Every year there's a special buzz of excitement that permeates Strawberry Canyon as Cal football opens their fall camp. But this year of all years holds a special meaning; it's the long-awaited Return to Memorial.
With the SAHPC established as a shining flagship of college training facilities, and the paint still drying(or still to be, ahem, applied) on our newly renovated stadium, the table is set for the team to live up to long-suffering fan expectations.
Coach Jeff Tedford is the winningest coach in Cal history. He's a class act, a good man, and runs a clean program. But at what point does the "what have you done for me lately" mentality of college football start warming his seat? While the Nega-Bears already have their torches and pitchforks prepared, even the sparkliest Sunshine Pumpers would have to admit that the lackluster results of the past two seasons raise uncomfortable questions about the future of our program.
Going beyond wins and losses, a return to form featuring a team that competes hard and plays smart would be a welcome sight. Exceeding expectations with 9+ wins and at least one marquee upset wouldn't be a bad thing either.
And while we're at it, wouldn't a trip to the Ro....nevermind. Too soon.
Our position by position spring reviews are here:
Due to injuries, incoming frosh, and closed practices, many of the questions are the same. But to recap and update with new info(if available):
Biggest Questions for the Offense (Spring):
1) How will the depth chart for the Oline shake out? Who will play tackle? Will the snapping improve?
Galas' pectoral injury takes away an experienced veteran and adds to the uncertainty on the line. Right now, it looks like our starters are Tyler Rigsbee(LT), Jordan Rigsbee(LG), Brian Schwenke(Center), Geoffrey Gibson(RG), Matt Summers-Gavin(RT). Chris Adcock will compete at both center and guard. True frosh Matt Cochran(Ctr), Christian Okafor(T), and Freddie Tagaloa(T) are physically ready to compete right away, but will need to be quick studies with regards to technique and the playbook to work themselves into the two-deeps.
I'm trying to block out the memories of snaps going low, wide, and dribbled on the ground by all the centers throughout the spring game...
2) Which young TE will step up? Will we finally get consistent production out of the TE position? Will personnel make this spot more of a receiving threat instead of extra blocking?
Richard Rodgers used a strong performance in the spring to be named the starter heading into fall camp. Our second tight end, Spencer Hagan, is also a capable receiver. With Coach Tedford having spent time with the New England Patriots during the off-season to see how they scheme their double tight-end packages, it appears that the intent is to get more production out of this position. Whether or not our Oline can block capably enough to make this a reality remains to be seen.
3) Will Zach Maynard remain the starting quarterback? Which backups will earn the majority of the remaining snaps?
Maynard was clearly the best quarterback in the spring exhibiting both command of the offense and better poise. Backup Allan Bridgford reportedly showed off a faster release and more accurate arm during scrimmages. However, he did show a tendency during the spring game to try to make something out of nothing with some forced throws. Hinder and Boehm have had their moments, but may have already been passed by Zach Kline. Barring injury and/or catastrophe, it looks like Kline is headed towards a blue shirt.
4) Now that passing game coordinator and offensive booth coach Eric Kiesau has taken his talents to the mercenary hounds up north, how will the play-calling, game-planning, and booth responsibilities be allocated?
Still unknown. A wild and unfounded guess is a team approach of Tedford, Michalczick, Gould and Chandler for game-planning, Chandler in the booth on game-day, and Tedford will be the primary play-caller.
5) (new) What will our wide receiver depth chart look like?
Previously hyped groups of young wide receivers just haven't worked out. This unfortunate trend can't continue because we're counting on at least 2-3 of Treggs, Dozier, Powe, Lawler, Harper to be ready to contribute this year. Right now, Maurice Harris is penciled in as the starter opposite Keenan Allen. He'll have to build on his strong spring in order to hold off the ultra-smooth Treggs and the other talented true frosh. If the youngsters aren't ready out of the gates, don't forget about our walk-ons. Jackson Bouza, Bryce McGovern, and Ross Bostock all have real-game experience while Stephen Anderson was one of the heroes of the spring game. They might not have the accolades, but they're all tough players who know how to play.
Biggest Questions for the Defense(Spring):
1) Who will fill the void in the middle left by the steady DJ Holt and playmaking Mychal Kendricks?
There's a mix of young athletes (Nick Forbes, David Wilkerson, Jason Gibson, Nathan Broussard, Jalen Jefferson, Lucas King), and veterans (Richard Mullins, Steve Fanua, JP Hurrell) all vying for snaps. If newcomer Khairi Fortt is healthy, it'll be interesting to see if his game experience is enough to overcome a lack of familiarity with our playbook.
2) Who will be our starting safeties? Will they move Josh Hill back from nickelback or rely on Sebastian and another youngster?
Josh Hill is penciled in at Chris Conte's old safety spot. Avery Sebastian and Alex Logan were locked in a tight contest throughout the spring. Michael Lowe (formerly Michael Coley) was an impressive special teams performer last year, but his recovery from injury is unknown.
3) How will the Dline shake-out? With both starting DEs departed, which talented young players will force their way into the two-deep?
Right now, it looks like Tipoti starting at tackle with Jalil and Coleman at the ends. During certain formations in the spring, we brought in Moala at the nose, shifted Tipoti to end, and kept in Coleman; this became an immoveable near-1000 lb wall of Monstrous Bear. With Payne backing up Tipoti as the steady veteran, and King, Lopa, Barr, Scarlett available as ends, we might even have the depth to try some 4-3 packages.
4) The depth chart behind our starting corners is uncertain. With McClure's recovery timetable unknown, who will be our nickel and dime backs?
Best guess right now is that it's Kameron Jackson and Adrian Lee backing up Anthony and Williams. Walk-on Tyre Ellison was very active and showed some solid tackling ability during the spring game. However, we're vulnerable here if the injury bug strikes. Although Joel Willis was shifted to wide receiver in the spring, he's reportedly back at corner.
Biggest Special Teams Questions(Spring):
1) Is D'Amato ready to handle the place-kicking? If not, where do we turn?
It's still unknown whether Cal Poly transfer James Langsford will be eligible to play this fall or have to sit out a year. He showed off both a strong leg and impressive consistency under pressure during the spring. If Langford isn't available, RS frosh Benjamin Calder and true frosh Noah Beito are the only other place kickers listed on the roster. We cannot confirm rumors that Coach Tedford has the training staff wrapping D'Amato in bubble-wrap at the conclusion of all workouts.
2) With Anger graduating and Jed Barnett transferring, is there anyone left to do the punting? Will incoming frosh Cole Leninger be ready for Div-I?
Cal added JUCO transfer Steffan Mos to the roster during the summer. If he wins the starting job, it's likely that Leninger would blue shirt. For what it's worth, Mos was highly rated at www.nationalcampseries.com and kohlskicking.com.
Leninger was already turning heads with his booming kicks over the weekend, so we might be in better shape here than was feared.
3) Special teams has been inconsistent under two different position coaches. Is this personnel, coaching, or does this phase of the game not get enough attention in practice?
On of our CGB favorites asked Coach Genyk at the Women's Huddle, "What's the deal with all the rugby punts last year?" (HT Scootie)
His response: "We were afraid Anger would kick it too far and out-kick the coverage."
This does not inspire confidence.
4) For the love of Oski, can we block for an extra point?
We have unconfirmed reports that last year's inept blocking schemes were a clever scheme to set teams up with a false sense of confidence. Prepare for an onslaught of Cal two-point conversions. Strategery!
Can the home opener come quickly enough? Cal football is back at Memorial. Hey alumni, make some noise! Go Bears!