2013 California Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - California Golden Bear Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: With the arrival of inventive head coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin comes a spread attack that features a lot of power running and play-action passing out of shotgun formations. Cal is going to be up-tempo, looking to dictate the pace of the game. Welcome to the new Bear Raid offense in Berkeley. Does the program have the personnel to adequately impersonate Dykes' Louisiana Tech squad, which led the FBS in scoring in 2012? Not quite. The quarterbacks are green, with redshirt freshman Zach Kline the favorite to be at the controls in September. There's a lot to like about the skill position players, such as RB Brendan Bigelow and an exciting corps of receivers led by Bryce Treggs, but they must remain healthy. Operating out of the shotgun will give the quarterbacks an extra second or two to survey the field and find the open man. Good thing, too, since the retooled O-line had all kinds of problems protecting the pocket last year.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Brendan Bigelow
Rushing: Brendan Bigelow
44 carries, 431 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Chris Harper
41 catches, 544 yds, 2 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman QB Zach Kline
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Bryce Treggs
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Richard Rodgers
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bigelow, 2) Treggs, 3) Rodgers
Strength of the offense: Explosive skill players, receivers, interior of the line
Weakness of the offense: Unproven quarterback, feature back, pass protection
Three men. One golden opportunity to become the triggerman of Sonny Dykes' new Bear Raid attack. Cal held a spring audition to find the successor to Zach Maynard, realizing instead that more time will be needed before a decision can be made. If there's a favorite in the race, it is 6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman Zach Kline. Sure, the four-star recruit from a year ago is raw and inexperienced, but he has the strongest arm of the competitors, and will connect on the move. He just needs to become more consistent with his reads and his throws.
The veteran of the trio is 6-4, 200-pound junior Austin Hinder, though he's yet to attempt a pass with the Bears. More steady than spectacular, he does bring a running element to the offense. Hinder is probably best suited as a backup or as a change-of-pace when the offense seeks more mobility at the position.
True freshman Jared Goff graduated early from high school in order to participate in spring drills and compete for the job. The nation's 21st-ranked quarterback is poised and polished in his mechanics. But he also is very young, and at 6-4 and 185 pounds, in need of more padding. Unless Goff tears it up in the summer, he's likely to be redshirted in 2013.
Watch Out For … Kline to pull away in August. The redshirt freshman started to gain traction during the spring, impressing the new staff with his decisions and throws on intermediate routes. As long as Kline continues to surge forward, it's going to be difficult to keep him from standing on the top pedestal.
Strength: Young arms. Thanks to the recruiting efforts of former head coach Jeff Tedford and new leader Sonny Dykes, the Bears have two freshmen that were coveted by a swath of competing schools on Signing Day in 2012 and 2013. The raw materials are in house. Now it's up to the staff to mold Kline and Goff into consistent producers.
Weakness: Experience. Three quarterbacks. And not one who has even attempted a throw at the college level. There's green, and then there's the level of inexperience that Cal will attempt to navigate in 2013. Oh, and the system is new as well, which pretty much guarantees erratic behavior from the quarterbacks in the fall.
Outlook: The future may be bright behind center in Strawberry Canyon, but there will be unavoidable growing pains before that future is reached. In an ideal scenario for Bears fans, Kline gets progressively more comfortable as the starter for Dykes, Hinder is capable off the bench and Goff learns without using a year of eligibility.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The Bears produced a pair of runners who went for more than 700 yards last season. Both have since graduated. And since the two veteran holdovers were injured in the spring, Cal is staring at a mini-crisis in the backfield. Assuming his surgically-repaired right knee doesn't present problems, junior Brendan Bigelow is in line to become the new starter. He's a dynamic 5-10, 185-pounder, with the second gear to bring opposing defenses to its knees. Bigelow averaged almost 10 yards on last year's 44 carries, rushing for 431 yards and three touchdowns. In one signature afternoon in Columbus, the speedster torched the Ohio State D for 160 yards and two scores on just four touches.
Pushing Bigelow for a starting job will be 6-1, 200-pound sophomore Daniel Lasco. He played sparingly a year ago, earning six carries for 109 yards and a touchdown, while contributing on special teams. The former four-star recruit has the physical package to be the best of the backs, but a shoulder injury prevented him from gaining any traction in the spring.
When Cal operates out of the ‘Bone' formation, 6-0, 240-pound junior Lucas Gingold
will get an opportunity to pound the ball in a short yardage. He's a no-nonsense thumper, with letters from both Cal and Reedley (Calif.) College.
Watch Out For … rookie Khalfani Muhammad. Obviously, depth and experience are issues for the Bears backfield, meaning the school's top recruit at the position will get a chance to play right away. The three-star sleeper is not very big, but he has the jets to instantly become the second-coming of a more durable Bigelow.
Strength: Speed. Bigelow is a homerun hitter, Lasco is a multi-tool guy and Muhammad is going to bring the unit's aggregate 40 time down a tick. The Bear backs can fly, which is going to make them dangerous threats to go the distance as runners, receivers swinging out of the backfield and even as return men.
Weakness: Proven feature backs. Cal has a number of worries at running back, including fumbling problems, durability and a lack of a true workhorse who can tote the ball 20-25 times if needed. Bigelow is more ideally suited to be a third-down weapon and change-of-pace, and Lasco touched the ball just six times on offense last year. The Bears, which haven't had concerns at the position in a decade, could face a precarious situation in 2013.
Outlook: Just because Sonny Dykes runs an up-tempo system doesn't mean the backs will be idle. On the contrary. Louisiana Tech rushed the ball 521 times and scored 47 touchdowns on the ground last year. Dykes and his staff have a proven track record of maximizing backfield talent, but only if the athletes he inherited can remain healthy for an entire season. Bigelow, in particular, has star potential if his right knee can hold up for a full year.
Unit Rating: 6
Cal's first order of business in the passing game will be to replace Keenan Allen, easily the program's top receiver over the past three seasons. Looking to fill some of the void will be second-year Bryce Treggs, a budding superstar within the receiving corps. The 5-11, 175-pounder arrived in 2012 as a five-star gem, debuted with 21 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown in eight starts and is now ready to prepare for lift-off. While Treggs possesses all of the necessary physical skills to blossom, it's his route-routing, soft hands and tireless dedication to improving that has the staff believing he's tailor-made at "X" receiver for the new system.
Sophomore Chris Harper was not the most highly-touted wide receiver in last year's recruiting class. It just appeared that way at times in 2012. The favorite at "H" receiver, or slot made a nice transition to the Pac-12, finishing second on the Bears with 41 catches for 544 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While only 6-0 and 165 pounds, Harper's silky-smooth athletic ability and work ethic shined through repeatedly, helping flatten the learning curve. He did, however, suffer a setback in his evolution, missing the spring following shoulder surgery.
The program is eager to see 6-3, 185-pound redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler in a game setting for the first time this fall. He has dynamite physical qualities, from his size to his leaping ability, and has been a fluid target throughout the offseason. One of the breakout stars of the spring is determined to kickstart his career, while taking catches away from Treggs and Harper.
In the new offense, the Bears' version of a tight end on the inside will be known as the "Y" receiver. The frontrunner is Richard Rodgers, who sat out the spring to recover from injury. The 6-4, 275-pound junior uses his size to overpower and box out defenders, a nice complement to the team's smaller, quicker targets. He started six games in 2012, finishing fourth on the team with 20 grabs for 288 yards and a touchdown.
There'll be lots of competition for playing time when the team reconvenes in the summer. Sophomore Maurice Harris is hoping to make a statement at one of the outside spots. The 6-3, 205-pound gem from 2011 has the size, the hops and the body control to pluck the ball out of the air. He debuted with nine grabs for 99 yards. At "H", 6-2, 215-pound sophomore Maximo Espitia is bucking for a starting job as the team's H-back. He has the size and athleticism to create matchup problems for opposing linebackers.
Watch Out For … at least one of the Cal receivers to make a loud statistical statement this fall. The program has recruited the position very, Allen is no longer around and the new system will cater to the spate of good athletes. It's the perfect storm for the young holdovers.
Strength: Potential. After loading up on gifted receivers in 2011 and especially 2012, Cal is ready to unleash them on the rest of the Pac-12. And just in time, too, as the attack shifts to a four-wide formation. There's a nice blend of speed, size and agility, which should equate to healthy yards per reception numbers.
Weakness: Consistency. Not only are the receivers young, but a few already missed out on a key opportunity to further evolve in the spring. Youth and inexperience will bring periodic inconsistency in the form of dropped throws and poorly-run routes. Further complicating matters in the passing game will be an unproven and unseasoned man behind center.
Outlook: The Bears have a high ceiling at wide receiver, but how long will it be before they're able to actually reach it? The unit could be special in 2014, but will go through the usual learning curve this fall. Treggs and Lawler, in particular, appear to have All-Pac-12 ceilings at some point, and should show flashes of that ability this season.
Unit Rating: 6.5
No unit will be more critical to the success of the 2013 team than an O-line that ranked a dismal 115th nationally in sacks allowed last year. Three starters are back, with 6-4, 325-pound LG Jordan Rigsbee bucking to become the new anchor up front. He's a powerful run blocker, who got better as his first season in the lineup unfolded. The former top recruit will be asked to carry more weight in the trenches than is typically asked of such a young player.
At right guard, 6-3, 310-pound junior Chris Adcock is working hard this offseason to maintain the starting job he held throughout 2012. He missed the spring to rehab an injury, and could be considered at center if no one else steps up to adequately replace departed all-star Brian Schwenke.
For now, the staff is hoping that either 6-2, 335-pound redshirt freshman Matt Cochran or 6-3, 315-pound senior Mark Brazinskican competently handle the center position. Cochran is strong at the point of attack, mature and quickly grasping the intricacies of the position. While Brazinski has been on campus longer, his seniority guarantees little. He struggles with his snaps, hardly something that can be overlooked at this position.
One of the biggest developments—literally—of the offseason has been the play of 6-8, 350-pound sophomore Freddie Tagaloa, who has taken command of the opening at left tackle. Obviously, he's big and strong, and tough to disengage from one he locks on. But for Tagaloa to take the next step, he'll need to build on his spring performance, improving his overall technique and flexibility as a pass protector.
Forming a bookend with Tagaloa will be veteran RT Bill Tyndall. The 6-4, 285-pound senior is making a shift outside after being a part-time starter at guard a season ago. He's a serviceable all-around blocker, who struggled at times in 2012, and the rear end of spring drills to a broken ankle.
Watch Out For … the snaps. Center is a pivotal position for every O-line, but especially one that heavily employs the shotgun. Brazinski does not appear to be the answer, which means either Cochran must continue to develop between now and the opener, or one of the team's guards is about be cross-trained.
Strength: Run blocking. The Bears are likely to be at their best when powering the ball on the ground right at the midsection of the opposing D. This is going to be a physical collection of blockers, especially on the interior, where Rigsbee, Cochran and Adcock average 325 pounds, and are capable of standing their ground.
Weakness: Pass protection. New season, same nagging problem for a unit that has for years had problems keeping the pocket clean. Cal got schooled by opposing pass rushers in 2012, and don't figure to get much better now that Schwenke and T Matt Summers-Gavin are gone. Tyndall is a journeyman and Tagaloa, despite his potential, is still just a second-year sophomore.
Outlook: Whatever gains the offensive line makes in 2013 are likely to be incremental. The Bears are in the midst of replacing three of last season's starters, and depth is likely to be an issue throughout the campaign. Oh, and not only will pass protection continue to haunt the offense, but the presence of an inexperienced starting quarterback will only increase the number of sacks allowed. Of all the problems facing Cal this fall, the condition of the line is arguably the most pressing one.
Unit Rating: 6
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