The California Golden Bears kick off their season at North Carolina on Sept. 2, but fans can catch a glimpse of the Golden Bears next week at Pac-12 Media Days. Justin Wilcox will take the stage Wednesday, July 26, as the new coach of a football program that been to only one bowl game since 2011. He’ll be joined in Hollywood by running back Tre Watson and defensive tackle James Looney. Here are Cal’s biggest storylines and questions heading into Pac-12 Media Days:
What to expect in Justin Wilcox’s first season
As a defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, USC and Wisconsin, Wilcox has produced some of the better defensive units in the country. At Cal, he’ll hope to instill a new mindset that diverges from the “just score more than the other guy” mentality. It won’t happen overnight, but a new day has dawned for Cal football, and it embraces physicality.
Who will play QB?
Jared Goff and Davis Webb are not walking through that door. What’s left in the QB stable is a collection of inexperienced pups, not the NFL-ready talent of the last few seasons. Chase Forrest and Ross Bowers are the most likely candidates to start. Forrest has 18 career pass attempts. Bowers has none.
Demetris Robertson may be the team’s breakout star
He played in the shadow of Chad Hansen last season, but wide receiver Demetris Robertson had a very good 2016 for the Golden Bears with 50 catches for 767 yards and 7 touchdowns. Now that Hansen has left early for the NFL, Robertson, a freshman All-American per USA Today, becomes the No. 1 wideout. If he can develop chemistry with whomever wins the QB job, a season of 80-plus catches, 1,200 yards and double-digit TDs isn’t out of the question. Robertson is fast and elusive, and will be one of the Pac-12’s top big-play threats.
‘Bear Raid’ will continue under new OC Beau Baldwin
Sonny Dykes is gone, but Cal still can be prolific in the passing game. The Golden Bears finished second in the country in pass attempts and passing yards last season and were third in completions. With new offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, who spent the last nine seasons as head coach of FCS power Eastern Washington, that trend will continue. Over the last five seasons, Baldwin’s teams did not rank lower than 18th nationally in scoring, according to Athlon. And in 2014, EWU led all FCS teams with an average of 44.1 points per game.
The defense, on the other hand …
It was a smart hire to bring in one of the top defensive coordinators in the country to guide the Bears. Wilcox will have a big challenge to improve things on that side of the ball for Cal, particularly since it ranked 126th (out of 128 teams) in rushing yards allowed and opponent points per game. The Bears have seven starters returning, which should accelerate the improvement, but let’s just say this won’t look like Wilcox’s Wisconsin teams anytime soon.