With our palates sufficiently cleansed of dribbled shotgun snaps, matador blocks, and air-mailed passes, let's pump a little sunshine and look forward to better and brighter days. Or can we? What improvements do we need to see out of our offense next season? Who needs to step up? Do we have the players and coaches in place to expect better performances, or is it going to be more of the same? What are reasonable expectations for the New Tedford Offense, Year Deux?
TwistNHook: I don't think that it is unreasonable to demand a cut in the turnovers. Many of the games Cal lost this season came down to dumb turnovers. Over and over and over and over. And then when Cal actually played crisp football and managed to hold on to the ball, they looked pretty damn good out there.
LeonPowe: The big hope for me is that year two of Coach M the offensive line protects whoever is back there - aside from Texas, we did start to see that towards the back half of the season. If we can protect the QB and RB and give them time to set-up and throw, or holes to run through - we will be back. If Maynard or other QBs are running for their life or starting 2nd or 3rd down from 15 yard down/distance due to holding or false start or bad snaps - it won't matter how many chess games Maynard plays with Tedford or how many hours Allen and the second wideout spend working on timing - it will not work. If we can get a kick-ass offensive line back, we will be in business, regardless of who is slinging the rock or running the ball. Its that simple, and yet its the most difficult part.
Beyond the turnovers, we had several boneheaded plays all season. Galas would snap the ball into orbit, Jones would lose awareness when fielding punts (this improved later in the season), and don't even get me started on penalties. Even if the Pac-12 refs made some pretty questionable calls, Cal had no business being the second-most penalized team in the nation (in terms of yards per game).
The coaches were not immune to these mistakes either. Occasionally Kiesau would call a check-with-me with 15 or fewer seconds on the game clock and we would be forced to waste a timeout because Maynard could not get the play called and set up in time. As we grow more comfortable with the co-offensive coordinator situation, I expect these issues to disappear.
I hope this year was simply an aberration because these mistakes are not trademarks of a typical Tedford-coached team. With another offseason for the staff and players to get more comfortable running the offense, these issues should mostly be solved before next season. I expect the team to be much better next season in terms of limiting turnovers, penalties, and other mistakes. If nothing else, regression to the mean suggests that next year should not be worse than this year.
Kodiak: I think both LeonPowe and Berkelium97 nailed it when they mentioned the Oline and execution being critical.
For the line, I hope Galas is locked in a room right now and the only way he gets fed is if he perfectly threads a snap to a precise target. Otherwise, move him to guard and promote Adcock. I'd also like to see MSG moved back to guard. However, with Schwartz graduating, I'm not sure if Coach M would roll the dice and try two new tackles. At this point, I'd be open to letting a younger guy with potential go through growing pains than continue with more of the same. Besides Tyler Rigsbee, Matt Williams, and Bryan Farley, we'd have two highly touted frosh in the mix for two spots.
At receiver, I'd expect Maurice Harris to get the first look at #2. The next three spots are likely going to true frosh. It's unknown whether Kaelin Clay will be able to return from JC or not. His speed would be very useful to make safeties pay for doubling KA, especially with so many teams using a single deep centerfielder.
In some ways, the Oline also determines whether we can use multi-WR formations and whether we'll be able to use our TEs as receivers. With another year of Blasquez, Hagan and Rodgers will hopefully be able to hold up better as blockers. Both are more known as receivers. I'm also curious if Wark will bounce back from his injury. He was supposedly the most physical of all our TEs prior to getting hurt.
Fullback should be okay with Stevens coming back and Tyndall having played well. And unlike last year, we know that we're set with our 1-2 rotation at tailback with Sofele and Anderson. The only question here is whether we can work Bigelow, Lasco, or Ervin into the mix to take advantage of their skills. Sorry to say, I'm not sure if we'll see Yarnway or Briggs recover enough to push for time.
Quarterback is still a question mark for me. We've seen what Maynard does well and what he doesn't do well. Is this who he is, or can we assume(hope?) that he might get better? If Maynard gets hurt or can't go for some reason, have we adequately prepared our backups to play? It could be a really interesting battle for snaps in spring ball with Kline enrolling early; that's a free-for-all with Bridgford, Boehm, and Hinder. I'm not sure if Bridgford did enough in his limited time to clearly distance himself from the others.
I also wonder if finally being at home will make a difference with regards to practice and preparation. The coaches shrugged it off as "just something we deal with," but it can't be easy dealing with trailers, different fields, and constant upheaval.
I'm excited for The Return to Memorial. Go Bears!
TwistNHook: I wonder if we'll ever see a return to Tedford QBs holding the ball "on the shelf." I was watching Rodgers Cal highlights last night and remembered how all the QBs back then had the ball up by their shoulder. Whatever happened to that and can we ever expect it to return?
To me, the best way to look forward to 2012 is to look back at 2011 and see what worked well, that we can build on for the future. My overall impression of Cal Football 2011 is one of excitement mixed with frustration. It would be easier to feel hopeful about next season, if we had managed to beat Texas, but it is only one game, although as the last, it does tend to stick with you. The most encouraging sign to me was how diverse and exciting the playcalling was this year. I had my doubts about the whole "get the Gang back together again" thing that Tedford believed would work; but however they structured this, this playcalling model worked. I also noted (as others have) that the playcalling crew, made adjustments as the season progressed to maximize player productivity, notably with the Quarterback and Offensive line.