Football: Lingering questions

Just finished up some season preview work which will appear in tomorrow’s paper. One of the entries in a big preview box we are doing is titled “Lingering questions.” I came up with a few, which you will see in the paper tomorrow. What do you think? If you had to pick one lingering question, the answer to which could make a big difference in the season, what would it be?

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • dball

    Teams like Arizona and Stanford have upgraded their defenses, and they say that to win in the Pac10 you need >30 pts/game and >4.0 yards/carry. In camp, the o-line has been juggling guys at each position trying to find the right fit.

    So the biggest lingering questions are the o-line: when will the juggling stop, how soon will defined starters emerge, and how consistent will they be from one game to the next?

  • Kyle

    The biggest questions going in to the season are:

    1. How will the defense perform under the new system?

    2. How much, if any, will special teams improve under Genyk? As a corollary, will our placekickers be able to improve on last year’s woeful performance.

    3. How will our relatively inexperienced LB corps perform?

    4. Will the Oline be able to protect Riley?

    5. Will Keenan Allen prove to be a dependable 2nd WR, and will any big play threats emerge?

    6. Big Picture wise, how much will the SAHPC help with recruiting, team building, and conditioning, and will Cal be able to build on last year’s recruiting class to continue an upward trajectory for the program, particularly with respect to recruiting?

  • covinared

    1. How much will the freshmen contribute, especially at WR?
    2. Which Darian Hagan will show up?
    3. What will be the opponents’ post kick off average starting position?

  • Juancho

    Will the offensive playcalling be more aggressive / creative this year.

  • Tom Stocksdale

    Defense, defense, defense

  • GoldenBear 77

    Only one lingering question for me at this point — Has the team learned to respond positively to the inevitable times of adversity?

  • CalBearEnthu

    Cal had it’s worst year in years last year (say that aloud ten times fast!) and have been left for dead. With all of the NFL talent on both sides of the ball (Mike Mohammed, Cameron Jordan, Shane Vareen and honestly both WRs are NFL quality) why do so many publications have them struggling so badly this season. I may be too optimistic, but I’ve see worse talent at Cal have very good seasons (Tedford’s first year for example). Why do people like Jonathan Okanes not see this? Have they been blinded by the big media outlets into the mantra of “SEC #1” “Pac 10 is weak” and so on? Or does the selection of Jahvid Best and Tyson Alualu provide some indications that ultimately these protagonists have a little bit of homework to do when evaluating Cal for 2010.

  • Josh

    How much will special teams improve? Can we kick field goals and/or kick the ball into the endzone on kickoffs?

  • steeeeve

    No way to limit this to one question:

    1. Will the offensive line stay healthy and play well?

    2. Will the wide receivers catch the ball reliably?

    3. Can the new defensive system pressure the QB well enough to mask a weak secondary?

    4. Will the kickoff coverage improve?

    5. Will the coaches respond well to adversity in October/November?

  • elbarto83

    QB. Freshmen. LBs and DBs. New defensive scheme. Probably in that order.

  • milo

    THE lingering question for me is: will ALL moving parts come together?

  • rollonubears

    if you watch the replay of the oregon/ohio state rose bowl game, you see two teams playing at a level i have only seen cal play at twice, at u@c in 2004, and at oregon back in 2007. both teams were pretty well stocked with talent. i too am a little concerned about the shuffling at o-line. i think that, and the play of riley (which are related) are the burning questions. as far as the defense and special teams, it’s hard NOT to improve on those fronts. i think we’ve got a shot to win the pac10 this year. i love that few others see it. it’ll make the season that much sweeter. we just don’t want to go 3-0 and then go get our clocks cleaned by arizona the day after we end up as #23 in the country. if we go 4-0, look out.

  • CalBear91

    Oline, Oline, Oline. We have a good enough, if not great enough, QB. Stud RB. Good enough WR’s. It’s the Oline. Oh and Dbacks.

  • cane grande

    i was interested to see the positive comments sent by CalBearEnthu yesterday. But, in reality, aren’t the Bears confronted by the same problems that have befuddled them for a number of years, i.e. a quarterback who has never performed, an offensive line incapable of doing a proper job, and a pass “defence” that would embarass any good high school team? On top of all that, Tedford’s numbers are getting worse each year, he seems not to have a plan to reverse performance, except to tell the coaches and players to “relax and have fun”. I wonder if Mac Brown is telling the Texas players to “relax and have fun.”

  • Fair Weather Fan

    The only question is whether Riley can play like an experienced senior and be an elite Pac-10 QB.

    If he does, Cal will have a good season. If not, we are in the bottom half of the Pac-10. It’s simple.

    The O-line just has to be adequate. If Riley can make opponents think twice about blitzing, then the O-line will look much better. If opponents keep sending 6 pass rushers and the kitchen sink at Riley, the O-line will look bad.

    Ludwig has responsibility as well.

  • Bears

    Is Cal a tough team that will fight as hard as possible for the entire game no matter the score?

  • Hungry

    OL and DB. But I’m confident this will be “the year!”

  • CalBearEnthu

    Cal had what was considered a horrible year….AND THEY WENT FREAKING 8-5!!!!!! I don’t believe they’ll have that bad of a year this year, in other words I think the worst they do is 9-4. If they do indeed go at least 9-4, which is a worst case scenario considering the pundits observations of last year, will that be considered a bad year too?

  • shaka

    Can we dare ourselves to be great?

  • DaBears

    Has Tedford regained the trust and confidence of his team so he can get everyone’s 100% buy-in in to his vision?

  • Bears

    Is Schwartz a really good/great LT? Is the rest of the OL improved enough and deep enough to be very good?
    Can our ST’s actually be a strength?
    Will the defense actually walk the walk instead of just talking big?

  • Bears

    Does the team have the stones to win big games and the consistency in production/effort on game day to win games it should win?

  • abe

    That is easy, like i have mentioned in recent past…

    1. how good will our OLBs be at rushing the passer?
    2. how good will our OLBS be at rushing the passer?
    3. how good will our OLBs be at rushing the passer?
    4. how good will our OLBs be at rushing the passer?
    5. how good will our OLBs be at rushing the passer?
    6. how good will our OLBs be at rushing the passer?
    7. …you get the idea…

  • Big D

    Would Tedford ever consider asking the Roth family if it was cool to let the starting Cal QB wear #12 during the Joe Roth game in honor of Joe Roth?

    This might help to get his story out more to the public.

  • bruab

    Will the play calling continue to be predictable and conservative (with the occasional 2nd down bomb attempt) or will we have return to the creative and relentless attack of 2004.

  • Dan

    If you go through all the posts here, there is at least 10 legitimate question marks- to me, there are 15 easy, imho. Therein lies the reason that Cal is not considered a contender this season and is routinely picked a dismal #7 in most polls.

    With that said, this team can be better than last year’s team – in fact, it had better be- and could be the best team in 4 years, but a lot of things have to go right and/or be ready to hit ground running at a high level starting this Saturday- can y’all believe its here already?

    In any event, let’s try to stay positive and hope for the best. Let’s hope that all the recent changes that Tedford has made will be more than the window dressing his past “Big” changes have turned out to be.

    Also, CalBearEnthu … last year was a disappointing year not only because of the 8-5, it’s how we got absolutely waxed in all the losses. Absolutely blown out. We have never seen that before with Tedford, and that goes well beyond a talent issue. The talent was there for Cal to do better than 8-5, but even more importantly to be able to compete in each of those 5 losses. They didn’t even show up or quickly folded their tents when the going got rough in all 5 of those losses.

    Rollonubears – agreed on how rare we have seen Cal pay at the top of their game, but I do think you could have included the Tennessee game at home. Though Tedford took the foot off the accelerator and it became a game due to conservative O and D. Perhaps you took that into consideration and intentionally decided not to include it.

  • Scott

    Cal has had so much talent the past few years and it hasn’t translated into winning the Pac-10. How does Arizona come out of nowhere last yuear and play for the Rose Bowl? Same with Oregon State the past two years?

    It’s coaching. Tedford has not kept up with the Sarksian, Harbaugh, Stoops and Riley game plans the past few years.

    Will Tedford grow some steel one this year or stay predictable again?

    When will Tedford

  • Kevin Thomas

    This Cal team, on paper, is in deep pudding. Last year, receivers could seldom get open, due to either receiver routes or playcalling or lack of talent. When they did get open, the offensive line couldn’t protect the passer, and when they did protect him, he misfired too often. The defense played a prevent defense on nearly every play, and gave up too many yards and too many points. The special teams never found a kicker in a studentbody of 20,000+ who could get the ball into the end zone.

    My lingering question: Is the raw talent of the incoming recruits good enough to make a conservative coach get them on the field, and have the players who had a mediocre season last year flourish under new assistant coaches and their new schemes?

    PS to CalBearEnthu: Cal has NFL quality players? Mohammed maybe, but he needs to put on weight and gain a lot of strength. Jordan has not lived up to his promise so far. Vereen was the #1 back for only half a season, and did not prove to be durable. He did little after the Big Game. WR’s? Marvin Jones is good at catching the ball in traffic, but he is almost never able to get separation. Keenan Allen hasn’t played a down of college football. I hope they all do play well enough to get drafted, but right now the NFL is a dream for anyone on this team.

  • Steve W

    The questions about the O-line are right-on and key to the success of the team this year. Last year, I watched Justin Cheadle just get tossed around like a rag-doll against the Oregon State line. Is he any better and tougher this year.? Can Matt Summers Gavin stay healthy throughout the season? Will Cal re-establish toughness in the running game this year? Can the Bears have not just have one 1,000 rusher, but two, like they did under Bruce Snyder in 1990? Is Tedford really only going two-deep with the running backs this year, and does that mean that DeBoskie-Johnson and Yarnway stew on the sidelines all year?

  • Frank

    I may add Guarnero was terribly abused last year and sadly enough that position was not open for competition in the spring or fall regardless what the coaching staff indicates to the media.Yes the o-line is a major concern.

  • rotfogel

    Mohammed is listed at 6-3 245lbs. I don’t think that’s small for an NFL LB. Kendrick Payne, you’ll just have to see, is an NFL lineman, if he’s fully healthy this year, you will see. I agree with you on Cameron Jordan, but he’ll get drafted at minimum by the 5th round and he could move all the way to the first if he plays well, ideal DE size. Schwartz, I believe is a better LT prospect than Tepper was. The secondary has a ton of potential as well, I’m a bit overly optimistic on them, but I saw Steve Williams speed, he looked great in spring, and he got beat out for 1st team.

  • aahq

    Many lingering questions posted here are not really pressing questions that would plausibly have a large variation in outcome. To wit: we know the RB is very good, we know the QB will range between average and pretty good, we know the punting game is excellent, we know the kickoffs and field goals will come in below average. The linebacking corps is pretty solid, I think, as is the defensive front three — not leaders of the Pac-10, but not bad.

    That really only leaves three truly lingering questions where we have substantially new personnel and the range of potential outcomes is rather large. First, as numerous folks have pointed out, is the Oline. But even here I think we know that this group, barring injury, will be at least serviceable, and perhaps pretty good. Second, the receiving corps is truly a lingering question. When one of the two starting WRs is a freshman and the other a possible break out threat (but maybe not), there is a wide variation in potential outcomes.

    Third, and most important, is the DB corps. This is the true lingering question, given that all four starters could be very good or well below average. This conundrum is encapsulated by Hagan 1 v. Hagan 2. This group could prove to be pretty solid, or the most porous D backfield in the Pac-10. How the new DC deals with the range of outcomes in the D backfield will be critical to Cal’s success. Coaching matters.

    As always, Go Bears!

  • CalfaninSac

    Will the offensive line come into the season with a nasty attitude and play that way? When I say nasty, I mean N.A.S.T.Y! I mean, if anyone comes close to Riley, make him pay, if not on that play, then later in the game. Don’t take any sh!t, and get after the other team. If you’ve ever played o-line, then you know what I mean…

  • Nor-Cal Scott

    Great questions bloggers! Probably too many for JO to tackle tonight, but really good questions.

    My 3 Keys to a March To Victory:
    1) Riley has career year. He needs help from both the OL & WRs.
    2) Defense lives up to “aggressive” hype. Needs to get to QB for sacks!
    3) Special Teams: FG’s & field position after kickoffs. Easy to score when you only need to go 50-60yds.

    As for the one question the deals with how the SAHPC (and a remodeled stadium) will assist in recruiting. A very good friends son is a #2 QB at another Pac10 school. He laughed at the conditions at Cal. Coming from a rich Catholic HS he said the HS had a better weight room & field turf. We all saw what Tosh did this past year with the 2010 class, IMHO it will ONLY GET BETTER!

  • Robert

    Can the linebackers play, at the very least, average football? If their level is above average, watch out for that defense!

  • Tyler M.

    Have you noticed that Tevin Carter looks like a thinner version of Devin Bishop?

  • Jason Avishay

    Will the Bears be able to compete in close games and not fall apart at the earliest signs of trouble? Can Jeff Tedford adjust mid-game and at half time to defenses that throw different techniques and blitz packages and help the Bears challenge for a Pac-10 title?

  • covinared

    I disagree with those that have criticised the play calling last year as being too conservative. You go with what works with what you have. Last year we had 2 very good all around backs, and focused more on them. In 2004, as the receiver corps became decimated, the offense kept going to Arrington more and more. How did he get 2000 yards if the team was not doing alot of running between the tackles?

  • BlueNGold

    The lingering questions that come to my mind are the two raised by Jon Wilner in his college football preview yesterday:

    Will Riley be able to elevate his game well above last season?

    Will the defense be able to stop ‘impersonating a turnstile’?

  • rollonubears

    yeah, last year’s play calling was actually reckless. throw a bomb on first down. then run. then throw another bomb. then punt. it was predictable after a couple games, but i wouldn’t call it conservative. we need to mix it up more, and include some shorter passes to try and get these new receivers in stride. a trick play or two would be nice to see every game as well, although not against davis.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    After your team loses to Nevada and Arizona will it head straight for the toilet as in 2007? How many one sided blowouts will there be compared to 2009? When will the fans begin to boo the poor play as they did under Joe Ayoob and Tedford had to call out the fans for more civil behavior. Will Jake Locker seal his Heisman Trophy win when he plays you guys?

  • BlueNGold

    Most people who are, or who claim to be, fans of college football or a particular college team get excited this time of year because the season is starting and they want to know how their favorite teams are going to perform. Then there are the few psychopaths who get excited because the opportunity to spew negative, trash talking comments regarding the football team of a school about which they are bitter, resentful and, frankly simply jealous, also presents itself. Such bizarrely deranged behavior speaks volumes about both the character and mental stability of the people who go out of their way to demonstrate such weird and abnormally fixated anti-social personality traits.