Cal Football: 10 Off-the-Wall Predictions for the Golden Bears in 2011
Even if the NFL is locked out, college football lives on.
The California Golden Bears will enter 2011 under the radar after a disappointing 2010 season in which they went 5-7 and didn't reach a bowl game for the first time since 2002.
Cal will feature a young team and has an outside chance to make a run in the new Pac-12 as Oregon and Stanford, last year's top teams, will be on the decline.
Here are 10 off-the-wall predictions for the California Golden Bears.
10. Deandre Coleman Leads the Team in Tackles for Loss
Coleman is a formidable player at 6'6", 319 pounds and is only a redshirt sophomore.
Ranked ESPN's 14th-best defensive lineman, Coleman played in all 12 games off the bench last year, recording 18 tackles, three of which were for a loss.
He has the size and strength to penetrate the line and disrupt running plays before they even start.
9. LB Cecil Whiteside Becomes a Starter by Week 6
Cecil Whiteside, a true freshman, was ranked the fourth-best linebacking prospect in the nation by both Scout.com and Rivals.
His largest shortcoming is that he is a little lean—at 6'3", he's only 229 pounds, but he can add some weight still before the season starts.
Other than that, Whiteside has terrific lateral movement, great speed and no fear of contact.
Cecil Whiteside should emerge as one of Cal's more exciting young players in 2011.
8. DT Keni Kaufusi Emerges as a Premier Run Stopper
Kaufusi has yet to see any game action, but he's just a redshirt sophomore.
His true freshman year, he was named Cal's Scout Team Player of the Year on defense.
At 6'2", 287 lbs, Kaufusi is a big boy who can take up space in the middle of the line. If given playing time, the Utah native could certainly help shore up Cal's run defense.
7. Specialists Will Come Up Big in Late-Game Situations
Punter Bryan Anger and place kicker Giorgio Tavecchio are both returning for their senior seasons. Anger finished second in punting average in 2010, and Tavecchio was second amongst underclassmen in field-goal percentage.
Special teams in college football are always so much fun to watch—the propensity for mishaps and big plays is much higher than in the NFL. As a result, having dependable specialists can come up huge in close games.
Anger is coming off a great season as a junior and should continue his consistency in 2011. Tavecchio definitely has some room for improvement, but he is Italian-born and is probably still getting used to the ovular shape of the football.
With its strong defense, Cal is sure to be playing in lots of close games in 2011. Look for Anger and Tavecchio to contribute in late-game situations for the team.
6. No Receiver Reaches 40 Receptions
Last year, Marvin Jones led the squad with 50 receptions, and Keenan Allen was second with 46.
This year, neither even reaches 40.
With Maynard set to lead the offense, and Isi Sofele in the backfield, the wideouts will see even fewer targets than they did last season—Cal will revert to a less pro-style and more collegiate-option offense, with a runner at the helm.
5. WR Marvin Jones Finishes Top-5 in Pac-12 Receiving Yards
Even though he won't get as many looks as he should, Marvin Jones will finish in the top five in the Pac-12 in receiving yards.
In 2010, he finished seventh with 765. Even though numbers eight through 10 all had more receptions than him, Jones' deadly combination of strength and speed netted him 15.3 yards/catch, third among receivers with at least 40 catches.
Now a senior, Jones will emerge as one of the top receivers in the Pac 12 and will end up with around 800 yards.
4. CB Marc Anthony Breaks out for 5 Interceptions
Rated as Rivals' 14th-best corner prospect in the nation out of high school, Anthony is coming off his first full season as a starter in 2010 when he picked off two passes.
He figures to start once again in 2011 for Cal's impressive defense.
A junior this fall, Anthony is definitely still on the learning curve and should be an exciting player to watch progress this year.
Besides his unfortunate shared name with a famous, albeit terrible, Latin American pop star, Anthony has everything going his way for a breakout season.
3. Defense Finishes Best in Pac 12
Cal finished third in the Pac-10 with 22.6 points allowed per game last year, behind only Stanford and Oregon, the conference's two BCS bowl representatives.
Cal actually led the Pac 10 with only 319.1 yards allowed per game. Their 187 pass yards per game was a conference low and 34 sacks just two behind the lead.
Tedford's squad will look to convert their defensive stoutness into keeping more points off the scoreboard in 2011.
Oregon's defense last year was stellar and will be tough to top once again this year.
But in Stanford's case, its offense was arguably its best defense. After losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the 49ers along with head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Cardinal should be weaker on both sides of the ball.
2. Isi Sofele Rushes for 1500 Yards
Isi Sofele is only 5'7", but he can run a 4.42 40-yard dash. He also averaged 4.9 yards/carry last season.
Former Cal running back Jahvid Best was just an tad taller at 5'10" and, like Sofele, was a burner, with a 4.35 40 at the NFL combine last year.
With what looks to be a tenacious defense on the other side of the ball, plus uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position, Sofele figures to get a ton of touches in 2011.
If he can get 25 touches per game over the 12 game season and maintain his 4.9 yards-per-carry average, Sofele would finish the season right around 1,500 yards.
1. Brock Mansion Takes over Starting Gig Midway Through Season
Going in a new direction, Jeff Tedford recently named transfer QB Zach Maynard Cal's opening week starter.
Since he became Cal's head coach, Tedford has always had pro-style quarterbacks leading his offense. Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Boller, Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley—none of those guys were particularly mobile.
Having the athletic Maynard start at QB is a knee-jerk reaction to a poor showing in 2010, and I don't think it will last.
Tedford doesn't have much experience with running quarterbacks to help correct the problems Maynard is guaranteed to have. It would be easier for him to simply revert to a guy like Brock Mansion whom he is more comfortable with.
Mansion didn't exactly impress last year. But Brock will take advantage of a starting opportunity that comes his way halfway through the season.