#81 California Football 2017 Preview

California Golden Bears
Overall Rank: #81
#12 Pac-12
It was an up and down 2016 season for the California Golden Bears. After failing to become bowl eligible the administration fired Sonny Dykes and hired Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The hiring of Wilcox is an intriguing one because he does have plenty of experience within the Pac-12 as Wilcox has previously served as a defensive coordinator at Washington and USC. Also, Wilcox hired good coordinators in Tim DeRuyter to run the defense and Beau Baldwin, the former Eastern Washington head coach, to run the offense. That should help ease the transition for Wilcox.
2016 Record: 5-7, 3-6
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Justin Wilcox (First season at California, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Beau Baldwin
Defensive Coordinator: Tim DeRuyter
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tre Watson, RB, 709 yards
Passing: Dylan Klumph, QB, 11 yards
Receiving: Demetrius Robertson, WR, 767 yards
Tackles: Devante Downs, ILB, 84
Sacks: Cameron Saffle, OLB, 4.0
Interceptions: Luke Rubenzer, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Meloquise Stovall, C Addison Ooms, RG Dwayne Wallace, NT Tony Mekari, DE James Looney, ILB Raymond Davison, CB Marloshawn Franklin Jr., K Matt Anderson, CB Darius Allensworth
Key Losses: QB Davis Webb, WR Chad Hansen, RB Khalfani Muhammad, RT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, LT Aaron Cochran, S Khari Vanderbilt, NB Cameron Walker
This is going to take some time for the Golden Bears to find that right chemistry as an offensive unit. First, the quarterback position needs to be addressed with Davis Webb off to the NFL. Chase Forrest and Ross Bowers should battle it out well into the fall camp and don’t be surprised if both guys play early until someone takes control of the job. Tre Watson and Vic Enewere will provide a very potent 1-2 punch at running back and that should give offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin time to implement his offensive playbook. Wide receiver should be a strength of this offensive unit despite the loss of Chad Hansen. Demetrius Robertson and Meloquise Stovall should flourish in the new scheme just like Cooper Kupp did for Coach Baldwin at Eastern Washington. Offensive line is going to be problematic as there are only two returning starters so it will be crucial to stay healthy in order to develop continuity as a unit.
One of the biggest issues last season for California was there insanely soft approach to playing defensive football. The new defensive staff is going to try to bring a more aggressive approach to playmaking in 2017. James Looney will lead the defensive front that will have to get more pressure on the quarterback this season. The linebacker group is the most talented and experienced for the Golden Bears. Devante Downs had 84 tackles along with 3.5 tackles for loss in 2016. Cameron Saffle did a nice a job of getting to the quarterback with four sacks and if that number can double it would be a great help. Marloshawn Franklin Jr. and Darius Allensworth should be able to get more interceptions with the new attacking scheme and that would help set up some great field position for the offense.
The Bottom Line:
A trip to Chapel Hill to play a very good North Carolina team to start things off in 2017 will not be easy for California. Ole Miss comes out to Berkeley on September 16th so it is going to be critical for the Golden Bears to split those two games. Next, a fun gauntlet of USC at home and road trips to Oregon and Washington await California at the start of the conference schedule. If the Golden Bears can stay healthy through that initial gauntlet, then they will have a chance to contend for a bowl berth. However, with the uncertainty at quarterback and the lack of depth along both the offensive and defensive lines, it is going to be a tall task to get to six wins in 2017 for California.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 154.3 (88th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 358.8 (4, 2)
Total Offense: 513.2 (10, 1)
Scoring Offense: 37.1 (22, 3)
Rushing Defense: 272.8 (127, 12)
Pass Defense: 245.4 (84, 7)
Total Defense: 518.3 (125, 10)
Scoring Defense: 42.6 (127, 12)
Turnover Margin: 0.25 (41, 5)
Sacks: 1.50 (105, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 1.33 (22, 2)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#222 Chase Garbers