There is no in-between with the Cal offense this year. The offensive position groups are either returning nearly every major contributor from last season or will see an entirely new group of players looking to make their mark for the Golden Bears.
The changes don't start and end with the players, though, as the coaching staff has seen a few changes as well.
Offensive coordinator/running backs coach/quarterbacks coach Tony Franklin left for Middle Tennessee and Jake Spavital - formerly of Texas A&M - is the new offensive coordinator.
Garret Chachere will transition from coaching linebackers to running backs, while defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will assume linebacker coaching duties.
Let's start with the positions looking at high rates of turnover.
2015 Departure: Jared Goff, 341-529, 4719 YDS, 64.5% completions, 43 TD, 13 INT
Returning Leader: Chase Forrest, 10-18, 162 YDS, 55.6% completions, 1 TD, 1 INT
Finding the starting quarterback is the most important decision Sonny Dykes and the staff will have to make before the 2016 season. Jared Goff is taking his talents to the NFL, which is a blow to the offense, but the show must go on.
Chase Forrest served as the primary backup last season and will be competing with Luke Rubenzer, who would have shared the backup quarterback position with Forrest had he not moved over to safety last season. Ross Bowers and Max Gilliam are also in the mix.
Forrest is likely the leader of the pack going into spring practices, but anything can happen once the competition starts. Ross Bowers is a bit of an unknown since he was a redshirt last season and Gilliam is a four-star recruit who looks the part of potentially being a star in a couple of years, so I wouldn't count him out.
The big difference between this quarterback battle and the one that saw Jared Goff beat Zach Kline for the starting job is that this batch of quarterbacks won't be learning a new offense. Forrest, Bowers and Rubenzer have obviously been at Cal for a little while now, and Gilliam experienced this style of offense while at Thousand Oaks.
Prediction: Chase Forrest wins the starting job; Ross Bowers is the backup; Luke Rubenzer moves back to safety.
2015 Departures: Bryce Treggs, 45 REC, 956 YDS, 7 TD; Trevor Davis, 40 REC, 672 YDS, 2 TD; Kenny Lawler, 52 REC, 658 YDS, 13 TD; Darius Powe, 47 REC, 560 YDS, 8 TD; Maurice Harris, 40 REC, 558 YDS, 6 TD; Stephen Anderson, 41 REC, 474 YDS, 2 TD
Returning Leaders: Chad Hansen, 19 REC, 249 YDS, 1 TD; Ray Hudson, 10 REC, 140 YDS
If you are looking for the most wide open competition on the entire team then look no further than the log-jam of young, talented wide receivers.
Kenny Lawler, Bryce Treggs, Darius Powe, Maurice Harris and Trevor Davis are gone, which leaves a massive void at receiver.
The good news is that Cal has had absolutely no trouble recruiting receivers over the past couple of years. Here is the group of receivers looking to fill the void.
Kanawai Noa was listed behind Kenny Lawler at the Z position to start last season, and caught seven passes for 76 yards in limited playing time.
Chad Hansen's surprising emergence after transferring from Idaho State was a pleasant surprise last season and he figures to be a big factor in Cal's offense this season.
Vic Wharton sat out last season after transferring from Tennessee where he caught five passes for 64 yards and a touchdown as a freshman.
Austin Aaron was a three-star recruit in the 2015 class and has good size at 6'4 and 210 pounds. Brandon Singleton was a three-star recruit from 2015 as well and is a speed-demon with big play ability.
Carlos Strickland from Dallas, Texas, was a big-time 4-star recruit from the 2015 class and is expected to be a major factor in the competition this offseason.
Melquise Stovall, Jordan Veasy and Jordan Duncan are all enrolling early and will participate in spring practice. Each one has a strong chance at competing for playing time this season.
Here is what Dykes and Peeler have to say about each prospect (via calbears.com):
Dykes on Duncan: "We feel that Jordan is one of the top three or receivers in the country. He’s got great size, has been very productive and has a tremendous work ethic. He is what we’re looking for in terms of size, strength and athletic ability. He’s someone we think has a chance to get on the field this year, and we’re really excited about his future."
Peeler on Duncan: "We’re really excited about Jordan Duncan. He’s another mid-year guy that will be going through spring ball for us. Jordan played pretty much every snap on both offense and defense for his high school this past year. He is one of the few guys at his high school to play as a true freshman all the way through his senior year. Obviously having the reps that he’s had through the year will help us tremendously. His work ethic and the intangibles he brings to the table will be great additions to this class."
Dykes on Veasy: "Jordan is a big physical receiver. He’s got great ball skills, very productive at his junior college. We’re really excited about him. We thought he was a little under recruited, and we felt like he was one of the best junior college receivers in the country when we put the tape on. He’s just what we’re looking for as a big, strong and physical guy that can go up and make plays on the football. I think he has a chance to get on the field and help us immediately."
Peeler on Veasy: "Jordan Veasy is a guy that came to us originally from Alabama now via Golden West College in Southern California. We’re really excited about him. He’s a big, physical receiver that will remind guys a lot of the Stephen Anderson and Darius Powe type. He’ll be a great big body for the quarterbacks and has the ability to make plays after the catch. We’re really excited about the future and having him in our offense."
Dykes on Stovall: "Melquise Stovall is one of the premier athletes I saw this year. When he has the ball in his hands good things happen. He’s very explosive. He can make people miss in the open field. He is compact and physical enough to run through tackles. He has tremendous change of direction and great acceleration. He’s just one of those guys that is a playmaker. He’s exactly what we’re looking for at the inside receiver position. His ability to catch short passes and turn them into big plays is something our offense really needs. We’re excited about him."
Prediction: Who knows? A lot of wide receiver production needs to be replaced and the bulk of the contributions could come from anyone.
2015 Departures: Daniel Lasco, 65 RSH, 331 YDS, 3 TD
Returning Leaders: Khalfani Muhammad, 87 RSH, 586 YDS, 1 TD; Vic Enwere, 106 RSH, 505 YDS, 8 TD; Tre Watson, 89 RSH, 504 YDS, 3 TD
Daniel Lasco graduated, but he dealt with injuries throughout the 2015 season which allowed Vic Enwere, Tre Watson and Khalfani Muhammad gain valuable experience.
Jeffrey Coprich earned a handful of carries last season (14 rushes for 49 yards and 1 touchdown)
and will look to nudge his way into the picture this spring. Lonny Powell was a four-star recruit in the 2015 recruiting class and could make some noise in the battle for carries as well.
[Ed. note: Coprich is transferring from Cal as a grad student and Powell left the team for undisclosed reasons.]
Derrick Clark is enrolling early and could contribute, but there's a big queue lining up for carries and it could make playing time scarce for the freshman.
Here is what Dykes and Jacob Peeler had to say about Clark when introducing the 2016 recruiting class (via calbears.com):
Dykes: "Derrick is a really productive running back that can do a lot of different things. He’s got the combination of speed, size and strength that you want at that position. He’s got good hands, catches the ball well out of the backfield and is a really good athlete. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops."
Peeler: "Derrick Clark is somebody that we’re really excited about and a mid-year enrollee that will be able to go through spring ball so he can get that extra addition of spring and summer training. He’ll bring a great athleticism to the running back position, obviously being a great high school football player but in addition to that being a great baseball player as well. We’re really excited about Derrick and the things he’ll be able to do at the running back position."
Prediction: Clark is talented, but I would expect the three-headed attack of Watson, Muhammad and Enwere to share the carries as they did last season.
The offensive line faces very little turnover and will need to be a rock for the team as they break in a new quarterback and an entire group of wide receivers.
Right guard Jordan Rigsbee departs, as does Brian Farley who saw some time at left tackle. Aaron Cochran (LT), Chris Borrayo (LG), Dominic Granado (C) and Steven Moore (RT) figure to keep their roles as starters.
Semisi Uluave, Patrick Mekari and Dwayne Wallace figure to be prominent players in the battle for the starting position at right guard.
The offensive line will have to play well for the Cal offense to offset the loss of production at key spots.
Which players are you most looking forward to stepping up and becoming key contributors to the offense in 2016?