers for most Stanford scores.
* A hidden number - 3. That's how many fouls Taylor Harrison ate in 15 minutes of floor time. That's one small reason that Cal finished the game with its starters on the floor (Anderson with 3 fouls and Vierneisel and Robertson with 4 each).
* Another great night at the line - critical on the road when you're likely to get fewer chances. The Bears were 11-13 and Stanford only 18-29.
* A final thought - can this team actually make the postseason? We feared that 5-13 or 6-12 was the most likely outcome in conference, but we've already got two road wins. If Hardin's rehab goes well and the Bears can steal a few more games, who knows? The NIT is certainly not out of reach.
Oh we of little faith. Congratulations to Ben Braun on his first win at Maples EVER. All credit to Ayinde Ubaka and a very young and very tired group of Golden Bears for hanging on and getting a huge win, 67-63. We should all abandon hope more often. Game summary to follow...
We never like it when players leave Berkeley early (or without their degree). But we're not about to judge ML for grabbing the brass ring now, when his stock is high. He made the right call.
We don't like the engineered parity of the NFL and we don't really watch it, unless we get lured to check out the Chargers with the promise of cerveza and rolled tacos. So unless the Bolts trade up, we probably won't see much of Marshawn outside of SportsCenter highlights. That's sad. He was a lot of fun to watch over the past three years.
Here's hoping that Marshawn cashes in, stays healthy, gets himself a good financial planner, and lives a great life. Feel free to post your favorite memories of #10. Here's ours:
We don't have high hopes for tonight's game with the Cardinal (our preview is here), but we thought it wise to gear up anyway with a quick review of the most obnoxious, insufferable players in recent Stanford history. 10. Robin Lopez (2006 - present). We know it's early, but this one shows such promise, what with the Sideshow Bob 'do and the leering would-you-like-some-candy half-smile.
9. Todd Lichti (1986-1989) Not much to really hate about Todd, other than the fact that he was a Bear-killer and he looked exactly like Tyne Daly.
8. Matt Lottich (2001-2004) It's safe to say that if you're a fan favorite for the Maples dorks, then you're a strong candidate for this list. Worst player ever to host his own basketball camp.
7. Adam Keefe (1989-1992) Always seemed like the game was a chore, sneering at opponents, refs, fans. Also impossible to control on the glass. Damn you, Adam Keefe!
6. Curtis Borchardt (2000-2002) The Ivan Drago of Stanford hoops. A cyborg, actually, who would often malfunction and leave the Card high and dry. Just not against Cal, whom he thumped with regularity. 5. Mark Madsen (1997-2000) Great player, massive tool. Will be remembered not for leading the Cardinal to the Final Four, but for his ill-advised public dance after a Lakers victory parade.
4. Monty (1986-2004) He'll get back into the college game at some point, and some have speculated Cal could be in the mix. He's the 2nd or 3rd best coach in the Pac in recent history, and we'd be lucky to have him, but for the fact that he inspires a gag reflex every time we see him.
3. Andrew Vlahov (1988-1991) Little known fact: Vlahov means "Aussie goon" in Croatian. Dirtiest player in Pac-10 history, and it's not close.
2. Casey Jacobsen (2000-2002) Highlighted his hair. Had huge game, but never shook the whiny white boy act perfected by generations of Stanford guards. Shown at left auditioning for a boy band.
1. Chris Hernandez (2003-2006) If Chris Hernandez had never been born, God would have invented him to solely to receive the scorn of Bear fans. Bitched about everything - refs, opponents, poor technique by the end-line photographers who occasionally failed to fully capture his INTENSE on-court demeanor. Happiness was watching Ayinde turn him over last year at Haas to end the game. Were you fouled, Chris? No, we don't think so. No tourney for you.
#2 - JOE KAPP - QUARTERBACK (1957-1959) John Ralston once paid Joe Kapp the highest compliment that you can pay a football player. When asked to evaluate his ability, Ralston said that Kapp was the only football player he had ever seen who could start at all 22 positions for his team.
He wasn't kidding. Kapp led the 1958 Golden Bears to the PCC conference championship and the Rose Bowl with very little help from his scrappy but undermanned teammates. In the 1959 NFL Draft, only one of Kapp's teammates was selected - center Frank Doretti, in the 26th round. In 1960, only halfback Wayne Crow was picked (in the 8th round, by Chicago).
Joe Kapp grew up all over the place - New Mexico, San Francisco, Salinas, Newhall. As a seventh-grader in Salinas he accompanied his class on a field trip to Berkeley and fell in love with the first university he had ever seen. Following a star career in both basketball and football at Hart High, he made an easy decision to come to Cal and play initially for the legendary Pappy Waldorf. Probation left the cupboard nearly bare for Waldorf's successor Pete Elliott, who joined Cal from Nebraska in 1957. The Bears struggled to a 1-9 record that year and Kapp struggled too, throwing ten interceptions in only 77 attempts.
What changed between his junior and senior seasons? Wasn't the players - there weren't a lot of new faces contributing for the Bears in '58. What changed was that Joe Kapp became a great leader, and refused to go through another losing season. Elliott decided to feature him on more run/pass options, and Kapp usually chose the run. He threw only 117 passes all year, though he completed 56.1% of them. He did lead the PCC in rushing, carrying 152 times for 616 yards and five touchdowns. Above all, he intimidated Cal's opposition by running over opposing linebackers and calling out anyone who dared talk or take a cheap shot at his teammates. After two losses to open the season - to UOP and Michigan State - Cal rolled past Washington State, Utah, USC and Oregon. In the Trojan game, Kapp challenged the SC defense to a fight after a late hit, and guided the Bears to a 14-12 upset.
Cal came back to earth the following week, losing to Oregon State 14-8 in Corvallis, but then recovered to win their final three in close fashion, over UCLA, Washington and Stanford. All the while, it was Kapp - throwing jump passes, running around end, and sometimes serving as lead blocker after pitching to Jack Hart - who was at the center of virtually everything good that happened to the Bears. He was named 1st team All-America by Time Magazine and the Football Writers of America. He was also named winner of the Pop Warner award as the top CFB senior on the west coast.
Kapp also played for Pete Newell's legendary basketball teams as a reserve guard. One great story from those basketball days illustrates why Kapp was such a tremendous leader. In a 1958 game against USC, certain Trojan players hurled racial taunts at Cal's Earl Robinson, the only African-American on the Bears. Kapp watched the proceedings from the bench, his anger rising. At halftime, Kapp ran up to each of the offending Trojans and told them in colorful language that they should cut it out or face the consequences after the game. The taunting continued, and after the game coach Pete Newell noticed that Kapp was missing from the Bears' post-game huddle. He was instead inside the USC locker room, making good on his promise to exact revenge with his fists.
That's Joe Kapp in a nutshell. That's how he put an entire team on his back all the way to Pasadena. That's how he won Grey Cups after the NFL turned its back on him. That's how he then took Minnesota to a Super Bowl on guts and determination. That's why he refused to accept the award as Vikings' MVP - because he didn't believe in the concept of individual awards. The only thing that has ever mattered to Joe Kapp was the team. Look, he was a train wreck of a head coach, spending too much time leading cheers and not enough time preparing for the opposition. But he believed in the team, and his teams believed in each other enough to produce The Play and a memorable upset of Stanford in Kapp's final game.
Well, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that Cal's offensive line will likely be stronger in '07 than it was in '06, particularly in the run game. The Bears return five guys who started at some point last season. Cal also has two very promising kids who could battle for starts at guard in Kevin Bemoll and Chris Guarnero.
The bad news? One of the maxims of college football is that offensive linemen get hurt, and Cal has very little depth at tackle. Given that one of our tackles - Mike Tepper - is fortunate to walk let alone play football after being hit by a car, that's a bit of a concern.
Tedford and Michalczik are addressing this concern in recruiting, securing verbals from four incoming freshmen thus far (with a fifth - Matt Summers-Gavin, down to Cal and Notre Dame). Unfortunately, none of these guys are jucos and true freshmen have a harder time making the jump to the collegiate level at OL than at any other position outside of quarterback.
LT: Mike Tepper (Junior)/Justin Pruiett (Sophomore) Outlook - Tepper is very solid, and appears to be physically stable (which is a minor miracle, frankly). He's huge (6'6"/340) and athletic and should continue to shut down the blind-side rush for Longshore. Pruiett is intriguing, and still has room to fill out a very big frame. Still learning the position, though - his first start on offense was the HS Cali-Florida Bowl in early 2006.
LG: Kevin Bemoll (RS Freshman)/Brian De La Puente (Senior) Outlook - We're betting that Bemoll beats out De La Puente for the starting job. By all accounts he's a monster in the run game and could be a four-year starter for Cal. De La Puente started three games this season on the other side, and is a good backup - though he was generally the weak link along Cal's line. He could easily flop to the right side and start in place of Malele, but we think Noris was the stronger contributor. This position is the single biggest question mark for the Bears along the line, since whomever starts will replace Erik Robertson, a solid performer.
C: Alex Mack (Junior)/Mark Gray (Senior) Outlook - It never hurts to return an all-conference center. Mack is accomplished beyond his years at a position that must make line calls when the defense shifts. Gray is a very good backup, who may mix in a little at other positions if depth is required - he played some guard at JC. This may be one of the best center two-deeps in CFB.
RG: Noris Malele (Junior)/Chris Guarnero (RS Freshman) Outlook - Malele started eight games in '06, though he occasionally struggled in the run game. Linemen often see a big jump between their sophomore and junior years, and here's hoping that Noris makes one. Many believe Guarnero may start here before the season's over (we knew there was a reason Miami offered him).
RT:Mike Gibson (Senior)/Matt Laird (Sophomore) Outlook - Gibson is a returning 2nd team All-Pac 10 performer, so we're set here. Laird is untested, but he's a promising prospect with good feet (he played hoops and switched from tight end to tackle in HS).
Others: Cal doesn't have much scholarship depth beyond this two-deep (excluding the incoming players, who will hopefully blueshirt). Junior (to be) Chet Teofilo didn't play this year, but could be a third guard on either side. There are three walk-ons - Mark Boskovich, Richard Fisher, and Dan Lopez, who would be emergency guys.
Summary: Depth is an issue at both tackle spots. That said, this should be a better run-blocking unit than the 2006 squad, and pass blocking should be essentially the same. Look for the incoming juniors (Tepper, Malele, Mack) to perhaps make a leap in performance, and watch Bemoll and Guarnero in spring ball to see if they live up to expectations. Cal is bringing in a strong class, so depth should be much less of a concern in '08.
Please don't take this as definitive - this series of previews is meant more to stimulate discussion and help frame the recruiting season by pointing out Cal's needs over the medium and long term. We'll also try to point out interesting subplots for spring football. All incoming recruits are assumed to be blue-shirting unless they are mentioned below.
QB: Nate Longshore (Junior)/Kyle Reed (Sophomore) Others - Kevin Riley (RS Freshman) could contend for the #2 spot; he's the better long-term prospect but may need some time to climb the chart. Cory Smits is probably #4. Outlook - We hope everyone's feeling better about Nate after the Holiday Bowl. We certainly are, but we're very worried about his backups. Either Reed or Riley needs to step it up to be a capable Pac-10 backup. We're betting it's Reed, though we still can't get over Riley's HS highlight tape. If Longshore does a 180 and decides to go on his mission, we're going to curl into the fetal position for the next eight months.
RB: Justin Forsett (Senior)/James Montgomery (RS Freshman) Others - Jahvid Best (Freshman), Tracy Slocum (RS Freshman), Bryan Schutte (Sophomore) Outlook - After Forsett, there's lots of speed and talent but no collegiate experience. That's a bit of a worry. Justin appears to be back in form and should benefit from an improved run blocking line next year. The kids behind him are an interesting bunch - if Best signs, he will be one of the faster players on the team. Tedford has said nice things about Montgomery and Slocum for their practice performances this year. While you'd love to have one more guy with game experience behind Forsett, it's hard to argue with this lineup. The Bears look set for the next couple of years.
FB: Will Ta'ufo'ou (Junior)/R.J. Garrett (RS Freshman) Others - Brian Holley (Sophomore) Outlook - Ta'ufo'ou's blocking performance in the Holiday Bowl allayed fears of a big drop-off from Storer in '07 (though to be fair the Aggies didn't blitz much off the corner). At 250 pounds, he has the potential to be a much better short-yardage back than Storer. Garrett's intriguing but is the opposite of Ta'ufo'ou physically at 6'5"/220. Dunbar could do some interesting things with him in the passing game. Holley got a carry against the Aggies, which was nice. Could be a special teams contributor.
WR: DeSean Jackson (Junior)/Jeremy Ross (RS Freshman) Others - Sam DeSa (Senior), LaReylle Cunningham (Junior) Outlook - Lost amid the punt returns was the fact that DeSean became a much better receiver this year in his route-running and recognition. He's still got lots of room to develop, which should scare the hell out of opposing coordinators. Ross is JT's find from the '06 class, and has run a sub 4.4. DeSa is a bit of a mystery, and needs to show better concentration, especially in traffic. We love LaReylle for his TD catch against WSU in '05 and hope he finds the field more in '07 (for all the right reasons, of course).
WR: Robert Jordan (Senior)/Lavelle Hawkins (Senior) Others - Noah Smith (Senior); Sean Young (Senior) Outlook - Lots of experience here. Jordan had a relatively quiet year, but we love senior receivers. Hawk was up and down, and is still too prone to make big mistakes (penalty v Arizona, drops) - but he's still a very good player who makes for as strong a three-receiver set as you'll see next year. He could very well start over Jordan, depending on how spring and fall camps go. Smith is fast, but was banged up this year and is a question mark; Young is serviceable and has a bit of game experience.
TE: Craig Stevens (Senior)/Cameron Morrah (Sophomore) Others - Skylar Curran ('07 Juco recruit) could contribute right away. Julian Arthur (Senior) is a special teams performer who is massive (276 pounds) and could see some time in short yardage. Gary Graffort (RS Freshman) is another option. Outlook - Stevens should contend for all-conference honors, and Morrah is an intriguing backup because of his speed (4.6) and size (6'5"/248). The Bears look set at this position, particularly if they grab both TEs who have verballed (Curran and HS TE Savai'i Eselu, who should blueshirt).
Summary: To our eyes, this is probably the best returning group of skill people in the nation. What's even better is the young depth we have at most positions. Not a lot of game experience, though, outside of the receiver spots. With what should be an improved line, there's no reason to think that this offense couldn't average 35-40 points a game next year. Players to watch in the spring include Reed and Riley, all the young backs, and Jeremy Ross, who we suspect could be the next great Golden Bear receiver.
#3 - CHUCK MUNCIE - RUNNING BACK (1973-1975) The bespectacled kid from Uniontown, PA wasn't even supposed to play college football. A savage tackle in a high school game left him with a concussion and low-grade amnesia, and his parents forbade him to play another game. Desperate to escape the coal mines that surrounded his town and had claimed the lives of several of his relatives, Muncie focused on basketball and won a scholarship to travel west to Arizona West Junior College. Away from his mother's eyes, Muncie strapped the pads on for the fall football season; Cal coaches saw him, and six months later he was in Berkeley.
At 6'2, 240 pounds with a 4.5 time in the forty, Muncie presented opposing defenses with a unique mix of power and breakaway speed. He announced his presence with 126 rushing yards against Army in the third game of his sophomore season. That 1973 team struggled on defense and in the passing game with an uneven QB rotation of future stars Steve Bartkowski and Vince Ferragamo. Muncie was clearly the star with 801 yards rushing (5.1 average) and 11 scores. As a junior, the Bears became winners on the right arm of Bartkowski, and Muncie turned in another strong season, earning first team All-Pac 8 honors with 791 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns.
Mike White restructured the 1975 offense to feature his talented junior more both in the running game and on passes out of the backfield. Muncie responded with one of the great seasons in conference history. Muncie saw his carries increase to 228 on the season (more than 20 per game) and he gained 1477 yards - a 6.4 yard average. He also gained 392 yards on receptions out of the backfield. Muncie shredded Oregon for 207 yards; Stanford for 166. He tore up USC with 143 yards in a nationally televised upset of the defending conference champions. Behind Muncie and a dangerous passing game engineered by Joe Roth, the Bears set conference records with 458.6 yards of offense per game (amazingly, they averaged exactly 229.3 yards rushing and passing).
Chuck Muncie should be the only Heisman Trophy winner in Cal history, but he finished second to defending winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State. Griffin was the anointed choice, having won the 1974 award and playing in the media spotlight for the nation's #1 team. Muncie out-rushed Griffin (1,460 to 1,450) despite playing on a team with a potent passing attack (OSU rarely passed). Muncie averaged 6.4 yards per carry, Griffin 5.5. Muncie was a major threat out of the backfield; Griffin rarely caught a pass.
Following his graduation from Cal with a BA in social studies, Muncie played for nine years and made three Pro Bowl squads for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints. But he also saw his private life spiral out of control due to an addiction to cocaine. Less than two years after he played his last game, Muncie was serving an 18-month sentence in Lompoc on federal drug trafficking charges. Today he says that prison saved his life, and that would appear to be true. Following his release, Muncie established the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation, which mentors at-risk youth in California.
Hope you had the chance to watch Boise and Oklahoma last night (if not, it's gotta be on Classic today, not to mention bit torrent).
If someone asked us why college football is better than pro football, we'd show them three games - the Play, the Flutie Hail Mary, and last night's Fiesta Bowl. We'd then provide them with the complete NFL Films library and ask them to find something half as exciting.
The Zabransky pick; the reverse hook and ladder to tie it; and then the Statue of Liberty to win it in OT. But the best moment by far was RB Ian Johnson proposing to the head Boise cheerleader after the game with Fox cameras recording the moment. We love this game.
February 14, 1993. Valentine's Day. That's the last time the University of California won a basketball game at Maples Pavilion. 13 straight times Cal has gone down to defeat in this building. In most instances, Stanford was a deserving favorite, often ranked nationally. In other games, Cal found a way to self-destruct (1994's 88-79 loss comes to mind).
This year, Stanford is a flawed team that unfortunately matches up very well against the DeVon Hardin-less Bears.
Stanford on Offense The Cardinal's strength is in the front court, where the Lopez twins are already maturing into dangerous players at both ends of the court. Against Arizona last Saturday, they had their way inside - Brook had 17 points and 9 rebounds, and Robin contributed 14 points and 7 boards. They are complemented by Lawrence Hill, who has emerged as a major scoring threat, averaging 15.3 ppg.
Brook has yet to start a game, as the Cardinal have favored a smaller starting lineup of Robin, Hill and Fred Washington with Mitch Johnson at the point and Anthony Goods at the two. One would think that the elder Johnson would be tempted to start both twins against a team without a strong post defender, but we shall see. In any event, both twins will see lots of time against the Golden Bears. Given these matchups, Cal has little choice but to play zone for a good portion of Wednesday's game.
The Cardinal are shooting 32% from three-point range. Goods is most likely to shoot from 3, with 75 attempts on the season, and he's shooting better from three (35%) than he is from the field (33%). Goods also leads the team in FG attempts with 119 (Hill has 112), which is mind-blowing and reflects poorly on both Johnsons (the point guard and his father).
This is one of the two worst offensive back courts in the conference (along with Oregon State), and Cal must hope that they don't suddenly get hot Wednesday night.
Stanford on Defense The bigs are already proving to be adept shot-blockers, which will force penetrators to pass effectively in the interior. The threat of a strong perimeter game is the best way to cope with the Cardinal, and therein lies a possible key to the upset Wednesday. When Stanford plays man and Cal goes with Anderson at the 5, he can attempt to draw a Lopez out to a high post or along the perimeter. This could open things up for Ubaka and Randle on dribble-drive.
If Stanford zones, Cal will need to execute much better than it's done thus far. We've yet to see the Bears consistently establish a high post in the middle of the zone and distribute the ball inside to cutters or outside for a good look when the defense collapses. Instead, the Bears rifle the ball around the perimeter and hope the zone is slow in rotating. Our next effective guard penetration against the zone will be our first. Not that the Bears will see a ton of zone this year, but Braun needs to improve this aspect of the offense.
Lastly, you can run on Stanford - while they hustle and are disciplined in getting back on defense, they're not particularly quick or athletic and Cal can perhaps gain an advantage in transition (assuming they can get a few defensive rebounds).
Keys to the game: * Keep Stanford off the offensive glass. Easier said than done, given the Cardinal's height advantage, but at this stage of their career the Lopez twins are most effective on put-backs. * Expose their weakness. Cal's back court needs to control this game on both ends. Johnson and the other guards can be turned over (Stanford averages 15 a game), and the Cardinal don't have a reliable offensive threat in the back court. On defense, they're ordinary. This would be a good time for Ayinde to have a breakout performance. * Run a different lineup. Ben has been going small with Vierneisel logging lots of minutes, but he needs Harrison and probably Pribble to eat fouls Wednesday to keep Anderson in the ballgame.
Prediction: Stanford can be had at home, and if DeVon were in the lineup we'd have a very different view of Cal's chances. Without him, it's hard to imagine that the Bears can cope with the twin towers and Hill and the Maples crowd, despite the advantage at guard.
We turn the page on a pretty good year in California athletics - 3rd place and a tourney appearance in hoops, a co-championship and thumping bowl win, and we'll even count the national championship in water polo. It is bittersweet to watch the Rose Bowl and know that our Bears could be there save for a poor performance in the desert. That's 2006 thinking, though - this is a New Year, and we wish our readers - and our alma mater - all the best. And by all the best, we mean this (or better) next January 1:
#4 - JACKIE JENSEN - FULLBACK (1946-1948) The Golden Boy was one of two players (along with #5 Rod Franz) who will forever be associated with the post-war renaissance of California football. While Franz labored in relative obscurity along the lines, Jensen was probably the most famous football player in Golden Bear history.
A heralded recruit in both baseball and football, Jensen came to Berkeley from Oakland HS with great expectations. In the 1946 season opener against Wisconsin, he lived up to them - Jensen fielded a punt at his 44 yard line and threaded the Badger tacklers for the first of many touchdowns. Throughout that freshman year, Jensen demonstrated a flair for the long score - hauling in a 58 yard reception for a score in Cal's 20-6 loss to Washington, and throwing a 49 yard touchdown pass in a loss to Oregon. Unfortunately the season was a disaster, at 2-7, and coach Frank Wickhorst was fired after only one year. Under new coach Pappy Waldorf, Jensen helped his teammates blossom into a national contender. In one of their closest tests against Navy, Jensen took a simple off-tackle play 64 yards for the winning score in Cal's 14-7 victory. Jensen's passing and running powered the Bears to a 9-1 record, with only a loss to USC separating them from the Rose Bowl. In the 1947 Big Game, Stanford committed extra defenders to Jensen, who made them pay by faking a run and throwing an 80-yard pass to Paul Keckley for the winning score in the fourth quarter.
In 1948 Jensen had a magical season, rushing for 1,080 yards on a 7.3 average - very high numbers in a low-offense era. There were more long scores - 62 and 64-yard scores and another 64 yard dash against Santa Clara in the season opener; a 54-yard TD pass against Oregon State; 170 yards against Stanford. But the greatest moment in the great Jackie Jensen's career came that year against Southern Cal. SC had ruined the previous season, and this year's game was in Los Angeles, where Cal had not won since 1940. SC's kicker applied boot to ball to open the game, and Jensen returned the ball to the SC 32. In a single play, Cal showed the Trojans and their fans that they would not be pushed around this year. Jensen would go on to score both Bear touchdowns on 132 yards rushing in a 13-7 win that ensured Cal its first conference championship in a decade.
Jensen was a consensus choice as All-America that year; in addition to his rushing heroics, he led Cal in punting and was a top defensive back, intercepting seven passes during the 1947 campaign. He finished a strong fourth in the Heisman balloting (behind winner Doak Walker, Charlie 'Choo Choo' Justice and Chuck Bednarik).
Not bad for a guy's second sport. Jackie also pitched and hit Cal to victory in the inaugural College World Series in 1947. The lure of a baseball career was strong enough to cause Jensen to leave Cal after his junior year and sign with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. He would go on to play for the Yankees, Senators and Red Sox, for whom he would win the 1958 American League MVP award. Jensen's debilitating fear of flying hastened his retirement from the game in 1961, after major league teams had switched from train to air travel.
The only man to play in the Rose Bowl and the World Series, Jensen was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984. He unfortunately did not live to see this honor, having died of a heart attack in 1982 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 55 years old.
An ongoing discussion of California Golden Bears football and basketball...Other college football and basketball news filtered through a west coast bias...Like the actual Tightwad Hill, a bit messy and disorganized, but free!