CFN Preview 2013 - California Golden Bears
California RB Brendan Bigelow
California RB Brendan Bigelow
Posted Jun 29, 2013 2013 Preview - California Golden Bears

California Golden Bears

Preview 2013

- 2013 California Preview | 2013 California Offense
- 2013 California Defense | 2013 California Depth Chart
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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Sonny Dykes
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22  
Ten Best California Players
1. NT Deandre Coleman, Sr.
2. DE Chris McCain, Jr.
3. RB Brendan Bigelow, Jr.
4. WR Bryce Treggs, Soph.
5. LB Nick Forbes, Jr.
6. CB Stefan McClure, Soph.
7. WR Chris Harper, Soph.
8. OG Jordan Rigsbee, Soph.
9. DE Brennan Scarlett, Jr.
10. WR Richard Rodgers, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Northwestern
9/7 Portland State
9/14 Ohio State
9/28 at Oregon
10/5 Washington State
10/12 at UCLA
10/19 Oregon State
10/26 at Washington
11/2 Arizona
11/9 USC
11/16 at Colorado
11/23 at Stanford
After more than a decade, Jeff Tedford was forced to hang up his tool belt. Sonny Dykes has been hired to finish what his predecessor had built.

Tedford took Cal about as far as he could, failing in his attempt to recapture the momentum he'd created early in his tenure. In 2002, the coach inherited a team that went 1-10, and promptly guided it to eight consecutive winning seasons. Over the last three years, he hit a brick wall, going just 15-22, and sinking into Pac-12 obscurity. The fact that rival Stanford has been to three BCS bowl games in a row made the decision to release Tedford that much easier.

Enter Dykes, a Mike Leach disciple, who parlayed his last two seasons at Louisiana Tech into an enormous promotion at the age of 43. Not only did the Bulldogs go 17-8 since 2011, but the up-tempo, wide-open offense led the FBS last year with 52 points and 578 yards per game. The Bears are hoping to tap into the genius of a man who was able to briefly put a team from Ruston on the national scene last fall.

Cal is fresh off a brutal 3-9 campaign, in which it totally collapsed down the stretch. The encouraging news is that Tedford and his staff perennially did a commendable job of attracting quality recruits to Berkeley. The concern? The program is young, with not nearly enough firepower on either side of the ball to make an immediate splash in a deep Pac-12 North.

Dykes' attack will be fast-paced, employing a heavy dose of north-south running and play-action passing out of shotgun formations. The coach's top two priorities in the summer will be to anoint a starting quarterback to supplant Zach Maynard, and coach up a suspect O-line. Three young Bears have zero attempted passes between them, but the team only needs one to be just right by September. The inability to develop a franchise quarterback was central to Tedford's downfall.

Dykes hired young Andy Buh away from Wisconsin to coordinate a defense that was miserable down the stretch in 2012. Consistent with the offense, the D will be learning new terminology and an entirely new scheme as it moves from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The secondary is missing three starters, but the return of CB Stefan McClure from a season-long knee injury will help ease the transition.

Cal completed an impressive $321 million modernization of Memorial Stadium last year. Now it needs to get the rest of its house in order. With a new staff, a kinetic offense and a renewed energy, the Bears are determined to begin completing the unfinished business of the previous regime.

What to watch for on offense: Is Kline next in line? The staff auditioned three inexperienced quarterbacks for the opening left by Zach Maynard's graduation, but conventional wisdom says that redshirt freshman Zach Kline will be in the huddle when Northwestern visits on Aug. 31. While rookie Jared Goff and vet Austin Hinder won't go away without a fight, Kline clearly possesses the best tools to succeed in the up-tempo spread system. He's precocious, equipped with a strong arm and skilled at making connections on the move. There'll be growing pains, for sure, but Kline plus Sonny Dykes should equal robust numbers in the passing game before too long.

What to watch for on defense: The transition of former outside linebackers to defensive end. The new 4-3 in Berkeley is only going to work if Chris McCain, Brennan Scarlett and Dan Camporeale, career linebackers, prove they can handle the rigors and assignments associated with being down linemen. At 265 pounds, the relocation will be less noticeable for Scarlett. McCain, though, is an explosive 6-6, 215-pounder who's going to spend less time freelancing out in space. He needs to get bigger and stronger in order to become the pass-rushing force that the staff believes he's capable of becoming.

The team will be far better if… the D begins stepping up when it matters. The Bears defense wasn't just bad last season; it was bad at the worst possible times. On third downs, Cal ranked 101st in the country. And in the red zone, the team stood 106th in red zone touchdowns permitted. From the front end to the back end, it's imperative that the Bears develop a knack for making timely stops, or else it'll once again heap way too much pressure on the offense.

The Schedule: It's probably going to take an upset or three to get to six wins, and with nine games against teams that went bowling last season, it's not going to be easy. The Sonny Dykes era starts out with a bang with Northwestern and Ohio State coming to Berkeley in the first three weeks, and with Portland State in between, going 2-1 is a must before getting a week off to prepare for a road trip to Oregon. There aren't many breaks in the Pac-12 schedule outside of getting Colorado from the South. Arizona, UCLA and USC are the three other interdivisional games, and the toughest North games – Oregon, Stanford and Washington – are all on the road.

The only slight breather is at home against Washington State, but that's sandwiched in between the road games at Oregon and UCLA. Taking advantage of home games against Oregon State and Arizona is a must, and any reasonable hope of going bowling is gone without a win at Colorado.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Brendan Bigelow. There's a degree of speculation associated with everyone on a Cal offense that returns no one who earned All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. Bigelow is a risky choice, because he missed the spring to heal a surgically-repaired right knee. However, when healthy, he's an explosive weapon, with the speed to be dynamite in the new offense. The 5-10, 185-pound jackrabbit touched the ball 51 times last year, producing 532 yards and four touchdowns. Sonny Dykes' attack was a star maker for running backs at Louisiana Tech. Bigelow is banking on becoming the next prolific runner in the system.

Best defensive player: Senior NT Deandre Coleman. Coleman is enormous, light on his feet and determined to deliver his best season in Berkeley. In other words, he's the kind of interior lineman NFL teams are after. The 6-5, 320-pounder made 48 tackles, 8.5 stops behind the line and three sacks as an end in 2012, but is far better suited to use his power and quickness against guards and centers. After somewhat disappointing with his performance in 2012, Coleman has ample motivation to piece together the type of finale that garners All-Pac-12 recognition by December.

Key players to a successful season: The O-line. The new staff really likes the skill players it inherited, such as RB Brendan Bigelow and receivers Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler, but it won't matter if the blockers don't improve. A year ago, Cal was a miserable 115th nationally in sacks allowed, snuffing out much of the offense's potential. The interior has upside potential, especially now that G Jordan Rigsbee is back for Year 2. However, the tackles are green, and blindside protector Freddie Tagaloa has no starting experience.

The season will be a success if ... Cal returns to the postseason. While it's doubtful the Bears are going to compete this early in the Pac-12 North, tangible signs of progress in Sonny Dykes' first season are a must. A bonus game—any bonus game—in December will qualify. The schedule, which includes non-conference games with Northwestern and Ohio State, is salty, so it could be a fight to get to six wins. Cal, though, is hoping to get a similar bump that UCLA received after Jim Mora was hired prior to the 2012 season.

Key game: Nov. 23 vs. Stanford. Sure, Cal will get plenty of chances to make a statement with a schedule that's littered with name brand opponents, but everything pales in comparison to the Big Game. The Cardinal has won three straight in the storied series, keeping the Bears out of the end zone last October. This will be a perfect opportunity for Sonny Dykes to garner some positive attention in Northern California at the expense of one of the Pac-12's premier defenses.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Touchdown passes: Cal 13 – Opponents 32
- Third-down percentage: Cal 35% – Opponents 45%
- First-quarter scoring: Cal 34 - Opponents 107

- 2013 California Preview | 2013 California Offense
- 2013 California Defense | 2013 California Depth Chart