Over the last few years I find myself hating California. It’s not because I am a fan of another team. It is because I can’t figure them out. In years I figure them to do well, they are bad. When I expect a bad season, they end up doing well. I mostly have them in the middle this year so I have no idea what they will do.
Head coach Jeff Tedford is getting heat as over the last few seasons his record has been rather inconsistent. Cal has not beaten a conference opponent with a winning record since 2009.
The offensive coordinator is Jim Michalczik, though Tedford was the primary play caller last year. I am not sure if that was because he felt it truly necessary or because Michalczik was in his first year. The defense is run by Clancy Pendergast for the third year.
Zach Maynard was a tale of two halves last year. The first two thirds of the season, he was inconsistent, while the back third he found something of a rhythm. Efficiency went up and his interceptions dropped. If he can start the season the way he finished and keep it up all year, he could have a good one.
Isi Sofele was the conferences fifth place rusher and his 1,382 yards also put him in the top 20 in the nation. Two of the running backs that finished ahead of him have moved on so he is actually the conferences third leading returning rusher. With CJ Anderson back again as well as a handful of younger guys, the running game at Cal should continue to be very productive.
Maynard’s favorite target last season was Keenan Allen. Considering they are half brothers, it isn’t that big a surprise that they have something of a connection. The other returning receivers don’t have much experience as they lose their next three top pass catchers from last season. Also on the roster is Allen's cousin Maurice Harris, so there very well could be one big family game of catch going on. I also expect at least one of the true freshman receivers to earn a spot.
The offensive line may very well be the biggest question for Cal. They have to replace the left side including Mitchell Schwartz who was drafted in the second round. He is likely to be replaced with a senior so that could help experience wise. If the line comes together quickly and improves from their poor showing at the Holiday Bowl, the questions could go away.
The defensive line is in no better shape than the offensive line. They have to replace all the starters, although the projected starters do have experience. The biggest loss was line coach Tosh Lupoi who left to help rebuild Washington’s defense. Lupoi was also considered a top recruiter.
Pac-12 defensive player of the year last season was Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Unfortunately for Cal he is now in the NFL. Kendricks and inside linebacker DJ Holt, were the teams leading tacklers. With them gone, as well as the teams' third and fourth tacklers, they will be looking for some young players to step in.
Cecil Whiteside, David Wilkerson, Nick Forbes, Robert Mullens and Dan Camporeale will all get time on the field so it is just a matter of proving themselves when given the chance. They will also be adding in Khairi Fortt, a transfer from Penn State who will be eligible right away.
The secondary doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence either. Both safeties are gone and corner Marc Anthony missed spring practices. If he comes back and the safety battles get settled early in fall camp the unit could come together and be a solid pass defense.
More bad news for Cal, they are losing solid players at both punter and kicker. Kicker Vincenzo D’Amato did play some in 2009 though has not attempted any kicks since. The return game will also be looking for help as the leading punt and kick returners are gone. They weren’t spectacular last season so maybe new players will be a boost.
One more exciting factor to add in is the return to a revamped Memorial Stadium.
As i previously stated, I have Cal as finishing in the middle of the conference. I think they have just enough to get to a mid tier bowl such as the Sun or Vegas Bowl. Will it be enough to help Tedford stick around another year or will his job security be weighing on the minds of the Cal faithful.