2011 California Preview – Offense
California WR Keenan Allen
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - California Golden Bear Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Cal fans won't have Kevin Riley to kick around any longer. The beleaguered quarterback has graduated, leaving behind a legacy of inconsistency. However, his successor is hardly a sure thing. A heated spring battle produced a favorite, athletic southpaw Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo. He brings an added dimension of mobility to a Bear attack that's been up-and-down for the last couple of seasons. While the backfield loses 1,000-yard rusher Shane Vereen to the NFL, Maynard's receivers will be among the best in the Pac-12. Marvin Jones has led the team in catches the last two seasons, Keenan Allen is an emerging star, and TE Anthony Miller is seeking a rebound after a mediocre junior year. It'll need to be a collaborative effort for a Cal offense that produced more than 20 points just twice over the final nine games.
Star of the offense: Senior OT Mitchell Schwartz
Passing: Brock Mansion
67-137, 646 yds, 2 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Isi Sofele
69 carries, 338 yds, 0 TDs
Receiving: Marvin Jones
50 catches, 765 yds, 4 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Zach Maynard
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Keenan Allen
Best pro prospect: Schwartz
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Schwartz, 2) Sophomore WR Keenan Allen, 3) Senior WR Marvin Jones
Strength of the offense: The receivers, protecting the ball, red zone conversions
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, depth in the backfield, big plays, converting on third downs
State of the Unit: For the past few years, Cal has struggled to develop a capable quarterback, a nagging issue for noted tutor Jeff Tedford. Underachieving Kevin Riley finished a disappointing career in Berkeley on the shelf. And his replacements did nothing to solidify the position over the final month, creating one of the more competitive and intriguing races to the top of the depth chart in America.
Two weeks after the conclusion of spring practice, Tedford took a big toward solving the mystery at quarterback, naming 6-3, 181-pound Zach Maynard his starter. The junior has taken an unorthodox route to Strawberry Canyon, playing his first two seasons at Buffalo before transferring and sitting out 2010. The Bulls starter in 2009, he went 218-of-379 for 2,694 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 15 picks, adding 300 yards on the ground. Not your typical Cal quarterback, he's a terrific athlete, bringing a new dimension to an evolving offense. The Bears remain a pass-first attack, but Maynard's quickness and ability to make things happen with his feet will force the staff to open up the playbook in 2011.
The battle for the No. 2 job is between 6-5, 234-pound senior Brock Mansion and 6-3, 208-pound sophomore Allan Bridgford . A prototypical dropback passer and former blue-chip recruit from 2006, Mansion has never lived up to expectations. When given a chance to fill in for Riley last fall, he flopped, going just 67-of-137 for 646 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions. Bridgford was recruited to be a franchise type player in 2009, a hard thrower with a nice feel for the pocket.
Watch Out For … Maynard to extend his lead in the summer. While the competition technically remains open, Tedford didn't make his May announcement lightly. He plans to have his new hurler mentally prepared to be the starter over the next two months, getting him accustomed to being the focal point of the offense in all possible facets.
Strength: The added dimension. You probably have to go back to Akili Smith more than a decade ago to find a Tedford pupil with as much athletic ability as Maynard. He gives Cal an exciting set of new options behind center, a dual-threat who can carve up defenses with his quick throws and even quicker feet.
Weakness: Consistency in the passing game. Mansion isn't cut out for the job, Bridgford has no experience, and Maynard hasn't played a down in the Pac-12. The uncertainty that's plagued the Cal passing game since Aaron Rodgers left school isn't likely to dissipate without a few detours this season.
Outlook: Is a former MAC quarterback ready to take the Pac-12 by storm in his first season on a new campus? While it's asking a lot of Maynard, he does harbor a unique set of skills that could catch the conference off guard this fall. He'll be facing an uphill challenge and much better competition, but does have plenty of experience and confidence, and the full support of the coaching staff.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: Few schools in America regroup better at this position than Cal, a credit to its long-time assistant Ron Gould. For years, the Bears have lost an all-star, only to regroup without skipping a beat. This season's challenge will be locating a successor to Shane Vereen, the 1,000-yard rusher and current New England Patriot. While it's a taller hurdle than in recent years, Gould is not the kind of coach who should be doubted.
The heir apparent for now is 5-7, 188-pound junior Isi Sofele, the program's second-leading rusher in 2010. He went for 338 yards on 69 carries, adding five catches for 28 yards and two touchdowns. Undersized, yet very quick, he's a surprisingly tough back who'll make people miss in the open field. Having never handled more than 13 carries in a game, the staff will have to find out early on how much of a weekly load he can handle.
Forming a nice complement with Sofele will be 5-11, 225-pound junior Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, the thumper of the pair. Fully recovered from a knee injury that limited him to four games and 21 carries, he's poised to give the running game some much-needed attitude between the tackles. More of a north-south runner, he has good vision in the hole. Injuries have chipped at the unit's depth lately. Sophomore Dasarte Yarnway is still recovering from ACL surgery and redshirt freshman Trajuan Briggs was held up by an ankle and back injury.
Junior Eric Stevens is set to reprise his role as the team's fullback, which he handled for much of 2010. The most complete player at the position, he's primarily a lead blocker, but exhibits soft hands as well.
Watch Out For … the arrival of 5-10, 180-pound true freshman Brendan Bigelow . A dynamite athlete, who's capable of conjuring up images of Jahvid Best, he's had knee problems and hasn't played since his junior year of high school. The program is eager to find out if he's lost a step over the last two years.
Strength: Gould. Yeah, he won't be in the rotation, but he's been the common thread in a backfield that seems to produce a 1,000-yard rusher every year. He gets his kids ready for success every fall regardless of their background or talent level. The Bears can feel confident about their situation in the backs because Gould is their mentor.
Weakness: Durability. Sofele aside, the running game has been riddled with different injuries, a blow to the team's depth. This is the worst possible time to have health problems, as the program prepares to hand the reins to a 188-pound back, with no history of carrying the load.
Outlook: A few years ago, Cal had an undersized back named Justin Forsett who ran for more than 1,500 yards before beginning a career with the Seattle Seahawks. The Bears aren't exactly expecting a repeat out of Sofele, but they are hoping he can channel Forsett in 2011. He'll need to be effective and durable as the front man of a backfield that's been ravaged by injuries.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: With last season's top two receivers returning to the outside, the Golden Bears finally appear to have a corps that's capable of stretching opposing defenses. An undisputed part of the passing game's problems in recent years, that doesn't figure to be the case in 2011. If the aerial attack sputters this fall, there's a good chance that most of the blame will fall at the feet of the quarterbacks.
With each passing year, 6-2, 200-pound senior Marvin Jones moves closer to becoming a complete receiver. For the second straight season, he led the team in catches, making 50 for 765 yards and four scores, while adding 94 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He has good size and speed, but also does the little things well, like running crisp routes and securing the ball with his hands. With proper help from his quarterback, he should deliver an impressive audition for NFL scouts.
The rising star of the group is 6-3, 202-pound junior Keenan Allen, who delivered an auspicious debut after being rated one of the top high school receivers in the America. A triple-threat for the Bears before getting injured, he caught 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns, ran 18 times for 136 yards and a score, and handled kick returns. He has a long stride and is elusive in space, one of the emerging stars of the Pac-12.
A couple of seniors are in line to provide support off the bench. Although 6-2, 212-pound Michael Calvin has never fulfilled his potential, he does have 25 games of experience, making a career-best 13 catches for 147 yards in 2010. He has good size, which benefits him on jump balls and as a blocker. A lot is expected from 6-1, 203-pound Coleman Edmond , despite the fact that he had just a single catch in six games. Slow to make the transition from Pierce (Calif.) College, he has the size-speed combo to catch a dozen or so balls in his final year.
It's a crucial season for 6-3, 262-pound senior TE Anthony Miller, who needs to bounce back after struggling in 2010. His future after Berkeley might depend on it. An ideal blend of size, strength, and athleticism, his production was cut in half, catching only 13 balls for 152 yards and a score. In his defense, the play of the line did force him to pass protect more than in prior years.
Watch Out For … Allen to trump Jones as the team's top receiver at some point in 2011. Jones is a quality player, but needs to address his drops this season. Allen is a budding superstar, who'll be even better in his second year on campus. Oh, it'll also help that projected starting quarterback Zach Maynard is his half-brother.
Strength: Size. Of the four receivers on the two-deep, Edmond is the smallest at 6-1 and 203 pounds. All of the Bears are long and quick, with the stride and speed to get behind the secondary. This group will present matchup problems for Pac-12 defensive backs, while supporting the running game with downfield blocks.
Weakness: Consistency. Particularly with a new quarterback being broken in, it's incumbent upon the receivers to eliminate their drops and provide more reliable targets this fall. The passing game has had enough issues lately without having to deal with a nicely thrown ball that fails to get hauled in.
Outlook: If all goes well, the combination of Jones and Allen on the outside and Miller at tight end will be as potent as any trio in the Pac-12. Each has substantial upside potential, especially Allen and Miller, who'll be making a salary run in his finale. The key will be chemistry, developing a comfortable relationship with Maynard, a lefty and former transfer from Buffalo.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: The Bears welcome back three starters to an offensive line that didn't quite reach its full potential in 2010, ranking in the middle of the Pac-10 in rushing and pass protection. Fortunately, the staff has recruited the position well in recent years, and line coach Jim Michalczik is one of the best in the business. There's plenty of experience on the first unit, making building depth and meshing as a cohesive group two of the top priorities of the offseason.
The pillar at left tackle will again be 6-5, 325-pound senior Mitchell Schwartz , an All-Pac-10 second teamer last season. Not only does he have the size and strength to engulf opposing linemen, but he also possesses the feet and good hands to seal off the edge. Although he missed the spring with a back problem, he'll be back in the summer and ready to make a push for maximum exposure in front of national award voters and NFL scouts.
At right tackle, 6-3, 290-pound junior Matt Summers-Gavin is set to fill the void left by Donovan Edwards. One of the line's more versatile blockers, he's started games at left guard in each of the last two seasons. He'll need to improve his feet and pass protection before the start of the year, especially as 6-4, 284-pound junior Tyler Rigsbee continues to improve. One of the top performers of the spring, he earned first team reps on the left side as Schwartz recovered from his injury.
Both of the guards are returning starters. To the right of center will be 6-2, 275-pound senior Justin Cheadle , a third-year starter and steady performer. A nice athlete at the position, he's at his best when pulling, but can be vulnerable against bigger, physical linemen. On the left side is 6-2, 311-pound junior Brian Schwenke, who began the year in the lineup before being displaced by Summers-Gavin. He no doubt has potential, but needs to start delivering on a more consistent basis. Battling Schwenke in the summer will be 6-3, 284-pound Alejandro Crosthwaite , a top recruit who redshirted during his first year on campus.
One of the biggest concerns will be replacing Chris Guarnero at center, a task that now falls to 6-1, 285-pound junior Dominic Galas. One of the line's most physical and intense performers, he's much tougher than his size might indicate and will bring some much-needed attitude to the front wall.
Watch Out For … the staff to flirt with the idea of moving Schwartz from left to right tackle. Yeah, the best pass blocker typically lines up on the left side, but that's because most quarterbacks are right-handed. Projected starter Zach Maynard is a lefty, which could necessitate the relocation.
Strength: The tackles. Regardless of who's on the left and the right side, the Bears will have a solid veteran covering the flanks. Schwartz is a next-level performer, Summers-Gavin has been in the lineup the last two seasons, and Rigsbee proved in the spring to be a capable blocker off the bench.
Weakness: Holding the line. Somewhat undersized, especially to the right of center, Cal has struggled from time to time at the point of attack. Last year's results were mediocre once league play began, including a No. 6 ranking in Pac-10 rushing and No. 62 national standing in sacks allowed.
Outlook: The good news is that Michalczik is on the job, lending promise to an offensive line hoping to elevate beyond mediocrity. While Schwartz is a cut above the rest, the balance of the unit is populated by journeymen likely to have problems versus the Pac-12's better defensive linemen.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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