If you could bring back any former Cal player to add as an impact player to the roster for next year’s team (for any sport), who would it be and why? The player will return at the height of their performance as a California Golden Bear rather than peak pro level or current abilities.
boomtho: I like this question! I’ll take perhaps the most obvious answer: I’d like to bring Aaron Rodgers. My logic is that our defense should be beastly next year—if we could pair that with a ~top-40 offense, we would be legit Pac-12 title contenders. And quarterback is the highest-leverage position to try to bring back one player to improve the team. I was honestly torn between Jared Goff and Rodgers—both were amazing during their times at Cal. I ultimately went with Rodgers since he may be a little bit of a better fit for the offense Wilcox & Co want to run
Joshua.Morgan: Obviously, the best answer is Jared Goff or Aaron Rodgers. This defense with one of them leading the offense could make a great team. But since that is the obvious answer, I’ll go another way. Give me Cameron Jordan. That defense with another true stud on the defensive line might be the best in the country.
thedozen: I’m not going to consider ballplayers who were just drafted to the major leagues such as Andrew Vaughn (Chicago White Sox) and Korey Lee (Houston Astros). However, the Cal baseball team could use a quality starting pitcher like Tyson Ross next season because staff ace Jared Horn was also recently selected by the Colorado Rockies. During 2007, which was his final season in Berkeley, Ross struck out more than a batter per inning and posted a 2.49 ERA—which is no small accomplishment against players using metal bats.
Avinash Kunnath: Bring young Marshawn Lynch back to create a ball-control, focused offense that averages a steady 24+ points a game behind a steady offensive line that’s coupled with this monstrous defense and I’d book my tickets to Pasadena today.
Ruey Yen: One of the main reason that Sam Crosson got hired as the new Cal Volleyball coach is due to his previous success at Cal as an assistant coach, when the Golden Bears went to back-to-back Final Fours (including a title game berth) with eventual USA Calympian setter in Carli Lloyd. Having Lloyd back to set strong hitters like Mima Mirkovic, Maddie Haynes, and Preslie Anderson would certainly be fun to watch. With the setter in volleyball being the equivalent of the QB in football, I guess this answer is akin to having Rodgers or Goff back. The Cal Volleyball defense is also pretty solid with Lauren Forte registering over 100 blocks and Preslie Anderson just short of that century mark last year; Bears also will return a solid libero in Emma Smith. So, having Carli Lloyd to expedite the offense and be that emotional leader could be enough to turn the Golden Bears back into a national title contender.
Leland Wong: Quarterback is great, but I think we need targets. Five of the six leading pass-catchers from last year (by either number of receptions or yardage) left the team to graduation or transfer—we’ll be relying on a lot of youth in this group next year. And even if we could bring back a legendary Cal quarterback, how effective would he be without an arsenal of receivers with speed, hands, and the ability to separate? So let’s bring back one of the all-time greats in DeSean Jackson. The man would undeniably bring speed to the field with his 4.35 40-yard dash, forcing opposing defenses to dedicate a safety deep and helping open up the field for our offense. He put that speed to good use, racking up 1060 yards in 2006—more than double the yards of any Cal receiver in 2018.
I’m also choosing DeSean because it allows me to cheat and boost two aspects of the game with this one choice—welcome back to the Wizard of Returns! Let’s help our ailing offense by winning in field position with an elite talent at punt returner. Last year, the Bears averaged 6.19 yards per return, so let’s shake things up with Jackson’s Cal career average of 16.7 yards per return and 6 return touchdowns. We haven’t returned a punt for a touchdown since Keenan Allen did so in 2012 against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds (and as for FBS opposition, not since Chris Conte scored in a 2010 rout of the Arizona State Sun Devils). With what should be a game-changing defense next year, it looks like opposing punters will get a lot of practice, so why not bring back a player like DeSean Jackson? We could use a weapon to reliably pick up a few yards every return and be an ever-present, looming threat to take it all the way.