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Cal Football Special Teams Preview - New & Familiar Faces

Cal’s special teams is going to get a pretty major makeover in 2016. Punter Cole Leninger and kickoff/punt returners Bryce Treggs and Trevor Davis have moved on. Matt Anderson and Noah Beito will get the kicking reps and Tre Watson and Khalfani Muhammad will get their moments to shine in the return game. While special teams is often overshadowed by the offensive and defensive units, important games often come down to special teams and their potential to change momentum on a dime.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Sonny Dykes' spring depth chart, Cal's projected special teams starters for 2016 are:

PlacekickerMatt Anderson (Redshirt Junior)

Anderson will be heading into this third playing year at Cal and is the incumbent at the placekicker position.  He earned a full-time role for the Bears in 2015, playing in all 13 games.  Last season, Anderson made 18 (of 21) field goals and 50 point afters.  His longest FG was for 48 yards, so his range is certainly not elite (yet).  Anderson had significant kickoff duties in 2015, including 86 kickoffs for an average of 56.0 yards and 15 touchbacks.

KickoffsNoah Beito (Redshirt Senior)

Beito has been somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades for Cal during his time as a Golden Bear, having attempted a few PATs, punts, and kickoffs.  In 2015, Beito made 2 PATs.  In 2013, he had 2 punts with an average of 18 yards each.  And, in 2012 and 2015, Beito had 6 kickoffs for an average of 59.0 yards.  Probably because he's coming up on his last year for Cal, Dykes has placed Beito as the starter for kickoffs (with Anderson backing him up).  Beito doesn't bring a lot of experience at kickoffs, so it'll be interesting to see what Dykes does early on in 2016 if Beito can't outperform Anderson (who would be the incumbent kickoffs kicker).

Expect Matt Anderson to compete hard to win the kicking position here. This is not over.

PunterDylan Klumph (Redshirt Sophomore)

Klumpf is a JuCo transfer to Cal.  Coming out of Malibu, Klumpf spent the 2014 season at Golden West College in Huntington Beach where he averaged 40.6 yards per punt on 50 punts.  His longest punt was for 76 yards.  In 2015, Klumpf won a JuCo/transfer punting competition in Las Vegas, so this guy is no slouch.  He'll be a fresh face to Cal fans, but if his prior stats indicate anything at all, he should be another successful punter in a long line of great Cal punters.

Kick ReturnerTre Watson (Junior) and Khalfani Muhammad (Senior)

Watson and Muhammad are staples for Cal fans by now.  These two running backs have experience in returning kicks. Watson had 20 kick returns in 2014 and 2 kick returns in 2015 (average of 20.5 yards/return, longest of 28 yards).  Muhammad--the former high school track speedster--had 46 kick returns in 2013, 14 kick returns in 2014, and only 3 kick returns in 2015 (average of 21.4 yards/return, longest of 52 yards).  With Trevor Davis and Bryce Treggs departed for the NFL, this role will be sold for both Watson and Muhammad.  Given their elite speed and big play potential, expect Dykes to (initially) split kickoff reps for both guys.

Punt ReturnerVic Wharton (Redshirt Sophomore)

Wharton hails from Spring Hill, Tennessee and spent his 2014 Freshman season at Tennessee before transferring to Cal (and sitting-out in 2015).  At Tennessee, Wharton played in 9 games (started 2 games) as a true Freshman, amassing 5 catches for 64 yards and 1 TD.  In 2016, Wharton will also be a mainstay at back-up wide receiver for Cal.  All indications are Wharton is a guy that Dykes wants to give touches because he's got big-play potential.  And, with three years at Cal coming up for Wharton, 2016 will be the year he gets his feet wet in the system before potentially becoming an integral component of our Bear Raid.