Rebuilding the defense is top priority for Cal

Yahoo! Sports Staff
Yahoo! Sports

California bounced back from the first losing season in the 10-year Jeff Tedford era by winning seven games in 2011. But putting together another winning season could be tough.

Cal returns just 10 starters, including four on defense, from a team that finished 7-6 last season. The defensive makeover this spring is worth watching. Cal lost its two starting inside linebackers, its two starting ends and its two starting safeties.

While the defense had relatively good numbers last season, the Bears surrendered an average of 31.2 points in their losses. They also allowed 33 points to Colorado and 38 to Arizona State in wins.

Cal will look for QB Zach Maynard to become more consistent.
(US Presswire)

Cal at-a-glance

Coach: Jeff Tedford (11th season)
Last season: 7-6 overall, 4-5 Pac-12
Spring practice dates: March 13-April 21
Returning starters
(minimum 7 starts last season)

Offense (6): WR Keenan Allen, C Dominic Galas, QB Zach Maynard, G Brian Schwenke, TB Isi Sofele, T Matt Summers-Gavin
Defense (4): CB Marc Anthony, LB Dan Camporeale, T Aaron Tipoti, CB Steve Williams
Special teams: None

Offensively, the line is an issue. Two starters are gone, and C Dominic Galas will miss spring practice with a shoulder injury. The line's unsettled nature could make it tough on QB Zach Maynard, who is looking for become more consistent in his third season as a starter (the first came at Buffalo).

The running game wasn't as productive as usual, and that put more pressure on Maynard last season. Again, though, the issues with the line could mean the offensive problems can't be solved until fall drills begin.

Ryan Gorcey of – a website that covers California – provides a more in-depth look at spring practice.

The biggest problem: Offensive line. Cal loses Mitchell Schwartz, who started 51 consecutive games at left tackle, and G Justin Cheadle. In addition, starting C Dominic Galas will miss spring practice with a shoulder injury, so that will allow Alejandro Crosthwaite, Geoffrey Gibson, Chris Adcock and true freshman Matt Cochran the opportunity to show what they can do on the inside. Cochran and Adcock came in as centers, and junior Mark Brazinski is in the mix as well. What could happen is that Adcock, Brazinski and Cochran wind up competing for the center job, while Galas and one of those three center candidates could move to guard. Replacing Schwartz will be decidedly more difficult. Early-enrollee Christian Okafor and walk-on Brian Farley have impressed, and it wouldn't be a complete shock to see them compete for time with JC transfer Matt Williams. There are no experienced true tackles on the roster. One X-factor could be DE Gabe King, who hasn't impressed on defense. King could see time at offensive tackle in the spring.

On the spot: QB Zach Maynard. He had an up-and-down season, marked by solid performances against Stanford and Arizona State but also duds against UCLA, USC, Oregon and Texas. Though he threw for 2,990 yards, he also had 12 interceptions to 17 touchdowns and completed just 57 percent of his passes. In winter 7-on-7 work, one defender has said he looks "spectacular" and that he could have a breakout season. Can he carry that over to spring drills? With early-enrollee Zach Kline on hand, it could be an interesting battle. Last season's backup, Allan Bridgford, also could be in the mix.

On the verge: S Avery Sebastian. Recovering from a late-season hamstring injury, Sebastian has been tearing it up in winter workouts and is the odds-on favorite to replace Sean Cattouse as a starting safety. Sebastian (5 feet 10/192 pounds) pound-for-pound is the hardest hitter on the team, and it shouldn't take long for him to remind fans of Cal alum Thomas DeCoud, now a safety with the Atlanta Falcons. Sebastian, a sophomore, has earned the respect of his teammates and the coaching staff for his work both on and off the field.

General overview: Last year at this time, the Bears had question marks. This year, they have outright holes. Two senior starters are gone off the offensive line. With Keenan Allen missing spring because of an ankle injury, there is no wide receiver on the spring roster with more than five career catches. There are two big holes at linebacker with the departures of D.J. Holt and Mychal Kendricks. K Giorgio Tavecchio and P Bryan Anger also are gone.

For in-depth coverage of Cal athletics, go to

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