As Cal prepares to open fall training camp Monday, here are four issues the Golden Bears must resolve before their season opener on Aug. 30 at Northwestern.
Only four, you say? My editors asked for four; as we know, the list is potentially longer:
* Is there sufficient depth and talent at defensive tackle?
Harrison Wilfley and Marcus Manley emerged from spring ball on the top line of the depth chart after lone returning starter Jacobi Hunter transferred. The Bears are hoping junior Mustafa Jalil will be a force after sitting out last season with knee problems. Two more JC players, Trevor Kelly and David Davis, will be in the mix at a position coach Sonny Dykes hopes can become an area of depth. For now, it’s a big question.
* Who wins the running back job?
Junior Daniel Lasco emerged as the leader after spring ball, but he was a bit fragile last season. Versatile speedster Khalfani Muhammad was productive as a freshman last fall, but hardly seems an every-down back. Then there are two promising freshmen, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere. Watson rushed for 3,734 yards and 50 touchdowns last season at Corona-Centennial, while the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Enwere gained more than 1,500 yards each of the past two seasons in Missouri City, Texas. The Bears need a more productive running game, whether one player carries the load or it’s shouldered by committee.
* How will the defensive backfield sort out?
Coach Sonny Dykes said the secondary is the Bears’ biggest area of concern. The staff wants to pair former cornerback McClure alongside Sebastian at safety, but they are coming off injuries that limited them to a combined six games last season. The key is whether the Bears can find a three or four capable corners among returnees Darius Allensworth, Cameron Walker, Cedric Dozier and Trey Cheek and JC transfer Darius White.
* Can the offensive line gel into a capable unit?
Injuries and subpar performance resulted in the Bears using nine different O-line starters last season in six different lineup combinations. The result was Cal quarterbacks were sacked 34 times and the running game failed to crack 150 yards in the team’s first nine games. The Bears are hoping for more production and consistency this fall. The tentative starting five: LT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, C Chris Adcock, RG Alejandro Crosthwaite, RT Jordan Rigsbee.