Cal Football: 5 Reasons Cal Will Shock the Pac-12

Maiah HollanderContributor IIIAugust 11, 2011

Cal Football: 5 Reasons Cal Will Shock the Pac-12

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    Under the helm of Jeff Tedford, Cal fans have been accustomed to postseason bowl appearances, which made last year's losing season tough to bear.

    Now expectations aren't as high, and the time is here and the moment is now for the Bears to return to glory.

    Here are five reasons Cal is the team to watch in the new Pac-12 conference.

Improved Special Teams Play

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    The special teams performance for Cal over the past few years has been mediocre at best, so coach Jeff Tedford brought in Jeff Genyk last season to reverse that trend.

    He was successful—the Golden Bears were 19th nationally in net punting and 23rd in punt returns.

    However, let's face it, Cal must get improved, clutch place kicking from Giorgio Tavecchio. Last year, he missed short-range field goals against Arizona and Oregon, probably costing Cal victories.

    Tedford claims that Tavecchio has looked great during spring and fall practices, and is confident he will step up. He better. 

Freshman RB Brendan Bigelow

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    In many respects, Cal has become Running Back U, churning out 1,000-yard rushers and NFL backs at a prolific pace.

    With the loss of Shane Vereen to the the NFL—selected by the New England Patriots—Cal running backs coach Ron Gould will be looking to fill some very big cleats.

    True freshman Brendan Bigelow has the chance to step in and grab a hold of this position despite missing his entire senior season in high school due to a knee injury. He was still ranked as a top-15 running back recruit in the country.

    Fully cleared to practice, Bigelow might just be the fastest player on the Cal team.

    Just last week at a donor reception, Tedford called Bigelow "the best recruit he’s ever had."

    If he can quickly live up to this hype, Bigelow could take the Pac-12 by storm. 

Young and Potentially Dominant Defense

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    The defensive coaching staff is led by former NFL defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, now in his second season for Cal in that role.

    Last year, the Bears had arguably the best defense in the Pac-10, having switched to an aggressive 3-4 defense.

    Despite losing early-round selections Cameron Jordan and Chris Conte to the NFL, Cal brings back a younger defense that is loaded with talent and depth.

    An improvement in consistency in 2011 shouldn't be a surprise. 

Quarterback Transfer Zach Maynard

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    Cal's quarterbacks last year struggled with inconsistency and injuries, which was a big reason for the team's 5-7 record.

    Junior transfer Zach Maynard, after a solid spring ball showing, has been named the starter by Coach Tedford.

    He is a tremendously mobile quarterback who will bring that extra dimension to the Cal offense.

    Also, he has developed an uncanny rapport with wide receiver Keenan Allen—not surprising, since they are half-brothers who have played together most of their lives.

    If Maynard grasps the offensive playbook quickly, Cal fans could see an explosiveness that's been lacking for the last couple of years.

Tedford Calling the Plays on Offense

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    Tedford's first few years at Cal were an offensive revelation that included fine quarterback play, a strong running attack, a dominant offensive line and innovative play-calling by Tedford himself.

    Cal's coach the last few years has distanced himself from play calling, handing off those duties to a variety of coaches and coordinators.

    Not surprisingly, Cal's offense has regressed, and Tedford has stated that he will once again call the plays this season.

    A return to Tedford's inventive play-calling will be a welcome sight for Cal supporters and a headache for Pac-12 defensive coordinators.