After a 7-6 record during the 2011 season, California Golden Bear fans should be ready for some improvement.
Head coach Jeff Tedford has struggled in the past couple seasons. Following a three-year stretch from 2004-2006 where the Bears went 28-9, the past couple seasons have been strikingly lackluster.
Cal has gone only 20-18 in the past three seasons, despite boasting a very talented roster.
In 2009, California’s recruiting class ranked 34th in the nation, according to Scout, yet was only fifth in the then Pac-10. Nonetheless, Cal signed five 4-star recruits.
Only two have truly panned out so far, in Steve Williams and Jarred Price. Price has since graduated after transferring to Cal. The remaining three have combined to play in only 12 games.
The Bears then brought in a talented 2010 class that was ranked 27th, according to Scout and featured superstar receiver Keenan Allen. Along with Allen, the Bears nabbed four 4-star recruits, yet one has been dismissed from the team and two others have not seen any game action.
The classes certainly have had time to prove why they were highly rated coming out of high school, yet there are some specific reasons Cal has struggled recently.
Jeff Tedford has produced a number of NFL quarterbacks during his coaching career. Both Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Boller were members of his Cal teams.
Since Rodgers has left however, the Bears have failed to find a solid starter. Both Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley have been adequate, but have failed to consistently produce.
Riley was a 4-star recruit according to Scout and he gave the Bears a solid run, including two bowl game appearances while he was under center.
Yet, the Bears are still seeking a quarterback to pick up where Riley left off.
They picked up 4-star Allan Bridgford, who was the 23rd ranked quarterback in the nation, according to Scout. However, Bridgford has appeared in only four games during his career and lost the starting role to Zach Maynard.
Maynard was only a two-star recruit coming out of high school, according to Rivals. He is a dual-threat quarterback, yet only averaged 1.3 yards per carry last season on 84 carries.
Maynard failed to live up to the lofty expectations set by his predecessors during his first year under center at Cal. He finished the season with 2,990 yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Help could be on the way soon, as Cal just brought in the fourth overall quarterback prospect in 2012, according to Scout, in Zach Kline.
However it will take a few years before Kline is ready to step in and operate a Pac-12 offense.
Tedford will need to find a more reliable option at quarterback in the short term if he wants to mimic the success of his mid-2000s teams.
California will certainly need to improve their defense if they want to improve moving forward.
The Bears defense was not bad in 2011, but there is certainly room for improvement. They surrendered 24.15 points per game last season, which ranked 48th among FBS football teams.
Their defense was much stronger in terms of yards allowed, where they ranked 25th in the nation, allowing 332.92 yards per game.
However, with the trend of explosive offenses swallowing up college football, Cal’s defense will need to show they can stop other teams from scoring.
With games against USC, Oregon and Washington on their upcoming schedule, Tedford’s team must improve on the defensive side of the ball.
Furthermore, the Bears have regressed in terms of forcing turnovers. In both 2006 and 2008, Cal ranked third overall in interceptions. Those seasons produced 10 and nine wins, respectively.
In the past three seasons, the Golden Bears have not ranked higher than 52nd in interceptions.
Obviously Cal will need to get back to gambling more on defense in hopes of garnering more turnovers.
With some of the defensive coaching staff moving on, including recruiting master Tosh Lupoi, Cal must find a way to improve their defense from a season ago.
As if it is a bad thing to send players onto the NFL, the onslaught of Cal players to graduate to the pro ranks may have hurt the team moving forward.
The Golden Bears have sent 22 players to the NFL since 2008, yet a number of them have decided to leave school early.
DeSean Jackson, Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best are only a few to forgo their senior seasons and enter the draft.
Regardless of their future success, the void left by impact players has been difficult for the Golden Bears to fill.
By no means is it bad that Cal has produced so many NFL players, but it may have played a role in the downswing in winning during the past couple seasons.
With experienced and talented players leaving for the NFL, Cal has had to field younger teams that may have benefited from having veteran players around the program.
Without juniors and seniors on the roster, younger players are left to seemingly fend for themselves when it comes to the pressures of college football.
Although it is a common trend throughout Division-I football to enter the NFL draft, Cal’s production may have damaged their current product.
However, if they can produce equally gifted players while retaining them in a Bears uniform, Tedford and his squad could be in for a serious upswing.