Three seasons and many, many scores ago, I was talking with then-freshman, now Mic Man Isaac Williams, glowing with hope for the future of the program. I went so far as to boldly assure the following that evening: "if we're not good by the time you graduate, something went very, very wrong."
That time is coming...in fact, it is now already upon us. 2015 will be Isaac's senior year, and like most of this roster, he still has yet to taste December football.
I chose to begin this morning with this anecdote, because I believe it to be an accurate encapsulation of the present. My fellow citizens, my brethren of Blue and Gold, those Berkeley bred and those reading from their dens at home...the State of Bear Territory has reached a crossroad -- an actual crossroads, not the dining hall that Isaac and so many of you swiped through as undergraduates. What occurs in these next 365 days, what happens in the time before I speak again from this same platform, will dictate and determine much of where this university heads for years beyond the immediate.
Let me be clear -- this is not to discount the gains made over the last 12 games, which produced a 500% increase in victories over the football year previous. The Dykes administration was elected into Berkeley on promises of an offensive, yardage-churning, point-generating bonanza, and have begun to deliver exactly that, recording statistics the likes of which have never been seen in this region.
In fact, with another season, Bear Raid Commander Jared Goff should, Oski willing, cement himself as one of the greatest field generals in California history. There will be some that attempt to debate this fact, protesting the conclusion with arguments about quarterback victories, but this is neither the time nor the place to dismantle such fallacious logic. Returning seven of his top eight receivers, all four running backs, and three of his five linemen, it would not be a surprise if #16 received an invite to New York in December, either. Every commander is made by those allying alongside him, after all, and the personnel assembled ranks among the best in the country.
Admittedly, the other side of the ball, we can celebrate much less, having produced marginal statistical improvement, even after a hiring in a new Secretary of Defense. Some of this can be explained with context -- the cumulative effect of departures, injuries, early NFL exits, and even earlier medical retirements. Just as much, we can blame on youth, with more than a handful of young starters who were not ready to take on the job. Neither makes allowing 39.8 points a game acceptable, but it would be nothing close of denial to pretend they didn't contribute to the four-win increase. Indeed, Oregon State and Northwestern were sealed on the backs of defensive plays.
And yet, my fellow citizens, as the turnaround now nears its final stages, we still find ourselves returning to the words I introduced already: crossroads, uncertain.
A return to decency is firmly in sight. We stood but one play short of that last year, and two of a winning season. Greatness -- Pasadena -- lies a little farther off, but that too, could conceivably be realized. Having a once-a-decade quarterback, now in his prime, makes that much possible, but he cannot do it alone.
That is where the uncertainty lies: in whether or not we actually reach either destination.
Fair or not, there exists more than enough reason to doubt -- in too many recent moments, we have seen this administration outmaneuvered and outplanned, caught ill-prepared against opponents that should have -- could have -- been beaten; a troubling pattern will no longer be tolerated, especially now that the well of convenient excuses has run dry.
If this is the administration capable of taking us back to the glor(ier) days of the mid 2000s, then they must begin proving it now, with defining wins against programs we should not yet beat and a recovery of the rivalry trophy we hold most sacred -- now, when 17 experienced starters return, youthful no longer; now, when Generals Kaufman and Franklin have their systems taught and firmly in place; now, when almost every other team in the conference has lost key talent.
Don't, and the immediate path would appear to lead toward rebuilding altogether, under this administration...or the quickening arrival of the next one, if it comes to it.
So here we stand, upon the cusp of something much greater, with all the prerequisites close to met. All that remains is to see which way we actually turn, and whether or not it can be realized.
That much comes September 5th, when we deliver an updated progress report, when we Tell The Whole Damn World at Memorial Stadium, in front of all in attendance.
Thank you, and Oski Bless.
You will find attached below, our party policy platform and targets for the next year.
- We will #drop50 more. We will #drop50 on everyone, everywhere, any time. Palo Alto. Austin. Eugene. Berkeley. Prepare your shelters.
- Daniel Lasco will not only cross the 1500 yard, 15 touchdown mark -- he'll keep running right into the NFL.
- First round draft pick Jared Goff. Heisman winner Jared Goff.
- Freshman Lonny Powell will eat the soul of an opposing player. How and when, we have yet to determine.
- Now with older, mature Bears, expect multiple offenses to be mauled by the likes of Mustafa Jalil and DeVante Wilson. Sorry, opposing QBs.
- On the rare occasions when he sees the field at all, Cole Leininger will make it pour. Footballs, we mean. From the sky. Although he has been taking offseason rain dance classes.
- 12 poor cornerbacks will think they can match-up with Kenny Lawler one on one in the red zone. They will all be wrong.