Cal Football: 4 Youngsters Who Will Start for Golden Bears in 2012
As coach Jeff Tedford approaches a crucial year regarding his future tenure with the California Golden Bears, replacing much of their departing talent from last season will be chief among his concerns.
Returning only 11 players from 2011's 7-6 campaign, the Bears will have to replace several key contributors after losing seven starters to this year's NFL draft.
As Cal prepares for its reintroduction to Memorial Stadium, how well Coach Tedford and his staff replenish this experience-starved roster will be pivotal to the success of its inaugural season. Luckily, Tedford's noted recruiting prowess has provided the Bears with a bevy of young talent ready to restock their depleted roster.
With spring practices officially over, fans now have a clear idea of which fresh faces will be occupying starting spots on this year's depth chart.
A combination of recent arrivals and patiently waiting redshirts, Cal faithful should look for this crop of first-time starters to make a big impact in 2012.
Freddie Tagaloa, OT
One of the most highly touted commits from Cal's 2012 class, tackle Freddie Tagaloa should be able to make an immediate impact on a Bears line forced to replace multiple starters from last season.
A 4-star prospect from nearby Richmond, Calif., Tagaloa already possesses impressive size (6'8", 300 lbs.) and raw athleticism (he started for his HS basketball team) for his age.
Tagaloa will be one of several in his position group vying to replace All-Pac-12 selection Mitchell Schwartz, who departed for the NFL after his senior season last year.
Although Tagaloa arrives with rave reviews, his relatively late arrival to the team (he elected to join the team in August as opposed to graduating early) may hurt his chances to start at the beginning of the season.
However, his talent should allow him to challenge for considerable playing time and a possible starting spot as the year continues.
Maurice Harris, WR
One of the biggest question marks heading into this season, redshirt freshman Maurice Harris will be called upon to be a major contributor for a depth-starved receiving corps.
Listed as the No. 2 receiver behind first-team All-American Keenan Allen, Harris is the only other scholarship athlete remaining in the position group.
He will have the daunting task of replacing talented senior wideout Marvin Jones (846 yards in 2011), who graduated to an NFL career this April.
Although Harris spent last season on the bench, he comes with a solid resume, possessing an ideal frame (6'3", 200 lbs) and strong playmaking skills that attracted offers from Alabama and Clemson before he signed with the Bears.
Harris, who is QB Zack Maynard's cousin, impressed many with his performance in the spring game.
With Allen drawing much of opposing defenses' attention this coming season, Tedford and Maynard will rely on Harris to provide a suitable second option for the Bears passing attack in 2012.
Jordan Rigsbee, LG
Another new addition to a youthful offensive line, redshirt freshman Jordan Rigsbee will be among the fresh faces protecting QB Zach Maynard this fall.
A 4-star prospect out of high school, Rigsbee will replace last year's starter at left guard, Brian Schwenke, who moved to center as part of a series of position swaps to replace departing senior RG Justin Cheadle.
Rigsbee will join his brother Tyler on the line, a senior who is currently listed as starting LT.
A former U.S. Army All-American, Rigsbee should help ease the loss of senior starters Mitchell Schwartz and Cheadle on the line after waiting patiently in the wings last season.
Cole Leininger, P
One of the strengths of last year's campaign, the Bears special teams will rely on freshman Cole Leininger to continue its tradition of strong-legged punters.
A highly regarded prospect coming into spring camp, Leininger impressed Coach Tedford and his staff enough to snag the starting punter spot as a true freshman.
He is in the unenviable position of replacing last year's starter, Brian Anger, who graduated after the 2011 season to become the highest-drafted punter in 17 years in this year's NFL draft.
While Leininger may not be able to match Anger's stellar productivity from the onset, he should be a more-than-suitable option to lead the Bears punting game in the coming season.