First Practice: Feb. 25th (practices open to the public)
Spring Game: March 23rd
All good things must come to an end and after another disappointing season Jeff Tedford, the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12, was let go. So as spring drills get underway there is definitely more interest in what's happening as Sonny Dykes takes over at Cal and brings his exciting passing attack to Berkley.
It's safe to say the fans have taken a liking to Dykes and his philosophy, calling it "Bear Raid" and everything. You've got to admire the dedication and love the fans of the Golden Bears have, but there was a reason Tedford was let go after ten years at the helm of the program, no?
A lack of consistent talent and a lack of healthy players over the past few years really hurt this program and while Dykes is a very good coach the biggest question facing this team entering 2013 is if Dykes can get this team back to being competitive - especially since bitter rival Stanford has begun to dominate the rivalry and the spotlight (what little one exists) in the Bay Area.
So, as you'd expect with just about any coaching change there will a lot to watch for. But, here's what we are watching for most in Berkley:
Stability Factor (1= Chaos; 5= Rock Solid): 2
You can't have a coaching change and say things are in total chaos, but you can't say things are rock solid either and despite what is probably one of the most underrated hires in college football this past offseason change is on it's way. Dykes is a familiar face to Pac-12 fans as he was the offensive coordinator for two seasons at Arizona before heading to La Tech as their head coach.
So, with any sort of change at the top of the program there are a lot of new faces on the staff and a lot of new things to be taught by that staff. It's also a time of transition for everyone on the roster as Dykes' offense is vastly different than what Tedford ran and the defense will be going through transition as well under the leadership of defensive coordinator Andy Buh.
To say things are a bit unsettled in Berkley would be completely fair and what makes this spring so interesting at Memorial Stadium - especially with the majority of practices open to the public.
Under the Microscope: 4-3 defense
Andy Buh comes to Cal after a one year stint as the linebackers coach at Wisconsin, but the west coast native is back in his comfort zone and directing a defense of his own once again at Cal. The Golden Bears will be instituting a big time change away from the 3-4 defense they've been playing and will switch to the 4-3 philosophy that Buh is most comfortable with.
With that switch means a need to find some true defensive ends and to figure out if what is on the roster at defensive tackle can tackle new techniques and ideas on how to play inside. That's not to say there isn't talent or potential for the D-Line, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done along the line and spring could be all about experimenting and finding the right parts.
No matter what happens Cal needs to come out of spring with at least a semblance of a group of defensive ends capable of playing at a high level or this team could be in for a rough first year transition on that side of the ball.
Locked and Loaded: Linebacker & Wide Receiver
As with any 3-4 scheme there should have been an abundance of riches available at the linebacker position and that's exactly the case at Cal. However, because of the scheme switch some of the bunch (Brennan Scarlett, Chris McCain, Nathan Broussard, Harrison Wilfley, and Dan Camporeale) will be putting their hands down as potential defensive ends this spring.
This move is only made possible because of how loaded the group is that will be left to fight for the three starting positions. Look for Jalen Jefferson and Nick Forbes to be the biggest fish in the linebacker pool as they both started last season. The biggest question to be answered this spring will be who plays where, especially since both Jefferson and Forbes happened to be middle linebackers last season. Forbes earned honorable mention all-conference recognition last year and it could be him moving outside.
On the offensive side of the ball it'll be a welcome sight to Dykes' eyes seeing the depth at wide receiver. Sure, Keenan Allen is off to the NFL and all, but there is a diverse group of receivers available for the Bear Raid offense that will be worked on this spring.
Junior Richard Rodgers along with sophomores Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper all had 20 or more catches last season as sophomores and freshman respectively. I don't know about you, but that's got to make Sonny's day even better thinking about that kind of talent available with experience to boot.
Jockeying for Position: Quarterbacks
Under Dykes' version of the air-raid offense there isn't a single player more important in executing it than the quarterback. Well, Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will have a bevy of QB's to go through this spring and there isn't a ton of experience on the field at the collegiate level either - which could be a good thing with the change in offensive style of play.
Expect the names of Zach Kline, Allan Bridgford, Kyle Boehm, and Jared Goff to all get a look. However, only Bridgford has experience in a game (and what was there wasn't that good) - taking over for Maynard when he got injured last year. So, someone - hell anyone - needs to emerge as a front runner out of this group and prove they can handle a brand new system.
Early money is on Kline and you'll see why in just a second.
Name to Know: Zach Kline
Kline has yet to play a down of football, but it's safe to say he's the player most Cal fans are resting their hopes on to not only win the QB battle but to lead this team back to prominence that was once there under Tedford as well. Hell, I'm sure most would settle for beating Stanford in 2013 - regardless of what happens the rest of the season.
However inexperienced he may be Kline was one of the most talented players in the class of 2012, ranking as the No. 2 pro style QB (247 composite) in the nation and the No. 38 player overall. He traveled to every game last season and was clearly being groomed to be "the guy" in 2013 under Tedford. It's safe to say that he may have the most to prove and the most to gain by having a successful spring campaign.
Spring Will Be a Success If..... A Quarterback emerges from the field.
Yes, I know we've already talked about the position, but it's that vitally important and if one of the five QB's battling for the position can emerge as a true leader in the battle this team will be better off. That means they can focus fall practices on getting chemistry as an offense and not getting reps to multiple QB's because they have to. Not only that but it will allow this team to have some early leadership under Dykes and that can't be overlooked in having a successful first season no matter where you are.