2014 CFN Preview - California Golden Bears
Cal RB Khalfani Muhammad
Cal RB Khalfani Muhammad
Posted Jul 19, 2014

Preview 2014 - Things can't be any worse at Cal, and they should be far more fun. (Getty Images)

California Golden Bears

Preview 2014

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By Rich Cirminiello
- 2014 California Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

- VOD: College football breakdowns on Campus Insiders

Head coach: Sonny Dykes
2nd year: 1-11
5th year overall: 23-26
Returning Lettermen
Off. 26, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 31
Ten Best Cal Players
1. QB Jared Goff, Soph.
2. WR Bryce Treggs, Jr.
3. WR Chris Harper, Jr.
4. DE Brennan Scarlett, Jr.
5. S Avery Sebastian, Jr.
6. OL Jordan Rigsbee, Soph.
7. LB Jalen Jefferson, Jr.
8. DB Stefan McClure, Jr.
9. RB Khalfani Muhammad, Soph.
10. S Michael Lowe, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 at Northwestern
Sep. 6 Sacramento St
Sep. 20 at Arizona
Sep. 27 Colorado
Oct. 4 at Washington St
Oct. 11 Washington
Oct. 18 UCLA
Oct. 24 Oregon
Nov. 1 at Oregon State
Nov. 13 at USC
Nov. 22 Stanford
Nov. 29 BYU

Hey, at least it can’t get any worse in Berkeley, right?

The Bears hit rock bottom in Sonny Dykes’ debut at the helm, delivering arguably the worst season in the program’s long history. They went 1-11, averting a winless campaign with a 37-30 Week 2 escape of FCS Portland State. Cal has essentially regressed to where it was more than a decade ago, just before Jeff Tedford was hired to replace Tom Holmoe. That sort of collapse is bound to happen when a school loses 20 of its last 22 games with FBS opponents.

While there’s undeniable hope on offense, with young QB Jared Goff and all of his receivers all back, the defense being inherited by new coordinator Art Kaufman is in dire shape. The Bears will look to take small steps this fall, gradually moving beyond the catastrophe that was 2013.

Cal was a defensive horror show last fall, ranking next-to-last nationally in points allowed. Sure, the personnel was average by the Pac-12 measuring stick, but the Bears also got whacked with an unthinkable number of season-ending injuries. Depth was exhausted.

Underclassmen were forced on the field before they were ready. And the team got obliterated on a weekly basis. The well-traveled Kaufman must first repair the kids’ psyches, an achievable task if last year’s infirmed Bears are ready to play.

That Goff-led offense will have to spearhead the charge this season. As a rookie, the quarterback smashed a number of single-season school records. As a sophomore, and an emerging veteran of Dykes’ teachings, he’s being counted on to bring even more pop to the attack.

Goff will be flanked by three of last season’s top four pass-catchers, Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler. The Bears plan to be shootout-capable after the 2013 D yielded more points than at any time in school history.

The storm has passed. The dark clouds have slowly lifted. Cal will continue rebuilding in 2014, with a valuable season of experience for both the young players and the second-year staff now in the bank. It’s been a very busy offseason for Dykes & Co., who’ve been busy sifting through a jumbled roster that’s getting an infusion of veterans who missed considerable time in 2013. If the Bears remain healthy, they can’t help but be more competitive this season.

What to watch for on offense: Who protects the franchise’s blindside? Freddie Tagaloa held the job early last season, got demoted and eventually transferred to Arizona. Christian Okafor stepped in, but performed to mixed reviews. The hope around Strawberry Canyon is that sophomore Steven Moore can handle the shift to left tackle after starting 11 games at right tackle in 2013. In that scenario, Dominic Granado, a transfer from Golden West (Calif.), will battle Okafor for the vacated spot on the right side.

What to watch for on defense: Plugging holes in the interior. Assuming everyone is healthy and available, the Bears are capable of surging ahead in all areas … except defensive tackle. Deandre Coleman exhausted his eligibility, and Viliami Moala gave up his final year as an amateur. A shred of good news comes from the return of Mustafa Jalil, who missed all of 2013 with a knee injury. He’s expected to anchor the nose, while Jacobi Hunter looks to padlock the tackle position. Trevor Kelly has also been brought in from College of San Mateo (Calif.) to provide instant relief and competition.

The team will be far better if… the injury bug has been exterminated. Sure, Cal was bad last season, but losing 13 starters for multiple games contributed to the 1-11 collapse. The Bears have better than one-win talent, provided the depth chart isn’t perpetually taxed by fallen contributors. Since there isn’t much margin for error in Berkeley, Cal has to be whole from September to November. If the team stays healthy during the regular season, many of those young Bears pressed into action in 2013 will now be seasoned performers coming off the bench.

The Schedule: The Bears have a few good chances to come up with a strong season, with the biggest plus coming early on with just two road games - Arizona and Washington State - between September 6th and November 1st. Getting UCLA and USC from the South, along with Arizona, isn't great, but a home game against Colorado will help. Oregon and Stanford are both coming to Berkeley, with The Big Game and the regular season finale againt BYU both at home. The non-conference game isn't easy with the finish against the Cougars and the opener at Northwestern, but the Sacramento State game will be nice target practice.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Jared Goff. As the quarterback goes, so goes the pass-happy Bear Raid offense. Goff showed flashes in his first season out of Marin Catholic (Calif.) High School, setting a handful of Cal single-season passing marks. Beyond just the numbers, the program is ecstatic that its triggerman already has a full season as a starter in Sonny Dykes’ system. Provided he gets help from the O-line, Goff is expected to take another big step forward, especially since he has access to a budding corps of pass-catchers.

Best defensive player: Junior DE Brennan Scarlett. The Cal D needs an exorcism after last season’s defensive debacle. It’ll settle for an improved pass rush, which is where Scarlett enters the discussion. The Bears registered just 18 sacks in 2013, which trickled down and negatively impacted the rest of the defense. Scarlett wasn’t a part of that unit, spending the year rehabbing a hand injury instead. The 6-4, 265-pounder is now back, poised to unleash a combination of edge speed and physicality that could attract the attention of pro scouts.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive linemen. Cal’s quickest path to a 2014 rebound will be paved by the passing game. But the passing game won’t operate even close to peak efficiency if Jared Goff isn’t afforded the time he needs to find an open man. The good news is that the Bears used a slew of underclassmen last season, and senior Chris Adcock is working toward a return from a serious knee injury. The concern, though, rests on whether or not the group can gel and develop in time to keep the pocket clean during the regular season.

The season will be a success if ... the Bears are markedly more competitive than they were a season ago. Forget the record. Cal won’t be bowling in December, and if it wins more than three games, go ahead and label it a major surprise. For Dykes in his second season, he’s aiming to bring this program closer to that point when outcomes are in doubt after halftime. After being outscored by an average of 23 points in 2013, even a few close calls versus Pac-12 opponents will qualify as progress at this downtrodden program.

Key game: Nov. 22 vs. Stanford. Since no single outing is going to dictate how Cal fares in 2014, the Big Game becomes even bigger than usual. This will be the Bears’ proverbial bowl game, since playing in an actual postseason game is extremely doubtful. What better way for a sagging program to capture some late-season momentum than by shocking a heavily-favored rival at home? The Cardinal has dominated in every imaginable facet lately, winning the last four meetings, including last November, 63-13. Cal is hungry for a signature win in the worst way. So is Sonny Dykes, the players and the frustrated throng of loyal fans.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Red-zone touchdown%: Cal 49% – Opponents 67%
- Turnovers: Cal 28 – Opponents 13
- First-half scoring: Cal 146 - Opponents 335

- 2014 California Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players