UW Opponent Preview - California

With the start of the college football season less than three weeks away and fall camp close to winding down, we're taking a look at each one of Washington's opponents and today we preview the team they will face in week nine -- California...

2015 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Head Coach: Sonny Dykes (14-23; fourth year)

Returning Starters: 4 Offense/5 Defense

Key Losses: QB Jared Goff; LB Hardy Nickerson; WR Bryce Treggs; WR Kenny Lawler; OT Brian Farley; DE/LB Kyle Kragen

Key Returners: CB Darius Allensworth; RB Khalfani Muhammad; OG Chris Borrayo; DL James Looney

2015 Offense: 529 ypg (153 rush/376 pass); 37.9 ppg

2015 Defense: 454 ypg (210 rush/244 pass); 30.7 ppg

Offense: First year offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will have his work cut out for him this fall as he tries to replace QB Jared Goff, the number one overall draft choice in April's NFL Draft, as well as the top six receivers, all of whom left following the 2015 football season. The good news for the Bears is that they return three starters along the offensive line including All-Pac 12 guard Chris Borrayo and the two players who are projected as first time starters -- Aaron Cochran and Jeremiah Stuckey -- both have starting experience. Head coach Sonny Dykes named Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb as the starter shortly before the start of fall camp and he'll have some talented targets, but not a lot of experience at wideout. Freshman Melquise Stovall is a special talent and should be able to put up big numbers this season and the coaches are very excited about what former Tennessee transfer Vic Wharton brings to the table as well. Easing things for Webb will be a very good ground game that returns its top three runners -- Khalfani Muhamad (586 yards; 1 TD), Vic Enwere (505, 8) and Tre Watson (504, 3). it might sound a bit ironic, but the Bears may run the ball better than they throw it this season, but will coaches who love to chuck it around the park stick with it long enough to have an effect on their opponents?

Defense: Just three years ago Cal's defense was the laughingstock not just of the Pac 12, but pretty much the entire nation. Things have definitely improved, but the Bears are still not very good on that side of the ball and losing their best defensive player -- LB Hardy Nickerson -- won't help matters. Last season, Cal ranked 11th in the conference against the run and they were also 11th in redzone defense. Both of those numbers need to improve and a lot of that will depend on how good the defensive line, led by DT James Looney, DT Tony Mekari and DE DeVante Wilson, can be this season. With Nickerson transferring to Illinois following spring ball, Devante Downs is the leader of the linebacker group and they have the most questions to answer this fall. The secondary on the other hand, might be the strength of the defense with the return of two starters -- corner Darius Allensworth and nickel back Cameron Walker -- and they have four other experienced players who they can count on as well. With the loss of their best defensive player as well as five of their top six tacklers from last season, it's hard to see this unit being much better if at all. However, there are some decent pieces to work with and the secondary should be better, so there is some chance they could improve.

The Bottom Line: Dykes is widely regarded as one of the "good guys" in football. He's done his best to increase the talent-level and expectations in Berkeley, but this year will likely be a rebuilding year for the Bears as they try to replace so much talent on both sides of the ball. Cal was bowl-eligible last season, but it looks like a return to the post season might be a bit far-fetched at this point. 

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