BERKELEY — The way Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson is going, this will be the week he reaches his seemingly preposterous goal for every game this season.
Every week, Thompson submits an academic game plan to secondary coach Al Simmons. Included in the notes are things like his class schedules and when assorted assignments are due.
But that's just for Monday through Friday. For Saturday, Thompson writes down what he expects from himself for that week's game. So far, Thompson has proposed the exact same thing: three interceptions and a Cal victory.
"That's the kind of guy I want on my team," said Cal linebacker Worrell Williams, Thompson's former high school teammate and one of his closest friends. "You want to talk about setting goals for yourself and team goals, that's what that is right there."
Thompson has been working his way up to his goal. He had one interception in the Bears' season-opening win over Michigan State, then picked off two passes in last week's rout of Washington State. That trend means Maryland could be in trouble for Saturday's game at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md.
"He's getting closer and closer every week to getting his goal," Williams said. "I won't be surprised to see him do it."
Thompson enters Saturday tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions. He arguably played the best game of his career against the Spartans and followed up with another quality performance last week.
Thompson was solid as a redshirt sophomore last season but appears to have taken that next step this year to become an elite cornerback.
"We always knew he was a pretty good football player, and I think he just continued to get better," defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "He's had two really good games. He's really impressed us these first two games."
Thompson's play is bringing back memories of former All-Pac-10 cornerback Daymeion Hughes, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts. Hughes was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year at Cal in 2006.
"Syd is probably the best DB I've ever gone against, including Daymeion Hughes," Cal sixth-year wide receiver Sean Young said. "He's always progressed, and he's always getting better.
"He's a totally different player than he was last year and the year before. Each year, his game just keeps elevating. I know I'm going to have to run the best route I can run when I go up against Syd."
Thompson has come a very long way since he was torched by Tennessee receiver Robert Meachem in Thompson's collegiate debut as a redshirt freshman in 2006. Thompson says he still thinks about that game from time to time and used it as motivation.
"I was just thrown into the fire and expected to make plays, and it didn't happen that way," Thompson said. "That game really helped me because it showed what I needed to improve on. I started off bad in my first career game and just improved from there."
After last season revealed the Bears suffered from a lack of on-field leadership, Gregory had hoped Thompson would emerge as a leader this season. Thompson is extremely soft-spoken, but Gregory says the respect Thompson earns from his players translates into leadership.
"He's not a vocal guy, and he probably never will be," Gregory said. "But I do think what he brings to the table is his dedication to football and his seriousness about football. When he's out on the field, he's all about football. I think the other guys see that, and I think they feed off what he does. They know he's a good football player, and they're going to follow that example."
Contact Jonathan Okanes at firstname.lastname@example.org.