As we head into the offseason, here are three questions facing California:
1. Who replaces Jared Goff?
The Golden Bears' main man leaves to the NFL draft as the holder of 26 program records, and some consider him the most talented quarterback prospect in the country. There's no way around it: Cal faces a daunting task in replacing Goff, who was the heartbeat of this program as it clawed its way out of despair the past three seasons. Goff finished 2015 with 4,719 passing yards and 43 touchdowns.
The top two candidates to take his spot are Chase Forrest, the backup this past season, and former four-star recruit Ross Bowers, who redshirted this season. Luke Rubenzer, who moved from quarterback to safety last season, will switch back to offense, so he'll bring some experience to the table. Either way, though, there won't be much of it under center now that Goff is gone, so the Bears hope to strike gold in the development process this offseason.
2. How effectively will 2016's talent vibe with the Bear Raid?
Goff isn't the only departing piece of Cal's high-powered passing attack. Virtually every productive receiver from the 2015 team also will be gone next season. Kenny Lawler recently declared for the NFL draft, while Bryce Treggs, Trevor Davis, Darius Powe, Maurice Harris and Stephen Anderson are also leaving. That's 265 catches, 3,878 yards and 38 touchdowns of production that must be replaced in Berkeley.
The Bears will look to unproven players -- Chad Hansen, Kanawai Noa and Carlos Strickland are three names that stand out -- to pair with their new quarterback in 2016 and keep the points coming. We know that coach Sonny Dykes loves to pass the ball, but at this point, Cal's ability to do so effectively is a wild card.
3. Will the defense continue its upward trajectory?
This is where the Bears can legitimately expect to improve in 2016. Only one starter -- defensive end Kyle Kragen -- has exhausted his eligibility. So the rest of a relatively young unit has another season to improve. The 2015 season could be considered a success in that regard: Cal went from surrendering 39.8 points per game in 2014 to 30.7 this past year. The secondary also showed marked improvement, climbing out of the national cellar thanks in large part to an improved pass rush (the Bears' sack total jumped from 16 to 28).
Continued progress from the defense will be mandatory in 2016 if Cal is going to stay afloat because a dip in offensive production seems inevitable. We'll see if this side of the ball can pick up the slack heading into next year.