Keenan Allen (No. 21)
In 2011, four playmakers comprised the offensive backbone of Cal Bears’ football. Quarterback Zach Maynard, running back Isi Sofele and wideouts Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones were said players.
Linebackers Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt, as well as defensive backs Sean Cattouse, D.J. Campbell and Josh Hill were the noteworthy playmakers on defense.
The problem is that the majority of these players are no longer with the team. Jones, Kendricks, Holt, Cattouse and Campbell have all signed with NFL franchises.
So then, who will emerge as a playmaker for the Cal football program in 2012-13? Will it be a player among these remaining three, or perhaps a lesser-known talent?
My money’s on Keenan Allen, the wide receiver who absolutely went berserk last season. Obvious pick or not, he has to be the guy—there’s just no way around it.
Follow along as we examine the three reasons why Allen will once again emerge as a playmaker for the Cal Bears.
Allen was by far and away QB Zach Maynard’s No. 1 target in 2011.
Things won’t be any different in 2012.
With second-leading receiver Marvin Jones now a member of the Bengals, the Bears’ WR corps is remarkably thin.
The third- and fourth-leading receivers of last year are also gone, and the only remaining pass-catcher with 100-plus yards receiving is backup running back C.J. Anderson.
As prolific as Isi Sofele was on the ground, he managed only six catches for 33 yards through the air.
There’s also little chance that one of the incoming 4-star recruits provides a significant impact.
The 5’7’’, 171-pound Bryce Treggs out of St. John Bosco looks the part of a solid underneath possession receiver. However, even having put on an impressive showing at a Los Angeles NFTC practice (courtesy of Rivals.com), he’ll still only be a raw freshman.
That leaves Allen, the 6’3’’ wideout who managed over 1,300 yards and six touchdowns on 98 receptions.
He held a top-10 ranking in the NCAA and a top-three spot in the Pac-12 for those catches and receiving yards.
So with so few established playmakers at wideout, expect Allen to propel Cal’s offense.
In just a two-year span, Allen doubled his production. He amassed 46 receptions for 490 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman.
The very next year, his catches and receiving yards ballooned to 98 and 1,343. He hauled in an additional touchdown and increased his yards-per-reception from 10.7 to 13.7.
This statistical improvement reveals the immense talent that Allen possesses, as well as how natural the receiver position is to the Greensboro, North Carolina native.
Furthermore, it shows the connection that Allen and Maynard share as receiver and quarterback.
Allen caught his passes from Kevin Riley in 2010. A year later when his good friend and fellow—er—Greensborian joined the team, Allen’s number went through the roof.
The bond between the two was readily apparent to anyone who watched Cal football last season.
One can only imagine what they’ll accomplish in the second year in the program.
Sofele is somewhere on the bottom of that pile.
As with Allen and the WR position, Sofele is the sole established threat at running back.
With all due respect to C.J. Anderson’s role as a goal-line back and eight touchdowns, Sofele was the go-to back then, and he will remain in that role now.
He carried the rushing load for the Bears with the likes of a 252-attempt, 1,322-yard performance in 2011.
Sofele was also the only Bear with double-digit touchdowns (10). As such a focal point on the offense, expect opposing defenses to stack the box against the run.
They’ll bring in extra defenders and force Maynard to throw the ball.
He is still developing at the position, evidenced by his 57 percent completion percentage and 12 interceptions. Defenses will want to exploit those deficiencies.
Enter Keenan Allen once again.
Their mutual connection as friends notwithstanding, Allen is the perfect target for Maynard.
His 6’3’’ frame, leaping ability and reliable hands afford his quarterback to be less than accurate. Maynard can merely throw the ball up and let Allen catch it at its highest point. This will especially come in handy in the red zone with fades and posts to the corners.
Ten-plus touchdowns for Allen will be the likely byproduct.
All in all, Keenan Allen will emerge as the No. 1 playmaker for the Bears in 2012.
Defenses will surely double-team him throughout the season, but Allen will win those battles more often than not—he’s that good.
Look for this prolific wideout to earn the title of one of the most dominant receivers in the country at season’s end.
Even with a less than stellar QB tossing him the pigskin, Allen will showcase himself in grand fashion this year.
Again, he’s that good.