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Brendan Bigelow should be a breakout player for California in 2013.
After a disappointing 3-9 record last season, California made a coaching change, firing Jeff Tedford in favor of Sonny Dykes. Although Tedford did a lot of good things in Berkeley, the program had two losing seasons over the last three years and failed to build off its 28-9 stretch from 2004-06. Dykes is no stranger to life in the Pac-12, as he coached at Arizona from 2007-09. He went 22-15 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech and should be a good fit in an offensive-minded conference like the Pac-12.
California Golden Bears 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 3-9 (2-7)
Spring practice dates: Feb. 25-March 23
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 6
Passing: Allan Bridgford, 31 of 68, 277 yds., 1 TD, 3 INTs
Rushing: Brendan Bigelow, 44 car., 431 yds., 3 TDs
Receiving: Chris Harper, 41 rec., 544 yds., 2 TDs
Tackles: Nick Forbes, 85
Sacks: Nathan Broussard and Chris McCain, 3
Interceptions: Michael Lowe, 3
Redshirts to Watch: QB Zach Kline, LB Hardy Nickerson Jr., LB Michael Barton, C Matt Cochran, OL Christian Okafor
Early Enrollees to Watch: K Matt Anderson, QB Jared Goff, WR Drake Whitehurst, DE Kyle Kragen, DE Sione Sina
JUCO Transfers to Watch: DE Kyle Kragen, WR Drake Whitehurst, DT Marcus Manley, DE Sione Sina
Aug. 31 Northwestern
Sept. 7 Portland State
Sept. 14 Ohio State
Sept. 28 at Oregon
Oct. 5 Washington State
Oct. 12 at UCLA
Oct. 19 Oregon State
Oct. 26 at Washington
Nov. 2 Arizona
Nov. 9 USC
Nov. 16 at Colorado
Nov. 23 at Stanford
Offensive Strength: With only four returning starters and the departure of its best receiver (Keenan Allen), California doesn’t have a glaring strength. Running back Brendan Bigelow is a potential star but will miss spring practice due to knee surgery. Assuming Bigelow is healthy, the Golden Bears should have a solid rushing attack and a promising group of young receivers.
Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. Zach Maynard never elevated his play to an All-Pac-12 level during his career in Berkeley, and California’s offense suffered as a result. Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin have a lot of work ahead of themselves this spring, as they need to identify a No. 1 quarterback, as well as address an offensive line that returns just two starters.
Defensive Strength: Considering California returned five starters from a defense that led the Pac-12 in total and pass defense, finishing 10th in the Pac-12 in yards allowed was quite a disappointment. This unit has experience coming back, including defensive ends Deandre Coleman, Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett. Despite shifting McCain and Scarlett to defensive end, the linebacking corps should be solid, especially if Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt is ready to contribute.
Defensive Weakness: The secondary finished 89th nationally in pass efficiency defense and loses cornerbacks Steve Williams and Marc Anthony, along with safety Josh Hill. The Golden Bears have experience coming back at safety and will get a boost at cornerback with the return of Stefan McClure from injury.
Spring Storylines Facing the Golden Bears
1. Who starts at quarterback? The good news for Sonny Dykes: California has seven options to choose from at quarterback. The bad news: None have proven to be a capable starter. Senior Allan Bridgford has the most experience but has completed just 44 of 100 passes in his career. Bridgford’s experience could give him the edge to take the first snap, but expect junior Austin Hinder, redshirt freshman Zach Kline and true freshman Jared Goff to push him for time. Kline ranked as the No. 4 quarterback in the 2012 signing class by Athlon Sports and could be the answer under center. If the Golden Bears struggle to find a quarterback, finishing out of the Pac-12 North cellar will be very difficult.
2. Develop depth at running back. Brendan Bigelow should be ready for fall practice after offseason knee surgery, but he needs help in the backfield. Unfortunately for California, backup Daniel Lasco is also out for spring practice, as he recovers from shoulder injury. To help with depth this spring, Jeffrey Coprich is expected to move from defensive back. With Lasco and Bigelow sidelined, Coprich, Darren Ervin and Jonah Hodges need to take advantage of the spring reps and quickly get acclimated to the new offense.
3. Address the concerns on the offensive line. The Golden Bears return just two starters on the line, which may not be a bad thing considering this unit allowed 3.4 sacks a game last year. However, the losses were significant, as left tackle Tyler Rigsbee is gone after starting all 12 games last season, and center Brian Schwenke has exhausted his eligibility after picking up first-team All-Pac-12 honors last year. Finding the right answer at center is crucial in California’s offense, especially since that position plays a key role in making adjustments and checks at the line of scrimmage in Dykes’ offense.
4. Adjusting to the 4-3. After playing in a 3-4 scheme under former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, California will be making the switch to a 4-3 this spring. To help with the transition, the Golden Bears have three junior college linemen joining the team, along with the move of Brennan Scarlett and Chris McCain from linebacker to defensive end. How will all of the pieces come together? California struggled on defense last season, so it’s important for this unit to quickly adapt to the new scheme.
5. Cornerback. With Steve Williams leaving early for the NFL Draft and Marc Anthony exhausting his eligibility, California is thin at cornerback. Kameron Jackson played in all 12 games and picked off three passes, and he should be a lock to handle one cornerback spot. The other side will likely go to Stefan McClure, who missed all of 2012 due to a knee injury. The Vista native was considered among the top 150 prospects coming out of high school, so talent isn’t an issue. Even if McClure returns to full strength, defensive coordinator Andy Buh needs more players to emerge as reliable options. Considering the talent on offense in the Pac-12, having a thin secondary is never a good thing.
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