Cal football was in the headlines again this week after its big, late-night upset of Texas. It turns out headlines and national attention are really fun! But once the Bears go against the tough Pac-12 schedule ahead of them, chances are that they’ll start to disappoint. How could we guarantee headlines without the accompanying expectations? What if we replaced everyone on the team with athletes from other Cal teams! I think it’s just absurd enough to work, and here’s how it might look.
Quarterback: Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense makes this search a bit easier for us. Instead of having to look for anyone who has to be able to, say, read a defense or learn a playbook, we really just need someone who can throw the ball a long way. So this is basically a search for the Cal athlete with the biggest biceps or shoulders (how did Jared Goff chuck the ball 60 yards with those noodle arms?). A search through the Cal roster leads me to believe Luca Cupido of the water polo team could get the job done. And really, who couldn’t find Chad Hansen on deep shots this year?
Running back: Dykes seems to be resisting choosing a feature back among Vic Enwere and Khalfani Muhammad, but there’s no doubt who the do-it-all guy for the non-football football team will be.
Russell Webb, the star of last year’s national champion rugby squad should slot in very nicely here. He has blazing speed, an uncanny ability to switch directions and freeze defenders, and his sublime rugby passing skills mean laterals will be a staple of the playbook. Trick plays will just become plays.
Wide receiver: We want to follow the Chad Hansen model here: tall and quick and able to go up and get the ball. My first thought was to look to the basketball team, but with Tyrone Wallace graduated, we don’t exactly have lightning fast guards. So instead we look to soccer. Trevor Haberkorn, a strong 6-foot-3-inch defenseman/midfielder inherits the onerous job of trying to replace Chad Hansen. Good luck!
Tight end: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this before, but there are a few NFL tight ends who played basketball in college. In fact, the greatest tight end of all time, Tony Gonzalez, played basketball for Cal! We’re looking for someone about 6 feet, 6 inches with a big frame here. Jabari Bird has the size and the hands, but at fewer than 200 pounds, he’ll have no chance as a blocker. Stephen Domingo would need to add weight to his 217-pound frame, but he’s a lot closer to playing size than anyone else is.
Linebacker: We’re looking for someone really quick, but with that 6-foot-3-inch size you need to stop defenders. A defensive expert on the women’s team should give us the size and skills we need. Courtney Range, a defensive specialist who plays forward and comes in at 6 feet, 3 inches is perfect!
Offensive and defensive lineman: There are not many non-football sports where anyone even resembling the size of a lineman (over six feet and 300 pounds) is useful. Luckily for this spot, Cal happens to have a national champion rugby team, the only other sport where we can find guys this size! The frontline of a rugby team has to basically play offensive line when blocking and pushing forward in the scrum and defensive line when laying guys out on defense. Lock Tomas Zerbino (6-foot-5-inches, 272 pounds), props Kevin Sullivan (6-foot-2-inches, 285 pounds) and Anthony Kosinski (6-foot-5-inches, 259 pounds) are probably the only Bears who would be able to fill in here. Rugby coach Jack Clark played on the o-line for Cal football and briefly for the Philadelphia Eagles, so he could teach these guys a few things about this sport as well.
Cornerback: Backpedaling is a very specific skill, and it’s not taught in all that many sports. But quick footwork and backpedaling is key to tennis, especially in doubles, so Denise Starr of the women’s tennis team should be able to give the position a go. At six feet tall, she’s got the size and skills to shut down wide receivers. Learning a defensive playbook could be really difficult, but in Dykes’ scheme that’s not an issue.
Safety: We want someone here who can pursue the ball and break up passes. Chasing the ball whenever it comes near you and breaking up scoring plays? Sounds like a goalie! Maddie Julian of the women’s soccer team is six feet tall and her skills should translate well for a ball hawker in the secondary.
Special teams: Andrew Buckley of the baseball team gives us a huge assist here. He played wide receiver, safety, punter and punt returner on his state champion high school team! We should be able to slot him in as kicker, punter and all-purpose returner, along with backup for a bunch of other spots.
In hindsight, looking for more high school football players could have made this a lot simpler. Hopefully this was more rewarding.
Contact Andrew Wild at [email protected].