Former USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was one of only two players to be named Pac-10 Player of the Week for defense more than once last season. He went on win the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Cal inside linebacker Mike Mohamed is the only defensive player to be named Pac-10 Player of the Week more than once this season.
Certainly, it takes more than two good weeks to become the conference Player of the Year. As the Pac-10's leading tackler, Mohamed obviously had had more than two. His 9.1 tackles per game easily lead USC safety Taylor Mays (8.2). He also is tied for fifth in the conference with three interceptions.
So does Mohamed have a realistic shot at earning Player of the Year honors?
"He's as deserving as anyone else," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said.
Without a dominant candidate this season, Mohamed may be in the mix. Last year, there were a handful of strong candidates. Mays and USC linebacker Brian Cushing were right there with Maualuga, as was Cal linebacker Zack Follett.
Mays was considered the preseason favorite in 2009, but a knee injury slowed him earlier in the year, and he hasn't been as dominant as some expected. UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price keeps offensive coordinators up at night and leads the Pac-10 in tackles for loss (1.88 per game) and is fourth with seven sacks. Washington linebackers Donald Butler and Mason Foster are among the Pac-10 leaders in multiple
"He's definitely one of the top players," Cal linebacker Eddie Young said of his teammate. "When I'm watching other defenses, I don't see other guys in the right position as much as Mike Mohamed. He's always in the right place at the right time."
Mohamed has been especially effective recently. He had nine tackles in a 24-16 win over Arizona and 10 tackles and a memorable interception in the Bears' 34-28 victory over Stanford in the Big Game. Mohamed's pick of a pass by Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck with 1:36 left preserved the victory. He earned his second Pac-10 Player of the Week honor for the performance.
"That stuff will take care of itself," Mohamed said. "If the coaches think I'm worthy of that, then that's great. But I have a job to do. I just think I've really started to find my place on the defense, both as a player and as a leader."
The value of Mohamed's production this season is augmented considering the Bears lost Follett, Anthony Felder and Worrell Williams, an accomplished trio of linebackers. Mohamed, who was a backup last season but played a lot, stepped into a starting role this season and thrived.
"It has been a learning experience because I've never started before," Mohamed said. "I'm seeing the whole game through now instead of just coming in for certain situations. I've definitely progressed a long way from being that quiet backup to now being in the middle of everything."
Mohamed is a native of small-town Brawley, located a few hours east of San Diego. It is there where Mohamed developed his quiet, Aw-shucks personality. But those characteristics have started to transform now that he is the center of attention on defense.
"It's very meaningful when he talks, and he's not afraid to talk," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He will speak up. He's just so well-respected by everyone."
Note: Starting left guard Matt Summers-Gavin (concussion) will miss Saturday's game at Washington. Mark Boskovich and Richard Fisher will split time in his place.