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June 13, 2013

Spring Rewind: Cal

With summer scheduled to kick in next Friday, Kaelyn Sayles over at UDUBNation.com is sitting down with all of the Pac-12 publishers to recap Spring, starting with yours truly.

Here's a recap of where the Bears are at heading into the summer.

Q: What was a major theme of spring practice?

Marek: I'd say there were two: 1) Injuries. As many as 19 players were held out of any given practice, which meant the Spring Game format was one of those offense/defense scoring system deals. The good news: all of the scholarship players who were out during the Spring are expected to be fully healthy for Fall camp (I'd bet Bill Tyndall is an exception, but we'll see). The bad news: we didn't get to see how a lot of the Bears' key pieces fit into the new-look offense (Richard Rodgers, Brendan Bigelow, Chris Harper, etc.) or defense (Chris McCain, Sione Sina, Jason Gibson, etc.)

And 2) the quarterback competition. Redshirt freshman Zach Kline, true frosh Jared Goff, and junior Austin Hinder all came out of Spring with legitimate shots at the starting job (maybe Kline and Goff slightly more so than Hinder). Also of note on the quarterback front: the only quarterback on the Cal roster who had thrown pass in an actual college football game -- Allan Bridgford -- transferred to Southern Miss after being told his snap count would be reduced with the three-headed monster now known as "Klindergoff" emerging. Head coach Sonny Dykes said he expects to have a starting QB by practice 12 this Fall, but whoever he chooses it's clear the Bears are going to have their most talented quarterback behind center in three years.

Q: Who were some standouts on offense? Any breakout performers?

Marek: On the O-line: Man mountain Freddie Tagaloa, the Bears new starting left tackle. We only got glimpses of him last year, but the sophomore is all of the 6'8, 350-pounds he's listed at and I'd expect him to absolutely eat up pass rushers on the left side.

At wide receiver (where the Bears have 20 listed with Dykes opting to list all of his tight ends as wideouts): Kenny Lawler and Maurice Harris. Lawler is a highlight reel wideout with all of the tools to step in for NFL-bound Keenan Allen. Harris -- you can count the number of drops he had on maybe one hand -- he was absolutely lights out all Spring, the only question regarding the sophomore pass-catcher is can he do it in a game. Oh, and I'd be remiss to leave out Bryce Treggs who was as impressive this Spring as he was last Fall, so yeah, Bryce Treggs.

Running backs were pretty much a wash which leaves the quarterback position, and Jared Goff. I don't think anyone seriously expected Goff, a Spring admit, to be in this competition. But he's in it, and deservedly so. He may've even had a better Spring than Zach Kline, who many expected would walk away with this job. If he puts in some serious work in the weight room (he's paper thin) this summer and comes into Fall camp with the same kind of touch, pocket presence, and accuracy, he has a real chance of being the Bears starter come August 31st.

Q: Who were some standouts on defense? Any breakout performers?

Marek: DL: Kyle Kragen. Remember that name. Especially if you're a Pac-12 quarterback. Pads on, pads off, the Diablo Valley College transfer had a nose for the quarterback this Spring. He has a motor that won't die, an innate understanding of leverage, and he was the one guy who was able to consistently beat Tagaloa (which isn't easy). He could be a savior for a line that struggled to get really any pressure on the quarterback last season. It looks like his run defense still needed some work this Spring, so he won't be an every down guy to start, but third-and-long he'll be the guy who'll make plays, especially with Deandre Coleman likely seeing plenty of double teams. Honorable mention here: Mustafa Jalil. Moose at times looked on the verge of a breakout year.

LB: Khiari Fortt and Nick Forbes. Fortt transferred from Penn State and is a physical specimen. Both look incredibly comfortable in Andy Buh's new system this Spring. I'd expect them to be the rocks for this new 4-3 defense.

DB: Injuries hit the defensive backs maybe the hardest. They were one-deep for the modified Spring game. The one standout was probably Kameron Jackson, he of three-interception-against-UCLA fame from last year. He was really the only one who provided any resistance to Bryce Treggs on the outside. I think he has a special year.

Q: What areas still need work before the season starts? Some weaknesses?

Marek: Timing. As simple as this offense is, it requires incredible precision. Where a ball is placed and when is the difference between a three-yard gain on every down, and a 30-yard game-breaker. The Cal offense never quite got there consistently this Spring. To run it with the speed LaTech did last season, there's some work to be done. The biggest weakness is going to be the secondary: I think it's the single largest hole for the Bears. After striking out on L.J. Moore (Oklahoma signee) and Tyler Foreman (UCLA), the Bears aren't deep in the secondary. I think they'll have less pressure placed on them this season with a Zach Maynard-less offense that can hopefully move the ball some, but if any of the starting guys go down there's just a huge dropoff on the two-deep. Darius Allensworth, Cal's most coveted DB in the 2013 class, is coming off of an ACL tear, so the jury is still out on how healthy he comes back. He, Cameron Walker, and Trey Cheek will likely all be thrown directly into the fire.

Q: What are some strengths for this team as a whole?

Marek: Skill positions. Brendan Bigelow, Richard Rodgers, Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler, and even incoming true freshman Khalfani Muhammad (who just ran a faster 100m dash than Jahvid Best did as a high school senior). The Bears are absolutely loaded with playmakers, and Goff and/or Kline both have the accuracy and touch to make this offense as high-powered as any the Bears have had in the last five years. I'd say it's probably one of the most talented groups in the conference.

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