1) What is the most important position of worry for you, and why is it quarterback?
Heh, the reality is there's no shortage of areas for Husky fans to worry about heading into 2015. Besides breaking in a new starter at QB, they have to replace 3.5 starters on the OL, all four starters along the DL, two of three starters at LB and have just four scholarship WRs with experience returning. Ask a different Husky fan and you're liable to get a different answer, but for me the worry is the OL. Last year's group - which had 120+ starts of experience between them - was poor in pass protection and mediocre at best in run blocking, and they're being replaced by a less-heralded and much less experienced group. It all starts up front, and if they can't at least match (let alone improve) on what last year's group did, it could be a long year for whichever guy lines up at QB.
2) Which player should Cal fans worry about who will torture our souls next season?
Shaq was a once-in-a-generation torturer - I'm not sure we'll soon see another case of a 5-star kid that spurns the Bears late in the recruiting cycle for the Huskies and then proceeds to make them his personal pinata. I think this year the torturer will less of a soul-crushing type with a deep Cal connection like Shaq and be more of a garden-variety "oh great, this guy is scoring on us again?" type like RB Dwayne Washington. With WR John Ross sidelined for the season, Washington becomes the Huskies' top home-run threat on offense.
3) Tell us about your coach and why you dislike him.
Well, obviously we dislike him because he didn't immediately direct a 12-2 campaign that led to a Rose Bowl appearance and end the losing streak to the Ducks.
In all seriousness, most Husky fans are still thrilled with the hire of Chris Petersen and believe he'll get the program back to competing for conference championships in a few years. But his first year wasn't without stumbles - there were issues with game clock management, first against Eastern Washington (which were overlooked since we won) and then much more noticeably against Arizona, a game the Huskies should have won. There were grumbles about the personnel decisions on the OL that had pre-season Rimington Award candidate Mike Criste on the bench, grumbles that grew loud when new C Colin Tanigawa contracted Steve Blass disease with his snaps (youngsters can Google "Steve Blass" if you don't get the reference) and finally had to shift over to G and let Criste take over. And there's been a lot of grousing about OC Jonathan Smith. Last year's offense was a big step down from the year prior, and it never really seemed like Smith found a consistent groove with his play-calling. How much of that was due to the physical limitations of QB Cyler Miles is up for debate, but there again, Smith is also the QB coach. Finally, there was a feeling that 8-6 (with an ugly loss in the bowl game) and 4-5 in conference was underachieving given the level of talent on the team.
I suspect you'll hear more grumbling from up north here if the Huskies take another step back this season as expected.
4) How do your fans view Cal this season, and why do you love us so much?
We love you because things seem to be returning to the norm we were used to from 1977-2001. I think most folks here are nervous about your offense but think your defense will give away about as much as your offense takes.
5) What were your biggest questions heading into spring practice? Were they addressed during the spring?
Petersen has a history of not naming a starting QB until a couple weeks before the season, so Husky fans anxious to know who would take over for Miles were left wanting, though it does appear that Jeff Lindquist is the guy at the head of Petersen's "seating chart" right now. Questions about the OL and DL are hard to answer until they are facing other teams, but the early take is that the new DL may surprise some folks. While it's absurd to think they could match the numbers of last year's record-breaking crew, there are some intriguing young guys and improving quality of depth there (keep an eye on JoJo Mathis, Elijiah Qualls, Will Dissly and Vita Vea). A question mark that got less clear as the spring went on was at WR, as the loss of Ross was a tough blow to a group already low in numbers and play-makers.
6) What are your biggest needs for improvement after the spring?
There's no question that some true freshmen are going to have to step up for the offense this year. With questions around the WR group, the OL and the QB (and RB isn't exactly rock-solid either), there are opportunities there. The one area on offense that's a clear strength is at TE, and there will be pressure on OC Smith to find ways to increase their role in the offense. It's strange to say after losing four players off the defense in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, but the offense is still the area of concern heading into fall camp.
7) Post-spring analysis: Your team is going to be a Contender, Pretender, or Middle of the Pac?
The homer in me says that year two under Chris Petersen shows a team that is much more in tune with the culture he is building and unlike last year's group (which frankly underachieved) will instead surprise a lot of folks. But the more pragmatic side of me says that winning six games is the target for the year, and we should be content with a Middle of the Pack year as Petersen continues to rebuild the team in his image, with better years coming in 2016 & 2017. I'm tamping down the cynical side that says be prepared for 4 wins.
8) Who do you want to punch in the face?
If Myles Jack and Jim L. Mora could line up right next to each other I'd make it a two-fer.