Everything’s starting to come together for quarterback Jared Goff. Cal football is entering the 2015 season with promise and experience, and the Bears are expected to come up with a winning season for the first time since 2011. And when opening day starts, Goff’s going to be the center of attention.
All eyes will be on Goff every Saturday that Cal takes the field. Having started every game since he began college, Goff’s going to be one of those names people are going to recognize nationally and will be the face most people associate the Bears with. With the potential to make a run at the Heisman trophy, break nearly every school quarterback record and be a first-round draft pick next year, Goff’s going to be Cal’s main attraction this year.
But for fans who have been watching for the past two years, Goff has always been the one who draws local headlines because of the Bears’ heavy use of him in the passing game. 2015 is most likely going to be a similar story, as Goff will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his arm. Although Goff has recorded tremendous numbers, the impressive offensive performances haven’t necessarily been reflected in the wins column.
Goff alone can’t win football games. But he can be the starting point to help the rest of the team be stronger. Goff can make his teammates better and more comfortable as a result of the attention he’s naturally going to draw.
Passing is probably Cal’s greatest strength. Short routes and timing plays have a high percentage of success, and moving the chains isn’t something the team usually struggles with doing. Because the Bears have such a powerful attack through the air, the running game is often overlooked.
Traditionally, football teams generally run first using power schemes to assert their physicality early in the game and get positive yardage. After establishing a running game, defenses will be forced to pay more attention to the run, and they might even put extra bodies near the line of scrimmage. This leaves defenders leaning toward the running back and potentially anticipating the run.
It is at this point where offenses can switch it up and use play action to fake the handoff to the running back and give the quarterback a chance to throw against a porous defense that’s startled and unprepared to guard the pass.
For the Bears, their style of play is sort of the opposite of this mindset. Instead of using the run to set up the pass, Cal uses Goff’s passing ability to set up the run. With a quarterback as accurate and reliable as Goff, the Bears tend to pass first, and the timing between Goff and his quarterbacks is efficient enough to produce yardage.
Because of the passing threat, defensive fronts will be looking at Goff. Defensive linemen and linebackers will then be less committed to guarding the run, so Cal’s running backs can capitalize.
“With the type of offense we run, we pass so much, we usually get a pretty light box,” said Cal offensive line coach and run game coordinator Brandon Jones. “We want to expose that as much as we can.”
With backs such as Daniel Lasco, Vic Enwere, Tre Watson and Khalfani Muhammad, the Bears have the balanced mix of speedsters and bruisers to be an elite rushing team. Just by being on the field, Goff creates holes in defensive fronts, giving the running backs more chances to make big plays.
But Cal’s never been a stranger to big plays. They happen often — lots of times in the Bears’ favor, but lots of times against them as well. But big plays won’t be the key to Cal’s success. In order for the Bears to truly prosper, it will come down to the little things Cal does.
The threat of the pass starts off a chain reaction of positive things for the Bears, which extends to beyond just the offense. A more effective run game is just one of many connected elements that can help Cal win.
It all starts with Goff. He can’t win games on his own, but his impact helps everybody on the team play his role more effectively. Floor generals such as Goff do more than just put up high numbers — they put their team in a higher position to win games.
“He works really hard at his craft, and obviously, he’s the leader of this team,” Jones said. “So whatever he can do to make us better and help us win, I know he’s done it. But thus far, we just got to protect him.”
Ritchie Lee covers football. Contact him at [email protected].