The naming of a quarterback dominated the headlines after the release of Cal football’s depth chart Monday night, but there was plenty more to read into on both sides of the ball. Some moves simply confirmed decisions that were hinted at throughout the summer while others came as more full-blown surprises, and we now have a far better understanding of the team we’ll see take on UNC Saturday morning.
“Obviously depth chart got released today and I’m really excited about the type of progress our team has made,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox on Monday. “We need everybody on that depth chart and it’s by no means set in stone but that’s where we are right now.”
As redshirt sophomore Ross Bowers is taking over as the signal caller without having started a game in college, he’ll likely need to rely on the experienced offensive players early in the season. With three starters on the offensive line also without starting experience, that pressure is likely to fall on the skill position players.
Valentino Daltoso, who came in as a transfer from Oregon after redshirting in 2016, will start right away, having earned the trust of offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, who coached Daltoso last season as well. Redshirt junior Addison Ooms is the only returning full-time starter and will lock down the center spot.
Wilcox chose not to name a starter among senior running backs Vic Enwere and Tre Watson. This is not a reflection of an indecisive move from the coach, but instead of how much of a workload both are likely to receive. Enwere is coming off an injury that ended his 2016 season, but even as the third running back, he was receiving a healthy amount of reps, and will certainly see his playing time further upped.
“We’re hoping that we’re going to get the ball as much as we can,” Watson said. “We just feel comfortable with whoever is getting the ball, we just want to get out there and win.”
Sophomore Demetris Robertson will be starting as one of the outside receivers, and with redshirt sophomore Kanawai Noa winning the starting slot receiver job, it will fall on redshirt junior Vic Wharton III and redshirt senior Jordan Veasy to provide veteran experience at the receiver position. They are currently listed as splitting the second outside spot.
After a dynamic rookie season, sophomore Melquise Stovall looks to have fallen somewhat out of the coaches’ favor. He is now listed third for the slot receiver spot, so he’ll likely need to earn playing time through practice.
Two freshman are currently splitting the cornerback spot opposite senior Marshawn Franklin Jr., who started every game last season. Redshirt freshman Camryn Bynum and true freshman Elijah Hicks look to have beaten out redshirt senior Darius Allensworth, who started the first six games of the 2016 season before a season-ending injury, for an outside spot. There was some indication of this move coming over the summer, but it’s still stark to see put officially. Allensworth will no doubt still see the field after looking the part of key starter last season; it only remains to be seen whether that will be as a nickelback or rotating into an outside corner spot.
“We’re really pleased with the way (the freshman corners) have come along,” Wilcox said. “(Defensive backs coach) Gerald Alexander has done a great job with those guys. There were some returners that have played a lot at corner and to make it that competitive is really a tribute to (the freshmen). It’s not about what anybody else didn’t do, it’s really what they have done.”