A New Winning Era In Berkeley?

1054471634.jpg.0.jpgPhoto by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Image

A Prediction of the Future of Golden Bear Football

The Golden Bears of California is a team that I have personally followed since the Aaron Rodger’s era back in 2004. I have watched numerous seasons over the years and have seen many great players emerge from this football program, and many of those who move to the NFL from Cal have had much success during their professional career. I have watched the many great QBs emerge such as Jared Goff and Davis Webb, who are both on their way to being great or eventually great players. But this article isn’t about history, it’s about the future of this Bear’s program. Ever since Justin Wilcox stepped in for the former coach Sunny Dykes, Wilcox has completely changed the atmosphere in the Golden Bear Nation, and even though it’s been a rocky start, I think there’s a lot to be hopeful for in the forseeable future for this team. I believe that in the next few years we may see the Cal Bears in the top 25, if not top 10 more often than before in the history of this program.

Since Justin Wilcox’s arrival, we’ve seen the transformation of a team with one of the worst defense’s in the nation to having one of the best defenses in the NCAA today, and that’s all thanks to Justin Wilcox’s genius and the work of his staff backing him up. In terms of defensive stats, the Golden Bears have one of the best defenses out there in the PAC-12 and that’s just behind Washington State’s own defense and their impressive secondary. The Golden Bears have a total defense ranking of 16th in the nation, tied 4th in Defensive touchdowns, and are tied with 5th most interceptions out of 129 Division I FBS programs in the country. The Golden Bears also have a rush defense with the ranking of 35th best in the nation, which is not entirely bad, it means that their rush defense is good, but it can be a lot better. Boy this defense has definitely impressed as the 2018 season has progressed and not a lot of people expected the Bear’s defense to be as good as the numbers they’ve put up as of this point. In the game against Gardner Minshew’s previously 9th ranked Washington State Cougars, the Golden Bears managed to keep the Cougar’s score to 19, which was the lowest they had ever scored the entire season, even though they were averaging 36.5 points per game. The Golden Bears even got Jake Browning bench during the Washington University game which the Golden Bears had won and held the Huskies’ score to only 10 points that game. It’s not just any team I’m talking about here though, I’m talking about some of the best teams in the nation the Cal Bear’s defense has managed to keep under a score of 21.  The only thing that I wonder some times with this defense is how they manage to lose against teams with horrible records and lose by 30 or 40 points and still manage to hold back some of the best teams in the nation to a very low score. I guess that’s one for Mr. Wilcox to figure out with his defense. But getting back on track, with the way this Cal Bear’s defense has been handling top 25 teams, it would seem like an early indicator that if this defense can remain strong for the next few years, it will move likely improve and possibly be one of the most dynamic defenses in the whole nation. Even though I say Cal will be in the top 25 for the next few years, I don’t exactly mean they’re gonna get a national championship title, but it’s college football, anything can happen.

image1 (4)Photo by Kelley L Cox – KLC Fotos

One of the strangest things for this team this year and also adding on from last year, is that I don’t get how we go from having one of the most insane offenses in the nation to having one of the worst in 2018. This Cal Bear’s team is currently on the downside in terms of offensive stats, but there is hope for this beaten and battered squad of Blue and Gold, and when I mean hope, I mean Quarterback Chase Garbers. If the Golden Bears had a better plan for using their QBs, then the season probably would be a lot better, but the past is in the past anyways. But this Golden Bears team has a lot of potential to be a good offense once again, they are just riddled with injuries in the Wide out core, and they don’t exactly have major play makers on their team, except for a select few. Chase Garbers is a freshman quarterback, you know the last the Golden Bear QB that was a starter as a freshman, yes, Jared Goff. It would seem this Cal Bears staff is attempting to redo the same road they took with Jared Goff and putting that plan in accordance with Chase Garbers. If you look at freshman stats of Jared Goff and the stats as of right now for Chase Garbers, they both have very similar stats in comparison to each other. As a freshman, Jared Goff ended his freshman season with a rating of 123.4 and Chase Garbers currently has a 128.9 rating through 12 games. Jared Goff had 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, a 60.4% completion percentage, and 3508 passing yards as a freshman. Garbers has 13 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, a completion percentage of 61.9%, and 1221 passing yards as of right now. Though Chase doesn’t have as many passing yards as Goff, he does have way more rushing yards. His rushing totals as of the season being 12 games so far, are 354 rush yards, and 1 touchdown, and remember that he was also sharing downs with the South Carolina transfer, Brandon McIlwain, so his passing and rushing totals are much lower than average QBs. So there’s not much to blame when it comes to Chase Garbers, it means that he has the potential to finish his career with high totals, but the only way that’s gonna happen is if this wide receiver core for Cal can improve or not.

This wide receiver group for Cal has had issues with injuries during the entire 2018 season. Kanwai Noa from Honolulu, Hawaii, one of Cal’s most elite wideouts was injured before the Idaho state game. Noa is in his junior at Berkeley, so his presence will still remain and hopefully his return will greatly impact this Cal Bear’s offense. The Bear’s have not been historically known for producing great wide receivers, but they do have their share of some of the fastest wideouts in the NFL. These lightning fast wideouts include names such as Trevor Davis, and DeSean Jackson. The Receiving core of this Cal Bear’s team has great athletes in Ian Bunting, Vic Wharton III, and the sudden star late in the season, Mo Ways. Mo Ways, during the Colorado game in week 12, has proven that he can be a great target for Chase Garbers. In a an article from Cal Bears Maven, Mo Ways had this to say about his QB, Garbers, “He’s 19 years old and a redshirt freshman and a first-year starter,” Ways said. “He’s grown every week. His confidence has grown. He has ice in his veins. When the game is on the line and we need a big play, he wants the ball in his hands. He doesn’t shy away from the moment”. (Cal Bears Maven). Some nice words from a long time experienced Michigan Transfer WR. Clearly the players around Garbers are supporting him 100% of the way and as his connection with the rest of the team develops, so will his performance in the game. Mo Ways and Ian Bunting, both Michigan transfers who are now in graduate school at Cal, are playing their final college football games as players, and most likely will not be around to play in the coming season. Kanawai Noa and Vic Wharton III, who are still young, will be around next season, so their connection with Garbers will continues to develop for the next few seasons. My tips for Justin Wilcox would be to find some young, dynamic wideouts, and surround Garbers with receivers that he will be comfortable with and wins will come in the many.

Remember Brandon McIlwain? the QB that started a couple of games for Cal, but was eventually benched in exchange for Garbers and threw multiple interceptions per game, well don’t lose hope in this guy, not even a little bit. This guy is a play maker, at times he has his big moments and at most times he takes risks that greatly help out Cal and also greatly poisons Cal’s chances. If you recall some of his Touchdown runs this guy was absolutely dynamic when running the ball and was a major big play creator when in the run. So, as we saw a glimpse in the Colorado game, it would seem that the young transfer from South Carolina could be a potential candidate for being added to the running back or wide receiver position, and if utilize properly, this play maker will most likely succeed at those positions. Who knows, we may see McIlwain become Cal’s top receiver for yards after catch, or most rushing yards per game. He may have failed at the quarterback position, but it doesn’t mean that he can’t be an impact in a good way for this team. If McIlwain can step up to challenge, he may just even replace Patrick Laird when leaves after next season, or even share snaps with the famed running back.

I think there’s been a lot of good decisions, and bad decisions throughout this 2018 season, but there’s a lot of good positives to think about when it comes to this Cal Bears team. They have a lot of good indications and results to convince anyone, hey! we can play with the big boys too. This team will improve, and they’ve mostly shown us already that their defense is competitively one of the most well-rounded ones, especially with Beau Baldwin at the reins. This Cal Bear’s offense has a lot of potential, and if Justin Wilcox plays his cards right and gets the right prospects to come to Cal, I think his winning formula can bring this Cal Bear’s team to a new winning era in Berkeley that may last for many years to come.

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