2012 Season Outlook
August 4, 2012
The buzz in Berkeley is that the Bears are back in town and there will be football again this fall at Memorial Stadium. After San Francisco's AT&T Park served as a temporary home last year, the Bears are looking forward to returning to a renovated and modern version of the Strawberry Canyon venue they have called home since 1923. Always located in one of the most idyllic settings in college football, Memorial Stadium will now without question also give fans one of the best gameday experiences in the country.
"We are pumped about coming back to Berkeley to play at a renovated Memorial Stadium," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "There is no experience quite like a football game in Strawberry Canyon. We are looking forward to having our full complement of hometown fans there in full force cheering us on. We thrive on the energy they provide and can't thank them enough for their passion for Cal football."
A strategic effort has been made to strike a balance of providing fan amenities such as state-of-the-art video boards and sound systems, club levels and improved sightlines of the field that should be expected in a modern stadium, with maintaining features such as a restored historic façade and the bowl seating that fans enjoyed so much about Memorial Stadium throughout the years.
In addition to Memorial Stadium, work was recently completed on the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance that houses the Cal football program. Among its many features, the facility is home to the state-of-the-art 18,700-square foot High Performance Zone, a fully integrated training space with world-class strength and conditioning, sports medicine and sports science facilities and services.
"With the renovation of Memorial Stadium and the creation the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance we now have some of the best facilities in the nation," Tedford said. "There has been a tremendous amount of hard work and passion put into these projects by so many people and our football program is eternally grateful. They will play a vital role in the success of Cal football for years to come."
The 2012 Bears will be the first team to use the new facilities and look to continue the winning ways of a program that has played in a bowl eight times in the last nine seasons and recorded enough wins to be in a bowl nine times in the last 10 campaigns. Cal has tied for the third-most Pac-10/12 victories over the past decade in a rugged conference under Tedford, who has won more games than any head coach in Cal football history and is the longest-tenured coach in the conference.
The Bears seem to be in a good position to add to their lofty totals of the past decade in 2012, as one of four Pac-12 schools with its top passer, rusher and receiver returning from a year ago in senior quarterback Zach Maynard, senior tailback Isi Sofele and junior wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Allen is a preseason second-team All-American and national honors candidate that has received a tremendous amount of recognition leading up to the 2012 campaign. He is a nearly unanimous first-team All-Pac-12 choice and on preseason watch lists for the Biletnikoff Award, College Football Performance Awards Wide Receiver and Special Teams Trophies and Maxwell Award. He is coming off a season of 98 catches for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. His per-game averages for receptions and receiving yards are both the fourth-highest among all players returning nationally.
A total of 12 starters are back for the Bears from a year ago - six on each side of the ball.
The six defensive starters returning include a trio of defensive backs in seniors Josh Hill and Marc Anthony, and junior Steve Williams. Senior defensive lineman Aaron Tipoti, junior linebacker Dan Camporeale and sophomore linebacker Chris McCain are also back for a unit that has led the Pac-12 in total defense each of the past two campaigns.
Eight others - Jackson Bouza (Jr., WR), Deandre Coleman (Jr., DL), J.P. Hurrell (Sr., LB), Mustafa Jalil (So., DL), Stefan McClure (So., DB), Robert Mullins (Sr., LB), Kendrick Payne (Sr., DL) and David Wilkerson (So., LB) - have started at least one collegiate game.
Others in addition to Allen who have been recognized on national watch lists prior to the 2012 season include Brendan Bigelow (CFPA Special Teams Trophy), Sofele (Maxwell Award), Summers-Gavin (Outland Trophy) and Tipoti (Outland Trophy).
Eight players have earned preseason All-Pac-12 honors including first-teamers Allen, Coleman, Summers-Gavin and Tipoti. Schwenke and Sofele have been named second team, and Anthony and McCain third.
"All of our players that have earned preseason recognition are truly deserving," Tedford said. "They have worked very hard to get to where they're at and we feel comfortable having them lead the way for our 2012 club."
All told, the Bears have 80 players and 49 letterwinners returning that will be joined by 41 newcomers highlighted by a 2012 recruiting class that was ranked as high as No. 15 nationally and Cal's third consecutive top-15 group.
"I'm really excited about the kids in this class not only as football players but as people," said Tedford, who was named the Pac-12's top recruiter by Sporting News in 2011. "I'm excited about the future that they're going to bring to this program."
The Bears will play for a second season in the North division of the Pac-12 that expanded from 10 to 12 teams and split into two six-team divisions for the first time in 2011. The winners of each division will meet in the Pac-12 Championship Game to be played Friday, Nov. 30, at the home site of the team with the league's best record.
Before getting into conference play, the Bears will host Nevada and Southern Utah in non-conference games at a renovated Memorial Stadium on Sept. 1 and 8.
A Sept. 15 trip to Ohio State for Cal's first meeting with the Buckeyes since 1972 will close out non-conference action.
Cal's nine-game conference schedule annually includes meetings with each of the other five teams in its own division, while the Bears will play four of the six teams in the South, with Southern California rivals UCLA and USC always among those four.
Cal's first three conference games in 2012 are against opponents from the South Division. The Bears opens Pac-12 play on Sept. 22 at USC before returning home for conference games against Arizona State (Sept. 29) and UCLA (Oct. 6). The game against the Bruins will also serve as the rededication of Memorial Stadium, homecoming and the annual Joe Roth Memorial Game.
The Bears then start a second half of the regular season that includes five of six games against fellow North division foes by traveling to Washington State (Oct. 13).
Cal's next opponent arrives in Berkeley about a month earlier than usual when Stanford visits Memorial Stadium for the 115th Big Game on Oct. 20. Other than the first game of the series that was played in the spring of 1982, no football game between the two schools has ever been played before November in the calendar year. The Cal-Stanford rivalry that is the 10th longest in college football is expected to revert back to its normal place as one of the Bears' final two regular-season games in subsequent seasons.
"With the complexity of scheduling and the addition of the Pac-12 Championship Game last season, there are going to occasionally be things like this that happen with the schedule," Tedford said. "Although we certainly like the idea of playing the Big Game towards the end of the season, we are sure that fans from both schools will strongly and passionately support the game no matter when it is played."
Cal will still have plenty of big games to go after the Big Game is played, including the first Friday night home game in school history against Washington the next time the Bears hit the field at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 2 and a matchup against North division favorite Oregon eight days later Nov. 10 that will be Cal's final regular-season home game of the campaign.
The Bears will sandwich those two final regular-season home contests with road games at Utah (Oct. 27) and Oregon State (Nov. 17).
In all, Cal plays 12 consecutive weeks with its bye falling after the Oregon State contest.
"Playing 12 straight games and essentially having no bye is a challenge," Tedford acknowledged.
Another thing that will be different for the Bears in 2012 will be television coverage, particularly with the debut of Pac-12 Networks, who will televise three of the team's first four games vs. Nevada and Southern Utah, and at USC.
"Having three of our first four contests on Pac-12 Networks gives our fans and alumni all over the world an opportunity to closely follow and engage with Cal football," Tedford said. "Our conference plays a brand of football that is on par with the best in the country. Pac-12 Networks provides a great opportunity to showcase our program and our student-athletes."
The Bears will also be showcased on ABC at Ohio State and ESPN2 vs. Washington. Additional television broadcast dates and starting times are expected to be announced at a later date.
The following is a position-by-position look at the Bears heading into the 2012 campaign.
Any talk of the Cal offense must start with second-team preseason All-American and national honors candidate Keenan Allen. The junior wide receiver returns for his third campaign as a starter in 2012 and is on nearly everyone's list among the top players in the country.
Overall, the scenario on the offensive side of the ball is totally different for Cal than it was a year ago when Allen was complimented by new starters at both quarterback and tailback in Zach Maynard and Isi Sofele. Now both of those players have a season as the starter under their belt and are veteran returnees. Add backup senior tailback C.J. Anderson, who had an outstanding spring, and the Bears have four returning skill position players on offense that combined for 3,017 passing yards, 1,830 rushing yards and 1,589 receiving yards last season.
"We have some of the top experienced playmakers in the league returning on the offensive side of the ball in guys like Keenan Allen, Zach Maynard, Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson," Tedford said. "All of those players picked up a tremendous amount of experience last season, and we're looking forward to that experience paying off in their play this year. Behind those guys we also have some talented youngsters and newcomers that will be pushing hard for playing time."
Most of the offensive production from newcomers will likely come from the receivers, where Cal is bringing in a group that includes five freshmen that received at least four stars by a major scouting service.
The group up front making room for the skill players to operate will return three of five starters from a year ago in the senior trio of Dominic Galas, Brian Schwenke and Matt Summers-Gavin that combined for 38 of 39 possible starts in 2011 and have totaled 63 in their Cal careers, although Galas was injured lifting weights during the summer and will miss the opening of the campaign.
The Bears will look to continue the offensive improvement they showed last year when Cal went from 334.00 yards per game and a No. 90 national ranking in 2010 to 401.46 yards per game and a No. 44 national showing in 2011. Last year's offense was sparked by a passing game that moved up 48 spots nationally from No. 94 (175.08 ypg) to No. 46 (246.62 ypg). Cal also moved up 20 positions nationally to No. 53 in scoring, improving from 25.8 points per game the previous season to 28.3.
6 - Kyle Boehm, 6-3, 220, Fr.*, RS
16 - Allan Bridgford, 6-3, 220, Jr.*, 1L
7 - Austin Hinder, 6-4, 200, So.*, SQ
14 - Brendan Keeney, 6-4, 220, Fr., HS
8 - Zach Kline, 6-2, 200, Fr., HS
22 - Joey Mahalic, 6-4, 220, Fr.
15 - Zach Maynard, 6-2, 185, Sr.
Senior Zach Maynard will be back to lead the Bears' offense again in 2012 after a strong finish to his first season as the starting signal-caller for the Bears a year ago when he completed 68.1 percent of his passes, had a 5-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio and posted a 154.25 quarterback efficiency rating over his final four regular-season contests. The great stretch of play lifted Cal into a spot in the Holiday Bowl after a 3-1 record in the final month of the regular season, with the only loss a 31-28 defeat on the road at the hands of a Stanford team that would finish with an 11-2 record and play at the Fiesta Bowl.
"It is a tremendous advantage to have a returning quarterback like we do in Zach Maynard," Tedford said. "Zach has made tremendous strides since he has been at Cal and his numbers over his final four games last season proved it. He has learned to manage the game and be efficient, and has developed into a strong asset for us at the position."
Maynard's final numbers were pretty good, too. He started all 13 games and ended up completing 231-of-405 (57.0%) passes for 2,990 yards to rank third on the school's all-time single-season passing yardage list, while his 17 touchdown passes were one shy. He threw for at least one touchdown pass in 10 of 13 games and either threw or ran for a TD 12 times, while both throwing and running for a score on three occasions all in the second half of the regular season.
Junior Allan Bridgford was able to get into four games off the bench in 2011 and completed 13-of-32 passes for 184 yards. While there is no question that Maynard will head into the 2012 season as the starter, Bridgford got a lot of the work with the first-string offense in the spring. In the team's spring game, he led the Gold squad to a 21-20 victory over the Blue team quarterbacked by Maynard.
"In addition to Zach Maynard, we have a strong backup in Allan Bridgford and some other young guys that we believe are capable of getting the job done," said Tedford, who has developed six quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft during his collegiate coaching career.
The young guys include true freshman Zach Kline, who is coming off an All-American senior season at San Ramon Valley High School in 2011 when he completed 230-of-341 (67.4%) passes for 3,630 yards and a school-record-tying 36 TDs with only seven interceptions. Other quarterbacks include redshirt freshman Kyle Boehm, sophomore Austin Hinder, true freshman Brendan Keeney and Joey Mahalic, a 23-year-old true freshman who spent five seasons playing minor league baseball.
RUNNING BACKS (13)
9 - C.J. Anderson, 5-11, 210, Sr., 1L
27 - Mitchel Bartolo, 5-8, 190, Jr.*, SQ
5 - Brendan Bigelow, 5-10, 190, So., 1L
34 - Darren Ervin, 5-10, 197, Fr.*, RS
31 - Jonah Hodges, 5-9, 175, Fr., HS
2 - Daniel Lasco, 6-1, 206, Fr.*, RS
20 - Isi Sofele, 5-8, 200, Sr., 3L
23 - Dasarte Yarnway, 6-0, 210, Jr.*, 1L
19 - Maximo Espitia, 6-2, 220, Fr., HS
44 - Lucus Gingold, 6-0, 237, Jr., JC
26 - Kameron Krebs, 6-0, 188, Sr.*, 1L
33 - Tanner Mohr, 6-0, 235, Jr.*, HS
48 - Eric Stevens, 6-0, 242, Sr.*, 3L
Cal has a long-standing tradition of featuring two tailbacks and the scenario should be no different in 2012. In fact, the Bears are arguably in as good of shape heading into a season in the backfield as they've been since 2009 when current NFL players Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen were both returning after combining for 2,295 rushing yards the previous season.
This year, the returning duo comes in the form of seniors Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, who combined to rush for 1,667 yards last season to extend Cal's string of having its top two running backs combine for 1,500 or more rushing yards to nine consecutive seasons. Their combined total represents the most rushing yards the Bears have had returning by their top two running backs since Best and Vereen in 2009 and the third-most during the nine-year streak, with the combination of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett's 2,245 rushing yards returning in 2006 the only other one higher.
Sofele is on the watch list for the 2012 Maxwell Award given annually to the top college football player in the nation after registering the sixth-highest rushing total in Cal history in his first season as a starter last year when he ran for 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns on 252 carries to give Cal it's ninth 1,000-yard rusher in the past 10 campaigns.
Anderson proved to be a capable second option a year ago and finished the season with 345 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 72 carries. Early in the season he was most often used in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but his role expanded later in the campaign. He rushed for 48 or more yards in three of his final four regular-season games, including a season-high 96 against Oregon State. He was also used heavily in the passing game late in the season with 145 of his 186 total yards receiving coming in the final two regular-season games, including a 74-yard catch at Arizona State that was Cal's second-longest pass play of the campaign.
But, there's even more excitement about this position group in 2012 beyond Sofele and Anderson. The Bears also return several promising young players that seem to be next in line to continue the tradition and may even contribute significantly to it as early as this season. Sophomore Brendan Bigelow and redshirt freshman Daniel Lasco are both coming off strong springs. Junior Dasarte Yarnway, who saw action at fullback in the spring as well, and redshirt freshman Darren Ervin are also candidates to contribute in 2012.
"This is arguably our strongest position group on the team," Tedford said. "We have five or six running backs that we truly believe will help us this year and that is important to us because we've always had the philosophy of using multiple backs in our run game. Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson are two backs who proved they are capable with the seasons they had last year but other guys such as Brendan Bigelow, Daniel Lasco, Darren Ervin and Dasarte Yarnway should be in the mix as well."
Fifth-year senior Eric Stevens is expected to be back as the team's starting fullback in 2012 after missing all of last season and spring ball with an injury suffered in training camp. Stevens is a solid blocker who spent most of the 2010 campaign as the team's starter and has also been a special teams standout.
"We're looking forward to Eric Stevens returning from his injury that caused him to miss all of last season and resume his role as our starting fullback," Tedford said. "Eric has a great skill set for this position and did a nice job two years ago in the role."
None of the other fullbacks on the team's roster have taken a snap at the position in a game for the Bears.
Senior Kameron Krebs is listed as the backup on the post-spring depth chart after being converted to the position from a linebacker last spring, while true freshman Maximo Espitia was recruited to play fullback at Cal after seeing action as both a fullback and quarterback in high school.
"We're excited with Kameron's development last spring, and we're looking forward to Maximo being in the mix at the position relatively soon," Tedford said.
Junior Tanner Mohr joined the program last spring after previously playing rugby for the Bears, while junior Lucus Gingold transferred from Reedley College after earning first-team All-Central Valley Conference honors at the junior college last year.
WIDE RECEIVERS (19)
21 - Keenan Allen, 6-3, 210, Jr., 2L
36 - Ross Anderson, 6-5, 219, Fr., HS
89 - Stephen Anderson, 6-2, 210, Fr.*, RS
81 - Ross Bostock, 6-2, 202, Sr.*, 1L
28 - Jackson Bouza, 6-0, 185, Jr.*, 1L
83 - Idarre Coles, 6-0, 170, So.*, HS
7 - Cedric Dozier, 5-11, 175, Fr., HS
85 - James Grisom, 5-11, 180, So.*, HS
6 - Chris Harper, 6-0, 170, Fr., HS
3 - Maurice Harris, 6-3, 205, Fr.*, RS
88 - Kaulin Krebs, 6-0, 188, Sr.*, SQ
4 - Kenny Lawler, 6-3, 185, Fr., HS
13 - Mike Manuel, 5-9, 198, Sr., 1L
86 - Bryce McGovern, 5-10, 200, So., 1L
35 - Griffin Piatt, 6-2, 190, Fr., HS
10 - Darius Powe, 6-3, 212, Fr., HS
1 - Bryce Treggs, 5-11, 175, Fr., HS
27 - Joel Willis, 5-10, 188, Fr.*, RS
25 - Patrick Worstell, 6-1, 175, Fr., HS
Wide receiver should be an incredibly interesting and entertaining position group for the Bears in 2012 led by junior preseason All-American and national honors candidate Keenan Allen, who has a chance to break nearly all of the school's career receiving records before he finishes his Cal career.
"There is no doubt that we have one of the best wide receivers in the country in Keenan Allen," Tedford said with emphasis. "He does everything well and is a tremendous competitor and student of the game. He's had two fantastic seasons for us, but I think his best football at Cal is still ahead of him. We're looking forward to the entire nation learning much more about him in 2012."
In his first two seasons at Cal, Allen has totaled 144 receptions, 1,833 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches. Last year, he had 98 catches for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns, ranking second on the school's all-time single-season lists for both receptions and receiving yards. If he can duplicate those numbers in 2012 he would easily become the school's all-time leader in receptions and be 12 yards shy of the school's all-time mark for receiving yards.
The possibilities of who will join Allen at the position this year are numerous.
"Several of our current players developed nicely last spring, but we also have several of the top freshman receivers in the country that will have a chance to compete for playing time immediately," Tedford said.
The players that came along in the spring include senior Ross Bostock, junior Jackson Bouza, redshirt freshman Maurice Harris and sophomore Bryce McGovern - all of whom should be in the mix to receive the first extensive action of their collegiate careers in 2012. Senior Mike Manuel and redshirt freshman Joel Willis are also possibilities after moving to receiver from running back and defensive back, respectively, in the spring.
The incoming true freshmen that will push for playing time in their first season at Cal include some of the best prep receivers in the country last year. Five-star recruit Bryce Treggs headlines a group of five rookie receivers that also includes Cedric Dozier, Chris Harper, Kenny Lawler and Darius Powe. All received at least four stars from a major scouting service.
The remainder of the group includes returnees in senior Kaulin Krebs and redshirt freshman Stephen Anderson, sophomores Idarre Coles and James Grisom that joined the program in the spring, and true freshmen Ross Anderson, Griffin Piatt and Patrick Worstell.
TIGHT ENDS (8)
41 - Spencer Briare, 6-4, 230, Fr., HS
46 - Brett Buchanan, 6-3, 225, So.*, RS
82 - Jake Davis, 6-4, 220, Jr., JC
87 - Spencer Hagan, 6-5, 235, Jr.*, 2L
39 - Nate Phillip, 6-2, 240, Jr.*, RS
11 - Richard Rodgers, 6-4, 265, So., 1L
84 - Jacob Wark, 6-4, 255, So.*, 1L
80 - Harrison Wilfley, 6-5, 255, Jr., JC
Cal should have an interesting mix of skill sets in its top three tight ends, with the blocking prowess and brawn of projected sophomore starter Richard Rodgers and the receiving ability of junior Spencer Hagan and sophomore Jacob Wark, although all three are strong in both areas.
"We're young but talented at tight end with returnees such as Richard Rodgers, Spencer Hagan and Jacob Wark," Tedford said. "With this group of players, we have a nice variety of skill sets that we can use in both the run and pass games. Mixing and matching the best parts of their skill sets, we should have effective pass catchers as well as blockers come from the position."
All three saw action in 2011 behind three-year starter Anthony Miller, now a member of the NFL's Denver Broncos, with Hagan the team's fifth-leading receiver registering 12 catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Nate Phillip and sophomore Brett Buchanan also return from last year, while the Bears have also brought in a pair of junior college transfers in Jake Davis and Harrison Wilfley, and true freshman Spencer Briare to bolster their depth at the position.
OFFENSIVE LINE (17)
58 - Chris Adcock, 6-3, 300, So.*, 1L
68 - Mark Brazinski, 6-3, 300, Jr.*, 2L
74 - Matt Cochran, 6-2, 345, Fr., HS
71 - Alejandro Crosthwaite, 6-4, 300, So.* SQ
59 - Brian Farley, 6-7, 291, Fr.*, RS
61 - Donovan Frazer, 6-3, 285, Jr., JC
65 - Dominic Galas, 6-1, 290, Sr.*, 3L
70 - Geoffrey Gibson, 6-3, 315, So.*, SQ
64 - Steven Moore, 6-6, 280, Fr., HS
76 - Christian Okafor, 6-6, 310, Fr., HS
73 - Jordan Rigsbee, 6-4, 306, Fr.*, RS
77 - Tyler Rigsbee, 6-5, 290, Sr.*, 2L
57 - Brian Schwenke, 6-4, 300, Sr., 3L
75 - Matt Summers-Gavin, 6-4, 300, Sr.*, 3L
78 - Freddie Tagaloa, 6-9, 340, Fr., HS
79 - Bill Tyndall, 6-4, 285, Jr.*, 1L
72 - Matt Williams, 6-6, 300, Jr.*, RS
Cal's offensive line is expected to be led by the senior trio of Dominic Galas, Brian Schwenke and Matt Summers-Gavin that has combined to start 63 games in their Cal careers, including 38 of a possible 39 last season.
Summers-Gavin, who is expected to start at the right tackle position and protect left handed quarterback Zach Maynard's blindside, is Cal's active career leader with 25 starts. He has been the most decorated member of the team's offensive line prior to the 2012 campaign, receiving first-team preseason All-Pac-12 honors from Phil Steele and Blue Ribbon, as well as a second-team nod by Athlon and a third-team selection by Lindy's. He is also on the watch list for the Outland Trophy recognizing college football's top interior lineman on either side of the ball. In addition, he is the team's top candidate for the prestigious Campbell Trophy and Lowe's Senior Class Award.
Schwenke, a second-team preseason All-Pac-12 selection of Lindy's and Steele, is also a national honors candidate that is expected to move to center this season to play the position for the first time in his Cal career after spending the last three campaigns as a guard. His 24 career starts are one behind Summers-Gavin.
Galas, who is the only one of the trio to have played in all 38 games possible over the last three seasons, missed spring ball with an injury and is expected to move to right guard upon his return to action in the fall. He started all 13 games at center last season.
Brothers Tyler and Jordan Rigsbee look to have the first shot at becoming starters on the line at left tackle and left guard, respectively. Tyler is a fifth-year senior who has played in eight games off the bench over his first four seasons, while Jordan is a redshirt freshman. Both moved into the starting lineup this past spring.
The backups on the post-spring depth chart across the line were listed as junior Bill Tyndall (left tackle), sophomore Alejandro Crosthwaite (left guard), sophomore Chris Adcock (center), sophomore Geoffrey Gibson (right guard) and redshirt freshman Brian Farley (right tackle).
Juniors Mark Brazinski and Matt Williams also return for the Bears. Brazinski was in the starting lineup for most of the spring before suffering an injury that could force him to miss much of the 2012 campaign, while Williams was in his first season with the program a year ago and is the club's only foreign-born player.
The Bears also recruited a trio of four-star recruits, including mid-year enrollee Christian Okafor, who got a head start on his classmates by participating in the team's 2012 spring practices. Freddie Tagaloa and Matt Cochran were both on MaxPreps' list of the nation's top players overall at No. 93 and No. 188, respectively, when they signed national letters of intent at Cal in February. Cochran was also Scout's No. 3 center nationally, while Tagaloa ranked as high as the nation's No. 13 offensive tackle according to MaxPreps. All three were four-star recruits.
"The key to having a strong offensive line is creating chemistry and having a cohesive group of guys that play well together," Tedford said. "We have veterans like Dominic Galas, Brian Schwenke and Matt Summers-Gavin who should be the leaders of this group, and many others are just waiting for their turn to step in. We spent last spring and will spend a little more time in camp identifying who will join those three in the starting lineup."
Cal has led the Pac-12 in total defense each of the past two seasons utilizing a balanced attack and creative schemes to create pressure and make the Bears one of the top big-play teams in the country. Last year, Cal was first in the conference and seventh nationally in tackles for loss, while ranking third in the league and 19th nationally in sacks. Cal led the league and ranked 13th nationally in sacks in 2010.
Much of the core of those defenses has moved on to the NFL but the Bears do still have six defensive starters returning from last year's club, including three in the defensive backfield and a pair of outside linebackers that will try to compensate for the loss of a total of nine players from the last two seasons now on NFL rosters.
"We have led the league in total defense each of the last two seasons, had some terrific performances and produced some excellent players," Tedford said. "We've lost some of our defensive leaders to the NFL so the challenge is to find the next series of leaders on the defensive side of the ball among a group of young players that have lots of talent. Now is their time."
The most experience on the defensive side of the ball comes in the defensive backfield, where seniors Josh Hill and Marc Anthony, and junior Steve Williams have combined to play in 91 games with 58 starts during their collegiate careers.
The Bears figure to have a mix of youth and veterans looking for increased roles in the front seven, where Cal must replace starters at both defensive ends and inside linebackers but do return a pair of outside linebackers with significant starting experience in junior Dan Camporeale and sophomore Chris McCain. Junior Deandre Coleman and sophomore Mustafa Jalil look to have the inside track on becoming the team's next set of starters at defense end, while veteran senior nose guards Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti are back after sharing the bulk of the snaps at the positions over the past two seasons. Seniors Robert Mullins and J.P. Hurrell, and sophomores Nick Forbes and David Wilkerson are all in the running for playing time at inside linebacker.
Coleman and Tipoti have received Cal's top preseason honors on the defensive side of the ball with first-team All-Pac-12 selections, while Tipoti is also on the watch list for the prestigious Outland Trophy honoring college football's top interior lineman on either side of the ball.
DEFENSIVE LINE (10)
41 - Todd Barr, 6-3, 275, Fr.*, RS
54 - Austin Clark, 5-10, 275, Jr.*, 2L
91 - Deandre Coleman, 6-5, 309, Jr.*, 2L
90 - Mustafa Jalil, 6-2, 280, So., 1L
56 - Keni Kaufusi, 6-1, 280, Jr.*, SQ
99 - Gabe King, 6-5, 293, So.*, SQ
75 - Puka Lopa, 6-1, 230, Fr.*, RS
55 - Viliami Moala, 6-2, 335, So., 1L
96 - Kendrick Payne, 6-2, 283, Sr.*, 3L
50 - Aaron Tipoti, 6-2, 280, Sr.*, 3L
Cal has lost five defensive linemen to the NFL in the last three seasons, including back-to-back first-round draft picks in Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan in the 2010 and 2011 drafts, but still figures to be solid up front and have lots of depth with all but two players returning from last year's squad.
"Defensive line is a position where it's critical to have a lot of depth and we feel like we do," Tedford said. "It's great to be able to substitute and keep people fresh and not have a great deal of falloff when you change personnel. We have many players that can step in and produce and make a strong impact this year."
Indeed, the Bears have all three of their top nose guards back from last year in seniors Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti, and sophomore Viliami Moala. Payne and Tipoti mostly shared the position last year by combining to make 10 starts. Tipoti was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 choice of the league's coaches a year ago and is a first-team preseason All-Pac-12 pick in 2012. Junior Austin Clark also plays the position and has gained significant experience each of the past two springs.
First-team preseason All-Pac-12 junior Deandre Coleman and sophomore Mustafa Jalil are expected to take over for departed 2011 senior starters Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu at defensive end. Both played key roles as backups in 2011, with Coleman also filling in as a starter twice and Jalil once. Junior Keni Kaufusi and sophomore Todd Barr are expected to begin training camp as the team's backup defensive ends, while others looking for increased playing time at the position include sophomore Gabe King and redshirt freshman Puka Lopa.
35 - Ted Agu, 6-1, 240, So.*, SQ
8 - Michael Barton, 6-1, 220, Fr., HS
22 - Nathan Broussard, 6-3, 246, Fr.*, RS
43 - Dan Camporeale, 6-3, 247, Jr.*, 2L
24 - Antione Davis, 6-4, 220, So., JC
42 - Steven Fanua, 6-0, 235, Jr.*, 2L
11 - Nick Forbes, 6-1, 236, So.*, 1L
9 - Jason Gibson, 6-2, 225, Fr.*, RS
13 - Khairi Fortt, 6-2, 238, Jr., TR
34 - J.P. Hurrell, 5-11, 230, Sr., 3L
7 - Jalen Jefferson, 6-2, 225, Fr.*, RS
10 - Lucas King, 6-3, 235, So.*, RS
28 - Matt Mayes, 6-0, 204, So.*, SQ
40 - Chris McCain, 6-6, 225, So., 1L
37 - Robert Mullins, 6-0, 225, Sr.*, 3L
47 - Hardy Nickerson, 6-0, 225, Fr., HS
17 - Brennan Scarlett, 6-4, 255, So., 1L
44 - David Wilkerson, 6-2, 230, So.*, 1L
14 - Cecil Whiteside, 6-2, 229, So., HS
Cal's look at linebacker will certainly be different in 2012 than it was a year ago when veteran seniors Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt were familiar faces in their third seasons as starters. Both have now moved on to the NFL so the Bears are assured of having two new starters at the inside linebacker positions.
"It's tough to replace veteran guys like Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt on the inside, but we have a couple of veterans there in Robert Mullins and J.P. Hurrell who will get a chance," Tedford said. "Nick Forbes and Jason Gibson also had impressive spring workouts, and we'll take a look at David Wilkerson on the inside."
Wilkerson is the only one of the five mentioned by Tedford with significant playing time at the collegiate level. The third-year sophomore, who was granted a medical redshirt season in 2010 when an injury ended his campaign after three games, has played on the outside during each of his first two seasons. As a part-time starter in 2011, he showed signs of emerging as a playmaker with his 4.0 sacks (-23 yards) ranking third on the team, while he contributed a total of 5.5 tackles for loss (-35 yards) among his 17 stops. His 0.40 per-game sack average ranked 11th in the Pac-12.
Mullins and Hurrell are both seniors that have primarily played on special teams during their careers, although each started one game in place of Kendricks last season. Forbes and Gibson are a sophomore and redshirt freshman who have played in one game between them but both had strong springs.
Cal also added junior Khairi Fortt to the mix on the inside when he transferred to Cal from Penn State just prior to training camp. Fortt was listed as a co-starter at middle linebacker for the Nittany Lions after 2012 spring practice. He had two-year career totals of 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards).
Camporeale is a former walk-on who blossomed into his role as a part-time starter last year and contributed career highs of 19 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss (-11 yards) and one fumble recovery. McCain, a 2012 preseason third-team All-Pac-12 pick of Athlon, found his way into the starting lineup just before the midway point last season and finished with 29 tackles to lead all Cal freshmen and rank 10th overall on the team despite missing three games after he had moved into the starting lineup due to injury.
"Young players like Chris McCain, David Wilkerson and Dan Camporeale saw lots of playing time on the outside last season and should be even stronger now with the experience they have gained," Tedford said.
Sophomore Cecil Whiteside was also reinstated to the team just prior to training camp after having been dismissed in May for violating team rules. Whiteside played in 10 games with three starts as a 2011 freshman, registering 17 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss (-26 yards), 3.0 sacks (-24 yards), one pass breakup and a team-high-tying two forced fumbles.
Other returning linebackers on the team's roster include junior Steven Fanua, sophomores Ted Agu, Lucas King, Matt Mayes and Brennan Scarlett, and redshirt freshmen Nathan Broussard and Jalen Jefferson.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (17)
2 - Marc Anthony, 6-0, 200, Sr.*, 3L
27 - Damariay Drew, 6-0, 200, Fr., HS
31 - Tyré Ellison, 6-3, 200, Sr.*, 2L
33 - Dan Fadelli, 5-11, 191, Fr., HS
25 - Willie Fletcher, 6-1, 185, Fr., HS
23 - Josh Hill, 5-10, 203, Sr., 3L
3 - Kameron Jackson, 5-9, 185, So., 1L
20 - Isaac Lapite, 5-9, 185, So.*, SQ
15 - Adrian Lee, 5-11, 200, So.*, 1L
6 - Alex Logan, 6-2, 200, Jr.*, 2L
5 - Michael Lowe, 5-11, 210, So., 1L
21 - Stefan McClure, 5-11, 192, So., 1L
29 - Jordan Morgan, 6-0, 196, Fr., HS
26 - Ikem Okwudiafor, 6-0, 200, So.*, HS
32 - Vachel Samuels, 6-0, 192, Jr.*, SQ
4 - Avery Sebastian, 5-10, 190, So., 1L
1 - Steve Williams, 5-10, 185, Jr.*, 2L
The veteran trio of seniors Josh Hill and Marc Anthony, and junior Steve Williams gives Cal a core of players in the defensive backfield with significant starting experience at the collegiate level. After seeing most of his action as a nickel back a year ago, the versatile Hill is expected to move into a starting safety role. Anthony and Williams return as the team's starting corners.
Hill, who has played in 36 games with 20 starts throughout a career that has seen him in action at cornerback, nickel back and safety, will be asked to step into a leadership role in the defensive backfield following the departures of 2011 starting safeties Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell. Hill is Cal's active career leader in tackles (127), interceptions (4), interception return touchdowns (1), interception return yards (46), forced fumbles (2, tied for lead) and fumble recoveries (2). He also ranks second among all active players in pass breakups (15) and passes defended (19). Last season, he played in all 13 games with six starts and ranked fifth on the club with 49 tackles while sharing the team lead with a pair of interceptions.
Anthony is back for his third season as a starter and has more career starts (22) than any active Cal player on defense, having started 11 games in each of the past two seasons. He is Cal's active career leader in passes defended (21) and pass breakups (18), while adding other career totals of 86 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss (-10 yards), three interceptions that he has returned 32 yards and one forced fumble. A third-team preseason All-Pac-12 pick of Phil Steele this season, Anthony is coming off a 2011 campaign in which he posted a career-high and team-leading 12 pass breakups to rank tied for seventh on the school's all-time single-season list. His per-game average of 1.18 passes defended (interceptions plus pass breakups) was fourth in the Pac-12.
Williams is the only member of the trio to have started all 13 games last season in his first campaign as a full-time starter. He tied for the team lead with two interceptions and 13 passes defended, while ranking second with 45 interception return yards and 11 pass breakups, tying for 10th on the school's all-time single-season list in the latter. His per-game average of 1.00 passes defended last season was fifth in the Pac-12.
"We have lots of experience, talent and depth in the defensive backfield," Tedford said. "It's always great to have both of your starting cornerbacks returning because that's one of the toughest positions in football and experience is crucial. We did lose both starting safeties but have confidence that Josh Hill will do a great job with his opportunity to play. We've also got some talented young players who are pushing for playing time, so I really like where we are with this unit."
Several others players will compete for the starting safety spot alongside Hill and for action at cornerback and nickel back.
Michael Lowe, Avery Sebastian and Alex Logan should battle for a starting job at safety after seeing most of their action as special teams standouts in 2011, with Lowe contributing 14 tackles and two pass breakups before a season-ending injury late in the campaign vs. Oregon State, Sebastian totaling nine stops and Logan five.
Stefan McClure saw extensive action as a true freshman last season with most of his playing time coming at cornerback, including a two-game stint as a starter in place of an injured Anthony. He finished with 24 tackles, one interception and a pass breakup before his season came to an end when he was injured in the regular-season finale at Arizona State.
Kameron Jackson begins the season as the team's other backup corner after playing in six games off the bench last season with six tackles.
Other returnees include fifth-year senior Tyré Ellison, as well as junior Vachel Samuels, and sophomores Isaac Lapite and Adrian Lee. Sophomore Ikem Okwudiafor and freshman Jordan Morgan joined the team in the spring.
After four seasons of Bryan Anger and Giorgio Tavecchio handling most of the team's punting and placekicking duties, the Bears will have an all new look in the kicking game in 2012. True freshman Cole Leininger has been listed on the post-spring depth chart as the starting punter before ever putting on a Cal uniform, while veteran fourth-year junior Vincenzo D'Amato is expected to handle the team's placekicking duties after sharing them with Tavecchio as a true freshman in 2009. The team's long snapper and holder will also be new.
Led by the standout performances of three-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection Anger and Tavecchio, who arguably had the best season ever by a Cal placekicker in 2011, the Bears' special teams units have shown marked improvement in their first two seasons under special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk. Cal improved 11 spots in net punting average to No. 19 in 2010 and another nine places to No. 10 in 2011. The Bears have also been much better on kickoffs, going from an average opponent starting field position of just beyond the 32-yardline each of the two years prior to Genyk's arrival to just inside the 26-yardline in both 2010 and 2011.
"We certainly have a challenge because we need to replace two of the best specialists in the history of Cal football with the departure of Bryan Anger and Giorgio Tavecchio," Tedford said. "We're bringing in one of the best punters in the nation in Cole Leininger to take Bryan's place, and we have several guys who are vying to be our next kicker with Vincenzo D'Amato having a strong spring and getting the first shot."
The Bears are looking to incoming freshman Cole Leininger to step into the starting punter role after the departure of celebrated four-year starter and three-time all-conference selection Bryan Anger, who was drafted in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars to become the highest punter taken in the draft in the past 17 years.
Leininger was a second-team All-American as a 2011 high school senior when he averaged 42.7 yards per punt. He also scored a team-high 110 points on 14 made field goals and 68 extra points, while putting 64 of his 90 kickoffs into the end zone but is expected to focus on punting at the beginning of his collegiate career.
Sophomore Steffan Mos also joins the Bears after averaging 40.8 yards per punt during one season at Grossmont College in 2011 to earn second-team All-Southern California Football Association honors. He is the first Cal player to transfer from Grossmont since Joe Roth in 1975.
Sophomore Chad Smith moved to the gridiron last spring after spending one season with the Cal crew program. Smith averaged 41.0 yards per punt over his final two campaigns as a prep.
Cal fans became familiar with the left footed Giorgio Tavecchio handling nearly all of the team's placekicking duties the past two seasons and being involved in the kicking game for most of the past four campaigns. Tavecchio has moved on to the San Francisco 49ers after a brilliant 2011 season but another familiar face that shared much of the work with Tavecchio in 2009 is back in the fold.
Junior Vincenzo D'Amato has changed both his first name (Vince to Vincenzo) and number (No. 16 to No. 13) since his arrival at Cal in 2009, but fans should become familiar with him again in 2012. After redshirting last season while Tavecchio became the first Cal player to pace the Pac-12 in field goal percentage and the first since 1991 to lead the conference in field goals made per game, D'Amato stepped into the starting role in the spring and has two years of eligibility remaining. He ranked third on the squad in scoring with 52 points in 2009, connecting on 7-of-12 field goals and all 31 of his extra-point tries.
Junior James Langford had a strong spring, including making both of his field goal attempts from 47 and 41 yards as well as his lone extra-point try in the spring game for the winning Gold squad, but will be required to sit out for one season after transferring from Cal Poly. Redshirt freshman Benjamin Calder and true freshman Noah Beito are also on the roster.
LONG SNAPPERS (5)
83 - Cary Kriegsman, 5-10, 195, So.*, SQ
86 - Brandon Madueño, 6-0, 243, Jr.*, SQ
93 - Duke Moran, 6-3, 215, Fr., HS
98 - Bradley Northnagel, 6-2, 225, Fr., HS
69 - John Sheperdson, 6-3, 220, So., 1L
After seven seasons with long snappers from North Canyon High School in Phoenix holding the position in Nick Sundberg (2005-08) and Matt Rios (2009-11), a California native will take over the job in 2012. The question is which one of the five hailing from the Golden State will be putting the ball in the hands of freshman punter Cole Leininger and holder Jackson Bouza when the season rolls around.
Sophomore John Sheperdson is the only one that's ever done so in a college game before, fulfilling the role for the team's Holiday Bowl matchup with Texas last season. Junior Brandon Madueño is listed along with Sheperdson as a possible starter on the team's post-spring depth chart, while sophomore Cary Kriegsman also returns. In addition, the Bears are bringing in freshmen Duke Moran and Bradley Northnagel at the position.
"Long snappers are often overlooked until you don't have one," Tedford said. "The good news is that we do have three returning long snappers on the roster, but none other than John Sheperdson has snapped in a game before. We are looking for one of these guys to emerge because it is vital to have a good and consistent long snapper to be successful in the kicking game."
There are typically several players that contribute to Cal's return game throughout any particular season but the Bears seem to have their primary returnees in place prior to the 2012 campaign. Junior Keenan Allen has been designated as the team's starting punt returner, while sophomore Brendan Bigelow and senior Mike Manuel are the top kick returners.
"We have a couple of experienced kick returners that saw lots of action in the role last year in Brendan Bigelow and Mike Manuel," Tedford said. "We're also looking for Keenan Allen to replace Marvin Jones as our punt returner. That's how we'll head into training camp. But we have good team speed and there are a lot of skill position players that can handle the return game. We will get them some work during training camp and at some point in the season many of them could play a role."
Allen will be taking on the role of punt returner for his first time at Cal but has experience returning kicks when he led the Bears with 18 kick returns for 406 yards and an average of 22.6 yards per return that was second on the club as a true freshman in 2010.
Bigelow and Manuel were Cal's top kick returners a year ago. Bigelow returned 23 kicks for 475 yards, both team highs, and the club's first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2007, while Manuel tied for second on the squad with 12 kick returns for 258 yards and a 21.5 average that led all players with more than one kick return for the season.
The only other returning player with significant experience in the return game is senior Isi Sofele, who has brought back 23 kicks for 468 yards and a 20.3 average during his career, with all but one of those returns happening in his first two seasons with the program before he became the starting tailback in 2011.