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Bill Connelly’s Cal Football Preview

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“Cal can progress in Justin Wilcox’s first year, but look at this damn schedule“ - B.Connelly

Oregon State v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

This morning Bill Connelly, the man behind the advanced stats I use for my weekly column during the year, produced the preview for Cal football’s 2017 season. In it he argued that there is a chance for progress for Cal, however, the growth will be hampered by an extremely difficult schedule.

The projection right now is for Cal to have an S&P+ Rank of 55 with a 25/90 Offense/Defensive S&P+ split. Showing regression on the offense and a minor progress on the defense.

Details

In it he argued that HC Wilcox will try to fix the rancid defense while not missing out on the good offense Cal has had over the years.

Good defense has become a foreign concept in Berkeley. Wilcox takes over a team that, over the last three seasons, averaged rankings of 12th in Off. S&P+ and 101st in Def. S&P+. Though air raid teams can play decent defense, that was never the case for Dykes. Wilcox has never had a defense that ranked worse than 54th, so something will have to give.

Wilcox is trying his best to avoid a Year Zero situation; his hire of 3-4 guru Deruyter made plenty of sense, considering Wilcox’s 3-4 roots, but he also brought in former Eastern Washington head coach Baldwin to coordinate the offense.

Though there is no S&P+ for FCS schools he said the following about OC Baldwin

Though technically not a branch on the air raid tree, Baldwin’s EWU teams were prolific and successful. In total yardage, Baldwin’s last four EWU teams had an average ranking of fourth in FCS on offense and 101st on defense. They won at least 11 games three times in that span and four times overall.

There’s nothing saying the balance can’t work, but pulling off a successful first year could be tricky. Baldwin’s first Cal offense will be without last year’s starting quarterback, leading rusher, leading receiver, and five linemen who combined for 120 career starts.

And he ends the summary with the following, cautiously optimistic, sentiment:

There’s enough talent to think Cal can eke out a minor bowl bid, but I’ll withhold expectations until year two.

He delves deeper into the offense and the wealth of skill players:

Still, Dykes left Baldwin some presents. After a slow start (seven catches in his first three games), five-star Demetris Robinson finished his freshman year with 50 catches and four 90-yard receiving games. Another freshman, four-star Melquise Stovall, caught 42 balls as the No. 3 target.

Three other returning wideouts caught at least 15 passes, so the cupboard is in no way bare. Plus, backup running back Tre Watson wasn’t really a backup to Muhammad — he carried only nine fewer times, and while he was less explosive, he had better rush efficiency numbers and caught 21 of 24 passes for 241 yards. He is a custom-made back for a pass-first system. Meanwhile, 245-pound Vic Enwere was actually Cal’s most explosive back as the No. 3 guy.

And for the defense he stated that the switch from 4-3 to 3-4 can be tricky with the lack of size in the D-Line

The front seven, however, is quite a few steps from decent. It absorbed a lot of turnover before 2016 and didn’t fare well, and now comes the move to a 3-4.

If this move goes poorly, it’s usually because the new defense doesn’t have the right size. Likely starting nose guard Tony Mekari is listed at 295 pounds, lower than you’d like, but size at end is fine, with likely starting ends James Looney and Zeandae Johnson hitting 280 pounds.

Overall, I highly recommend reading the overview since it has great nuggets on each phase of the game and various players.