The 10 Biggest Questions Cal Heads To In Spring Football

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Cal will be the last Pac-12 team to start spring football training when the Golden Bears start spring training on Wednesday, and Cal may have more questions before spring than any other team in the conference.

The fact is, 14 of the 22 players who started on offense and defense for Cal in its last game of 2021 are no longer on the Bears’ roster. The quarterback is gone. Virtually all wide receivers are gone. The first three tight ends are gone. Most of the best defensive players are gone. The first rusher is gone. The questions abound.

Here are 10 of the top questions Cal hopes to answer in the spring.

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1. Will Jack Plummer be the answer to quarterback?

This is by far the most important question and the one that will get the most attention during the spring game on April 30.

There will be an open contest to determine the successor to Chase Garbers, who has been the starting quarterback for the past four seasons. But Purdue transfer Jack Plummer is the leading candidate, and if he doesn’t win the job, the Bears offense is in trouble. Kai Millner, who didn’t take a photo in 2021 as a rookie, is likely Plummer’s main contender, but grad student Ryan Glover (who started a game last season) and second Zach Johnson are also part, with Blake DeBisschop and Robby. Rowell.

Plummer lost the starting job at Purdue in the middle of last season, so he’s not coming in as a savior, and he has to learn Bill Musgrave’s pro-style attack, which is different from the one he has. raced at Purdue. The quarterback competition could continue well into the fall, but when a starter is named or becomes apparent, it’s still possible that some of the other quarterbacks will enter the transfer portal.

Kai Miller.  Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY <a class=Sports” decoding=”async” src=”https://www.si.com/.image/c_limit%2Ccs_srgb%2Cq_auto:good%2Cw_700/MTg4NTMyNzM0ODI5Mjc0NzQw/kai-millner-jayne-kamin-oncea.png” height=”489″ width=”797″ srcset=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7″ itemprop=”contentUrl url”/>

Kai Miller. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

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2. What will be viable options at wide receiver?

Cal’s three wide receivers who had the most receptions last year — Trevon Clark, Kekoa Crawford and Nikko Remigio — are gone. Jeremiah Hunter, who showed big-play potential in 2021, should slip into a starting spot, but can any of the other young wide receivers show signs of impending stardom?

Sophomore Justin Richard Baker looks like a breakaway threat, but has yet to prove it on the court, and at least one of a trio of up-and-coming freshmen (J. Michael Student, Tommy Christakos and Mavin Anderson) is set to make an impact, although none of the three had receptions last year.

The key is the transfer of college junior Mason Starling, who had 13 touchdowns last season at College San Mateo. You don’t bring a JC player unless you have an immediate need at a position, and the Bears need Starling to be a factor at wide receiver in 2022.

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3. Will the three transfers slip into key roles seamlessly?

Plummer, Washington transfer inside linebacker transfer Jackson Simon, and Utah trade defensive end Xavier Carton need to make an impact in the spring.

Sirmon should slip into a starting spot at the most important position in Cal’s defense. The Bears defense was especially strong when inside linebackers Jordan Kunaszyk and Evan Weaver racked up a huge number of tackles, and Sirmon finished tied for fifth in tackles in the Pac-12 last season.

Carlton has only started two games in his two seasons at Utah, but Cal needs him to be a contributor next season because Cal’s two starting defensive ends in 2021 are gone (Luc Bequette and JH Tevis, who transferred to Indiana).

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4. Who will be the first running back?

Christopher Brooks, the Bears’ top rusher in 2019 and 2021, transferred to Utah, leaving the start plug slot open. Damien Moore was the starting running back in the 2021 opener, but injuries and fumble issues cut into his playing time late in the season. He thinks he has the first chance to be the first string running back, but Chris Street (5.1 yards per carry in 2021) and DeCarlos Brooks (9.6 yards per carry in 2019) will get a glimpse after getting limited playing time last season.

The most intriguing running backs are Ashton Stedrick, a speedster who only had two runs last season as a rookie, and Jaydn Ott, who will be a rookie in 2022 but signed up early and will attend prom. spring. Running back is a position where freshmen can sometimes contribute.

Damian Moore. Photo by Neville E Guard. USA TODAY Sports

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5. Will defensive lineman Brett Johnson be back in full?

The mighty Johnson was a starter in 2019 as a rookie and in 2020 as a sophomore, and he looked like a budding star at one of three points on the defensive line. But he missed all of 2021 with a hip injury sustained in a car accident which required surgery. Progress reports on Johnson have been good, but it remains to be seen if and when he can return to being the player he was. His status is especially important because the Bears have very little defensive line experience. If Johnson is back to near 100% efficiency, it will make a world of difference to Cal’s overall defense.

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6. Can Cal replenish his depth at the tight end?

Bill Musgrave likes to use two and three tight end sets, which requires depth at the stance. Cal had that in Jake Tonges (entering the NFL Draft)Gavin Reinward (transferred to Rice) and Collin Moore are all getting significant playing time in that position in 2021. All three are gone.

That will leave the choice to two freshmen with the potential to make their mark: tall and lanky Latu Keleki and 270-pound Jermaine Terry II. Both should show progress in the spring.

Latu Keleki.  Photo by Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports

Latu Keleki. Photo by Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports

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7. Will having two defensive back coaches pay dividends?

Cal’s secondary had been stellar in Justin Wilcox’s first four seasons at Cal, but it was less effective in 2021. Add the fact that two of Cal’s best defensive backs in 2021 (Elijah Hicks and Josh Drayden) are gone, and the Bears have concerns behind his first seven.

So when Wilcox had a vacant assistant coaching position after the 2021 season, he filled it with Terrence Brown, who will work with defensive backs along with Tre Watson, who was hired as the Bears defensive backs coach before the 2021 season. Having two defensive backs coaches is not unique; in fact, eight of the other Pac-12 schools have two assistant coaches who focus on high school.

How Brown and Watson will split their coaching duties hasn’t been revealed, but it’s safe to assume one will focus on cornerbacks and nickelbacks and the other will work with safeties. The question is whether it helps.

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8. Will a big-play outside linebacker emerge?

Former Cal defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter used to say that the two outside linebacker spots in Cal’s defense are the “glamorous positions.” They are in a position to make the big plays that turn a game upside down.

Cal 2021 outside linebackers Cameron Goode and Marqez Bimage totaled 16 tackles for loss. They are both gone, as is Kuony Deng, another great outside support who missed virtually the entire 2021 season with an ankle injury.

Braxten Croteau is the only returning player with much experience at the position, and several redshirt freshmen will try to make an impression at outside linebacker in the spring.

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9. Who will fill the holes left on the offensive line?

Tackle Valentino Daltoso and guard McKade Mettauer (moved to Oklahoma) both left after being arguably the Bears’ best offensive linemen last year, and starting tackle Will Craig missed the last four games with an injury last year. Craig will likely be back, but injuries on the offensive line have been a major issue for the Bears in recent years. They need to develop depth up front, and a number of players will be in contention to join center Matthew Cindric and guard Ben Coleman in the top five.

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10. Will there be any major job changes or plan adjustments?

Coaches are still tinkering with attacking and defensive schemes, depending on the talent available, but major changes are unlikely to be revealed until games are played next fall.

The Bears finished eighth in the conference in scoring in each of Bill Musgrave’s first two years as offensive coordinator, and while that’s an improvement from the previous two seasons, it’s not good enough to stand on. fight for a Pac-12 title. Musgrave may feel he needs to make some noticeable changes to his regimen.

Cal introduced a new position to its defense last season, adding the “star” position, a hybrid safety outside linebacker spot.

Changes in diet can lead to changes in position. Last year around this time, Kuony Deng moved from inside linebacker to outside linebacker and Trey Paster moved from secondary linebacker to inside linebacker. Don’t be surprised if one or two players play a new position in the spring that could have an impact in the fall.

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Justin Wilcox cover photo by Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports

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Follow Cal Sports Report’s Jake Curtis on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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