2014 Cal Preview: What You Need To Know
Cal WR Bryce Treggs
Cal WR Bryce Treggs
Posted Jul 19, 2014

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2014 California Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 California Preview 

What You Need To Know About The Offense: This season in Berkeley will be all about fine-tuning Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid, a spread offense featuring plenty of power running and play-action passing out of shotgun formations. Cal will once be up-tempo, as it looks to dictate the pace of the game. The Bears popped the cork on the Jared Goff era in 2013, handing the ball to a true freshman who delivered mixed results. The promising news is that he’s a year older, wiser and stronger, and he’s surrounded by gifted receivers. Cal will once again amass gaudy numbers through the air, thanks in large part to the presence of receivers Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper, Kenny Lawler and Darius Powe. Dykes is seeking more balance, though, which could be supplied by speedy sophomore RB Khalfani Muhammad. Above all else, the offense needs to become more efficient after ranking 11th in the Pac-12 in both third-down conversions and red-zone touchdowns.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: Coordinator Kent Baer inherited a wreck. The vehicle remained in the ditch in 2013. Last year’s defensive edition was arguably the worst in school history, yielding 46 points a game. The Bears performed like a Big Sky program that was forced to play in the Pac-12 for the first time. The results were hideous, and are unlikely to change overnight. However, Cal takes solace in the return of a handful of talented defenders, such as DE Brennan Scarlett, DT Mustafa Jalil, CB Stefan McClure and S Avery Sebastian, who missed all or most of last season. If the unit can simply remain healthy this year, it can’t help but be better than last fall. While Cal needs help everywhere, it’d really benefit from more pressure up front. Scarlett, in particular, boasts the all-around talent to provide support to a secondary that allowed 32 touchdown passes and picked off just five balls last year.

Players You Need To Know

1. QB Jared Goff, Soph.
Last season marked the beginning of a new era of Cal football, and not just because Sonny Dykes replaced Jeff Tedford on the sidelines. Goff became the first Bear true freshman quarterback to ever start an opener, kicking off an honorable mention All-Pac-12 debut as a collegian. While he was predictably up-and-down as a rookie, he also rewrote the program’s single-season record book by completing 320-of-531 passes for 3,508 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. With a full year in Dykes’ system, expectations are high for Goff in Year 2.

2. WR Bryce Treggs, Jr.
The offense must commit to feeding Treggs more than it did a season ago. In 2013, the two-year starter at “X” caught a team-best 77 passes, but for only 751 yards and a single touchdown. Treggs has to average more than 10 yards a reception, and he has to be employed better in the red zone. The 5-11, 185-pounder is quicker than he is fast, and he runs the most precise routes of any Cal receiver. Above all else, Treggs is dedicated to craft, constantly working away from the field to become the very best receiver he can be.

3. WR Chris Harper, Jr.
While the 5-11, 170-pound Harper is neither the biggest nor the fastest Cal receiver, designations reserved for sophomore Kenny Lawler, he was plenty productive a season ago. He pulled down 70 balls for a team-high 852 yards and five touchdowns. Never was Harper better than when he caught 14 passes for 231 yards and a score in the Oct. 5 loss to Washington State. Bear quarterbacks like to locate No. 6 on the field, because he rarely drops a catchable ball.

4. DE Brennan Scarlett, Jr.
Scarlett is covered in a thick layer of rust that needs to be shaken. But the program loves his potential once he gets back in game shape. The 6-4, 265-pound converted linebacker returned to the field in the spring following a 17-month layoff to recover from a broken left hand and a subsequent serious infection. While Sonny Dykes and the second-year staff have never seen Scarlett in action, they believe he has the right makeup and measurables to blossom into the team’s most feared defender.

5. S Avery Sebastian, Jr.
Cal needs a healthy return from Sebastian, who was a microcosm for the injury-ravaged defense in 2013. The 5-10, 195-pound junior was eyeing a breakout year in Strawberry Canyon, when an Achilles injury shut him down in Week 2. More than just a composition of measurables, Sebastian is loaded with intangibles. The one-time hockey player from Atlanta is an emotional and physical leader, whose work ethic becomes contagious to those around him. This will be a different secondary if Sebastian is healthy for an entire season.

6. OL Jordan Rigsbee, Jr.
In an area of uncertainty, Rigsbee is Cal’s sure-thing up front. The only Bear to start all 24 games over the last two seasons, he’s a natural guard who effortlessly filled in at center over the final eight games of 2013 after Chris Adcock was lost for the year. Rigsbee is a 6-4, 315-pound former blue-chip recruit who’s been playing like one in Berkeley. He’ll be Cal’s most assertive blocker this fall, whether he stays at the pivot or returns back to left guard.

7. LB Jalen Jefferson, Jr.
Jefferson has been so dependable for the Bears the past two seasons that he sometimes gets overlooked. The staff, though, knows what it has in No. 7. Jefferson started all 11 of his games at strongside a year ago, notching 64 tackles, 6.5 stops behind the line and three sacks. At an athletic and agile 6-2 and 220 pounds, he has all of the physical tools needed to once again be effective as a three-down defender at Cal.

8. DB Stefan McClure, Jr.
The Bears are dying to see what McClure can do with a full season on the field. No one, though, is certain when that’ll occur. McClure has lockdown potential, either as a corner or a free safety, but he missed all of 2012 and the final seven games of 2013 to an injury to the same knee. At the time of last year’s injury, he’d made 30 tackles, and led the team with five pass breakups. Regaining the services of a healthy McClure would be a boon to the Cal pass defense.

9. RB Khalfani Muhammad, Soph.
The Air Raid may be built on the passing game, but the offense will benefit from a little more balance in 2014. Muhammad leads the race to become this year’s feature back. As one of the fastest athletes in the Pac-12, the former high school track champion possesses a burst that the Bears hope to better utilize this season. While the 5-7, 170-pound Muhammad started just one game in 2013, he rushed for a Cal-high 445 yards and four touchdowns on 74 carries. He also caught 14 passes for 187 yards and another score, showing soft hands out of the backfield.

10. S Michael Lowe, Sr.
Lowe is the most experienced of the Bear defensive backs, boasting two seasons as a starter. He thought about following some of his defensive teammates into the NFL Draft before deciding to return for his senior year. Lowe is a thumper from free safety, a 5-11, 220-pound who hits like a linebacker. He led Cal with 67 tackles, while adding four stops for loss, five pass breakups and a couple of fumble recoveries.

11. LB Hardy Nickerson, Soph.
Nickerson was born to play linebacker. The son of the former Pro Bowler by the same name started eight games in his debut, making 64 tackles and five stops behind the line before suffering a Lisfranc injury to his foot. Nickerson is just 6-0 and 225 pounds, hardly ideal size in the middle. But he’s extremely smart and instinctive, sniffing out plays before they have a chance to develop. Nickerson missed the spring to rehab his foot, but he’ll be back to contend for his job this summer.

- 2014 California Preview