Monday, August 31, 2009

Starter Updates

So it seems that the starting lineup has for the most part been finalized, with very few surprises. Kevin Riley will be the starting QB, with, I think, quite a lot of rope. Mansion will not be playing this year, barring injury or a big lead in the second half of a game. It is clear that this year, Riley is going to be given the full opportunity to take the Bears to the promised land.

Vareen Tucker and Marvin Jones will be playing wide outs. Boateng did not get the nod, but I would imagine he will be the first guy in. There will probably be 6 or 7 receivers in the rotation, including Sofele. I also imagine using Best / Sofele and Vareen in a hybrid type position quite a bit. This could be a fun season for those guys.

As for the linebackers, the only possibly surprising items is that Devin Bishop is not starting as the senior. But he will play a bit, I am sure. I like the fact that we have three of four LBs coming back next year, with only Eddie Young graduating as a starter, and Bishop as a backup.

The defensive line is back with Cam Jordan as a starter - big surprise there - but it is nice to know that Gregory though Owusu good enough to start. I am pretty excited about the defensive line for the next few years.

In fact, the Bears are only starting five seniors on defense and 2 on offense. I assume that Best will go after this year, but maybe not. The biggest area of rebuilding next year will be our defensive backfield, which will be hit with Syd'Quan Thompson leaving, along with the two safeties.

On the two deep chart, the Bears have 6 seniors on offense, and 7 on defense. So, 13 of 44, or 30%. There are 15 juniors, 12 Sophomores, and three redshirt Freshmen. That being said, it seems like there is plenty of talent and balance in these classes for years to come, and that underclassmen are getting to play if they deserve it.

Best is going to take kickoffs returns, and Thompson is going to take punt returns. It sounds like Ise Sofele may be taking the gunner position on kickoffs, which should be fun.

The good news is that most of these moves / changes that have come have been because there have been better options, not a lack of quality. Mansion has played well, but Riley has done better. Matt Summers-Gavin is playing because he is a monster - not because Boskovitch is no good.

One of the major weaknesses from last year that is not clearly settled yet, I think, is the kicker position. Giorgio Tevecchio is listed as starting, and apparently he has improved somewhat in kickoff performance, but none of our kickers are consistently kicking it to the 5 yard line or better. I do have confidence in him for field goals, as he was 13 of 16 last year, and only missed one beyond 40 yards. But kickoff matter - we gave away too much field position last year. Here's hoping that a year in the conditioning program improved his leg strength. We also have two other placekickers, so there is plenty of competition.

All in all, it seems like a team that is good to go. Here is hoping for an injury free season.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bear Injuries

The key to Cal's success this year will be the ability of Kevin Riley and Jahvid Best to stay relatively healthy throughout the year. Both players have had some history with injuries that have limited their success over the past seasons. Last year, Riley had a concussion and shoulder issue which caused Nate to start and play in some games. Jahvid has been somewhat plauged with injuries, including hip, foot, and elbow.

This year, Jahvid has bulked up a bit, and is now apparently healthy after being out of fall camp for a few weeks with a bone bruise on the ball of his foot. There was a concern that it was turf toe, which can linger and cause pain through the season. But it seems that he is healthy at this point. Riley seems to have been fine throughout camp.

Both of those players need to play at a high level the entire year for the Bears to make this a very special season. I could see them going undefeated this year if we get lucky on the injury thing. That being said, we do have good depth at almost every position. Depth that would make this a good season, even with some injuries. Brock Mansion I am sure would be a serviceable backup to Kevin, should he need to be replaced. But he would not take us to an undefeated season. Similarly with Shane Vareen - while he is a fantastic back, he is not going to be the best back in College Football, like Jahvid Best. So there would be some drop-off.

That being said, over time, Cal seems to have had injury issues with the offensive line, the defensive line and with defensive backs. I am pretty comfortable that there is adequate depth at those positions where a loss of two or three players would not destroy us. We also have 7 or 8 receivers who seem to be in the mix for playing time, so that should not be a significant problem. Tight End, where we lost our starter for the year, and fullback could be problematic, and are key positions for the Bears in our running game. We have three guys who are in the rotation for both positions. If one or two go down, we could be in trouble.

So over the year, I would focus on those key injury areas: Fullback, Tight End, and Riley and Best. If we can get though the season with those positions healthy, we should be in for a treat.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How will the Bears do?

Based on our unscientific pooling data, most Cal fans think the Bears will come in first of second in the conference, and see the Rose Bowl on Jan 1 instead of Jan 7.

So what do the boys in Vegas think? I was just there for the past 4 days (only lost a little...) and the line varied from 25 to 1 to 35 to 1 that the Bears would win it all. If you want the best odds, go to the Venetian, at 35 to 1 (meaning $100 pays $3500). Cesars and Harrah's think the Bears will do better, at 30 to 1, and The MGM / Mirage (Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, etc) folks think the Bears will do a bit better than that, at $25 to 1.

There was not a line on how many games the Bears would win, although almost every other team had one that was ranked. SC was picked to win the Pac 10, with 10 wins as the over / under. I think that is a pretty good call this year for SC.

My prediction of the Pac 10 this year looks like this:

Cal (Homer - what can I say) 11-1 - lose at Oregon. New Years in Pasadena!
USC - 10-2 - Lose at Cal and Oregon
Oregon -9-3 - Lose at Boise State, at Arizona and at UCLA. Ties SC for second, but SC goes to Holiday Bowl.
Oregon State 8-4 - Lose at Oregon, Cal, USC and UNLV, or some other inexplicable early season debacle
Arizona - 7-5 - Keeps Stoops another year - guarantees the Bears will make the Rose Bowl before they do.
Stanfurd - 7-5 - Propels Hairball to the NFL. The future value of Tight Ends increases dramatically.
UCLA - 6-6 - This is the dramatic turn-around people were hoping for. The LA times endorses Neuweasle for Governor.
Arizona State - 4-8 - A sorry end for the worst 49er coach in 30 years.
Washington State - 2-9 Who knows
Washington - 1-11 - Couldn't happen to nicer guys.

UCLA does not make a bowl game since there were eligible teams ahead of them.

I have to say - I am really sickened by the prospect of Notre Dame this year. They play NO ONE of consequence, except USC. They will probably go 11 - 1. But they play 4 Pac 10 teams. Besides the above mentioned USC, they play Washington and Washington State (UGG) as well as Stanfurd. I think this is a year that Stanfurd gives them trouble. But Stanfurd is probably the second most difficult team that they face this year. Maybe Michigan State. But Michigan is way down, as is Boston College. Maybe this is the year when Navy rises up to kick the snot out of them. I bring this up because, of course, they have a special Notre Dame rule, which means if they have a sniffing chance of being in the BCS they will get in. So, an 11 - 1 Cal, not the Pac 10 champ - could lose out to an 11 - 1 Notre Dame who played the worst schedule of any of the top 25 teams.

The Bears have a tough road to hoe, but clearly the two games that stand out are the SC game at home, and the Oregon game on the road. Then, Oregon State at home.

Over the past few years, SC and Oregon State are the only teams to beat us at Memorial. It is time to stop that nonsense.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rule Changes

Here are some interesting Rule Changes for NCAA football this season:

1) Flagrant Personal Fouls (Rule 9-6): For 2009-10: The rules committee has added a new section that calls for conferences in the days following a game to review certain particularly dangerous plays. This new rule says that if a player is ejected for any flagrant personal foul the conference must review the game video for possible further action. In addition, if the officials call fouls for targeting defenseless players or using the crown of the helmet and the player is not ejected, the rules mandate a conference review. Furthermore, if the review by the conference reveals actions that should have resulted in a personal foul but were not called, the conference may impose sanctions.

2) Chin Strap Included in Face-Mask Fouls (Rule 9-1-2-q): The helmet chin strap is included in the face-mask foul. It is a personal foul if a player twists, turns or pulls the face mask, any helmet opening, or now the chin strap of an opponent.

3. Rugby-Style Kicker (Rule 9-1-4-a-5): Apparently a rugby-style kick has created a competitive disadvantage favoring the punting team. Because the player runs for several yards before kicking the ball, his teammates have more time to move downfield for coverage. It has been a subject of inconsistant officiating regarding whether such a rugby-style kicker has the same protection afforded a "normal" punter. Under the new rules, if a potential kicker carries the ball outside the tackle box (defined as extending five yards on each side of the snapper) before kicking the ball, there will be no foul for running-into or roughing if he is blocked or tackled by an opponent. The kicker remains protected, as always, from unnecessary roughness fouls.

4. Jersey Colors (Rule 1-4-3-a): The rules for many years have required white jerseys to be worn by one team, which must be the visiting team unless the opponent agrees otherwise prior to the start of the season. The new rule creates a process whereby both teams may wear colored jerseys if the visitors have received written permission from the home team, and if the home team's conference agrees that the jerseys are of contrasting colors. If the visitors wear colored jerseys without having such agreements, they will receive a 15-yard penalty following the opening kickoff of each half. UCLA and USC brought this rule to the attention of the committee when they swapped 15 yard penalties last year so they could both wear their home jerseys in the Rose Bowl. This rule was put in play back in the days of Black and White TV - so you could tell the difference between the two teams. It clearly is not needed anymore.

5) Extension of Periods (Rule 3-2-3): If a foul takes place on a play during which time expires in a quarter, the period is normally extended if the penalty is accepted. Starting in 2009, the period is not extended if the penalty includes loss of down. Makes sense.

6) Offensive Scrimmage Formation (Rules 1-1-1-b-2 and 7-1-3-b): The requirement for having at least seven offensive players on the line of scrimmage has been re-stated to allow no more than four players in the backfield. This is not a rule change but merely a different way of writing the same requirement. It does eliminate the foul for a team having ten players when there are only six on the line of scrimmage. This eliminates the illegal procedure penalty for teams that only have ten players on the field when a lineman forgets to go out, and the offense gets another shot with only a five yard penalty.


Breaking News

Michael Jackson to be buried Aug. 29 at Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California...

Just in case you didn't see it anywhere else.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leon Powe

Good news for Leon Powe - he signed a deal with Cleveland for one year with another on an option. So he is going to play for the league minimum for him - $855K for the first year, and if he gets picked up, $915K. If Cleveland can get him for two years, that is a steal. But essentially, they are just paying him to keep him off the payroll of anyone else, and hope that he can help in the playoffs. Leon's knee is not expected to get better for another 6 months or so.

So essentially, they are paying for a second year player now, and hoping that he gets better.

Here is to Leon getting through this and getting his body back together. If he can get healthy, he is going to have a great career, and his payday will be huge in two years.

As far as it goes, the Cavs have a great team for Leon to come into. They have LeBron, of course, but they also just picked up Shaq, who is on the downside of his career, but I could imagine being someone to help a young guy like Leon in the league. It is good to get to know Shaq, is my guess. And, after next year, when Shaq and LeBron leave, he will have the option to look elsewhere for the big contract, if Cleveland starts to collapse.

Leon played with LeBron in Oakland's AAU league, with the Oakland Soldiers, I believe after his sophomore year in High School. I think at that time they were the one and two players nationally, and they both talked about going to Cal. But Leon hurt his knee, and Le Bron went on to the pro's early. So he will be re-uniting with Le Bron at Cleveland - which is kinda cool that they both made it to that level. Actually, it seems like both of those guys are pretty level headed and decent people who have worked hard, and deserve the success they are having. Good for them.


Post from the President

Here is a message from UC President Marc Yudof, which I agree with whole-heartedly. While he is talking about the entirety of the University, this is clearly a big issue at Cal, as I personally can attest to from some of my professor friends.


Societies produce relatively few individuals who can both disseminate knowledge and discover new knowledge. Yet, such people are crucial to the economic, cultural and technological progress of the modern world.

In California, UC has, over the years, been a magnet for the world's brightest, most innovative minds. Our faculty and staff make extraordinary contributions every day in many, many path-breaking fields. However, we are beginning to see indications of a trend that worries me: UC, long a draw for global talent, appears in some instances to be experiencing "brain drain."

At our July Regents' meeting, we heard from several chancellors that world-class faculty and graduate students are abandoning promising careers at the University of California to pursue opportunities elsewhere. It's not just a matter of money, although there is of course a premium to recruit such individuals because, in good times and in bad, there is always demand for their services across the country and around the world. Nor is it a matter of furloughs, though this can hardly be considered a recruiting tool. The issue is much broader, and goes to the heart of what makes a great research institution.

One thing that attracts leading researchers is a critical mass of other top thinkers in their field or related fields. We are in danger of losing that mass, beginning a downward spiral - not because of the short-term crisis in which we now find ourselves, but rather because of the long-term disinvestment in human capital by the state of California. Since 1990, per-student state funding for undergraduates has plunged by 40 percent. Factoring in next year's budget cuts, our faculty salaries lag some 19 percent below the national rate. These realities register loud and clear on the human capital markets.

Faculty hiring has slowed dramatically. At UC Berkeley, the Regents heard, there are fewer than 10 searches this year, in lieu of the normal 100. At UCLA, only 25 faculty searches are authorized, down from the normal level of 75 to 100. At UC Santa Cruz, 55 faculty positions have been eliminated, the number of lecturers and teaching assistants has been dramatically reduced, and nearly all faculty recruitments have been deferred. UC San Diego does not plan to recruit faculty for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Much of the research and teaching is dependent on graduate students. If the universities are not healthy and graduate education suffers, then the research enterprise is at risk.

Because of these trends, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal asked the Regents, "How many innovations, how many vaccines and human health breakthroughs, how many ways to protect our planet from climate change, will be delayed or undiscovered?" I wonder too.

A world-class research institution such as ours must make tough choices: No one wants to sacrifice access, affordability or quality. To develop solutions, Board of Regents Chairman Russell Gould and I have appointed a Commission on the Future of UC. This commission will develop a vision for the university that will reaffirm our role in sustaining California's economy and cultural life while recognizing that limited resources require us to be creative and strategic in fulfilling that mission.

We have made it through the toughest budget cycle in memory. Let us now turn our attention to assuring the long-term health of our great university.

Contact me at

Although I will read all your e-mails, I am not able to personally respond to every one. I encourage you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, where you can share your ideas and look for answers to many of your questions."

As President Yudof notes, the University already pays about 20% below average for professorial talent. That is why you get these strikes from the grad students, who are being used as indentured servants. With another 25% cut in university funding, the cost is going to be devastating.

Let's not get it twisted: while California has a large and quality economy, it is driven by talent. The movie industry, the technology industry, the defense industry and the medical industry are all driven by smart people coming out of the best colleges in the country. And not, those colleges are...somewhere else. So if the state wants to continue to invest in the future, then something needs to be done to protect the educational future of the state.

If that is privatizing the University, or fully funding the university, or endowing it, whatever way you go, there is a lot to be done. But by squeezing it through incompetence by the legislature is not the way to run a railroad - or a University.


Whiney Fans Annoy Me

I think the difference between whiney fans and other fans are that the whiney ones, you can see as kids they were the kind of kids that screamed in the ice cream aisle as Safeway when they did not get their way. Those are the kind of fans who make these great sweeping statements about a program (SEC fans, for example) and base it on one or two examples. The SEC IS GREAT BECAUSE GEORGIA BEAT ARIZONA STATE ON THE ROAD LAST YEAR!!! Never mind that Georgia was supposed to win the national championship and Arizona State was a second tier Pac 10 team last year.

It is those SEC fans who do not understand the Pac 10, and reason why there is an East Coast bias. It is because in any given year, one team is great, and then two or three years later, that team is not so good in the Pac 10. There are only a few programs that are consistently good in the Pac 10. And it is cyclical over time as well. Washington State in the 90's and early this century was great. Now, not so much. In three years, who knows. Same with Washington. Oregon State is a good case in point. In fact, the only team that really has never been much of a factor at the top of the conference is Arizona, and they never schedule BCS conferences during their out of conference schedule. But even they have been a bowl team on occasion, and they have been good enough to take Cal or Oregon or Oregon State out of pretty good seasons. In other words, there are no truly horrible teams over time. Not even the Bears - we had a decent set of years in the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. But it was not until this decade where we finally seemed to be elevated to the top tier of the conference for a decent duration. So as you look at these things, and you see that USC seems to be dominating, and no consistent threat seems to be coming up (except, I would say Cal and Oregon, and Cal is better), then as an east coast guy, you think - man, they must all suck. Never mind that your conference has the best record against all other conferences over the course of the decade, or that you won all of your bowl games. But it is those kind of whiney little SEC fans that I am comparing Cal fans to.

Cal fans in general have to be the biggest bunch of whiners in the history of college football. I mean, really (by the way, I welcome comments to prove my point). I was on linked-in, the business networking site, and I was checking out the Cal alumni group. There was some discussion on the Bears, which was started by saying, we are ranked #10 (where he got that, I do not know) but that undoubtedly we were doomed for another disappointing season. After a bunch of folks sent in tidbits to say, "dude, what's up with all your negativity, Cal is at the best place it has been for a while, he responds:

"This discussion has turned into a comparison of coaching eras. There is no comparison since Tedford is by far the best that we've had in modern ball.

However, if you can't admit that Tedford's teams have broken your heart, you're not a fan. We have been so close to greatness and choke every time. 2004 was the best chance and blew it against USC and then choked in the bowl game when we were snubbed. We had virtual Heisman candidates at the QB (Rodgers) and RB(Arrington) positions an excellent receiving corp (McArthur and McKonnen), nasty front-lines on both sides of the ball and quite a stout defense.

The talent hasn't been SC caliber, but there is no denying that a number of the teams we have put on the field in the past 5 years should have worked their way to a BCS bowl.

Tedford is not a big game coach. I love the guy, but he can't be one of the best until he wins the big games and I'm not talking about beating Stanford and UCLA."

I was going to reply on Linked-In, but it seems like that may be a bit of professional suicide. The type of language that I was going to use was not appropriate for a professional forum - so I thought: Blog.

Here was what I wrote before better I thought better:

"Tedford has won big games. He has also lost some. He beat USC in 2003 in a pretty big game. He beat Michigan State at Michigan State (Ranked 12) in 2002 in a pretty big game at the time. He is 6-1 in Bowl games, which generally are pretty big games. He beat Oregon at Oregon two years ago to become ranked #2 in the country, in what was a pretty big game. If you mean he hasn't beaten USC except for once, and lost on the road at Tennessee, then I guess you are right. But to say that he can not win a big game is just wrong. Losing in 2004 on the last play to the #1 team in the country on the road is not choking. We may have had two possible candidates for the Heisman, but they did have the actual Heisman winner on their team.

It turns out having a QB who is capable and uninjured is probably pretty important. Cal has been the second best team in the Pac 10 since Tedford has been there. Based on recruiting geography, we are never going to overtake USC as a program, unless they get dinged by the NCAA. But we will beat them every once in a while, and we will win the Pac 10 in those years.

We are making big strides in recruiting this year, with out best year ever. With the SAHPC, an upgraded stadium and overall improved performance, we will continue to be a force in the Pac 10 and Nationally."

But here is what I really wanted to write:

Look, loser-boy - if you are tired of your LA SC Neighbors bagging on you and you can't formulate an argument to get those losers off your back - that is your problem. But stop whining to the world about something you clearly have no sense talking about.

I see it a lot in the LA fans - those who only get to see the Bears lose in So Cal. Stop whining and get on a plane. It is $100 roundtrip. If you can't afford the juice, shut up.

Anyway, I guess I am really just pissed because I expect that whiny stuff in the sports pages, but when I am on a networking site, and hit with this idiocy, then it really grinds my chops.


Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm Back!!

Hi Bear fans

After a 6 month hiatus fighting the good fight against my business going down, I am back. I have a bit more time to spend on Oskitalk, so I am going to try to post a few times per week. Also, it was getting pretty boring at the end of football season. While the hoops team did well (and Dick Vitale has us ranked 14th in his Hoops Preseason shenanigans) it seems like life is back on track with football around the corner. I have my tickets, parking pass and new Cal shirt on. Let the season begin.

First, a few thoughts on what has been going on in the off-season. Nothing except the best recruiting class that the Bears have ever had at this stage of the game. We are in the run for some additional quality players, but if we get who we have been told we are getting, as well as half of who we think we may, we are in top shape for seasons to come.

Also, it has been a quiet off season in general. Why? Because there was not that much to whine about, and Bear fans, as you all know, are probably the biggest whiners out there (or, as we like to say, the most committed fans). So when there is nothing to whine about, it is pretty quiet. No Nate Longshore to kick around any more - we ended up with a bowl win and a decent season, even with the QB controversy. In fact, i would say that most thinking fans of the Bears predicted (as I did) a year or two ago that this would be the season of destiny. Actually, I think I said that we would be moving to a new elevation. By that I mean 10 win seasons on a regular basis - when 9 wins is a rebuilding year. I definitely thought last year was a rebuilding year, with a new line, new receivers, new QB situation, new defensive strategy, etc. So to grab 9 wins from that is good.

I think it is pretty clear that Cal is the number 2 program in the west - meaning west of Texas. We are getting recruits from all over, and we at a much higher level than most other programs from that perspective. We are building the High Performance Center - all that crap has washed away now, and you can actually see the progress. The ticket buying scheme has been working - the revenue is still strong for the athletic department.

In fact, the biggest obstacle to the Bears continued growth as a top notch place to play football is the state legislature, who by pure idiocy is endangering California's future by it's slash and burn approach to government.

That being said, it is a great time to be a Golden Bear. For those of you youngsters who don't know or don't remember, being a Cal fan for many years was a tough as nails proposition. The University hated sports, and tried to kill it in many ways. Many times, the Bears tried to rise, only to be smacked down by lunkheaded administrators, who had no idea what a flourishing athletic program can do for a community, a University and a region. It drives fundraising revenue, and helps the academic side of the house significantly.

So when 800 million is cut from the schools budget, how are you going to get that back? The University needs a much bigger endowment, and athletics and the institutional attachment that comes with athletics can help with that.

But back to my premise - that the Bears are the number 2 team in the west now. I have thought that for a while, but I believe that to be the case. So that would include schools in the following states: CA, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada.

Anyone following recruiting knows that we have been successful in attracting top caliber players from all of those states, as well as Texas, and others, over the last few years, and particularly the last three years. As the SAHPC come together, as the wins continue to add up, the Bears have been consistently the team that has given USC it's toughest challenge over the last 7 years.

Now, we have only won one of those. But that will change. And the players know, Cal is the team that can do it, and will do it, eventually.

UCLA has a tough spot. They are cross town rivals, but never seem to be able to get it going. And the best do not see UCLA as a big player - they have been bad for so long that the young players do not remember when it was good. They could come back, but I do not see Neuheisel as the guy to do it.

The Washington Schools are getting out recruited by Boise State. The Arizona Schools just can not take players from California anymore, and they do not have enough talent at home. Similarly, Utah. BYU could actually give the Bears a run for the money, because, similarly to Notre Dame, they have a built in advantage. But the Bears get their share of Mormon kids, and they like Berkeley.

While Oregon has Nike supporting it, they do not have enough recruits there to make it a long term leader in the Pac 10. The Bears have beaten them 3 of the last 4 meetings, and 5 of 7.

While the Beavers have been doing well, they do not have the wherewithal to contend over time for the Pac 10 title. They have had some remarkable seasons, and will do well over time as long as their coach stays. But their talent pool is smaller than the Bears, who do not have a real natural rival in the local area that can compete with us for talent. Stanfurd has decided that it is not in the major football business by building a tiny tot stadium and by hiring Jim Hairball, who will bolt at the first NFL opening.

I like the position that the Bears have gotten to. It is similar to the position they were in during the early part of last century. A quality institution with great staying power, who can compete with the best for the best recruits. That does not mean that every year will be a winning year, but it does mean that the down years will be few and far between, and not as down as they have been in the recent past.