The heat is being turned up on Jeff Tedford.
By: Athlon Sports | 6/5/11, 5:06 PM EDT
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PAC-12 North PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Jeff Tedford, 72-42 (9 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jim Michalczik | DEF. COORDINATOR: Clancy Pendergast
For the first time since 2005, coach Jeff Tedford enters camp without a returning starter at quarterback or a tailback who has any measure of experience. The wide receiving corps is unproven after the top two and there are also questions about the offensive line.
Besides that, the offense appears to be in great shape.It’s been a long time since Tedford faced this much uncertainty about his offense. In recent years, when his quarterback play was uneven, he could at least fall back on explosive running backs like Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen. He doesn’t have that luxury anymore. After Vereen’s early departure for the NFL Draft, junior Isi Sofele is the tailback with the most experience left on the roster. He has 81 carries in his career.
Three-year starter Kevin Riley has graduated, leaving the quarterback position open for competition. The job figures to go to either senior Brock Mansion, who started the final four games of 2010 after Riley suffered a season-ending calf injury, or Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard, the half-brother of Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen. Sophomore Allan Bridgford was also in the mix during spring practice.
Allen, a top recruit in 2010 whom Tedford swiped out of Greensboro, N.C., after Maynard decided to come to Cal as well, showed flashes of stardom as a true freshman, catching 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns. He teams up with senior Marvin Jones (50 catches, 765 yards, four TDs in 2010) to form one of the Pac-12’s top receiving tandems.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast turned this unit into the best in the conference, at least statistically. Back-to-back strong recruiting classes have stockpiled the defense with promising young talent. Redshirt freshman Dave Wilkerson could be a star sooner rather than later at outside linebacker, and sophomore Steve Williams looks ready to develop into one of the Pac-12’s top corners.
Anchoring the defense are linebackers Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt. Kendricks was named All-Pac-10 second team last season and is moving from the outside to the inside to make room for some of the Bears’ exciting young outside linebackers.
Veteran defensive ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu should team up with nose tackle Kendrick Payne to form a solid defensive line, but don’t be surprised if incoming freshman Viliami Moala makes a push for playing time.
The Bears are in good shape at cornerback with Williams and junior Marc Anthony, but don’t have much depth behind them.
Punter Bryan Anger has been a Ray Guy Award semifinalist in two of the past three seasons. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio was just 11-for-16 on field goals last season, including 5-for-9 beyond 30 yards. He missed pressure kicks against Arizona and Oregon that could have lifted the Bears to wins. Jeremy Ross emerged as a top punt returner last season, and Allen will be challenged to replace his production.
The heat is being turned up on Tedford, who is coming off his first losing season in his nine years at Cal. He may have to depend on his defense to carry the load while the Bears work through their issues on offense. If Sofele or incoming freshman Brendan Bigelow can’t give the Bears a big-play threat out of the backfield, it may be too much to ask for an inexperienced quarterback to lead the way. In the tough North Division of the Pac-12, the Bears look headed for the bottom half of the standings.