There are more questions than answers about the Blue and Gold’s upcoming season, which isn’t to say it will be a bad one. It could even be better than last year’s, during which the team earned an invitation to the Armed Forces Bowl by finishing 6–6, yet lost all but one of their last seven games. Then came that come-from-behind victory on New Year’s Eve against Air Force.
Playing in a bowl game after Christmas was good. Injuries and a string of regular season close losses were bad. Getting to a bowl game may have aided in healing wounds and lifting spirits. This season, some fresh faces and a bit of luck may help the Bears coalesce into a consistent winning team.
A lot will depend on the lineup. After losing six players to the NFL draft, the roster will have to change radically. Just who will fill the departures of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins, tight end Craig Stevens, safety Thomas DeCoud, offensive lineman Mike Gibson, and running back Justin Forsett?
The recovery of quarterback Nate Longshore from a spring practice injury may determine whether he’s the starter or if the position is up for grabs. In any case, depth at quarterback should not be a problem. Although Longshore injured a pectoral muscle, Head Coach Jeff Tedford has said he isn’t too concerned about his durable quarterback’s injury, and that back-ups Brock Mansion and Kevin Riley are improving with each practice.
As for the rest of the offense, running back Tracy Slocum draws a lot of attention from opposing teams. The sophomore made apparent that he wanted to be considered for a starting position when the Bears get together in August for their opener against Michigan State.
On defense, senior linebacker Zack Follett should continue his stellar career at outside linebacker. Last year, he made 64 tackles and frequently powered his way into the backfield on key plays.
The football team signed 17 recruits to letters of intent for many different positions. Of those, 2 have been ranked in the top 20 by Scout.com (a subsidiary of Foxsports.com.) Tight end Spencer Ladner is from Missouri and cornerback Dominic Galas from Modesto.
In truth, with so many new players coming to Cal, nobody can predict how good the Blue and Gold is going to be until they hit the field. But with this level of raw talent, if the team can remain healthy and consistent, fans should be firing off the victory canon a few more times than last year. Once again the team should be playing after Christmas.