California spring wrap


2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 5-4 (tied for fifth)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Kevin Riley, OT Matt Summers-Gavin, OT Mitchell Schwartz, RB Shane Vereen, LB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, P Bryan Anger

Key losses: RB Jahvid Best, OT Mike Tepper, DE Tyson Alualu, CB Syd'Quan Thompson

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Shane Vereen* (952)

Passing: Kevin Riley* (2,850)

Receiving: Marvin Jones* (651)

Tackles: Mike Mohamed* (112)

Sacks: Tyson Alualu (7.5)

Interceptions: Mike Mohamed* (3)

Spring Answers

1. Jordan steps up: Defensive end Cameron Jordan has the talent to be a first-team All-Conference player, but he's never broken through as a consistent performer. Heading into his senior year, however, he asserted himself this spring and established himself as the leader of the defensive line with the departure of Tyson Alualu. If that continues, he'll catch the attention of NFL scouts.

2. Attacking defense: Coach Jeff Tedford said the Bears would be more aggressive -- read: stunting, blitzing, etc. -- even before he hired Clancy Pendergast to replace Bob Gregory as coordinator. It became clear this spring that Pendergast, a veteran NFL coach, will focus on making life as difficult as possible for opposing QBs.

3. Replacing Tepper: Four starters return on the Bears offensive line, but the one void is sizable: 6-foot-7, 319-pound Mike Tepper. It appears that Matt Summers-Gavin will slide over from left guard to fill that void. While right tackle Mitchell Schwartz remains a possibility -- he played the position in 2008 -- Summers-Gavin is more athletic, which should help vs. speed rushing ends.

Fall questions

1. Will Riley arrive? Kevin Riley again fought off his challengers and will be the starting quarterback, despite his inconsistency during 22 starts over the previous three season. He's had plenty of good moments and he has ability. If he puts it all together as a senior, the Bears could be a factor in the conference race.

2. Who's the No. 2 tailback? Shane Vereen is the clear No. 1, but Tedford has always used tandems. Each of the four candidates -- Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway -- had productive moments this spring, but none separated himself. Sofele is almost certain to get touches as a scatback, hybrid runner/receiver, but the battle for No. 2 will be at issue early in preseason camp.

3. Who's the noseguard? Derrick Hill, a two-year starter, has been solid, but he's struggled to stay healthy. Sophomore Kendrick Payne had a great spring. He could end up winning the job. Considering coaches aren't afraid of playing Aaron Tipoti either, the good news is there's depth at the position.