Cal Football: 10 Benchmarks for Spring Success
Even though Cal was forced to postpone its first spring practice due to rain, it's still important we outline a few key benchmarks for the Golden Bears as they embark on their 2012 journey.
Let's take a look at 10 major areas Cal must address in order to better its chances at success in the fall.
Solidify the Safeties...
Cal lost two of its more experienced players this offseason in Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell. Finding two capable replacements must be a priority for the Golden Bears in the spring.
Avery Sebastian, Alex Logan and Josh Hill are all candidates for the starting safety positions and the Golden Bears will look for at least two of those three to step up and earn the role.
The cornerback component of Cal's secondary appears to be solid with both starters, Marc Anthony and Steve Williams, returning to Berkeley in 2012.
If the Bears can take care of the safety position in the spring, you could be looking at one of the best secondaries in the conference come fall.
...And the Linebackers, Too
Replacing Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks and his linebacking mate D.J. Holt will be no easy task, but it could make the difference between just an average defense and a standout defense.
David Wilkerson and Cecil Whiteside have experience at the linebacker position for the Bears and both of them appear to have their starting spots on lockdown.
Jason Gibson and Robert Mullins may have the inside track for the other two starting spots in the Bears' 3-4 defensive scheme, but watch out for Dan Camporeale, a rising junior, who made an impact towards the end of 2011.
The linebackers are arguably the key to a 3-4 defense's success and nailing down starters early will be paramount to the Golden Bears' success this fall.
Have Todd Howard Establish Himself
The departure of defensive line coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi to Washington rocked the Golden Bears' world in January.
Jeff Tedford wasted no time replacing Lupoi with Todd Howard, a coach with a wealth of experience at both the collegiate and NFL levels who most recently coached the defensive linemen at Washington State.
Cal must replace two starters (Ernest Owusu, Trevor Guyton) along the defensive line and it will be up to Howard to do so quickly and effectively.
As is the case with the linebackers, the defensive linemen play an integral role in the 3-4 defense and Howard must get to work right away to ensure the void is filled.
Establish an Option at Wide Receiver Not Named Keenan Allen
It's no secret that Keenan Allen is one of the best wide receivers college football has to offer, but as reported by Jeff Tedford, the rising junior star will miss the entirety of spring practice in order to rehabilitate an ankle surgery.
This obviously isn't an ideal situation for the Bears, but to make matters worse, two of Cal's top secondary options at receiver in 2011 (Marvin Jones, Michael Calvin) were lost to graduation.
It is imperative Cal establishes another option at wideout, whether it be redshirt freshman Maurice Harris or true freshmen Cedric Dozier and Bryce Treggs.
Sort out the Backup Quarterback Battle
It appears Zach Maynard will remain the starter for Cal during his senior season, but once the Buffalo transfer graduates after 2012, it would be ideal for a seasoned backup to step right in and take the reins.
Right now Allan Bridgford, the backup from a year ago, is the front-runner for the position, but don't discount the likes of redshirt sophomore Austin Hinder and especially true freshman phenom Zach Kline.
Many people around Berkeley feel as if Kline is the future at the quarterback position for the Bears and if that's the case, it's important he get an adequate amount of reps in the spring to ensure he is comfortable with the offense in the fall and in the future.
Special Look at Special Teams
Cal may have had the best kicker/punter duo in the conference last year with Giorgio Tavecchio and Bryan Anger.
Tavecchio drilled 20 field goals and had a season-long 54 yards in 2011, both of which led the Pac-12. Anger was equally as brilliant, averaging 43.4 yards per punt.
Vincenzo D'Amato and Jed Barnett appear to be the most likely candidates to replace Tavecchio and Anger, respectively, but Barnett could end up doubling as both the kicker and the punter.
Either way, it's important Cal finds sufficient replacements on special teams to avoid a drop-off at a key position.
Looking for a Dime—and a Nickel, Too
Safety was already identified as a position of need while cornerback was highlighted as a position of strength. However, as of now, Cal has a lot of unproven depth in the secondary that needs addressing if the Bears have any hopes of running larger, more coverage-oriented defensive schemes in the fall.
Josh Hill played some nickelback last year but, as mentioned earlier, he may be forced into a switch to the starting safety role.
Stefan McClure, a potential backup cornerback and dime back, suffered a very serious injury in 2011 in which he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
McClure has been ruled out indefinitely for the spring so another player must step up. It will be up to the Bears coaches to find someone this spring to give themselves some flexibility when calling plays in the fall.
Center in on a Center
Dominic Galas, who assumed the role of center for Cal in 2011, is reportedly being moved to guard after struggling with snapping from the shotgun.
The highly touted Mark Brazinski and co-Scout Team Player of the Year Chris Adcock appear to be the two vying for the center duties in the spring.
It's possible true freshman Matt Cochran could take over at center come fall, but the 6'4", 320-lb. prospect won't be on campus in the spring, making Brazinski and Adcock the front-runners.
Center is obviously a pivotal position along the offensive line and ensuring Zach Maynard develops a rapport with the man in the middle should be a priority for Cal.
Tighten Up the Tight Ends
Cal lost leading tight end Anthony Miller to graduation, leaving only the inexperienced Spencer Hagan and Richard Rodgers in his place. Hagan caught just 12 balls a year ago for a total of 94 yards while Rodgers spent his 2011 season redshirting.
With the wide receiver position very much in question outside of Keenan Allen, receiving consistent production from the tight end position could play a huge factor in the success of Cal's passing game.
Maynard didn't use his starting tight end enough in 2011, connecting with Miller just 24 times. If that total increases, Cal's offense will become that much more effective.
As vague as this benchmark may sound, it could end up being the one that carries the most importance throughout the spring and into the fall.
The Bears wrapped yet another disappointing regular season in which it went 7-5 with a dud of a game against Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
The offseason wasn't any kinder to Cal as two of its assistants, Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau, bolted for Seattle.
It is imperative the Bears regroup and refocus after a tumultuous offseason to avoid having a regular season much like the one they had in 2011.
Cal's first game back in Strawberry Canyon against Nevada is just 170 days away, and there is no time like the present to refocus the team's eyes on the prize with a productive spring.