After four games, the California Golden Bears are 3-1. A good win against Fresno State, a heart-throbbing victory over Colorado, an easy but not perfect win over Presbyterian, and a hard-fought but disappointing loss to Washington. With a third of the season over, what does Cal need to do in order to climb up the Pac-12 rankings and get into a respectable bowl game?
I will take a stab at this question by look at each position from what we have seen to what we need.
What we have seen –
From a neutral standpoint, Zach’s stats are decent. However, Zach is only 19/46, or 41.3%, on completions and a PER of 106.9 on 1st downs while his 3rd down stats are 24/45, or 53.5%, on completions and a PER of 166.51. It is either Zach’s confidence increases as he continues to throw (even without success) or that Tedford is making the wrong calls on first down. There could be arguments for both, but seeing that Zach’s PER decreases from about a PER of 173.76 in the 1st quarters to a PER of 76.13 in the 4th quarters, I’m going to lean towards the latter.
Now lets compare Zach Maynard to Kevin Riley of last season to see where they compare after four games.
Riley has a higher PER and completion %, but Riley threw less attempts, yards, and touchdowns while throwing one more interception. Cal was also only 2-2 after four games last season, Cal had Shane Vereen to rely on, and Riley was a veteran. In the big picture, Zach has done just a little better than Riley so far.
Assessment of Quarterback so far: B, meaning Zach’s performance so far is what most analysts expected but he has the potential to be much better.
What we need –
Maynard must be consistent throughout the game. His PER goes from 173.76 in the first quarter to 76.13 in the fourth quarter, which can’t be tolerated against the rest of the Pac-12. Maynard must continue to fix up his mechanics, better understand how to read defenses, and utilize his footwork better. Maynard seems to throw a little better when a rolls a bit to his left or whenever he steps into his throw. There were a few key passes against Washington that if he stepped into his throw, he would not have under-thrown his passes. Hopefully, quarterback guru, Jeff Tedford can mold Maynard to his potential during this bye week before Oregon.
Running Back & Fullback:
What we have seen –
Isi is no Shane Vereen or Jahvid Best, but he is a constant fighter and a great pass blocker. However, Isi has not been the running back who can shed a tackle or two, or take too many hits. He also does not have that breakneck speed that both Vereen and Best had. We know that C.J. Anderson is the type of back we need for short yard gains (which questions Tedford’s personnel decisions at the end of the Washington game). Tedford’s offense relies on a very good running game to open up the passing game, but opposing teams are just not afraid nor respect Cal’s running backs, which forces Cal’s offense to rely more on its passing game. Sofele is still on track to gain over 1,000 yards this season, but needs to make more big plays.
At fullback, Will Kapp and John Tyndall has done nicely to fill in for injured Eric Stevens. Even though Kapp has not been perfect, he will most likely progress throughout the season after he suffered a concussion during the Fresno State game.
What we need –
Isi does not have the acceleration to outrun every single defender, but he has enough tenacity to get through some of them. Isi has missed many unscripted opportunities that would have led to big runs. If Isi can increase his vision of the field, he will have a better chance at making big gains on the ground. Lots of fans have asked, “Why not use highly touted recruit Brendan Bigelow?”. The answer is simply, he is not yet ready. Bigelow’s speed is still hindered by the knee brace and he had not played football for over a year and a half, so the couches are just trying to ease him in. However, depending on the situation, the coaches may decide to give Bigelow much more minutes as the season progresses.
Assessment of Tailbacks so far: B-, not bad but Cal needs much more production from this group.