I think everyone can agree that Cal will have one of the most explosive offenses in the country this year. I would attribute that mostly to the fact that Tedford is back to calling the plays.
But let's talk about the defense. Defense is being labeled as the team weakness. I, for one, think that this year's defense will be much better than last year's.
Gone: 3 starters were lost including all world DT Brandon Mebane.
New: Redshirt freshman and true freshman who are making big plays in camp. 2 players coming back from injury. Kane, returning as the leader on the line.
Comment: Mebane is a big loss but was the D line dominating last year? I thought they did a good job against the run but Cal lacked any consistent pass rush from the line.
Cal is at the point where the program reloads not rebuilds. Tedford and staff have done a great job recruiting. True the D Line lacks experience but there are some talented RS freshman and a couple true freshman who are ready to show what they can do.
Gone: Desmond Bishop, leading tackler.
New: Zack Follett, William Williams, Anthony Felder. All have logged significant playing minutes over their careers so there is experience here. Follett and Felder are now taking on a starting role and Williams is moving into Bishop's shoes.
Comment: True, Bishop was the heart of the defense, but Williams is ready to step into that role. This unit is the most athletic LB unit Cal has ever had. They are fast, strong and can knock the crap out of people. Follett is a big time playmaker that has a nose for the ball. Williams is a tackling machine and can roam sideline to sideline. Lastly, Felder is probably the most athletic but has been hampered by injuries. Watch him shine this year.
Gone: Daymeion Hughes, Pac 10 defensive player of the year
New: Brandon Hampton, Darian Hagan, Robert Peele, etc
Comment: The safety positions are in good hand with DeCoud and Hicks. Syd Thompson has locked down one corner spot. He improved significantly over last year and should be a blanket this year.
So how does Cal deal with the loss of Hughes? You don't replace a Daymeion Hughes (though I predict Thompson will be better by his senior year). What we need to look at is the unit as a whole.
The safeties have another year under their belt. Hampton has locked down the other DB spot and has a lot of in game experience. While the unit might not be better, there is little doubt that they can perform up to par with last year's unit.
This year's defensive squad is flying under the rader but expect big things from them. If the defense plays up to my expectations expect even bigger things for Cal this year. With a favorable schedule and an unstoppable offense, this defense could lead Cal to the promised land.