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Football: 5 Reasons for Cal fans to be excited . . . and worried as the 2013 season approaches

With the start of practice looming on Monday evening, here are five reasons Cal fans should be excited — and worried — about the 2013 football season:

1. A FRESH START

Excited because . . . As much as anything, the Bears needed this. Jeff Tedford was a very good coach for most of a decade and he didn’t suddenly get stupid. But things weren’t working anymore and they likely weren’t going to turn around without a change. Players who initially were unhappy with the switch — a normal reaction — now are on board with Sonny Dykes and his staff. The Bears enter fall camp with an optimistic tone and the sense that big things are once again possible.

Worried because . . . Everything is new and we won’t know until Aug. 31 whether the Bears are absorbing it. The fast-paced Bear Raid offense requires great timing and precision. Defensive coordinator Andy Buh has switched from the popular 3-4 alignment to an old-school 4-3 and fights inexperience in the secondary. Can the element of surprise give Cal an edge vs. Northwestern or will the work-in-progress be overmatched by a Top-25 team?

2. THE SCHEDULE

Excited because . . . Well, duh, would you rather make the trip to Memorial Stadium to watch Cal take on Nevada and Southern Utah or Northwestern and Ohio State? A no-brainer. No Big Game at Berkeley this season, but a visit from USC. These are the kind of high-profile matchups that fans clamor for. The opportunity to be tested by the best. Big crowds, big excitement, big possibilities.

Worried because . . . Get real, this is a killer schedule for a rookie coach. Northwestern is coming off just its second 10-win season in more than a century. Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the nation, a legit threat to Alabama for the national title and won’t arrive here overconfident after the scare the Bears gave the Buckeyes in Columbus last season. Bottom line: Cal could play well and be 1-3 entering October.

3. THE BEAR RAID

Excited because . . . The Bears’ uptempo, spread option attack — even while evolving in its early development — promises to be entertaining. Everyone who complained about how conservative the Bears seem to have become in recent seasons should celebrate this departure. Especially when Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin go for it for the first time on fourth down from midfield. And they will.

Worried because . . . We don’t have a clue about how well the new offense might work immediately out of the chute? Does Cal have the necessary personnel to make it go? Can the Bears block well enough, especially in the running game? Will the young receivers deliver? Can tight end Richard Rodgers, having dropped 25 pounds, find a new home as the “Y” slot receiver? There are a lot of moving parts and they will need to move in unison and at a fast tempo.

4. THE QUARTERBACK

Excited because . . . Few camp stories are more compelling than a quarterback battle, and the Bears have three candidates for the position — Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder. One of these neophytes will be under center when the season begins and there will be growing pains. There’s also the potential for the start of something special with a young quarterback who could be around for a while. Watching it unfold will be intriguing — and no doubt less excrutiating than the Zach Maynard/Allan Bridgford show ultimately became.

Worried because . . . Imagine the scene on the evening of Aug. 31: A packed stadium under the lights, a national television audience and a Northwestern team that was 10-3 last season with 17 starters returning. This would be a challenge for any quarterback. But the Bears will send one out who NEVER has played a college football game. Memo to coaching staff: Choose wisely.

5. BRENDAN BIGELOW

Excited because . . . Anyone who watched Bigelow sprint away from Ohio State defenders last season on the way to 160 rushing yards on just four attempts spent the rest of the season wondering why he didn’t touch the ball a dozen times every week. The backs in front of him are gone and Bigelow will get his shot. A streamlined playbook will allow him to rely on his instincts rather than get bogged down by formations. Dykes wants to do everything fast and few players in the Pac-12 are faster than Bigelow.

Worried because . . . We still await evidence that Bigelow can be an every-down back. He averaged 9.8 yards per carry last season, but had more than six carries in a game just once. Can he be a workhorse or is he purely a situational back? There also are questions about his durability. Bigelow tore an ACL as a high school senior and underwent offseason surgery to repair a meniscus tear that kept him out of spring practice.

Jeff Faraudo

  • wehofx

    Excellent observations, JF. First report I’ve read about RR dropping 25lbs. imo, great news.

    Yeah part of me says that you have to give sd at least a season, if not two, to implement his system. The optimistic/dumb ass side of me says sd and his staff are making a huge impact already.

    If we keep injuries to a minimum – seems like new S&C coaches will make a huge difference – I am hopeful our Bears make a run – even w brutal schedule – to a bowl game. I put $$ on the 4.5 Over

    Had to share this Twitter exchange. I can’t imagine this happening w jt or any of his coaches.

    >>>
    ROB LIKENS ‏@CALCoachLikens 4h

    Trigga ‏@BryceTreggs 28m

    Only SOFT people say sorry RT “@CALCoachLikens: Sorry about the spam everyone.”

    ROB LIKENS ‏@CALCoachLikens 15m

    @BryceTreggs I will forget you said that until day 16 of camp when you are very tired and sore. Then we will see how SOFT I am.

    Trigga ‏@BryceTreggs 13m

    @CALCoachLikens tired and sore is a mindset and an excuse for not performing.

  • rob bear

    Spot on but I would add Sonny Boy @ #1. How will winning or losing dictate play calling should he not have the typical reasons to water down the playbook?Conversely, how creative will the playbook get should they upset a few teams? From what I have read, Sonny Boy is not afraid to take chances, especially when given the opportunity, such as the first year of a contract at a new school. I think we are going to surprise some people throughout the year. I am not predicting a PAC 12 title or anything of the sort. I just have this inkling that we are going to put the fear of God on the PAC 12 and recruiting will pick up as we build more exposure and reputation. With EXTREME PREJUDICE SONNY BOY! WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE! GO BEARS!

  • Juancho

    Jeff to the qb worries add that we should all be concerned for my health if kline isnt the starter.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Jesus, JF! They have not even played a snap and you are all over the place with reasons to worry. Just relax and enjoy the change.

  • BlueNGold

    The new offense will only be as good as the O line. In recent years the O line has been porous and became more so as the season progressed, which I think was one of the reasons for the conservative play calling that everyone here b*tched about during JT’s tenure. Hopefully the new S&C coach and a fresh approach to coaching the linesmen will change that.

  • Jeff Faraudo

    Sorry to ratchet up your anxiety, Wisdom Cow.

    Your opening reminds me of a Vince Lombardi joke:

    Lombardi comes home late from a long day of practice on Green Bay’s frozen tundra and slips into bed alongside his wife. When his foot brushes against her leg, she cries out, “Jesus Christ your foot is cold!”

    Lombardi responds, “Around the house, dear, you may call me Vince.”

    Have a good weekend!

  • daredevil fan

    Juancho would still call Kline by a holy title even if he was asked by Zack not to.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Nice, JF, but my anxiety knows no bounds.

  • Daniel

    Jeff,
    You forgot one reason to be excited. No more bickering or conspiracy theories about the depth chart, play book, and whether we should fire our winningest/losingest coach in Cal history.

    A house divided against itself cannot stand. Monday we see how well we can tackle Reconstruction.

  • 707 Bear

    Bluengold, you are wise.

    Despite all the “Bear Raid” talk, the great Lee Grosscup has always been correct: “Run and stop the run.”

    Go Bears!

  • Larry

    6. DEFENSE

    Excited because . . . Coach Buh has had success wherever he has been(see bio)and he is NOT the DC from LT where they were ranked last in D-I football last year. Secondary has McClure back healthy and K.Jackson was solid last season when he played. Safety position has experience as well as the LB and DL positions.

    Worried because . . . Personnel has been recruited for the 3-4. The 4-3 requires more size and bulk upfront. Solid frontline players but not much depth in the secondary or DL. A few on the DL or secondary and CAL is screwed.

  • Larry

    Oops, I meant, “A few injuries on the DL or secondary and CAL is screwed.”

  • gobears49

    Hey Larry,

    Nice of someone other than me to bring up the 4 – 3 versus the 3 – 4 issue. Still think a defensive coordinator should be almost an expert at coaching both, but that is not what Coach Buh said.