Every week Cal Football Blog will look at 5 most intriguing questions before Game Day.
1. Will Zach Maynard become the quarterback Cal can rely on?
Zach has not played a regulated game in over a year, and his only game against a BCS-AQ team was against Pitt. However, Zach did have 400 yards passing and 4 TD as he went 24/35 attempts that game. With Jeff Tedford becoming more involved with the development of the quarterbacks, Zach should have better mechanics and overall ability compared to his past games at Buffalo. Even though many people have said Maynard has good speed compared to past quarterbacks at Cal, he is not the Michael Vick-type who can give you at least 50 yards rushing a game. After some observation of Zach Maynard during spring and fall camp, Zach has shown a good arm and is able to get the ball to his receivers where they can have a chance to catch the ball, unlike in the past where our quarterbacks tended to under- or over-throw passes. However, Zach may need a little more zip in his ball and a better understanding of Tedford’s offense. At Buffalo, Zack threw 15 interceptions to his 18 touchdowns, which is a ratio that will not be tolerated at Cal. Against Fresno State this Saturday, Cal will finally see what Zach can bring for this great football team. He is probably going to come out the gate a little rusty but having trusty receivers in Marvin Jones and Zach’s brother Keenan Allen will help him settle into the BCS atmosphere.
2. Will Cal’s defense be as dominant as they were at home last season?
Cal lost many key players on defense at the end of last season including starters Mike Mohamed, Cameron Jordan, Chris Conte, Derrick Hill, and Darian Hagan. However, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is going into his second season at Cal after helping Cal’s defense become one of the best defenses in the Pac-12. There are many defensive leaders like Sean Cattouse and Mychal Kendricks that will continue to keep the defense focused and dominant. Cal may have the best depth on defense in the Pac-12 with many very talented players coming into the program including highly recruited NT Viliami “Tiny” Moala. Cal has a very dominant defensive line and reliable middle linebackers. Against Fresno State, Cal will see if the secondary has greatly improved from the year before after being blown up by opposing quarterbacks on many occasions. Also, we will see if we will have dominant pass rushing from first time starters David Wilkerson and walk-on Dan Camporeale, along with the freshman backups Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside. Cal fans should only expect the best out of the defense going into Candlestick Park this Saturday.
3. Which freshman will become a star for Cal?
There are many true freshman and redshirt freshman this year that will have a fair share of playing time this season. On the defensive side, CB Stefan McClure has shown many bright spots this fall camp and will serve as a reliable backup to Marc Anthony and Steve Williams this year, but he will most likely not start this season unless one of two starters are injured. Tedford was full of praise for freshman outside linebacker Chris McCain, who showed great technique and speed during the fall, but lacks power and strength required to stop a bulldozing rushing game like Fresno State, which may be a reason why Dan Camporeale attained the starting spot. However, as the season goes on McCain may be able to grab the starting position. There are a lot of expectations from 350 pounder Viliami Moala, who is currently behind both Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti for the NT position. Cal will most likely use Moala for short gain downs. There is great potential in backup redshirt freshman DL Gabe King, who can make big plays and turnovers with his size and athleticism. On the offensive side, speedy Kaelin Clay and soft handed Maurice Harris will have a chance at wide receiver this season. However, they are both currently behind four very good players at this position and most likely will not see much playing time unless they are on special teams or someone gets injured. There are no freshman starters and only one freshman backup (Chris Adcock) on the offense this season, but with inevitable injuries this season players like Chris Adcock, Jacob Wark, and Richard Rodgers should see good playing time this season. The only time that we may see the Cal freshmen’s real talent may be against Presbyterian, who we are expected to blow out (knock on wood).
4. Who will break out this season?
Not many players are on preseason all-conference or all-american lists, but we may see a good number at the end of the season. Senior Bryan Anger is expected to have a big season and possibly receive All-American honors at the end of the season. Everyone should keep an eye on both Cal’s starting receivers Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen, as they are expected to give a great performance this season. Many people are underestimating Isi Sofele this season, but running back Coach Ron Gould has had a 1,000 yard rusher for almost a decade now and he doesn’t plan to stop this season. OT Mitchell Schwartz was reliable for Cal last season, but will need to stay healthy this season to keep the all-important offensive line intact. On the defensive side, Mychal Kendricks has moved to middle linebacker, but we can expect him to become one of the best linebackers in the country and earn All-Pac 12 honors. Steve Williams and Sean Cattouse may have big seasons this year, and will see a lot of action as Cal faces the best quarterbacks in the nation. There isn’t as much preseason spotlight on a single defensive lineman like the past couple seasons with Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu, but expect Trevor Guyton to change that over the course of the season.
5. With Tedford controlling the offense again, will Cal become as good as they were half a decade ago?
This all depends on the execution of the offense from Cal’s players and the health of the offensive line. As long as every person is doing what they need to do, Cal’s offense will do fine. With Tedford making game-time decisions again, our offense will most likely be better than the year before. If not, Tedford will definitely be on the hot seat at the end of the season. Cal’s first test, Fresno State, will be a good barometer on if and how our offense has progressed since last season.