California's Hardy Nickerson knows all about name brands. The son and namesake of the former four-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker understands whose name is on the Golden Bears marquee this fall, the guy who's creating buzz for a program that has been in retreat nationally since quarterback Kevin Riley took an ill-advised scramble against Oregon State in 2007, thereby preventing the program from ascending to No. 1.
More than a few folks are projecting Cal as a contender in the Pac-12's North Division -- two years removed from an atrocious 1-11 finish -- because of quarterback Jared Goff, a junior who is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick next spring. Nickerson knows this as well as anyone.
"Jared is our guy. He's the leader of this team. I have nothing but great things to say about him," Nickerson said. "He's been working hard all summer, getting the offense going. In my opinion, he's taken a big step this spring and offseason. I'm excited to see what's going to pan out on Saturdays."
Yet what's going to pan out on Saturdays won't be anything special, no matter how good Goff's offense is, if Nickerson's defense doesn't improve significantly. The good news is the present trajectory is positive. The Bears welcome back seven starters and a number of expected contributors who missed last season because of injury or transfer rules to a unit that yielded nearly a touchdown less per game last season than it did in 2013. The bad news is they still surrendered nearly 40 points per game.
In the run-up to the 2015 college football season, The Oregonian/OregonLive is previewing each of the opponents the Oregon State Beavers will meet this fall.
Today, it's California.
Coach: Sonny Dykes (entering third season, 6-18 record at school)
2014 record: 5-7 (3-6 Pac-12)
Game date: Nov. 14 in Berkeley, California
Early storyline: This game presents perhaps the best opportunity for the Beavers to snag a road win in 2015, though the Golden Bears made great strides in Dykes' second season. Dykes and Andersen are also former WAC coaching colleagues at Louisiana Tech and Utah State, respectively, sharing the field for a memorable 48-41 overtime Utah State victory to help the Aggies clinch the conference championship.
The Cal strength and conditioning staff will host the Sorinex Strength Camp at the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance adjacent to California Memorial Stadium this Saturday,
Cal senior Shotaro Ban will join incoming freshman Collin Morikawa representing the Golden Bears in the 2015 U.S. Amateur after sharing individual medalist honors Monday at a U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying event at Turlock Golf & Country Club.
Track & Field
The 2015-2016 Women's Basketball schedule, featuring seven postseason teams, was announced on Monday.
Jason Kidd. Lamond Murray. Shareef Abdur-Rahim. These diaper dandy prospects brought the fervor back to Cal Golden Bears basketball in the mid- 90s. The height of the era was the 2nd round NCAA Tournament upset of recent back to back champion, Duke, that had fans going crazy.
But the magic would not last as Cal faced severe sanctions in the wake of the Todd Bozeman fallout.
In the two decades since, Cal basketball has had little to cheer about, only advancing to the Sweet 16 once more after the Duke win in 1993. Recruiting has also been less than stellar, with only a few impact players choosing to attend Berkeley. More notably, local top prospects rarely chose Cal, opting to sign with other Pac-12 rivals.
Cal basketball needs to find that electricity and fervor once again.
After an up and down first season under head coach Cuonzo Martin, the swagger for the Cal Bears seems to be returning in time for the 2015-16 season. In Martin's first full season of recruitment, Cal was able to nab two players in the top ten of the ESPN 100 — power forward Ivan Rabb from local high school Bishop O'Dowd in Oakland, and small forward Jaylen Brown from Alpharetta, Georgia.