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Cal Football Fall Camp Preview: The Offense

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In days of old, master smiths used to make weapons by heating, pounding, and quenching metal over and over again. Out of this repeated abuse, the finest steel was born.

Ezra Shaw


Although the lunatic fringe has already written off the Sonny Dykes era as an ill-advised mistake in the annals of Cal football, True Blues fervently hope that last year's beat-down of a season was dues paid as part of growth towards better days.

The beginning of fall camp typically opens with a sense of hope, optimism, and renewal. But the tone is different this year; there's a fierce undercurrent of hunger and grim determination carried by coaches and players alike who have been _burning_ to put 2013 behind them.

Practically speaking, the upcoming campaign is more likely to bring further growing pains than desperately-sought redemption. But how the scales balance as the year progresses will give us a truer measure of Coach Dykes and his ability to resurrect the Cal football program.

Up first in our fall camp preview, the offense:

Amid excitement and anticipation, the Bear Raid made its Cal debut last year.
We looked at the new tempo, blocking techniques, and combination plays in our three part preview here:
Bear Raid Preview Part One
Bear Raid Preview Part Two
Bear Raid Preview Part Three

Unfortunately, the launch turned out to be more Wright brothers than Chuck Yeager. Youth, critical injuries to the Oline, and general inexperience resulted in an inconsistent attack. Throw in a quantum shift from the Tedford pro-style offense with kick-slide blocking to Dykes/Franklin spread plus vertical-set blocking and you have a whole lot of new things being thrown at some very young athletes.

For an execution and tempo-based offense, more reps and familiarity in the system should result in significant improvements across the board. The key this year will be in re-establishing balance between run and pass. Like all offenses, being rendered one-dimensional is somewhat akin to substituting cheeseburgers for your quarterback's pads. The coaches know they have to be able to run the ball and want to be able to run the ball. And that all starts with the big guys up front:

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

Post Spring Oline Depth Chart:

LEFT TACKLE:  64 Steven Moore(So*), 75 Aaron Cochran(Fr*)

LEFT GUARD:  66 Chris Borrayo(So), 78 Vincent Johnson(Fr*)

CENTER:  73 Jordan Rigsbee(Jr*), 77 J.D. Hinnant(Fr*), 58 Chris Adcock(Sr*)

RIGHT GUARD:  71 Alejandro Crosthwaite(Sr*), 61 Donavan Frazer(Sr*), 74 Matt Cochran(So*)

RIGHT TACKLE:  59 Brian Farley(Jr*), Christian Okafor(So*)

Preseason Oline Depth Chart:

LEFT TACKLE:  64 Steven Moore(So*), 59 Brian Farley(Jr*), 75 Aaron Cochran(Fr*)

LEFT GUARD:  66 Chris Borrayo(So), 78 Vincent Johnson(Fr*)

CENTER:  58 Chris Adcock(Sr*), 74 Matt Cochran(So*)

RIGHT GUARD:  71 Alejandro Crosthwaite(Sr*), 56 Michael Trani(Fr)

RIGHT TACKLE:  73 Jordan Rigsbee(Jr*), 55 Dominic Grandao(Jr), Christian Okafor(So*)

Overview:

The left side of the line looks set with Moore and Borrayo locking down their spots. However, the other three positions remain in flux depending on Chris Adcock and Matt Cochran's health as well as how quickly newcomer Dominic Granado acclimates.

It's no coincidence that the line struggled when Adcock and Cochran went down last year. Their return would be a huge boost even if they have to ease their way back in as experienced reserves.

Coach Yenser will quickly have to determine who his top guys are and play a little bit of Big Ugly Tetris to fit them into position. In particular, the battle for starting right tackle was the big question throughout spring and persists into fall camp.
Jordan Rigsbee did an admirable job filling in at center last year for having never played the position before. His snapping, however, remains a work in progress and it might be telling that the coaches had him taking some reps at right tackle.  If Adcock is full go, our best five might be Moore/Borrayo/Adcock/Cochran/Rigsbee.  Headed into camp, the depth chart suggests that Adcock is healthy while Matt Cochran might still be working his way back.

Key Additions:
Chris Adcock(return from injury), Matt Cochran(return from injury), Dominic Granado(JuCo)

Biggest Strengths:
Borrayo emerged as a leader and our best lineman as a true frosh. Moore really stepped up his game and looked great in the spring protecting Goff's blindside. After being reduced to converting a guard into a center, we now have three different guys (Adcock, Rigsbee, Cochran) who can step in as needed.

Biggest Questions:
Rigsbee is a beast, but will have to acclimate to a third position in as many seasons.  Not to jinx anything, but the post-spring depth chart looked awfully young on the left side of the line.  If Rigs can hold down RT, flipping Farley to the other side gives us upperclassmen at both tackles in the two-deep.  Although we have three potential centers, we really need Adcock to show that he's back to full strength.  This is especially critical since the center calls out all the protections under the Dykes/Franklin offense.

Post Spring QB Depth Chart:
QUARTERBACK
: 16 Jared Goff(So), 7 Austin Hinder(Sr*) or 17 Kyle Boehm(Jr*)

Preseason QB Depth Chart:

QUARTERBACK:  16 Jared Goff(So), 7 Austin Hinder(Sr*) or Luke Rubenzer(Fr) or Chase Forrest(Fr)

Overview:
Goff had some rust to work through during the spring after returning from off-season shoulder surgery. He's reportedly looked very sharp during summer workouts. The backup position remains unsettled. Neither Austin Hinder nor Kyle Boehm have been consistent enough for anyone to think that they're ready to step in a la Reggie Robertson in the case disaster strikes. In fact, it's noteworthy that Boehm has been bumped off the QB depth chart completely by two true frosh.  With the hot seat already warming, it may be that Coach Dykes would pull the trigger and burn anointed-QB-of-the-future Luke Rubenzer's redshirt should Goff go down.

Key Additions: Luke Rubenzer(Fr)


Biggest Strengths:
Despite inconsistent line play, no running game, and perpetually playing from behind, Jared Goff was solid as a true frosh starter. The coaches are very high on his potential and expect a big leap forward.


Biggest Questions:

As with many young quarterbacks, decision-making remains a concern. We need Goff to be automatic on easy completions and keep the chains moving. Most importantly, we need him to stay upright and healthy because the backup situation is a huge unknown.

Post Spring Running Back Depth Chart:

TAILBACK:  2 Daniel Lasco(Jr*), 20 Jeffrey Coprich(So*), 24 Austin Harper(Fr*), 29 Khalfani Muhammad(So)

FULLBACK:  44 Lucas Gingold(Sr*), 37 Fabiano Hale(Fr*), 15 Jack Moffett(Jr*)

Preseason Depth Chart:

TAILBACK:  29 Khalfani Muhammad(So) or 2 Daniel Lasco(Jr*), 20 Jeffrey Coprich(So*) or 23 Vic Enwere(Fr) or 44 John Pochivina(Fr) or 5 Tre Watson(Fr)

FULLBACK:  44 Lucas Gingold(Sr*), 37 Fabiano Hale(Fr*), 15 Jack Moffett(Jr*)

Key Additions:

Khalfani Muhammad(DNP spring ball while running track)
Vic Enwere(Fr)
Tre Watson(Fr)

John Porchivina(Fr)

Overview:

After years of having a steady one-two punch at tailback, last season was a forgettable stumble for the Cal ground game.  It's not that the coaches didn't want to run the ball;  we just didn't have the horses or the blocking to get it done.  That should and must change for this upcoming year.  Fortunately, it looks like Coach Ingram now has a stable of highly regarded backs that goes at least four deep.  Daniel Lasco got the lion's share of 1st team snaps while Khalfani Muhammed ran track.  But with no clear dominant performer, this will be one of the more hotly contested positions in fall camp.  Dykes/Franklin have no problems with handing the keys to a true frosh.  When LA Tech had the #1 offense in the nation, it featured a true freshman tailback.  Unlike the Tedford offense which relied heavily on running backs being able to block in pass protection, the Bear Raid more commonly uses its tailbacks in play-action or as receivers.  This makes it a lot easier for a young back to earn snaps sooner rather than later.

Biggest Strengths:
Even as a true frosh, Khalfani Muhammad was our best tailback last season. Add a year of strength work under Coach Damon Harrington to his elite speed and he's got game-breaker circled next to his name. When healthy, Daniel Lasco has shown flashes of everything you'd want out of a featured work horse. Enwere and Watson are unproven at this level, but have the potential to be Cal's next thunder and lightning combo. Gingold is a crushing blocker and offers some versatility as a receiver and ball carrier. He was perhaps under-utilized last season as a casualty of our MIA run game.

Biggest Questions:
Until we see it on the field, we're more hat than cattle at this position.  Or more sweater vest than Grrrr-ah.

Post Spring WR Depth Chart:

WIDE RECEIVER (X):  9 Trevor Davis(Jr*), 3 Maurice Harris(Jr*)

WIDE RECEIVER (Y):  89 Stephen Anderson(Jr*), 10 Darius Powe(Jr), 11 Raymond Hudson(Fr*)

WIDE RECEIVER (H):  1 Bryce Treggs(Jr), 81 Drake Whitehurst(Sr), 86 Bryce McGovern(Sr)

WIDE RECEIVER (Z):  4 Kenny Lawler(So*), 85 James Grisom(Sr*), 6 Chris Harper(Jr)

Preseason WR Depth Chart:

WIDE RECEIVER (X):  9 Trevor Davis(Jr*), 6 Chris Harper(Jr), James Grisom(Sr*) or Patrick Worstell(So*)

WIDE RECEIVER (Y):  89 Stephen Anderson(Jr*), 10 Darius Powe(Jr), 11 Raymond Hudson(Fr*)

WIDE RECEIVER (H):  1 Bryce Treggs(Jr), 81 Drake Whitehurst(Sr), 86 Bryce McGovern(Sr)

WIDE RECEIVER (Z):  4 Kenny Lawler(So*), 3 Maurice Harris(Jr*), Jack Auston(Fr*)

Key Additions:
Chris Harper(return from injury)
Eric Brown(Fr)

Overview:

Quicks?  Check.  Deep speed?  Yep.  Hands?  Oh yeah.  Size?  Got that too.  Easily the deepest and most talented position group on the team, the wideouts should give the Bear Raid plenty of bite.  The big plays are a lot of fun, but it's laser-like consistency that we really need.

Biggest Strengths:
Treggs, Harper, Lawler, and Davis all have star potential and could each challenge for conference honors. Treggs is the technician who is being moved inside to use his precise route-running ability to cause match-up issues. When healthy, Harper has great all-around ball skills and is fantastic in space after the catch. If you got an extra point for degree of difficulty, we'd throw it every time to Lawler and let him pull off his finger-tip or one-handed catching wizardry. After lighting up the scout team last year, Hawaii transfer Trevor Davis is ready to stretch the field as our new deep threat.

Moving beyond the top four, Harris, Powe, Anderson, Grisom, and McGovern would all be capable starters. Ray Hudson is a load and could offer tight end skills from the inside receiver position.

Biggest Questions:
Can Coach Likens and Jared Goff juggle enough snaps and footballs to keep everyone happy? Who is going emerge as that clutch guy on 3rd down or in the red zone?

Overall:
Some of you may remember glimpses of the Bear Raid from last season. Let's just call mulligan and move on. It's a re-building process and the coaching staff freely admits that we might not see the real Bear Raid emerge until 2015. For now, it's reasonable to expect measured improvement. Our young Bears should be older and wiser; here's hoping that translates to more lights on the scoreboard.  Let's do this thing.  Go Bears!