It's reloading time around the Pac-12. For some programs, the offseason challenge is more daunting than it is for others. Still, even Utah -- perhaps the league's most experienced team -- will be depending on multiple players to fill departed voids in 2015. So here's our team-by-team look at players who'll be called on to deliver key replacement production around the conference.
We'll continue our breakdown with California.
The Golden Bears return a ton of talent on an offense with legitimate visions of grandeur. With most of his receivers coming back, quarterback Jared Goff -- now an upperclassman -- is expected to make a case for elite status. He can count on hard running support from Daniel Lasco, but there is turnover along the line in front of him, and Cal must address this for the attack to unleash its full potential. Senior Chris Adcock manned the center position last season and developed a solid rapport with Goff; so far this offseason, Bear Territory's Ryan Gorcey reports that Cochran has taken all first-team reps at the position. It'll be Cochran's job to glue together an offensive line undergoing some shifts on the right side. If all is figured out on that front, it's all systems go for for a Bear Raid with massive potential.
Kenny Lawler, Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs, and Stephen Anderson all hauled in about 50 receptions for Cal last season. Only Harper is gone from that group, so the Bears don't need a ton of replacement production, and it looks like they might be able to pick up the needed slack through Davis, who caught 24 passes in 2014. You'll remember him as the guy who housed two kickoff returns at Washington State.
The defensive line transfers
One defensive lineman, Cameron Scarlett, has transferred away from Cal. But he missed almost all of 2014 anyway, so the Bears' quality, depth, and performance up front all figure to enjoy a significant boost with the arrivals of tackle James Looney (from Wake Forest) and end Devante Wilson (from USC via Riverside Community College). Cal featured a much-improved run defense last season -- it allowed only 3.98 yards per carry -- but its pass rush was anemic, which contributed to the pass-defense struggles that we'll discuss below. The Bears finished with only 16 sacks on the season, the fewest in the Pac-12. They're hoping that Looney can occupy blockers on the inside while Wilson brings heat from the outside and adds more production from the front seven.
The defensive backs: Replacing a tortured past
This might be good news for Cal, albeit in a weird way: Collectively, there isn't much positive production to replace in the secondary. Sure, Michael Lowe and his 74 tackles are gone, but the Bears' collective pass defense results were absolutely putrid in 2014. The Bears allowed 4,406 passing yards, a figure that by far was the worst in the nation despite the fact that they didn't play in a bowl game. Cal also gave up 42 touchdown passes, five more than the second-worst pass defense in the country.
So while the Golden Bears aren't tasked with replacing a huge amount of players in 2015, the defensive backs who will suit up this fall must replace the awfully porous play with -- at minimum -- a serviceable product. As mentioned, a better pass rush would certainly help matters. There are also several potential boosts for the safety position: Converted quarterback Luke Rubenzer, Cameron Walker, Stefan McClure, Derron Brown, and Antoine Albert are all in the mix there. The latter two players join Cal as junior college transfers. The Bears certainly hope this infusion of fresh talent into the program can spark a resurrection in the secondary.