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1. Halfway there
Coaches far more successful than Sonny Dykes have had awful first years.
You have issues at quarterback, you suffer general attrition, your two-deep features a terrifying number of freshmen and sophomores, and voila, you lose most of your games.
If not for a late comeback against mighty Portland State in 2013, California would have lost all of its games in Dykes' first season. With an inconsistent young offense and a dreadful young defense, against a schedule that featured six teams with at least nine wins, the Bears weren't ready. Average score against those six excellent teams: Opponent 52, Cal 20.
The quicker you can turn the page after a painful Year Zero, the better.
And on one side of the ball, the Bears moved on as quickly as possible. The Golden Bears improved from 67th to 30th in Off. S&P+. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for almost 4,000 yards with a 35-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio, thriving on passing downs. Four players had at least 580 receiving yards, and Daniel Lasco became Cal's first 1,000-yard rusher in three seasons. The Bears gained at least 500 yards seven times and scored at least 30 points 10 times. This was the offense we expect from a Dykes team.
By September 6, Cal had won more games than it had in 2013. The Bears would start 4-1 before struggling with a brutal schedule; they scored their fifth win at Oregon State but lost four times to teams in the F/+ top 20 and dropped a home heartbreaker to BYU to finish just short of bowl eligibility.
Anytime you win 400 percent more than you did the year before, the season is a success. And 2014 was a clear step forward ... on one side of the ball.
In those losses to F/+ top-20 teams, the Cal offense averaged 31 points and 430 yards. The Cal defense allowed 43 points and 506 yards per game. The Bears allowed 630 yards to Colorado, then 812 to Washington State. They were decent against the run but apocalyptic against the pass, not a good arrangement in a conference where almost everybody can pass really well.
Over the last three seasons (including his last year at Louisiana Tech), Dykes' defenses have ranked 115th, 114th, and 108th in Def. S&P+. Granted, a bad D wasn't enough to hold back a weaponized O at Tech -- Dykes' Bulldogs still went 9-3 -- but it's an impediment in college football's second-best conference.
A team this dedicated to tempo passing can succeed with minimal depth and structure on defense, but that's clearly a hurdle Dykes' Bears still have to clear. And with both Washington and Oregon State going through transition and Washington State battling its own defensive demons, this wouldn't be the worst year for Cal to learn to make some stops.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 65|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|4-Oct||at Washington State||77||60-59||W||30%||-12.5||20%|
|1-Nov||at Oregon State||74||45-31||W||51%||0.5||54%|
|Points Per Game||38.3||11||39.8||123|
2. Diminishing returns
The October 4 game between Cal and Washington State was a long, exhausting, hilarious affair. WSU gained 812 yards to Cal's 589, but both teams averaged more than 8 yards per play, and the game ended up turning because of special teams: Trevor Davis returned two third-quarter kickoffs for touchdowns (which contributed to a ridiculous stretch of four combined touchdowns in just over three minutes), and, with WSU down 1, the Cougars missed a 19-yard field goal in the final minute.
The game was a classic in its own way, and it apparently left both teams as shells of their former selves. Wazzu played at a far lower level after the game, and so did Cal.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 4 games): 71% (~top 40 | record: 3-1)
- Average Percentile Performance (last 8 games): 39% (~top 80 | record: 2-6)
The win made the Bears 4-1 even though they hadn't played well in Pullman; in terms of F/+ rankings, the best opportunities for a fifth and sixth win were going to come against Washington at home the next week and Oregon State on the road in November. Cal took down OSU, but the Bears were lifeless in a 24-point loss to the Huskies. That loss would haunt them.
Five games in, Cal was averaging 7.3 yards per play and allowing 5.9. Over the final seven, the Bears averaged 5.3 and allowed 6.5.
Part of that was obviously due to an increase in schedule strength -- four of their five weakest opponents came up in the first five games -- but even adjusting for that, the Bears fell flat. The defense was banged up (facing 106 snaps against Arizona, 110 against Colorado, and 95 against WSU made it feel like they had already played an extra game), and the passing game went from torrid to fine.
Depth should be far less of an issue. Cal returns eight of its top 10 linemen (plus a starter who missed 2014), virtually every linebacker, and six of the top eight defensive backs. Sophomores littered last year's two-deep and are now juniors. And the recruiting class includes both high-three and four-star talent and a few JUCOs to liven things up.
Oh yeah, and the offense returns eight starters, including every running back and all but one wideout. Depth: check! Now we just need to find out about the talent.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||45.2%||33||Succ. Rt. +||112.0||30|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.4||96||Def. FP+||96.0||108|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.8||31||Redzone S&P+||107.3||47|
|Q1 Rk||30||1st Down Rk||16|
|Q2 Rk||61||2nd Down Rk||55|
|Q3 Rk||6||3rd Down Rk||4|
3. And they were young, too
Cal's offense faded, but for the season, the Bears were still dramatically improved. That makes sense considering how many freshmen and sophomores the Bears were playing in 2013.
Junior quarterback Goff's passer rating improved from 123.0 to 147.6 last year, and he'll have a chance to top 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns this year. After two years as a bit player, running back Daniel Lasco found his form, gaining nearly 1,500 combined yards. The Bears basically had three No. 1 receivers in Kenny Lawler (83 targets), Chris Harper (81), and Bryce Treggs (81), and two return, as do all five players targeted between 27 and 65 times. And the experience continues up front: five players with starting experience (80 career starts) are back.
Cal's variety and relentless tempo were too much for iffy defenses. The next trick: damaging good defenses. The Bears had their moments, averaging 8 yards per play against Arizona (48th in Def. S&P+) and 6 against Oregon (28th), but they averaged 5.4 against Stanford (fifth), 5.0 against UCLA (25th), and 4.9 against USC (35th).
Tempo only works if you're getting first downs; otherwise you're just failing at mach speed. The offense's high-tempo, mediocre performances only exacerbated defensive issues. Thanks to the pure number of reps this year's first team will have gotten together, you have to figure the Bears will improve offensively once more.
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension/position change.
|Jared Goff||6'4, 210||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9127||316||509||3973||35||7||62.1%||25||4.7%||7.1|
|Luke Rubenzer||6'0, 190||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8472||12||21||166||2||3||57.1%||2||8.7%||6.7|
|Chase Forrest||6'3, 190||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8232|
|Ross Bowers||6'2, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697|
|Daniel Lasco||RB||6'0, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9019||210||1115||12||5.3||4.0||44.8%||3||2|
|Luke Rubenzer||QB||6'0, 190||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8472||50||218||3||4.4||3.1||38.0%||2||1|
|Khalfani Muhammad||RB||5'9, 170||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8768||46||215||4||4.7||5.6||30.4%||0||0|
|Vic Enwere||RB||6'1, 225||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8535||34||193||2||5.7||4.7||47.1%||1||0|
|Jared Goff||QB||6'4, 210||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9127||30||150||0||5.0||3.0||53.3%||9||4|
|Tre Watson||RB||5'10, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8608||25||94||1||3.8||2.1||36.0%||0||0|
|Jeffrey Coprich||RB||5'8, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7913|
|Lonny Powell||RB||5'11, 210||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8827|
4. A few more big run plays wouldn't hurt
The line should be solid, and Goff is attracting attention as a potential 2016 draftee. The backbone of the offense is solid. Really, the one area of improvement could be the number of big plays the Bears produce, especially on the ground.
Lasco, Khalfani Muhammad, Vic Enwere, and Tre Watson combined for about 26 carries per game, and while Lasco was the primary ball-carrier, the backups were a little more explosive (and less reliable). With quarterback Luke Rubenzer moving to safety, Cal won't have the mobile element at QB -- it'll be all Goff. So the backs will be asked to create a little bit more; will that mean more carries for the backups? Does Lasco have a gear we haven't seen yet?
If the passing game does better against good defenses, the added stress could open up a few more lanes for the backs.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Kenny Lawler||WR-Z||6'3, 195||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9011||83||54||701||65.1%||16.4%||60.2%||8.4||50||8.4||101.0|
|Bryce Treggs||WR-H||5'11, 185||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9591||81||52||583||64.2%||16.0%||56.8%||7.2||-46||7.2||84.0|
|Stephen Anderson||WR-Y||6'3, 220||Sr.||NR||NR||65||46||661||70.8%||12.8%||53.8%||10.2||115||10.2||95.2|
|Maurice Harris||WR-Z||6'2, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.7662||47||25||252||53.2%||9.3%||66.0%||5.4||-62||5.4||36.3|
|Daniel Lasco||RB||6'0, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9019||41||33||356||80.5%||8.1%||63.4%||8.7||-28||8.8||51.2|
|Trevor Davis||WR-X||6'2, 180||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||39||24||399||61.5%||7.7%||59.0%||10.2||106||10.2||57.4|
|Darius Powe||WR-Y||6'3, 220||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9153||27||20||328||74.1%||5.3%||59.3%||12.1||92||12.2||47.2|
|Khalfani Muhammad||RB||5'9, 170||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8768||11||7||63||63.6%||2.2%||36.4%||5.7||-22||4.7||9.1|
|Raymond Hudson||FB/WR||6'3, 235||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8267||10||8||124||80.0%||2.0%||60.0%||12.4||31||12.5||17.9|
|Matt Rockett||WR-H||5'10, 180||So.||NR||NR||4||3||18||75.0%||0.8%||75.0%||4.5||-17||3.5||2.6|
|Jack Austin||WR-X||6'3, 210||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8404|
|Chad Hansen||WR-X||6'2, 195||So.||NR||NR|
|Patrick Laird||WR||6'0, 210||So.||NR||NR|
|Kenny Portera||WR||5'10, 175||So.||NR||NR|
|Erik Brown||WR-Z||6'1, 175||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9306|
|Carlos Strickland||WR||6'5, 200||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9261|
|Jaylinn Hawkins||WR||6'1, 200||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9019|
|Austin Aaron||WR||6'5, 210||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8593|
|Kanawai Noa||WR||6'0, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8528|
|Brandon Singleton||WR||6'0, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8506|
|Greyson Bankhead||WR||5'10, 160||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460|
5. All the receivers you could want
Considering the potential 2016 reset -- Goff could be gone, and five of this year's top six returning wideouts are seniors -- now would be a good time for the passing game to peak.
Lord knows a lot of players were trending in the right direction. Lawler emerged as a lovely go-to option. After missing the Oregon State game with injury, he caught 25 passes for 297 yards and three scores (all against BYU) in the final three games. That's a 100-catch, 1,200-yard pace projected over a full season.
Perhaps the most interesting breakout belonged to Stephen Anderson, an unheralded receiver/tight end who nearly quadrupled his receptions total and had a couple of huge performances in close wins: seven catches for 136 yards against Colorado and nine for 117 against Oregon State.
Between Lawler, Anderson, possession man Bryce Treggs, Trevor Davis, Darius Powe, Cal has too many experienced receivers to keep satisfied. Meanwhile, exciting players like sophomore Jack Austin, redshirt freshman Erik Brown, and a load of higher-upside freshmen are just waiting. They'll get their turns in 2016, but it will be interesting to see who among the youngsters breaks into such an experienced rotation.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Jordan Rigsbee||RG||6'4, 300||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9147||36|
|Steven Moore||LT||6'6, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8288||23|
|Chris Borrayo||LG||6'3, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8272||16|
|Matt Cochran||C||6'3, 295||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8823||4|
|Brian Farley||RT||6'7, 280||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||NR||1|
|Dominic Granado||LT||6'4, 290||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7826||0|
|Myles Bunte||OL||6'7, 335||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8934||0|
|Aaron Cochran||LT||6'8, 335||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8678||0|
|J.D. Hinnant||LG||6'4, 290||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8525||0|
|Vincent Johnson||RT||6'5, 295||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7994||0|
|Addison Ooms||C||6'4, 290||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Michael Trani||OL||6'3, 290||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8217|
|Semisi Uluave||OL||6'5, 235||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8907|
|Ryan Gibson||OL||6'3, 265||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8544|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||47.5%||119||Succ. Rt. +||93.3||96|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.6||54||Off. FP+||102.0||38|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.0||117||Redzone S&P+||94.1||90|
|Q1 Rk||86||1st Down Rk||107|
|Q2 Rk||92||2nd Down Rk||101|
|Q3 Rk||104||3rd Down Rk||124|
6. The run defense wasn't awful (but nobody chose to run)
Cal was pretty stiff in short-yardage situations and allowed only 10 carries of 20-plus yards all season. The Bears ranked 59th in Rushing Success Rate+, got a nice push in the middle from tackles Mustafa Jalil, Trevor Kelly, and Austin Clark (two of whom return), and benefited from strong pursuit by linebackers Michael Barton, Jalen Jefferson, and Jake Kearney (combined: 14.5 non-sack tackles for loss).
Cal didn't have a great run defense, but it got the job done.
Unfortunately, nobody had to worry about running because, at 121st in Passing S&P+, California had the worst power-conference pass defense in the country. The only FBS defenses with worse: Idaho, UNLV, Old Dominion, UMass, WKU, SMU, and Tulsa. Yuck.
The failure was comprehensive. Cal had the third-worst pass rush in the country (the only teams that generated less pressure: Navy and New Mexico State) and defensed only 51 passes (80th in the country) despite opponents passing non-stop.
You name it, and it was an issue. Youth? Definitely -- four of the top five tacklers in the secondary were freshmen or sophomores. Injuries? Yep. Cal had 14 DBs who averaged at least 0.5 tackles per game, and only four played in all 12 contests. A couple of wideouts (Bryce McGovern, Patrick Worstell) even got a shot.
With so much returning for coordinator Art Kaufman in the front seven, one can assume the run defense will again be decent. And with 11 of 14 DBs back, experience at least won't be as much of an issue. But wow, does the pass defense have a long way to go to simply be mediocre.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Mustafa Jalil||DT||6'3, 300||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9254||12||24.5||3.4%||5.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Kyle Kragen (2013)||DE||6'2, 245||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7959||12||22.5||3.3%||4.5||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Todd Barr||DE||6'2, 245||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9515||12||14.5||2.0%||4.0||2.0||0||0||2||0|
|Trevor Kelly||DT||6'2, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8514||12||14.0||1.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Noah Westerfield||DE||6'3, 245||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8383||12||13.0||1.8%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jonathan Johnson||DE||6'2, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8464||7||11.0||1.5%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tony Mekari||DE||6'1, 280||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8210||12||11.0||1.5%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Marcus Manley||DT||6'2, 300||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7483||12||7.5||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Puka Lopa||DE||6'2, 260||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8168||10||6.0||0.8%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|David Davis||DT||6'1, 290||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8161||10||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kennedy Emesibe||DE||6'3, 255||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8479|
|DeVante Wilson||DE||6'5, 255||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8317|
|DT||6'3, 285||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8397|
|Russell Ude||DE||6'4, 250||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8721|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Michael Barton||WILL||6'0, 230||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9185||12||58.5||8.1%||7.5||1.5||0||2||0||0|
|Hardy Nickerson||MIKE||6'0, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8121||12||51.0||7.1%||2.0||0.0||1||0||1||1|
|Jalen Jefferson||SAM||6'2, 235||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8781||12||45.5||6.3%||6.5||2.0||1||1||0||0|
|Jake Kearney||SAM||6'3, 220||Jr.||NR||NR||10||29.5||4.1%||4.0||0.0||1||2||0||0|
|Devante Downs||MIKE||6'3, 245||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8891||12||26.5||3.7%||5.0||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Arthur Wainwright||LB||6'3, 215||Sr.||NR||NR||11||7.5||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Raymond Davison||SAM||6'2, 225||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8277||11||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Aisea Tongilava||WILL||6'1, 220||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8244||8||4.5||0.6%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Hamilton Anoa'i||SAM||6'3, 235||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8253||11||4.5||0.6%||1.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Nathan Broussard||LB||6'3, 250||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8389|
|Maximo Espitia||LB||6'2, 235||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8148|
7. Wanted: a pass rush, even a mediocre one
The non-existent pass rush can't be pinned on the secondary, at least not really. Sure, quarterbacks didn't have to wait long to find an open receiver, as evidenced by their 65 percent completion rate.
But as decent as Cal was against the run, the Bears liked to leave QBs upright. The Bears faced more than 45 pass attempts per game and somehow managed just 16 sacks. Sixteen! In 560 attempts! Linebacker Devante Downs had three sacks in reserve opportunities ... and nobody else had more than two.
The return of senior Kyle Kragen will help; he missed 2014 with mono, and his three 2013 sacks would have tied for the team lead last year. And between sophomores Noah Westerfield and Tony Mekari, seniors Puka Lopa and Jonathan Johnson, and perhaps freshmen Kennedy Emesibe and Russell Ude, surely someone else will emerge as a replacement-level pass rusher, right? And maybe Downs will develop further? Right?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Cameron Walker||CB||5'11, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8666||12||46.5||6.4%||0.5||0||1||4||0||0|
|Cedric Dozier||CB||5'10, 180||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8923||12||41.5||5.7%||1||0||0||5||0||0|
|Stefan McClure||FS||5'11, 200||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9394||8||39.0||5.4%||1.5||0||1||0||0||1|
|Griffin Piatt||S||6'3, 200||Jr.||NR||NR||6||32.5||4.5%||1||1||3||6||0||0|
|Darius Allensworth||CB||5'11, 190||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8630||12||26.0||3.6%||1||1||0||6||0||0|
|Darius White||CB||6'1, 180||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8585||10||21.0||2.9%||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|Joel Willis (2013)||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8585||10||19.0||2.8%||0.5||0||0||3||1||0|
|Caleb Coleman||CB||6'0, 185||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8119||9||12.5||1.7%||0||0||2||3||0||0|
|Patrick Worstell||DB||6'2, 190||Jr.||NR||NR||8||5.5||0.8%||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Trey Cheek||CB||5'10, 175||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8369||6||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|David Garner||S||5'9, 195||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||3||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|A.J. Greathouse||CB||6'0, 190||So.||NR||NR||9||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Luke Rubenzer||S||6'0, 190||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8472|
|Quentin Tartabull||S||5'11, 190||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8514|
|Antoine Albert||DB||6'1, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8590|
|Khari Vanderbilt||DB||6'2, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8356|
|Derron Brown||S||6'2, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8116|
|Malik Psalms||DB||6'3, 175||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8646|
|Trey Turner||DB||6'2, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8435|
8. Find a first string, then keep it on the field
Darius Allensworth led Cal cornerbacks with six passes defensed as a freshman. Caleb Coleman had five in minimal opportunities. Trey Cheek made a couple of plays in even fewer opportunities. Cameron Walker and Cedric Dozier are juniors now. Darius White is a senior. Joel Willis is back after missing almost all of 2014 with injury.
At safety, Stefan McClure is both a rare senior and former four-star recruit. Converted receiver Patrick Worstell made a couple of plays. JUCO transfer Derron Brown made an immediate impact this spring. Converted quarterback Luke Rubenzer looked decent.
Two more JUCO transfers could hit the rotation, as could star freshman Malik Psalms.
And hey, the names here are great: Psalms, Vanderbilt, Greathouse, Cheek, Tartabull, Piatt. Sounds like members of a country club waiting list. (And that says nothing of 2015 signee Evan Rambo.)
There are options here, is what I'm trying to say. Decent potential, none proven.
McClure, Worstell, Tartabull, Trey Cheek, and Griffin Piatt were all hurt this spring, and granted, Dykes said "the safety situation is a little bit of a mess." I'm trying here. Find your four or five best players, find a couple of decent backups, hope they stay healthy, hope the pass rush ... well ... exists ... and you've got an improved defense.
|Cole Leininger||6'1, 200||Sr.||52||39.8||5||17||16||63.5%|
|Jared Goff||6'4, 210||Jr.||3||40.7||1||0||2||66.7%|
|Tre Watson||KR||5'10, 195||So.||20||20.4||0|
|Khalfani Muhammad||KR||5'9, 170||Jr.||14||20.6||0|
|Trevor Davis||KR||6'2, 180||Sr.||13||32.6||2|
|Trevor Davis||PR||6'2, 180||Sr.||8||8.8||0|
|Special Teams F/+||72|
|Field Goal Efficiency||71|
|Punt Return Efficiency||43|
|Kick Return Efficiency||26|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||21|
9. Wanted: better legs
It speaks volumes that opponents were kicking off enough for three different Cal return men to have at least 13 returns, but returns were a strength. Punt returns were consistent, and kick returns (especially Trevor Davis') were explosive. But Cal's own kicks/punts and coverage were lacking, and while James Langford wasn't amazing on kickoffs, he was automatic inside of 40 yards as a place-kicker. His absence could be felt in that regard.
Cal would have produced strong special teams ratings with decent kicks. We'll see if that changes.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|12-Sep||San Diego State||77|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-6.3% (72)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||46 / 28|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-3 / -8.6|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||+2.3|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||17 (8, 10)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||4.7 (0.3)|
10. Play well at home
Cal's in a weird place. The Bears don't enjoy a lustrous history; before Jeff Tedford showed up in 2002, they had been to six bowls and finished ranked four times in the previous 50 years. So they don't hold any long-term entitlement to success.
But Tedford engineered a sustained period of solid football -- at least seven wins every year from 2002-09, plus 10-win, top-15 campaigns in 2004 and 2006 -- and over the last five years, Cal has recruited at a top-30 level. So nine wins in three seasons is far below the realm of acceptability.
It's easy to see the Bears improving further, but it's hard to see the win total increasing beyond about 6-6 or 7-5. If the old "defense travels" truism holds, and if defense is still Cal's bugaboo, then the schedule isn't kind: five road opponents are projected top-40 teams, and the sixth (No. 55 Washington) isn't that far off the mark. If you go 1-5 or 0-6 on the road, then you have to basically win out at home to reach a bowl, and that means going 1-1 against Arizona State and USC.
The Pac-12 North is in a bit of transition. Oregon is replacing some of its stars, Stanford's season could go in quite a few different directions, Washington State's ceiling is probably 6-6 or so, and Washington and Oregon State are undergoing facelifts. Now would be a good time for Cal to put a semi-competent defense on the field and win some games.
But the odds are still in favor of a poor defense and a record that tops out around 6-6. Cal games are high-scoring and entertaining, and the Bears' offense should be fantastic, but at some point Cal fans are going to demand a little more.