It's a slow time of year in college football. Spring practices are over and the NFL draft has come and gone, leaving four long months before college football returns to our television screens. We'll take a look at some questions facing each Pac-12 team over the next couple weeks. Next up: California.
Can the Bears make progress on the recruiting trail?
In the last four seasons, Cal has failed to sign a recruiting class rated better than No. 40 nationally. That's obviously not a formula for prolonged success, but an even bigger problem about the way Cal has recruited has been the type of talent it has brought in. The more highly-ranked kids it has signed have skewed heavily toward offense and the results have been predictable. Cal was good enough offensively under Sonny Dykes to compete in the Pac-12, but during his tenure only two teams in the country allowed more points per game (39.6). Early on, those issues could have been chalked up to what he inherited, but the 42.6 points per game the Bears allowed last year was second-worst nationally. Scheme played a role, but it wasn't nearly as big an issue as the lack of talent. That needs to change.
How will the quarterback competition shake out?
It's down to two: sophomore Ross Bowers and junior Chase Forrest. Neither of them have much in the way of meaningful game experience, nor, with a new staff in place, a head start as far as time in the system. Of all the quarterback competitions in the conference, this one might be the hardest to handicap -- at least from afar. Bowers (19-for-29, 168 yards, three TDs) outperformed Forrest (15-for-29, 189 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) in the spring game, but that's too small a sample size to get a real sense of where things stand. If the decision had to be made tomorrow, here's guessing it would be Bowers, but how they develop over the summer and into training camp will be pivotal.
How far is Cal from competing in the Pac-12 North?
The Bears haven't finished the season ranked in the AP poll since 2006, when they finished tied with USC atop the Pac-10 standings. Since then, it has been a whole lot of waiting for next year. And it figures to be that way for at least the next couple years. Washington has laid the groundwork for lasting success, Stanford will compete for conference titles so long as David Shaw is around, Washington State has been on the rise, Oregon doesn't figure to be down for long and even Oregon State has reason for optimism with Gary Andersen in charge. Even if Cal fields a better product, it won't necessarily be represented by more wins because of the ground it needs to close. In fact, if the Bears match their win total from 2017 (5), that should feel like success. Even the best comparable rebuilds to the one new coach Justin Wilcox faces generally take at least three years before major breakthroughs occur.