Two years ago, Zach Maynard was quarterbacking over 2,600 miles away and Isi Sofele was Cal’s soon-to-be revealed freshman speedster. With fall camp concluded, the new starting quarterback and running back are the two most important and intriguing weapons leading the Bears out of the summer doldrums and into September.
A junior transfer from Buffalo, Maynard was named starting quarterback on May 14, two weeks following the end of spring practice. Perhaps the most mobile quarterback to line up under center since coach Jeff Tedford arrived in Berkeley in 2002, Maynard has drawn strong reviews from Tedford and his receivers during the beginning stages of his starting tenure. Maynard will be backed up by sophomore Allen Bridgford, who beat out incumbent starter Brock Mansion for the second slot on the depth chart.
For a team that has consistently lined up one of the top running backs in the conference, Cal’s running back situation can easily be classified as its most unstable in years. With Shane Vereen gone to the New England Patriots, the starting duties now belong to Sofele, a ballcarrier that was seen primarily as a slot receiver and specialty back when he entered Berkeley in 2009. Backing up Sofele will be Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, followed by some combination of sophomore Dasarte Yarnway and junior college transfer C.J. Anderson. DeBoskie-Johnson fell out of favor after showing up to spring practice out of shape, but a strong performance in the closing stages of fall camp solidified his role as the backup.
Junior fullback Eric Stevens’ season-ending ACL tear pushes senior Will Kapp up to first-string.
The receiving corps may be the Bears’ strongest portion of their offense, but both Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones need the unproven Maynard to get the ball to them. Allen showcased flashes of brilliance last season, and Jones has been the top target for the last two years.
Michael Calvin is currently penciled in as the third receiver with a recently bulked up Coleman Edmond not far behind. Expect Kaelin Clay to see some action as well; a minor knee surgery set him back for most of fall camp, but the speedy wideout out of Long Beach Poly is expected to return in time for the season opener.
Tight end Anthony Miller will look to bounce back after a sub-par junior campaign; after reeling in 357 yards and an All-Pac-10 honorable mention as a sophomore, he had just 13 catches for 152 yards.
The personnel remains almost identical for the offensive line, but the addition of former coach Jim Michalczik is probably the most exciting news for a group that seriously struggled at points last year. Junior center Dominic Galas gives the Bears a gritty edge in the middle, and veterans Mitchell Schwartz and Matt Summers-Gavin should lock down the outside pass rush.
The biggest change is the loss of defensive end Cameron Jordan, drafted 24th overall by the New Orleans Saints. His heir apparent, senior Trevor Guyton, had a breakout game at Washington State, starting at nose tackle to record 2.5 sacks and seven tackles.
Junior Aaron Tipoti mans that nose tackle spot with senior Ernest Owusu as the other end. Behind
them is an impressive array of raw, physical talent that could push for playing time: freshman Gabe King is 6-foot-5, 269 pounds; sophomore Deandre Coleman is 6-foot-6, 319; true freshman Viliami Moala is an astounding 6-foot-2, 350.
This should be a huge strength for the Bears, even without former Pac-10 tackles leader Mike Mohamed. Senior Mychal Kendricks slides inside, teaming up with D.J. Holt; the former was an All-Pac-10 second teamer, the latter an honorable mention.
The outside linebackers is much more interesting race. Whereas Kendricks and Holt are both known quantities, Cal’s pass rush will depend on a group of new faces. David Wilkerson, a four-star recruit from 2010, recorded two tackles last fall before taking a medical redshirt and will likely start on the strongside. A jumble of players are vying for the spot opposite him, including senior Ryan Davis and freshmen Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside.
Senior Sean Cattouse could potentially be one of the top safeties in the conference, and D.J. Campbell will likely start the season opposite him. Junior Marc Anthony and sophomore Steve Williams have firm grips on the cornerback spots, and versatile junior Josh Hill will start as nickelback.
Defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose said the freshmen defensive backs are as good a group of youngsters as he’s ever seen. Cornerback Stefan McClure and safety Avery Walls are the main standouts, and both should get plenty of time on special teams along with providing depth.
The photograph accompanying Thursday’s article, “Questions surround offense as fall camp wraps up” incorrectly identified the featured player as Kaelin Clay. In fact, it was Avery Walls.