With this being a week of award watch-lists and relative quiet on the recruiting front for the Bears, it was time to open up the mailbag and answer a few questions about the Bears, with Fall Camp and Pac-12 Media Day fast approaching.
What is the latest re: our incoming transfers at QB and OL and their immediate eligibility?
With regards to Brandon McIlwain, the likely outcome is that he'll have to sit for the season in accordance to NCAA transfer rules. It's highly unlikely that McIlwain will be eligible for the 2017 season, though there will be an effort to attempt that.
With OL Valentino Daltoso, the understanding that since he wasn't "recruited" in the legal sense by Oregon, transferring to another school for a scholarship won't make him ineligible. It's likely he plays this season, and considering the depth issues that Cal has had at offensive line, he'll need to.
Any injury issues we should know about heading into fall ball?
For the most part, the spring was relatively clear of injuries, a relief for a team that's been derailed by injuries for the past few years, most notably to the safety position a year ago. Those who were out for the spring will be back for Fall Camp, as follows:
James Looney and Luc Bequette will both return, with Looney on the watchlist for the Nagurski Trophy yesterday and Bequette looking to be the primary backup behind starting nose guard Tony Mekari. Looney may be the best player on the defense at this juncture, and him continuing his growth and success is an imperative for defensive improvement. Bequette will be learning a new position, but before his ACL tear a year ago, he was making big jumps at defensive tackle, and he's capable of continuing thos jumps.
Three wideouts will be back, with Melquise Stovall, Brandon Singleton, and Greyson Bankhead back in the mix to provide that much more depth to the wide receiver spot, with Stovall being the most immediate contributor, considering his wealth of experience playing a year ago. Singleton was inconsistent at times with his hands, but he's certainly got the speed and runs an excellent fade route. Bankhead is still a question mark, he greyshirted to come in last spring, got hurt in an off-field accident, and hasn't been truly at full strength since last April. What he showed in the 2016 Spring Game was some solid elusiveness, which he should still have, so we'll see.
In the defensive backfield, Josh Drayden, Evan Rambo, and Trey Turner return, and Luke Rubenzer should be back at full strength after being in a non-contact jersey for a good portion of the spring. Drayden joins a now crowded corner competition, while Rambo and Turner look to make up for lost time, as Derron Brown and Quentin Tartabull made meteoric rises during the spring. Rubenzer, who returns as the active leader in interceptions, has the most experience on the back end and will see quite a bit of time on the back end this year.
In the new system, are the safeties more or less interchangeable?
One thing the coaches have emphasized is knowing how to play all the positions of a position group, and the safety group appears to be no exception. While they will play single-high safety, with one coming down to defend the slot receiver, though they can throw multiple looks. Brown was the safety they often brought down, with Tartabull playing the single-high, center-field role. There's going to be some changing parts with it, and it should be expected that both guys can play either position, but there'll be different responsibilities, with someone like Brown being more able to go into the box or come down to cover.
In the early going, what is your prediction for starters?
This question was originally designated for safety positions, but we'll go through the whole shebang.
QB - I expect Bowers more for the big play ability and the arm strength that he has, though Forrest will play quite a bit.
RB - Tre Watson starts, with Vic Enwere as the second RB, with Patrick Laird getting a few more carries. Watson is a solid-pass catcher out of the backfield, which puts him ahead from a versatility standpoint
WR - Veasy, Wharton, and Robertson. Experience melded with gamebreaking speed. Tons of guys should rotate in, I expect Noa, Stovall, and Duncan to be the second group in.
TE - Ray Hudson. He's the most experienced by a lot
OL - (left to right) P. Mekari, Bennett, Ooms, Uluave, Curhan. Uluave seems like the likeliest to replace the departed Dwayne Wallace, though Daltoso could make a push.
DL - Looney, T. Mekari, Z. Johnson. Zeandae earned his spot with a great spring, and the other two have the most experience on the defensive line
LB - Saffle, Davison, Downs, Funches. Russell Ude, and Cameron Goode should sub in at the OLB spots, with Hamilton Anoa'i set to be a big contributor as well. Kyle Harmon could play early as well.
CB - Allensworth and Hicks. Hicks was excellent this spring, coming in looking like a veteran, and Allensworth is a veteran. Camryn Bynum and Marloshawn Franklin will obviously get in, with Traveon Beck being the likely nickel
S - Brown and Tartabull. They earned at least the initial right to be the starter during their spring successes, and if they continue their play, they should stay at that level.
Does Brown start if Rambo and Turner come back healthy?
I think so, though they were listed at the same spot, It wouldn't be surprising to see Rambo or Turner at the other safety spot. Rambo would be a good fit for a single-high, centerfield type role.
Recruiting has been a bit slow recently, with coaches being out of the office a bit and recharging before the start of fall camp back in Berkeley. There are two points from the past week though.
Lamar HS (Houston) RB Ta'Zhawn Henry received an offer from the Bears this morning. He's an explosive runner that cuts well off his blocks and makes plays in the open field
More notes on recruiting, specifically with the DBs, can be read here, join the discussion.
More Bears are up for awards this year than in years past, as this week started with LB Ray Davison being named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his work with schools in the community. Davison has been an excellent ambassador for the program, as the release notes his involvement in the community:
"Davison has consistently visited local schools and community organizations as part of the community service activities of the Cal football team. Schools and community organizations he has visited include Bret Harte Middle School, Kaiser Elementary, La Escuelita, Lincoln Elementary, Manzanita Community, Manzanita Seed, Markham Elementary, Murphy Elementary, Parker Elementary, Stege Elementary and West Oakland Middle School."
Davison, who's likely to be a team captain again this season, is the first Bear on the list since Jeffrey Coprich in 2014. It's an excellent honor for the senior linebacker, and his dedication to service is being noted.
On the football field, Ray Hudson is up for the Mackey award, Addison Ooms is up for the Rimington Trophy, James Looney is up for the Nagursky Trophy, Matt Anderson is up for the Lou Groza award, and Steven Coutts is up for the Ray Guy Award.
Ooms and Hudson were discussed Tuesday, so we'll focus on the other three. Anderson makes the Groza watch list for the second consecutive year, as he's been nearly automatic for the past year and a half as a kicker, with range into the 50s. Cal is oing to miss him after this season.
With Coutts, he was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy award playing at the former Louisiana Lafayette, though it looks like he'll still be in competition for the position with Dylan Klumph.
For Looney, he's the best player on the defense based on past achievement, but him getting on the list for best defensive player despite being on a defense that, to say it lightly, has not been up to expectation over the past two years, is an accomplishment in and of itself.
More award lists are set to drop, and I expect Tre Watson to make the Doak Walker watchlist again and Demetris Robertson to make the Biletnikoff watchlist.