Every team has a silver lining

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The sad saga of the Cal football team has been exhausted thoroughly. There’s little left to comb over after months of repeating stats about the porous defense and of rehashing how many (depressing) program records were set last season. The quarterback never had a pocket to work with, the projected starters on the secondary had about three functional legs combined, the run game was nonexistent, etc. There are really only so many synonyms for “dreadful.”

Few, if any, pundits and columnists have even attempted to find a bright spot among the pages of misery that constitute the Bears’ state of affairs. It’s the equivalent of finding a needle in an injury-ravaged, inexperienced haystack. So, after months of disheartening analysis and speculation, I’ll try to be the pioneer for hypothesizing about a football team that resembles … a football team.

To the Cal fans reading this — and I know you must all be nursing a headache — I now present to you a somewhat-contrived set of silver linings in the hopes it provides you with a sense of optimism. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this elsewhere.

The most significant improvement to this team won’t necessarily be to a specific group but a batch of healthy players who were lost to season-ending injuries. Last year’s secondary became a hodgepodge of inexperienced replacements once Stefan McClure was hit with a critical knee injury against Washington State and Avery Sebastian tore his Achilles on opening night against Northwestern. Both McClure and Sebastian are expected to be out of their red jerseys once training camp picks up in a few weeks.

Aside from the departure of Kameron Jackson, most of the secondary unit will be returning for next season. Cameron Walker got playing time once Sebastian was injured and struggled due to being very undersized for the position of free safety. Walker will benefit from returning to his regular cornerback position.

On the other side of the ball, Cal’s offense will benefit from an offensive line that has a year of experience under its belt. Starting guard Chris Borrayo and center Jordan Rigsbee both had strong seasons, especially toward the end of the year. Both will need to be anchors of a line that struggled to protect quarterback Jared Goff, especially with the uncertainty at tackle.

Since he won’t be tasked with settling a quarterback controversy this offseason, head coach Sonny Dykes can set his sights on helping his starting quarterback fix his shortcomings. For those of us who were in Goff’s camp last year — whether by choice or by default — there aren’t too many glaring issues to worry about.

Goff’s main problem throughout his freshman campaign was an inordinate number of turnovers, resulting from a tendency to panic when his first or second reads failed to pan out. If Goff can improve his footwork and his reads during offseason reps, he may actually warrant all the preseason buzz he’s been garnering. Goff also has a group of talented wideouts at his disposal, including the skilled tandem of Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs.

Next season will also likely be less experimental than Dykes’ inaugural year. Players will have had a year and two offseasons to acclimate to Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s fast-paced spread offense.

We all know this team bottomed out last year and that there’s no place to go but up. After all, the expectations that have been set for the Bears are so low that it’s possible that they just might surpass them. After a dismal season that saw no victories against FBS opponents and produced the statistically worse defense in program history, 2014 can hardly be more painful.

Contact Michelle Lee at [email protected].

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