TO OVERTAKE THEIRRIVAL TO THE SOUTH, THE GOLDEN BEARS MUST SOLVE THEIR QUARTERBACK QUANDARY
2005 RECORD 8-4(4-4 in Pac-10)
KEY RETURNEES LBDesmond Bishop (Sr.) Juco transfer led team in tackles last season CB DaymeionHughes (Sr.) Exceptional cover skills and a more-than-willing hitter WR DeSeanJackson (Soph.) Had 38 catches for 601 yards and seven touchdowns
BIG MAN ON CAMPUSReplicas of the number 10 jersey worn by Marshawn Lynch are becomingincreasingly popular on the Berkeley campus. By season's end they just might bein national distribution. Lynch is a breakaway back who averaged 7.0 yards percarry over his first two seasons and should improve on the 1,246 yards hegained in 10 games last year. That could send Cal to a major bowl and Lynch toNew York City for the Heisman ceremony.
Since 2002 Calhas been closing in on USC at the top of the Pac-10, so matching the Trojans inany way would seem like a step in the right direction. But if there's onesimilarity that the Golden Bears would rather not have, it's a quarterbackposition that's as unsettled as USC's.
The three Cal QBswho took snaps last season are back. The likely starter is sophomore NateLongshore, who won the job in '05 but broke his left leg in the opener, endinghis season. Joe Ayoob, a junior college transfer, took over before his erraticplay forced coach Jeff Tedford to turn to Steve Levy for the last two games, a27-3 win over Stanford and a 35-28 victory over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. ButLevy's chances of keeping the job dimmed in June when he was charged withfelony assault in connection with a fight outside a bar. He was suspended forthe Sept. 2 opener at Tennessee. (After pleading no contest to a misdemeanor,he was sentenced to three years' probation.)
The 6'5",233-pound Longshore is a classic dropback passer who has the arm strength totake advantage of fleet receivers DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan. Althoughhis leg is fully healed, Longshore is still not nimble, which might make him aless than ideal QB to guide the spread offense that new offensive coordinatorMike Dunbar will use. Dunbar, who came over from Northwestern, doesn't envisionany problems. "People have a misconception that in the spread yourquarterback has to run all over the place," he says. "It's not likewe're going to ask him to run like a tailback. Nate has all the attributes andtalent to be successful in this offense."
Longshore may notbe called on to use his legs much, but he has to hit the ground running. With atough road opener and two seniors waiting in the wings, he'll be under pressureto prove himself in a hurry. "I'll be ready," he says. If Cal hopes toclose the gap on USC, he'd better be.
TOM HAUCK/ICON SMI (LONGSHORE)