This is the third is a series reviewing spring football camps in the Pac-12. Today, California.
Starters returning – 12 (6 both ways).
Refresher on 2011 – Bears lost to Texas in the Holiday Bowl to complete a 7-6 season. They started 3-0 in non-league play, and then a close loss to Washington sent them on a three-game Pac-12 tailspin. A 34-10 victory over Utah propelled Cal toward a 4-2 finish and earned the Bears the bowl bid. Still, a 4-5 finish means the Bears are only 21-24 in league games in the past five seasons. QB Zach Maynard had a spotty season, throwing for 17 touchdowns with 12 interceptions with a modest 127 rating. Isi Sofele, a small but productive back, had a big-time season with 1,322 rushing yards (5.2 average), and Maynard’s half-brother, Keenan Allen, had a huge receiving year with 1,343 yards. Bears lost several stars in Pac-12 defensive player of the year Mychal Kendricks (a linebacker), plus first-team all-leaguers in OL Mitchell Schwartz, P Bryan Anger, and second-team DT Trevor Guyton.
Coaching changes – Bears made two changes: Former NFL standout Wes Chandler, a 26-year coaching vet in the NFL, is heading up wide receivers; and Todd Howard, who had recent stints at UCLA and Washington State (2011), takes over the defensive line. They lost uber-recruiter Tosh Lupoi to Washington in a much-discussed move, plus Eric Kiesau, who became OC and QBs coach at the UW.
Major spring concerns — Establishing depth behind Maynard . . . retooling the defensive line, which returns only one starter . . . finding a punter and placekicker.
Developments – Maynard missed some spring workouts to tend to academics, but quashed rumors that he could be academically ineligible. Coach Jeff Tedford told the Oakland Tribune, “He has great control of everything that’s going on. Now he’s a real field general.” . . . Maynard is the starter, backed by Allan Bridgford, but early-enrollee Zach Kline, highly touted local product, could figure in . . . Allen tore ankle ligaments in a pickup basketball game and had surgery early in March. He says he’ll be ready for fall camp . . . junior OL Mark Brazinski suffered a torn ACL and is done for the season . . . big back C.J. Anderson, lighter by 15 pounds, dislocated a thumb and missed some time but had a good spring game . . . the Tribune cited two sophomores who had big springs as RB Brendan Bigelow (5-10, 188), fully healthy after a high school knee injury, and tight end Richard Rodgers (6-4, 265) . . . Maynard has another relative to throw to – 6-3 RS freshman wideout and cousin Maurice Harris . . . among eight players he cited as having good springs on his side, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast named DL Deandre Coleman, 311-pound rising junior from Garfield HS . . . referring to Lupoi’s move to Washington, DE Gabe King told the Tribune, “It’s definitely not fair, especially when you’ve got a coach like Lupoi, who is so young and close to our age and able to connect to our generation. At first we had to warm up to (Howard) because we were bitter. (But) we’re warming up really well.” . . . Bears are on schedule to be in remodeled Memorial Stadium by the Nevada opener Sept. 1 . . . but they were stung by an April 18 story in the Wall Street Journal, detailing a lagging financial picture for paying off the $321-million renovation, and AD Sandy Barbour conceded to the San Jose Mercury-News that fund-raising efforts are “somewhat behind.” Key is the Endowment Seating Program for purchase of 3,000 premium seats, with only $35 million in hand of a projected $270 million to be raised overall by the summer of 2013. But that $35 million equates to $145 million long-term – if there isn’t significant attrition from the premium-seats program — which underscores the importance of winning in the near-term.
Spring game – Bears had a thriller (of sorts), as the Gold team beat the Blue, 21-20, in front of 8,812 April 21 at Edwards Stadium (Cal’s track facility). With a running clock in the second half, Kline threw a 40-yard TD pass midway through the fourth quarter, but it got interesting when Austin Hinder threw a late, 75-yard TD pass to Stephen Anderson to pull his side within 21-20, before a two-point conversion went awry. Maynard was 6 of 10 for 109 yards, Harris had seven catches for 95. C.J. Anderson had 14 carries for 85 yards and a 15-yard TD run.
2012 schedule – It gets a lot tougher after Nevada and Southern Utah, with consecutive trips to Ohio State and USC, which has lately owned the Bears. Key part of the schedule might be the Arizona State-UCLA-Washington State stretch in mid-season, all of which could be swing games. Then there’s the oddball date of Oct. 20 for the traditional with Stanford, necessitated by the league-championship game and other scheduling considerations.