A few weeks ago, Cal Athletics/Media Relations released an updated Spring 2015 roster, freshmen included. Avi covered the relevant personnel changes when that came out, but what I'll be doing in this follow-up is pointing out some trends I noticed and some developments to look out for, based on the new weights, heights, and general strength and conditioning buzz.
Now, these media relations given measurements aren't always 100% accurate, and every player always shows up in their best shape ever each year...but hell, it's the offseason. What better things are we going to discuss?
I was assuming, with this being the second year of the Harrington S&C regime, that there would be a jump in size for the offensive line, but the data compiled -- of scholarship players only -- below shows that we're only slightly bigger than before.
What I gather from that is that our players are already largely around the size that the coaches prefer for the Bear Raid -- they're focused mostly on adding strength and mobility, not necessarily bulk. Without rehashing tired arguments about whether or not smaller linemen in two-point stances can hold up, that's the system we play in, and without formal offensive line coaching experience, it's not like any of us are knowledgeable enough to suggest alternatives, anyway. Anyhow, this is what the staff seems to favor -- mobile, but strong guys in the roughly 300 pound range.
Of all the guys listed here, Vinnie Johnson's +15 is very promising -- Coach Yenser was particularly high on Johnson, mentioning that while he has all the skills to be very good, it wouldn't manifest during 2014 just yet, due to youth. Well, now's the time, with two or three offensive line spots up for grabs...he should be the guy to watch this spring (and fall).
Also of note: Aaron Cochran has not lost any weight (reportedly) from last year to this one, which could be interpreted as odd. It's possible that the team prefers him at the weight he currently is, especially now that he's been spending more time at guard. If he was 335 and a tackle, though, that would be some real cause for alarm, because he's regularly been beat outside and looked quite slow there. As is, though, it's just something to keep an eye on.
And yes, I realize that Ryan Gibson is 265 on the site, but he has protested several times that he's actually 280 and on the way up.
This one, we know about for certain because the staff has gone on record many times about getting longer and taller in the back end. The five new guys in the 2015 class that will for sure play there -- not including the possibility of 6'1 Jaylinn Hawkins -- measure 6'2, 6'4, 6'1, 6'3, and 6'2, which is close to two inches taller on average than everyone already on the roster. Height, of course, becomes very helpful in fighting off blocks, in addition to the benefits it pays in the aerial game.
I got high hopes for you DBs, but we gonn' see.
Rebuilding the defensive line
The figures you're about to see are a bit misleading -- they're dragged down by an influx of freshmen this year, which ends deflating the average a bit. Because of this, I also included a second figure for returning linemen, which is a net gain of ~3 pounds across the board.
- The most important addition to the defensive line will probably be the now weight-corrected Devante Wilson, who we have discussed at length, and will continue to over the next few months. Wilson is a ready to play body at a position we continue to need them.
- Given their sizes, don't sleep on Zeandae Johnson or Russell Ude, either -- those guys could be immediate 2-deep factors if none of the old heads show substantial improvement this offseason.
- No substantial weight change on Trevor Kelly, which was a huge disappointment to the coaches last fall, something they said as much, a couple of times. Here's to hoping that he's in better shape overall. Jalil really needs a good partner.
- Welcome back, Kyle Kragen, you 370 pound power-cleaning, mono-recovered beast. At the start of camp last fall, Kragen weighed in at probably below where he was listed, but looks to be all the way back from his illness. Fresh off a redshirt and in his final year of eligibility, whatever depth he can give us will be a big bonus.
- Same goes for James Looney, too -- a year of redshirting has allowed him to come up to 285, and possibly bigger than that once fall comes. For reference, our non-Jalil starting defensive tackle (Austin Clark) was 270 last year.
Devante Downs...and the linebackers too
If you want a ticket on the Devante Downs train, it's getting almost too late to buy one. My pick for breakout candidate in an already solid linebacker corps, Downs has been the most demonstrably athletic of them from the first time he stepped on the field, and he should finally be fully back from his ACL injury at a fresh 245 pounds. Assuming Downs stays healthy, within the next year or two, we will have a true Mike-sized player since the likes of [some Cal guy who was before my time].
Hell, it might even be this fall. I believe Downs' ceiling to be way higher than that of Hardy Nickerson, who is undersized and still a shade too slow (although he was better last year) against the pass.
Here are the rest of the updated LB weights:
Quick hitters on some different guys here:
- Promising gain on Hamilton A'noai, who is a year away still due to depth chart. He didn't stand out a ton last season from what I remember, but appears to strongly be in the plans for years to come. Aisea Tongilava is too -- they played him last year as a freshman, after all -- but remains lacking in the weight department still. Liked Tongilava the best out of the 2014 linebackers.
- My preferred LB starters for the 2015 season would be Barton, Downs, and the now 230 pound Jalen Jefferson. Those are our most athletic guys, and it would appear from these numbers that they have the bulk to prevent getting bullied around.
- Skeptical that Nathan Broussard, coming off his second ACL tear, will be able to give us much, even though he's put on impressive weight too and is the most MIKE sized of all.
Carlos Strickland, Jaylinn Hawkins, Austin Aaron
Even with all the talent ahead of them, there's a good chance one of these three freshmen see the field next year, in some or another, and these physically ready numbers numbers are it: 6'5, 210; 6'5, 200, 6'1, 200. Sure, the need isn't particularly desperate for a freshman receiver to play, especially since Erik Brown is coming off redshirt, but that doesn't mean we won't look to plug one of the six in, if necessary. My money's on one of these three, and I'll probably settle on a final pick toward the fall, when I run my season predictions.
Nothing against the smaller guys -- Greyson Bankhead, Brandon Singleton, and Kanawai Noa -- but the barometer reads redshirt for them right now due to sizes, a luxury afforded to us by virtue of everybody else ahead of them.
By the way, now with Jaylinn Hawkins in the fold, we're changing the acronym of reference from #NABSS to the See (C) 6 Mafia -- because, you know, there are six of them...and a TD is worth exactly that many points.
Hate it if you want to, but it's gonna be a thing.