Our players are all faster, stronger, more experienced, and ready to live up to their recruiting accolades. No matter how the game itself plays out, I can guarantee that Cal will win. Yes, there are serious questions on both sides of the ball. But the true answers are never there for the asking in the spring. So take it what it is: a time for hope and a way to enjoy the mildly insane optimism that buoys your Cal fandom year after year.
Coach Sonny Dykes has been pleased with his team's progress and looks to play approximately 70-80 live snaps for this upcoming game. In particular, he's noted that the team is better conditioned and has far fewer injuries than last year while also being able to participate in more physical practices.
Once again, CGB's ace football reporter, Nam Le, has been #1 in practice live-tweets and #1 in our hearts. Arguably the biggest development in the spring was Nam's decision to turn down Harvard and Stanford for graduate school. Instead, he'll take his talents to UCLA. Lest you think he's selling out to the baby blues, he still plans to attend all Cal home games and even negotiated his move-in date for Cal's bye week.
Follow him at the aptly named and ever-so-creative @AGuyNamedNam twitter account and look forward to him continuing his stellar coverage of our team. Congrats, Nam. We're all proud of you and appreciate your great work.
In case you missed them, check out his practice reports here:
Potential and promises might as well have been valkyries riding unicorns last season. A true frosh quarterback behind an Oline where three starters had to be replaced is not a recipe for sustained success. Throw in the lack of a consistent running game and it's a wonder that Jared Goff made it to the Big Game before being knocked out by a dirty hit. In Year Deux, the Dykes/Franklin offense will look to build upon the tough lessons learned via bruises and blood in order to assert their will. We need to practice fast, play faster, and show a balance between the passing and run game.
Jared Goff was rusty out of the gates, but has been noticeably sharper in recent practices. Don't let all the "there are no starters" coach-speak lead you astray. Goff is the man because he's the man. The battle for #2 is a bigger concern. Kyle Boehm has moved back from WR to QB and brings the added dimension of a running threat. He and Austin Hinder will need to be more consistent if they're going to hold off the electrifying Luke Rubenzer when he arrives in the fall.
Player to watch: Kyle Boehm. Lest you yawn over a battle of backups, keep in mind that Cal's starting quarterback has only made it through an entire season unscathed once in the past seven years.
After losing two starters to injury and another to demotion last year, Coach Yenser's crew was inexperienced and under-strength in more ways than one. He knows that improvement across the board will be key for a successful season.
Zach Yenser @CalCoachYenser
@GoldenBlogs The #calOL know that this team doesn't win until we dominate up front. We will answer the call. WE WILL DOMINATE. #GOBEARS
If you don't follow him already, check out his twitter feed for some great practice videos of the Oline getting down to work. There's been a big emphasis on getting guys to the second level to really open up the running game.
The left side looks set with Steven Moore and Chris Borrayo. Rigsbee has been solid at center, although snapping remains a concern. Crosthwaithe has been starting at right guard, but will likely give way to either Matt Cochran or Chris Adcock in the fall.
Player to watch: Bryan Farley. The right tackle position has been fiercely contested between Farley and Christian Okafor. For the time being, Farley has been running with the ones. This could change in the fall if JC transfer Dominic Granado is as advertised. In recent practices, the team has also experimented with Matt Cochran at center and Jordan Rigsbee moving out to RT. Rigsbee at tackle is an intriguing option which might gain more traction if Chris Adcock returns from injury and re-claims his starting spot at center.
Daniel Lasco has taken advantage of Khalfani Muhammed's spring track season to stake a huge claim on the starting position. He's been fast, decisive, and most importantly, healthy. Jeffrey Coprich and Austin Harper have done a nice job with their opportunities.
Player to watch: Austin Harper. Although just 5'6, he's been dynamic as both a running and receiving threat. Will he still get snaps when Muhammed, Enwere, Watson, and Porchivina are added to the mix?
It says something that Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper have been nursing minor injuries, and yet this group really hasn't missed a beat. Kenny Lawler, Darius Powe, Maurice Harris, Stephen Anderson, James Grisom, and Trevor Davis have all had their moments.
Player to watch: Trevor Davis. The deepest and most talented position group on the team got even better now that Davis is eligible to play. This speedster has quickly established himself as a big-play target and perhaps Cal's best deep threat.
New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman's to-do list involves curing cancer, solving the greenhouse effect, and revitalizing a historically bad Cal defense. A disciple of the Jimmy Johnson coaching branch, he wants to disrupt opposing offenses with a one-gap scheme that emphasizes speed, penetration, and charging upfield.
We wrote up a more in-depth look in an earlier preview.
Circle this group as the primary area of concern. With presumed starters Mustafa Jalil(injured) and Jacobi Hunter(personal reasons) out indefinitely, our depth at tackle is tenuous at best. Harrison Wilfey has emerged as a surprise starter at one spot. He signed with Cal as a juco tight-end and has shifted over to first DE and now DT. Although Art Kaufman's attacking scheme emphasizes speed and penetration to get upfield, going into the season with a converted TE playing tackle has to be considered less than ideal.
Players to watch: Trevor Kelly and Brennan Scarlett. JuCo transfer Kelly will be counted on to step up immediately and anchor the middle of the line. Scarlett is built like a future NFLer; but can he translate star-potential into being a disruptive force at defensive end?
Once the thinnest unit on the team, a few timely position switches appear to be paying immediate dividends. Before spring, Maximo Espita (FB/TE), Ray Davison (DE), and Jason Gibson(S) all made the switch to linebacker. At the last practice, Espita and Davison were seen running with the ones. More reinforcements should be on the way in the fall when former starters Hardy Nickerson and Nathan Broussard are expected to be back form injury.
Players to watch: Maximo Espita. One of the break-out players this spring, he's a bit undersized, but appears to have the speed and instincts to be a difference-maker. There are fewer reads in Art Kaufman's scheme, so his athleticism could help offset his lack of experience. Michael Barton. Although Hardy Nickerson, Jr. started to come on midway through last season, he hasn't been able to come back yet from injury. After alternating series with Khairi Fortt on the outside, Barton has moved back inside to his more natural position where he excelled at De La Salle.
Perhaps unfairly cast as the poster child for the disappointing 2013 campaign, one of the indelible images emblematic of the Buh Defense has to be seeing Cal's corners trailing open receivers en route to giving up a deep score. New position coach Greg Burns has to restore confidence as well as teach technique. Early reports are that youngsters Cameron Walker, Darius Allensworth, and Trey Cheek are rising to the challenge. Joel Willis and Cedric Dozier are also showing improvement as they compete hard against a very talented group of wideouts. Preferred walk-on Griffin Piatt has been another pleasant surprise at safety and has earned praise from Coach Dykes as having the best ball skills of the defensive backs.
Player to watch: Avery Sebastian. Coming off a year lost to injury, he's fan favorite and a team leader who inspires his teammates with his all-out style of play. Most recently, he's been able to start working his way back by running with the twos.
In a surprise development, the presumed two-way kicking duel between Matt Anderson and James Langford turned into a three-horse race as Noah Beito has simply been too good to ignore.
Player to Watch: Noah Beito. Will frontrunner wilt under pressure now that Dykes has publicly named him the leader? Anderson and Langford should push him all the way through fall camp.
Spring Game Kick-off: 11 am PST
TV: Pac-12 Network
Per Cal Athletics, there are a number of fan-friendly promotions for this event:
*Doors open at 10am.
- Live Scrimmage – Watch the Bears in action during a live team scrimmage
- Run On The Field With The Bears – First 100 fans in attendance receive a ticket good for the opportunity to lead the Bears onto the field through the North Tunnel
- Giveaways – First 2,500 fans receive Cal-themed food, schedule posters and t-shirts
- Youth Clinic – Free 30-minute clinic on the field for youth eighth grade and below (registration begins at 10 a.m. on Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza)
- In-Game Events and Activities – Lucky fans will be able to win great prizes for competing in on-field promotional events
- Field Club – The exclusive Field Club will be open featuring food and beverages, two levels of seating to relax and over 20 televisions to watch the event on the Pac-12 Networks
- Food Options – Concession stands managed by Cal Dining will also be open for business on the main concourse
- Appearances by Oski, Cal Spirit and the Cal Band
- Pregame Fun Zone and Kids Activities
- Cal Bears Shop Merchandise Sale ($5 tees, $10 head wear, $15 outerwear, etc.)
- More details at CalBears.com/springfootball