The football season is upon us. No, seriously, it starts in less than two months. It's amazing how quickly the offseason goes, isn't it? As we get ready for the 2012 season, we'll take a trip around the Pac-12 and talk to the bloggers from around the league to see what Jim Mora and the Bruins will face.
We kick things off with our UC brothers, the Cal Golden Bears, thanks to Kodiak and Berkelium97 from SB Nation's Cal blog, California Golden Blogs. How are things looking in Berkeley post-spring practice as the Bears look to return to national relevance?
1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?
Kodiak: We wanted a starting quarterback to distinguish himself, find three new starters on the Oline, and see someone step up to fill our vacated inside linebacker and safety positions.
Zach Maynard solidified his position and separated himself as the undisputed #1QB. Oline is still a work in progress, particularly with regards to snaps. Lots of potential at safety and linebacker, but the young players showed themselves vulnerable to playaction and zone-read types of plays.
2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?
Kodiak: Depending on personnel, there may be some tweaks to both offense and defense. We didn't have a lot of healthy fullbacks in the spring, so we were using a lot of double TE sets with a single back. We only had one healthy scholarship wide receiver and will be relying on 2-3 true frosh to contribute immediately in the fall. If we don't have enough quality wideouts, we might use more tight ends and split them out wide. 2/3 of our top tight ends are more comfortable as receivers than blockers anyhow. On defense, we might have better depth/talent on the Dline than at linebacker. However, we've run a 3-4 the past several years. I wouldn't be surprised to see more formations with four down linemen so that we can get our best players on the field.
3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?
Kodiak: Backup tailback CJ Anderson really opened some eyes. He may push for a starting role, and our returner starter, Isi Sofele, rushed for 1300 yards last year. On defense, Mustafa Jalil and Deandre Coleman look really tough at defensive end.
4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?
Kodiak: Oline. We need a new left tackle, right guard, and perhaps center. If we continue to have issues with poor snaps, penalties, and porous pass protection on the edges, we're headed for another 7-win season.
Berkelium97: The biggest holes on the team heading into fall are literally that--holes in the depth chart. We do not have punter and we only have two receivers on the depth chart. We have no choice this fall--we have to rely on some of the incoming freshmen to step up and fill these roles. Keenan Allen is the only returning receiver who has seen significant action. We quickly need to develop some receivers if we want Maynard and the passing game to produce this season.
5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?
Kodiak: Too many question marks, but I'd like to think contender. Generally speaking, this is a quarterback driven league. More specifically, senior QBs are usually the ones who make your team a contender. If we get the steady Maynard we saw during the 2nd half of last season, we have a chance to be good. Glass half full says we get Good Maynard, Coach Michalczik works his magic and gives us a tough Oline, and we have enough young talent to reload on defense. Glass half empty says Maynard remains inconsistent, we can't block anyone, and our defense gets lit up like a Xmas tree because our young players are victimized by big plays.
6. Any frosh you can't wait to get on campus?
Kodiak: Bryce Treggs. We're counting on him to step in and challenge for a starting position immediately. If the recruiting accolades are to be believed, he's a talent on par with Desean Jackson and Keenan Allen.
Berkelium97: Matt Cochran: he was the no. 3 rated recruit in the nation at center and he might be the only player on the team who can snap a football. We are in desperate need of some consistency at center.
7. Who will you miss the most from last season? Who will be stepping up to fulfill those shoes?
Kodiak: Mitchell Schwartz was a four year Oline starter and an absolute rock at left tackle. It's unknown who will replace him. It could be a senior who has battled back from earlier injuries, Tyler Rigsbee, or perhaps a precocious true frosh like Christian Okafor or Freddie Tagaloa.
8. Any particular Pac12 match-up/rivalry you are looking forward to this Fall?
Kodiak: For obvious reasons, we'd really like to destroy UW.
9. What are the specific injury concerns coming out of this spring?
Kodiak: Our top offensive player was out due to surgery on his ankle. Until we see him recover fully, that's a concern.
10. Based on what you've seen, who is ready to take a major leap this fall?
Kodiak: CJ Anderson on offense. Jalil and Coleman on defense.
Berkelium97: Based on Jeff Tedford's comments and his performance at the spring game, Zach Maynard might be a pleasant surprise this fall. It sounds like he is much more consistent and is running the offense while making fewer mistakes. In the spring game his passes were on target and he didn't make the rookie mistakes that plagued him last year. He looks much more comfortable running the offense and delivering the ball. If he has a great year, we could be a legitimate threat for the Pac-12 North.
11. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Kodiak: The entire UW coaching staff.
12. Who's got the best nickname on the team?
13. Which one of your assistant coaches is in the hot seat?
Kodiak: Jeff Genyk. Special teams have been mediocre at worst, inconsistent at best under his watch. Many of us feel he squandered an NFL talent in Bryan Anger by using rugby style kicks instead of letting him boom it away.
We're in an interesting position where every one of our assistant coaches (except Ron Gould, who is worth his weight in gold) has been here for only one or two seasons. The assistant who endured the most criticism last season was probably special teams coach Jeff Genyk. He's definitely an upgrade over previous ST coach Pete Alamar (now at Stanford!). We've improved kickoffs and coverage on kickoffs, but we continue to have plenty of cringe-inducing moments. We had a ridiculous six PATs blocked last season. We also could not withstand pressure when punting and were forced to use Bryan Anger as a rugby-style punter. Genyk will not see his contract renewed if we cannot execute basic tasks on special teams.