Golden Nuggets: Offseason Work

JO talks about the work Cal is going to have to do in the offseason to fix the problems that emerged this season.

How the Bears regroup remains to be seen. Was the failure to maximize their potential indicative of talent or coaching? Or does Tedford need to make any changes in the way his program does business?

The message outside the locker room Wednesday was that the Bears simply have to go back to work to improve. Departing senior left tackle Mike Tepper suggested there may be times the players don't play with enough urgency.

Determining a course of action could be problematic for Tedford and his staff because the Bears were so inconsistent this season. The offense piled up big numbers in some games and trudged along in others. Just when it looked as though the defense had come alive with back-to-back terrific performances against Arizona and Stanford, it played horribly for the next six quarters.

This marked the third straight season the Bears got uneven play at quarterback. Riley, finally the undisputed starter after the departure of Nate Longshore, had some nice moments but ended the season with arguably his two worst performances of the year. Tedford has called for an open quarterback competition in each of the past two offseasons, and Riley didn't do anything this year to prevent it from happening again.

In fairness, Riley's inconsistency wasn't only his fault. Cal's receivers are bigger and stronger than the old regime of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, but they lack the explosiveness that trio possessed. That results in less separation from defensive backs, giving Riley less margin for error. And the Bears' inexperienced offensive line was up and down in pass protection as well.

Even if Jahvid Best departs for the NFL, one position Tedford won't have to worry about is running back. With Best or Shane Vereen as the starter, Cal will feature one of the best tailbacks in the Pac-10.

Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory acknowledged that he has to figure out why his unit is seventh in the Pac-10 in both scoring defense (25.5 points per game) and total defense (378.8 yards per game). Once he does, implementing a solution will be a difficult task.

Gregory will have to find a way to fix the secondary. Considered to be the strength of the defense going into the season, the unit was a main reason why the Bears are ranked 108th nationally in pass defense. The Bears will lose All-Pac-10 first-team cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and are left with no proven defensive backs.

The biggest loss on defense will be defensive end Tyson Alualu, who not only should be playing in the NFL next season but was the heart and soul of the unit.

The good news for Gregory is he gets middle linebacker Mike Mohamed back for one more season. Mohamed led the Pac-10 in tackles this year and could enter the 2010 season on a lot of preseason All-America lists.

"The first thing I will remember about the season is a bunch of guys who played hard and never, ever gave up," Gregory said. "This was an awesome group of guys. Did we make as many plays throughout the year as we wanted to? Certainly not. It's up to me to figure out where things broke down and make it better."

The Bears also continued a troubling trend of poor special teams play, especially on kick coverage. Cal consistently allowed long returns to give opponents good field position, and when they didn't, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio wasn't kicking it deep enough in the first place.

After the jump I have JO's offseason checklist, Daily Cal's take on the loss, how David Seawright got punched in the face, a look ahead to the week in women's basketball, and a nice story on how Randle and Zhang stay connected to their families despite being so far away from home.

JO's offseason checklist:

  •  1. EXAMINE THE CULTURE: The Bears were terrific at times and laid an egg at others. The team has to figure out why it was so wildly inconsistent.
  • 2. EVALUATE THE PASSING GAME: Quarterback Kevin Riley did not improve as the season went along. In fact, his worst two games arguably were his last two. And his receivers consistently struggled to get open and make plays down field.
  • 3. FIX THE SECONDARY: Cal's group of defensive backs are largely responsible for a pass defense that ranks 108th nationally. Losing cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson will make this task even harder.
  • RECRUITING NEEDS
  • 1. WIDE RECEIVER: The Bears already have oral commitments from two wideouts, but a third decommitted.
  • 2. DEFENSIVE LINE: Cal didn't really go deep here and will need to replace All-Pac-10 first-teamer Tyson Alualu.
  • 3. DEFENSIVE BACK: The Bears will go into 2010 with an unproven unit searching for production.
  • Cal Football

    Cal Basketball
    • Despite being so far from home, Randle and Zhang each have a local family member to make them feel more at-home.  Randle's younger brother Jeremy has lived with him since July 2008.  Jerome brought his brother over to get him away from the South Side of Chicago.  Jeremy now attends Berkeley City College and hopes to transfer to Cal and maybe even joint he basketball team as a walk-on. Max's mom Lixin Gong is in the middle of a three-month stay with him.  She is committed to seeing him improve and cooks him meals to help him gain weight (as many as four or five per day).  She hasn't yet attended any of his games, however, believing that she would make Max nervous.  With Max getting more comfortable on the court this season, she might finally attend a game pretty soon.
    • Women's basketball finishes its non-conference schedule in San Diego this week in the Maggie Dixon Surf 'N Slam Tournament.  They open against Boston College and after that will face either Nevada or the University of San Diego.
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