I'll give you my picks per position-top 22 starters-based on leadership as well as performance. Also I only included players JT recruited and completed their careers at Cal because that would be only fair if we are going to use the term "JT era".
RB- Marshawn Lynch
RB- JJ Arrington
TE- Craig Stevens
WR- DeShawn Jackson
WR- Lavelle Hawkins
C- Alex Mack
OG- Chris Guarnero
OG- Matt Summers-Gavin
OT- Mke Gibson
OT- Mitchell Schwartz
S-Donnie McClesky (nickel)
Honorable Mentions: Marvin Jones (WR), Worrell Williams (ILB), Mike Mohamed (ILB), Justin Forsett (RB), Shane Vereen (RB), Marcus Ezeff (S), Andrew Larson (P), Thomas DeCoud (S), Garrett Cross (TE)
This was a very revealing exercise in that it showed that we had less great OLs than I thought and only 1 notable QB. It is clear that the JT years were characterized by strength at the following positions RB, LB and Safety. All these positions played better than expected based on recruiting rankings. But OL and QB played under their level. And Safety has leveled off in the last 3 years. We had a few great talents at WR as well, but I don't think they performed better than was expected.
Of all the above mentioned players only a few stand out to me:
Aaron Rodgers (QB)
Marshawn Lynch (RB)
Jahvid Best (RB/KR)
Alex Mack (C)
Mychal Kendricks (ILB)
Desmond Bishop (ILB)
Zack Follett (OLB)
Damian Hughes (S)
Of these players if I had to pick just 1 on each side of the ball, it would be Mack (O) and Follett (D). All these picks are based on the players performance and leadership at Cal. If we include pro it would be ARod and Bishop respectively.
Based on Cal's current roster, I think it is likely that Cal would add some LBs to the current list of great players that were recruited by JT and played under him. I'm thinking of Forbes, McCain, Scarlett, Wilkerson, and Whiteside (if he returns).
My criteria is: Who would compel you to watch their every play, and save bathroom breaks for halftime?
That would be Marshawn.
My votes, heavily weighted for guys who were productive for 3-4 years:
a) Donte Hughes - started all 4 years. Game changer college corner, even if he never had the speed for the pros. Very instinctive ball hawk. If only the phantom PI wasn't called on him vs Arizona, he'd likely have a statue...
b) Justin Forsett - I was among those who, going into 2007, doubted he could replace Lynch. He did more than that.. his 07 season was better than Lynch's in 05 or 06. Couple that with a 1000 yard year as a backup in 2005 and plenty of big plays in 2006 (notably against A&M and Oregon in huge wins)... and he's up there.
c) Ryan O'Callaghan - best OL I saw at Cal. I wasn't here in 02' so I don't know what he did then, but he was the biggest piece (literally and figuratively) in a 2003-2005 Cal OL that was mauling and relentless.
Ted and Joe.. Awesome. Albrecht was one of our Best OT's. And, well, Joe
my opinion is that the best player means who not only contributed the most but excited the most. The person that excited me the most is:
I would have Decoud over Giordano