California Golden Bears
The Cal Bears got sick and tired of the wandering eye of head coach Sonny Dykes after last season, as his name continually came up in job searches from Missouri to Baylor, and he did nothing to squash those rumors. It became obvious that he had no long term want to be the head coach at Cal, and so they freed him up to go after a job that he never got, and they turned to Wisconsin DC Justin Wilcox, who is no stranger to the PAC-12 and west coast football in general. Wilcox generated a massively successful defense at Wisconsin, and since Cal has had no defense at all under Dykes, it should be an interesting transition to get Cal back to playing balanced football of any kind.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
One thing is assured, and that is the receiving corps may end up being one of the better units in the PAC-12 this fall, despite the departure of Chad Hansen early to the NFL Draft. Demetrius Robertson, Melquise Stovall, and Jordan Veasy all return this season. Robertson caught 50 passes for 767 yards last fall as a freshman, and scored seven times, and could break out even bigger depending on the unknown QB situation coming into camp. Stovall caught 42 passes as a freshman last season, and scored three times. Veasy caught 25 passes as well as a reserve, and will step in to start.
Matt Anderson will provide some scoring from the PK position, as he returns for his senior year after hitting 22/26 FGs last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
One thing is for certain, as compared to the offense that Dykes ran, the offense will slow down to a degree, and maybe even more efficient as the unit balances out.
There is not one QB coming in that has taken a snap for the Bears, and that will mean an adjustment period in fall camp. Junior Chase Forrest is projected to win the starting job as a junior, but took not one snap behind Davis Webb last fall. RS sophomore Ross Bowers is currently behind him on the depth chart, but both should get a long look in camp.
The run game, largely a secondary feature in the old offense, will get more of a prominent role in the offense under Beau Baldwin, the former Eastern Washington HC who comes to the Bears as OC. Tre Watson and Vic Enwere are both back after they combined for 1045 yards rushing last season as part of a committee of backs.
There is a concern with the line, as the offense will still look to a spread feature, it will also feature more of a balanced attack.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The defense will be moving to a 3-4 look, which Wilcox ran to perfection at Wisconsin. Tim DeRuyter, the former Fresno State coach, is landing as DC with the Bears, and has a defensive acumen from his career as an assistant. He has some serious work to do to rehab a unit that allowed an embarrassing 42.6 points per game last season.
There is some talent on the line for the Bears in DE James Looney and DT Tony Mekari. They combined for 12.5 TFLs last season, and should provide solid play and leadership in the new system. Zeandae Johnson, a RS sophomore, will move over to start at DE, as former DE Cameron Saffle moves outside to OLB in the new defensive look.
Saffle was a star for the Bears last fall, finishing with 8.5 TFLs to go with his 57 total tackles. He will stand out in the 3-4 as a rush END/LB type who will specialize in disrupting opposing backfields. He should thrive in this role. Devante Downs and Raymond Davison will both return at ILB this fall after decent efforts last season. Downs led the team with 84 tackles, while Davison finished with 69, which was good for third on the team. Alex Funches, a transfer, should fill the open OLB spot.
There is talent in the secondary, as both CBs Darius Allensworth and Marloshawn Franklin return. They combined for 12 PBUs last fall.
Dylan Klumph was one of the best Punters in the nation last season, and returns to handle the job in 2017 after averaging 44.8 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
This defense was a mess last year, but it's hard to understand it when you see the kind of talent that exists. At the end of the day, one has to blame the former staff and their scheme, and their overall game planning. I would make a safe bet that in any event, you will see some improvements from this unit this fall.
ONe are that is questionable right now is at Safety. Quentin Tartabull and Evan Rambo are the projected starters currently, but they are both an unknown quantity at this point. Derron Brown and Jaylinn Hawkins will give both a good push in fall camp.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 at North Carolina, 9/9 Weber State, 9/16 Ole Miss, 9/23 USC, 9/30 at Oregon, 10/7 at Washington, 10/13 Washington State, 10/21 Arizona, 10/28 at Colorado, 11/4 Oregon State, 11/18 at Stanford, 11/25 at UCLA
The Bears are in not so much a rebuild mode as it is a reshape mode. Sonny Dykes is a decent guy, and a smart offensive football coach, but he is an unbalanced coach who favors crazy amounts of offense above all else, which was his MO at Louisiana Tech as well. In short, it is obvious that Cal was never a job he really wanted long term, and so he continued to look at every opening that came along. Justin Wilcox may be the long term answer that the Golden Bears needed, and he has already put together a first rate coaching staff, especially with coordinators Beau Baldwin and Tim DeRuyter. Baldwin has already had massive success as head coach of FCS Eastern Washington, and will likely use this job as a catapult to an FBS head job at some point, but Wilcox pulled off a real coup to get him hired. Look for some real improvements this season, but there are too many puzzle pieces to account for right now, so finishing in fifth place in the North with the ability to move up seems to be simply the most reasonable expectation of this program right now.