Area of need: Defense
Current situation: We'll be more general with California's situation. The Golden Bears' problem throughout the entirety of Sonny Dykes' four-year tenure -- he was fired Sunday -- was defense. Scoring has not been a problem for Cal, even after losing star quarterback Jared Goff and the top six receivers following the 2015 season. The Bears actually led the Pac-12 in yards per game and scored 37.1 points per game in 2016.
The story on the other side of the ball was markedly different. A year after fielding a legitimately bad defense, Cal rolled out an atrocious one this past season. The Bears allowed 42.6 points per game, the second-worst figure in the nation. They gave up 6.2 yards per carry, making the rushing defense rank dead last in the country.
The 2016 problem, as is the case for any statistical disaster of this magnitude, was multifaceted. Hardy Nickerson and Michael Barton, two of Cal's leading tacklers in the linebacking corps, transferred before the season. The defensive line suffered major attrition. Injuries decimated the secondary throughout the year. That's why this post is covering the problem in a more general sense: Addressing just one area of need will not fix the Cal defense.
Plan moving forward: Athletic director Mike Williams must first replace Dykes. While the offensive production under the previous regime was solid, Dykes faced legitimate criticism for his failure to build a competent defense in Berkeley. Dykes fired coordinator Art Kaufman before he, too, was terminated this past weekend, so completely new leadership will be installed for this unit.
How defensively-minded will Cal's new staff be? That's the biggest question at this point, as it's the Bears' potential ticket back to respectability on that side of the ball.
As far as talent goes, the Bears should have some productive returners on the field in 2017. Tackle James Looney was the defense's best player last year. He'll be a senior, as will talented cornerback Darius Allensworth -- one of the many defensive backs who faced injury difficulties in 2016. The blue chippers committed in Cal's 2017 recruiting class are primarily offensive players, so it's unclear if the new coaching staff will be able to net immediate-impact defensive talent.
That brings us back to the overarching point: Until the new Bears' coaching staff is in place, we won't have any clues as to the direction of the defense. We do know that it must improve if California is to rise above mediocrity, so Williams' hire will be a critical one.