The right side
Depending on how you count it, there are two or three open spots along the offensive line -- everyone to the right of left guard Chris Borrayo, basically:
Center - Most people have penciled in Matt Cochran for this job, which sounds about right, but his ability to snap cleanly and consistently will definitely be under close scrutiny these next five months. His only major competition figures to be redshirt freshman Addison Ooms, a walk-on from Mater Dei who has quickly surprised most by surging ahead of several scholarship linemen.
(For those wondering about JD Hinnant, if memory serves correctly, he worked mostly at guard last camp. Snapping troubles didn't do him any favors.)
Right Guard - A vacated position with Alejandro Crosthwaite gone to graduation that, in all likelihood, projects to be Jordan Rigsbee's again quite shortly. Yes, Matt Cochran is in the mix here too, but there's a lot of logic in sliding Rigsbee back to right guard -- his finest work in a Cal uniform came at this position, where there is much less ground to cover in pass protection, thanks to the linemen assisting on both sides. That means less being beat around the edge, and more doing what Rigsbee does best: maul and scrap.
Right Tackle - Now, the real uncertainty: if we assume we know the winners of those other two battles, which one of Vinnie Johnson and Dominic Granado will win out here? And if they do, what kind of stability can these first year starters provide? All the buzz is all on JUCO transfer Granado, but don't sleep on the newly bulked up Vinnie Johnson. Both guys figure to be the frontrunners here, although Myles Bunte is also reportedly in this mix.
Until there is some certainty -- and I mean lock it up, these are your starters on September 5th against Grambling State kind of certainty -- center and then right tackle are the only two positions on this offense that should generate worry whatsoever. Keep watch there.
Take it away, Coach Jones.
The new arrivals
Hi, Lonny Powell. Hello, Ross Bowers. Mid-year enrollees, both, they will be the only real new faces on offense this spring, with the rest of their class of '15 brethren lagging behind.
With Powell, it'll be interesting to see how his athleticism translates against players who may be as fast and strong as him for the first time. Is he really Vic Enwere's DIE LINEBACKERS DIE mentality crossed with Daniel Lasco's speed? Will he be a special teams contributor? In what types of devious ways does the staff intend to use their Avatar of Destruction -- as a pass catcher? As a package player? Where will he be in the running back carry order -- 2nd? 3rd? 4th? Anything and everything is on the table right now when it comes to Powell.
Unless there's some sort of serial Cal quarterback injurer waiting to be unleashed on the Berkeley campus, Ross Bowers is almost certain to redshirt. He'll play some this next month, and we'll probably even get an extended look at him come April 18th on Pac-12 Network, but his time won't truly come for another 350 or so days, give or take. Still, we should be paying close attention to his consistency, his accuracy, his decisionmaking, and his poise this spring -- if he can demonstrate all four of those all year or so, he could emerge as the lead for the Post Goff Era...whenever that is.
This section belongs to the next generation -- the Tre Watsons, the Vic Enweres, the Erik Browns, the Myles Buntes, the Aaron Cochrans, the Kamryn Bennetts and the Michael Tranis -- young cubs who haven't yet had a full opportunity at starting, but will be soon burdened with taking over the bulk of production soon enough.
Here, we are looking just for general improvement and game readiness; watching for how strength and conditioning has affected them. Only the first three are likely to see time this fall, though, and Enwere looks set to explode, based off of the numbers he's put up in the weight room.
These are the names you already know, frontliners who have excelled for years and have one more hurrah to try to see the postseason. We know what they're capable of. We know they know the offense. All we're hoping is that they stay healthy and uninjured -- in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the staff started sitting Bryce Treggs, Daniel Lasco, Kenny Lawler and company a little more often this spring, to help nurture some of the younger talent behind them.
Pierre Ingram is now the WR coach, and Brandon Jones has been hired to fill the departed OL coach spot. Tony Franklin is now in charge of the running backs, adding that positional group to his previous role as QB guru. Jacob Peeler replaces Marc Tommerdahl working with the inside receivers, while Tommerdahl moves to special teams and associate head coaching duties (whatever those entail).
Got all that? No? Well, shit, me either.
Now, these changes alarmed me a lot more before I learned Ingram used to play WR in college -- I figured it was just a panic, reactionary move to losing both Yenser and Likens, at first, but feel better now. A former player under Coach Dykes, Brandon Jones should mesh fairly seamlessly with the guys up front, and Coach Franklin has experience with the running backs...so while there's technically a lot of mystery involved with the new-look staff, there's a fairly good chance it works out well. No one's in a role that's completely unfamiliar to them.
The Bear Raid Commander
And now, we come to the key cog, the man whose right arm holds a team's hopes.
Though Jared Goff will probably finish his career at Cal underappreciated -- that's a column I'm saving in the pipeline for another day -- there can be no mistake: this group will go as far as he and his prodigious talents can take them.
Last season, with not nearly as much talent as he has now, Goff helmed his way to five wins with very little help from the defense, and was a couple hairs away from as many as eight. What can he do with this cast?
"The sky isn't the limit for this offense. The goddamn universe might be." pic.twitter.com/iZ4kg29ujO— Nam Le (@AGuyNamedNam) November 4, 2014