Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 74 California Golden Bears

By David LaRose
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Rant Sports 100 in 100 College Football Previews roll on today and it makes a stop in Berkley with the Cal Bears who come in at No. 74.

Cal is finally moving on from the Jeff Tedford era and they are hoping new coach Sonny Dykes can revitalize a struggling program. In the last three years under Tedford the Golden Bears went just 15-22, prompting the coaching change after 11 seasons. Overall it was a successful run for Tedford but his words became stale, the players were not responding and it was time to move on.

Dykes will be a breath of fresh air and he’s inheriting a program that is in much better shape than when Tedford took the reigns 11 season ago. They just completed major facility upgrades and the roster that Dykes will assume control of has plenty of talented players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Both Dykes and the Cal community seem to be warming up to each other since his arrival but how long will the good will last? Dykes rightfully deserves some time to implement his system but Cal is pining for a winner and they would like to see it happen sooner rather than later.

Key Player: Cal lost some key guys from last year’s team, mostly on the offensive side of the ball, so it’s safe to assume their key player for 2013 will be on defense. Defensive lineman Deandre Coleman is the leader of the Bears defense and will likely be one of their most important players next season. Coleman recorded a team-high-tying 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks to rank third on the club as well as 48 tackles to lead all defensive linemen.

Offense: The offense has plenty of explosive potential under Dykes and they have the talent to execute his plan. Highly-regarded freshman quarterback Zach Kline is listed as a co-starter on the post-spring depth chart but more than likely he will win the position outright during fall camp. Whomever wins the QB position will have an extremely talented running back to the hand the ball off to in the form of Brendan Bigelow. The junior back can be the next great thing at Cal, especially in Dykes’ system, as long as he can stay healthy. At wide receiver the Bears have two sophomores, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, who can blossom into stars. Their offensive line may be a bit young and inexperienced but they make up for it with athleticism and size.

Defense: Cal’s defense will be undergoing a scheme change as they are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment. The move to a four down lineman unit will be to their benefit as they have a group that is among the best in the Pac 12. Along with Coleman,  Viliami Moala, Brennan Scarlett, Chris McCain and Todd Barr make up a top-notch group the will wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Nick Forbes is the best returning linebacker and he will look to improve on his 85 tackles from a season ago, good for second-best on the team. He will be joined by Jalen Jefferson and Khairi Fortt. The only question mark for the Bears on defense will be their secondary and that doesn’t bode well in the pass-happy Pac 12.

Schedule and Outlook: Their early season schedule is brutal as they play Northwestern, Ohio State and at Oregon in three of their first four games. However, the good thing for Dykes and his Cal team is that four of their first five games come at home in Memorial Stadium. They might get off to a 1-3 start but six wins is not out of the question, even though that would be a major accomplishment for Dykes in his first full season.

David LaRose is one of the featured College Football writers for Rant Sports covering the Pac 12 and the University of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

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