Honestly, I usually prefer talking hoops. For me, basketball has two advantages over football: 1) I don't feel any weird moral quandary due to cumulative head trauma, and 2) since there are three times as many games and maybe 50% of the fan interest, the earth doesn't crack open and swallow the fan base when the basketball team loses . . . most of the time.
But Cal's basketball teams went 1-3 this weekend when a reasonable expectation would have been 3-1. I'm still on #teamhype (although, in the case of WBB, it's been a consistent #teamhypein2016-17 situation) but that doesn't mean I want to wallow in a rough weekend. As a result it's an all football Monday morning.
Dealing with the good kind of attrition
Cal football is losing a whole ton of dudes this year, but those departures are (so far!) for the right reasons. Guys are either graduating or leaving early to get paid actual cash money for putting their bodies on the line. But let's take a look at how difficult each player will be to replace, based on the talent of the player leaving and the talent waiting in the wings.
Gone: Jared Goff
Likely replacements: Chase Forest, Ross Bowers
How hard will he be to replace? 4 out of 5 - Speaking as somebody who is probably more confident than the average fan about Cal's chances of replacing Jared Goff's production . . . we're still taking about a top 10 NFL draft quarterback who to my reckoning has to be at least the 3rd best quarterback in program history. And we're talking about a school that has produced more excellent QBs than you would expect, given the relative history of the program.
The eventual starter should have one very obvious advantage: What is likely to be the best offensive line Cal has had in the Bear Raid era. A new starter's best friend.
Gone: Daniel Lasco, Jeffrey Coprich
Likely replacements: The three headed monster of Tre Watson, Vic Enwere, and Khalfani Muhammad
How hard will they be to replace? 2/5 - Unfortunately for 2015 but fortunately for 2016, the difficult challenge of replacing Daniel Lasco's production happened in the middle of the season. There's still perhaps some concern that no single back stood out from the pack and claimed the starting job for himself, but all three veterans have plenty of experience in the program and on the field. This shouldn't be an area of worry
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Gone: Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler, Darius Powe, Stephen Anderson, Trevor Davis, Maurice Harris
Likely replacements: Raymond Hudson, Chad Hansen, Kanawai Noa, Brandon Singleton, Carlos Strickland
How hard will they be to replace? 3/5 - There's no way getting around the sheer volume of production from Cal's departing pass catchers, but it's also undeniable that Cal has recruited better at wide receiver than any other position. In addition to the players listed above who are already on the roster, Cal has a handful of solid prospects committed for 2016.
Gone: Brian Farley, Jordan Rigsbee
Likely replacements: Semisi Uluave, Patrick Mekari, Vincent Johnson
How hard will they be to replace? 2/5 - Brian Farley started the season as starting left tackle but was eventually overtaken by an impressive Aaron Cochran. As a result Cal will only need to replace one starter. Semisi Uluave* and Patrick Mekari are the main candidates. Both got occasional action in back-up roles this year and should be well positioned to step in without much of a hiccup.
Even better, Cal isn't losing any of their depth. With 16 total linemen set to return, this could be as deep as Cal has been on the line in some time. Now let's hope everybody stays healthy and we don't need to take advantage of it.
*I've seen various rumors that Uluave will begin his Mormon mission next year and as a result will be unavailable. Until that's officially confirmed I'd consider him in the mix.
Gone: Kyle Kragen, Jonathan Johnson, Todd Barr, Puka Lopa, David Davis, Mustafa Jalil, Trevor Kelly
Likely replacements: Noah Westerfield, Cameron Saffle, Trevor Howard, Russell Ude, Kennedy Emisibe, Luc Bequette
How hard will they be to replace? 5/5 - For my money, the toughest challenge is replacing about half of the total defensive line rotation, including roughly 2/3rd of Cal's sacks. You've got just about every type of lineman - your quick ends, your space eating tackles, your rush specialists, etc.
Part of replacing that production starts with the returners. Guys like Devante Wilson, James Looney, and Tony Mekari will have to stay healthy and take developmental leaps. We'll need the same from a bunch of younger players who entered the program over the last two recruiting cycles. We've seen promising flashes from guys like Cameron Saffle and Noah Westerfield, so there's hope. But Cal is going to have to rebuild a pass rush from the ground floor for the 2nd straight off-season.
Gone: Jalen Jefferson, Nathan Broussard, Michael Barton
Likely replacements: Raymond Davison, Devante Downs,
How hard will they be to replace? 2/5 The reality here is that Cal will be playing a 4-2-5 most of the time, and one of those two will be Hardy Nickerson at all times. As a result, Cal only needs to find one really reliable linebacker and a couple decent back-ups. Raymond Davison and Devante Downs got most of the time at back-up linebacker and should see even more field time next year. If a hot-shot youngster lights up spring camp and forces himself into the conversation, all the better.
Gone: Stefan McClure, Darius White, Joel Willis, Cedric Dozier
Likely replacements: Derron Brown, Griffin Piatt, Evan Rambo, Malik Psalms, DeZhon Grace, Antoine Albert, Khari Vanderbilt, Jaylinn Hawkins
How hard will they be to replace? 4/5 - McClure and White are the obvious headliners - they were mainstays on Cal's defense - I would guess that only Darius Allensworth and Hardy Nickerson had as many snaps as Cal's senior secondary duo. They were both steady performers as coverage men and tacklers, and they won't be easy to replace.
Derron Brown is currently listed as McClure's back-up, though he received very minimal playing time, mostly on special teams. Griffin Piatt also return from injury, but would likely look even better with another full year of practice time to get back into game shape. Throw Luke Rubenzer and a few young guys into the mix and it should be an interesting battle.
Cal is losing more at cornerback behind White, so there should be competition for every spot on the depth chart behind Allensworth, potentially even including some of the true freshmen arriving in the spring and fall.
The good news is that Cal is set at nickel back, with Cam Walker and Caleb Coleman set to return.
Gone: Cole Leininger
Likely replacements: Whoever starts at quarterback. Ha, I kid. Harry Adolphus, I guess?
How hard will he be to replace? 1/5 - Leininger was a solidly average punter, mixing in his share of solid, high hang time kicks with the occasional shank. From what little we saw last year Adolphus seemed to have a solid leg. Quite frankly the bigger concern is improving Cal's coverage team so that the squib kicking isn't necessary as often.
So sound off, Cal fans? Which position group do you have the most concerns about in terms of replacing departing talent?