Cal’s Jahvid Best declares for NFL draft

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that California running back Jahvid Best has declared that he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2010 NFL Draft.

“I feel like I’m ready to play in the NFL, and I feel like I can be successful,” Best said on a conference call. “This is an opportunity I can’t pass up.”

Best acknowledged he’s not yet 100 percent as he continues to recover from a severe concussion and back injury sustained Nov. 7. He expressed “no doubt” he will be ready to perform for scouts on Pro Day in Berkeley and at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, starting Feb. 24.

If Best lights up the stopwatch in the 40-yard dash – a likely scenario, given his electrifying speed – he will vault higher in the draft. Best has never run a formal, timed 40-yard dash, but he was the state 100-meter champion during his senior year at Salesian High in Richmond (in 10.31 seconds).

His speed on the football field has drawn comparisons to Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and former Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson, now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I would have loved to see Best come back for his senior year and challenge for the Heisman next season, but I can’t wait to see how he does in the draft. I’m not ready to pronounce him the next Chris Johnson, but I think he does have a similar skill set.

It’ll be interesting to see how he does at the combine and where he eventually winds up in the NFL.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Jahvid is the Best Heisman candidate nobody is talking about

While unranked Minnesota did its best to try and knock off No. 8 California at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, the Golden Gophers eventually fell victim to a 35-21 defeat and another dazzling performance by Bears running back Jahvid Best.

While players like Florida’s Tim Tebow, Texas’ Colt McCoy and before he was injured, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford are receiving more Heisman attention, Best remains the one candidate that nobody seems to be talking about, yet could emerge out of nowhere to win the award in 2009.

Best was outstanding in Cal’s win on Saturday, racking up 131 yards and five touchdowns on 26 carries. While Minnesota did a great job bottling Best up in the second half (he only rushed for 17 yards in the second half, compared to the 114 yards he produced first), his two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for the Bears.

What’s most impressive about Best is his patience. He allows running lanes to appear and once they do, he uses his quickness and explosion to get up field and into open space. And once he does reach open field, he’s virtually impossible to catch unless defenders take the right angles.

Another thing that’s so impressive about Best is that even when he’s bottled up, he still finds ways to gain positive yards. There were several times throughout the game on Saturday where he could have been held for no gain, yet he fell forward for two or three yards to set his team up in a positive situation for the next play. He’s fun to watch and he’s going to give Tebow and McCoy a run for their money in this year’s Heisman race.

I can’t talk about this game without mentioning how impressive Minnesota receiver Eric Decker is. He was the Gophers’ offense today, hauling in eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown grab early in the second quarter when he leaped in the air and managed to get one foot down knowing that he would take a hit (and he took a massive hit) was incredible. When he left the game due to an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter, Minnesota QB Adam Weber was completely lost.

If Decker can stay healthy, he’s the type of receiver that pro teams love to place in the slot. He fits that Brandon Stokley, Brian Finneran mold to a T.

2009 CFB Preview: California Golden Bears

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 12 in AP Top 25; No. 12 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: Jahvid Best (RB); Shane Vereen (RB); Kevin Riley (QB); Nyan Boateng (WR); Verran Tucker (WR); Donovan Edwards (OT); Mitchell Schwartz (OT); Mike Mohamed (LB); Tyson Alualu (DE); Syd’Quan Thompson (CB); Marcus Ezeff (S); Darian Hagan (CB); Derrick Hill (DT); Brett Johnson (S); Cameron Jordan (DE); Eddie Young (LB).

Key Losses: Nate Longshore (QB); Alex Mack (C); Noris Malele (G); Cameron Morrah (TE); Worrell Williams (LB); Anthony Felder (LB).

Player to Watch: Jahvid Best, RB.
Best is not only the Bears’ best player, but he’s easily one of the top 5 players in the entire country. Best is coming off a 1,580-yard, 15-touchdown season and he should become a household name this year given his outstanding playmaking ability. He reminds some pundits of Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson given how explosive he is and what he can do in open space. As long as the losses of Alex Mack and Noris Malele along the offensive line don’t hurt his production, Best is set to explode in ’09.

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Top 10 Heisman Hopefuls Version 1.0

Every couple of weeks during the 2009 season, I’ll rank the top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates based on their chances of winning college football’s most prestigious award. Players will either rise or fall in the rankings based on their performances throughout the year.

Below is Version 1.0. Obviously with no games being played yet, I’m mostly projecting with this top 10. These types of rankings always stir up a lot of debate, so I encourage readers to tell me which players should be rated higher or lower. I’ll update the list after the first week or two of the season.

Without further ado…

1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
After Sam Bradford edged Tebow out in last season’s Heisman race, some will argue that the Oklahoma QB deserves to be at the top of this ranking. But I’m giving the slight edge to Tebow right now after he absolutely destroyed the competition in the second half of last year. Florida will incorporate the no-huddle into their offense this season, which should only benefit Tebow’s style of play and give him even more scoring opportunities than he already had. Outside of Florida having to replace tackles Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins, there’s little reason to believe that Tebow will take a step back in 2009 and considering the Gators are once again national title contenders, he should be the front-runner to win this year’s Heisman.

2. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
After throwing for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns last season, I don’t doubt that the reigning Heisman winner could be even better in 2009. But the Sooners’ offensive line is a major question mark entering this season with the losses of Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Jon Cooper and Brandon Walker. That’s a lot of change in one offseason and while OU should light up the scoreboard once again, I could see Bradford taking a backseat to Tebow when the final Heisman results are tallied.

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Maryland stuns No. 23 California

Maryland pulled off the upset of the day, topping No. 23 California 35-27 in College Park Saturday.

It was over when… Chris Turner hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 27-yard TD pass to give the Terps a 28-6 lead in the third.
Gameball goes to… Turner, whose efficient afternoon included 156 passing yards and two TD throws.
Stat of the game… 0. After Maryland QBs combined for five picks over the first two games, Turner threw none against the Bears.

The media has been quick to note that the 12:00 PM ET kickoff (which is 9:00 AM PT) was a clear disadvantage for California, but they were just outplayed as Maryland did whatever it wanted on the ground in the second half. The Cal offense did its part in totaling 461 yards, but whenever the defense needed to get a stop, it just couldn’t get one. While looking at the overall numbers, it’s hard to fathom how Maryland won this game, but the win was impressive nonetheless.

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