Future First-Year Phenoms

The start of the school year means a new beginning for several Cal athletes. Here are nine athletes ready to contribute now.

Shannon Elmitt/Courtesy

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Keenan Allen wasn't listed at all on Cal's pre-camp two-deep. It took him about three days to earn a starting spot.

The Bears' first five-star recruit since DeSean Jackson will take the field opposite top receiver Marvin Jones. Originally the highlight of Alabama's 2010 class - he was rated the country's top safety out of high school and No. 5 overall - Allen likely would have also converted for the defending national champion.

With long arms and quick legs, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Greensboro, N.C., native looks like he was churned out of some far-off wideout factory. He scored an obscene 53 offensive touchdowns his senior season, more than half the schools in Guilford County.

Consider that Cal has only had one player top 30 receptions over the past two years. Even if Allen has a few growing pains, he'll certainly make a big impact.

-Jack Wang


Quarterbacks and running backs are the big-name players, but over the past several years, Cal has been quietly producing a lot of very good defensive backs. Former Bears Dante Hughes, Syd'Quan Thompson and Thomas DeCoud, among others, are currently on NFL squads.

Now, many are betting that Steve Williams will someday add his name to that list.

Williams, who barely missed a starting cornerback spot, will still see plenty of playing time. Coach Jeff Tedford praised Williams all fall camp and the Dallas, Texas product's speed and sure hands make it clear why. At Skyline High, Williams had 53 tackles, two picks and 10 pass breakups as a junior.

With big questions in the secondary for Cal this season, Williams could end up being a big name - in triumph or tribulations.

-Katie Dowd


You may have never heard of Wagner College, so you'll probably question why you should read about a junior college transfer whose only prep suitor was a school with just 2,400 students.

Coleman Edmond had to work - really work - his way into the Cal receiver rotation. He left his native New York to try and latch on to a bigger program. He ran track at UCLA before the Bruins declined to offer him a football scholarship. He helped Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. to its first Pacific conference title.

Edmond has measurables (6-feet, 200 pounds and a 4.5 40 time) and production (1,584 all-purpose yards and nine touchdown catches at Pierce), but it could be his work ethic that separates him. When someone piles up enough calls, letters and transcripts to fill multiple garbage bags just to get here, it's hard to count him out.

-Jack Wang


Lauren Loerch may only be a freshman, but she has already etched her name into the Cal volleyball record books.

Loerch is the first player in Cal history to graduate from high school early in order to enroll at Berkeley in the spring.

While she did not play in the Bears' first match against UC Santa Barbara, Loerch saw action in all three sets in the team's sweep of Manhattan College on Saturday, hitting .333 in her debut and logging three blocks.

"That's solid numbers for someone coming into her first college match," coach Rich Feller said.

Loerch looked comfortable on the court in her first match, displaying her powerful arm, her leaping ability and her maturity in the final set.

Loerch promises to be a formidable force at the net, both offensively and defensively.

-Christina Jones


Adrienne Gehan's hometown of Dallas, Texas, is a long way from Berkeley, but Cal's freshman outside hitter looked at home on Haas Pavilion's court this past weekend. She was the only freshman to start against both UC Santa Barbara and Manhattan. And with 12 kills in two games, she may be in the lineup to stay.

Gehan's strong play early on is not surprising. She was named a 2009 AVCA/Under Armour High School All-American and the 2009-10 Dallas Morning News Athlete of the Year.

While Gehan had the second-most kill attempts in each match, she also had seven errors. That just means there is more room for the 6-foot-3 athlete to grow.

Gehan completed seven of 18 kills, along with five digs and two blocks in her first match as a Bear. If that's just scratching the surface, then Gehan could eventually claw through the wall.

-Jonathan Kuperberg


Before the season even started, Cal women's soccer coach Neil McGuire said that freshman defender Emi Lawson would make a quick impact because of her fitness, composure and leadership. Yet Lawson's mere presence on the field already makes her one of the Bears' most noticeable players. In the air, on the ground, or even from behind the keeper, Lawson manages to clear every ball.

While her presence is largely a physical one - her clearances are rarely ever to feet and the balls she retrieves in the air almost never have direction - the 5-foot-8 Lawson is more than a body behind the ball. Her ability to monitor the opposition's offense requires some impressive field vision. With Lawson working alongside junior Danielle Brunache, the Bears' back line has a solid backbone.

-Alex Matthews


After the graduation of goalkeepers Gina Pelligrini and Rosie Aguilera last year, Cal women's soccer coach Neil McGuire needed recruits to help defend the net.

Emily Kruger is one of the two freshmen he has found to fill the void. The 5-foot-11 freshman from Woodside, Calif. has been splitting games with sophomore Lauren Hein. She played the full 110 minutes her team's scoreless draw against Santa Clara last week, recording three saves in her first ever shutout.

Kruger has quickly proved competent in filling the gap between the posts. Despite letting a goal in against LMU and UC Irvine, she has been steadily dragging her Goals Against Average (currently 0.82) down.

Kruger's early success suggests that the Bears have a reliable goalkeeping foundation for the next several years.

- Alex Matthews


A South Korean native who came to America five years ago, Cal's freshman golfer has wasted little time in creating a national reputation for himself.

As a high school senior in 2009, An became the youngest ever U.S. Amateur Open champion - capturing the title at the age of 17.

An nearly defended his title this past week, losing on the final semifinal hole by a single stroke to Stanford's David Chung. Had he repeated, An would have become the first golfer since Tiger Woods in 1995 to take home back-to-back U.S. Amateur Opens.

By virtue of his title last year, An got to play with the big boys - earning invitations to 2010 Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open.

So don't expect him to be intimidated when facing collegiate competition this fall.

-Ed Yevelev


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