Jeff Tedford faces an important season in 2012 with the California Bears. After years of success near the top of the Pac-12, the Bears have fallen on some tough times, finishing no better than fourth in the conference since 2007. With a new stadium in place on campus, the heat is on for the Bears to make a move back towards the upper echelon of the conference. Can Tedford turn it around in his 11th training camp?
Cal will start their quest to compete with the opening of training camp. What questions will the Bears need to answer?
How deep are the Bears in playmakers?
The whole world knows about Cal’s stud wide receiver Keenan Allen by this point as he has made just about every preseason watch list for offensive awards this year. There’s also Isi Sofele running the ball out of the backfield. Beyond that? Things get thin. Expect to see plenty of youth take the field, including incoming freshman Bryce Treggs. The young wideout is a five-star recruit who is lauded for his route-running, great hands, and elusiveness after the catch. He likely would have been in the rotation at receiver to begin with, but the thin crop of playmakers in the Bears offense will get him on the field even quicker than expected and force him into a bigger role his freshman season.
Can Zach Maynard mature into a top quarterback?
On paper, the Bears look pretty good at the quarterback position. Zach Maynard comes back after a pretty good first season in Tedford’s offense, throwing for 2,990 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has the raw talent to have one of the best seasons ever for a Tedford QB, but he needs to take some steps to mature in his second season at Berkeley. He needs to improve his accuracy after completing just 57 percent of his passes in 2011. For Cal to succeed, he’ll need to get that number north of 60 percent. He’ll also need to cut down on mental mistakes and forced passes, as he tended to run into trouble (throwing 12 interceptions) when the primary receiver was covered. Part of his success will be the Cal coaching staff utilizing Maynard’s talents as an athlete and not confining him as a pocket-passer.
Who will kick the football in Berkeley?
The kicking game is always an important cog to any season, and Cal has plenty of question marks to figure out. Giorgio Tavecchio was an honorable-mention all-league placekicker for Cal in 2011, and Bryan Anger was a game changer in the punting game. Anger was easily the best special teams player last season for Cal who routinely changed the landscape of the game with his big punts. He was so good, in fact, that he got drafted in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rich Eisen didn’t understand it, but Cal fans who watched Anger kick the team out of bad field position again and again can see why they’d pick him. Replacing this duo is a pair of untested legs. Vincenzo D’Amato, who hasn’t kicked a field goal since 2009, takes over the placekicking duties and Cole Leininger, a freshman, will try and fill the deep kicking shoes of Anger.
What will the offensive line look like?
The Bears have plenty of warm bodies to fill the offensive line, but nobody has really set themselves apart as of yet. The situation took on even greater urgency after guard Dominic Galas went down with a torn pectoral muscle and will be out for the next several months at least. It could be any combination of Christian Okafor or Matt Cochran or Geoffrey Gibson or Chris Adcock or Steven Moore or Freddie Tagaloa or Tyler Rigsbee or Jordan Rigsbee, just to name a few. At this point, you could draw five names out of a hat and have about as much of an idea on who the starting five will be for Cal on the front line. Some of these guys will have to step up in a big way if Cal hopes to improve its fortunes in 2012.
The Cal Bears have some very intriguing talent to watch this upcoming season, but the offense and special teams are still filled with question marks. Jeff Tedford and his staff will need to find some answers quickly to be ready for the opening kickoff September 1.
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