by JDCam 10.10.14
Late Saturday night, after 11 ranked teams had already lost. Cal and WSU participated in one of the most ridiculous games in college football history. WSU QB Connor Halliday threw for an FBS record 734 yards and 6 TDs. In a loss. To Cal. Remarkably, despite Halliday’s record breaking night (amassing more passing yards to date than 16 FBS teams) he was arguably the second best player on the field. Cal’s emergent QB Jared Goff is quietly making a name for himself in a division that already boasts potential top pick Marcus Mariota and after several years of quiet anonymity, Golden Bear fans have some hope after a miserable few seasons.
Against WSU Goff threw for a paltry 527 yards and 5 TDs. Through 5 games Goff has 1875 yards, with 22 TDs, just 3 INTs and a completion percentage of 64.6%. Sophmore Goff was a 4 star recruit out of Marin Catholic in Northern California and was originally ranked 267th in the ESPN 300 in 2012. Goff’s crisp throwing and arm strength have many comparing him to another Cal alumni, Aaron Rodgers – whose peak with the Golden Bears came in the 2004 season.
2004 BCS Controversy
For those unfamiliar with Cal football history here is a brief summary of a controversial 2004 season. With Aaron Rodgers guiding a typically dominant offense, Cal lost only one regular season contest against eventual BCS National Champion USC Trojans. Cal finished the regular season at number 4 and seemed like a lock for a Rose Bowl berth. Then Texas coach Mack Brown subsequently made pleas to the media and to coaches to consider and re-consider their rankings to allow Texas a BCS opportunity. As a result number 6 Texas made up 23 points on number 4 Cal in the AP poll and the 5th ranked Longhorns gained 43 points on the 4th ranked Golden Bears in the coach’s poll. The rest is history and Texas went on to edge Michigan 38-37 in the Rose Bowl. To the ire of Cal fans, the AP poll was removed from BCS formula consideration after the 2004 season, partially because of the controversy with the Bears. For their part, Cal whimpered to a 45-31 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech.
The demise of Cal since this recent apex has been a slow and painful one to watch. In the last 3 seasons they have gone 7-6 (4-5) in 2011, 3-9 (2-7) in 2012 and 1-11 (0-9) in 2013. Longtime coach Jeff Tedford was fired in 2012 and replaced by Sonny Dykes. Looking at the active NFL players to emerge from Cal as well as their recruiting history in the last decade, some interesting patterns emerge that foreshadowed their recent spiral. First let’s take a look at offensive and defensive linemen produced by Cal in recent seasons
|Tyson Alualu||Defensive End||1st round, 10th overall||5th season – JAX|
|Deandre Coleman||Defensive Tackle||Undrafted free agent||Rookie – MIA|
|Brian De La Puente||Center||Undrafted free agent||5th season – CHI|
|Cameron Jordan||Defensive End||1st round, 25th overall||4th season – NO|
|L.P Ladouceur||Center||Undrafted free agent||10th season – DAL|
|Alex Mack||Center||1st round, 21st overall||6th season – CLE|
|Brandon Mebane||Defensive Tackle||3rd round, 85th overall||8th season – SEA|
|Mitchell Schwartz||Offensive Tackle||2nd round, 37th overall||3rd season – CLE|
|Brian Schwenke||Center||4th round, 107th overall||2nd season – CAL|
|Nick Sundberg||Center||Undrafted free agent||5th season – WAS|
Looking at this list there are certainly some exceptional players. Mack, who was named to his first Pro-bowl in 2013 has become a huge part of the Browns offensive line alongside fellow behemoth Joe Thomas. Mebane of course has been a successful part of a hugely dominant Seattle Seahawks defense over the last few years. Jordan, Alualu and Mitchell Schwartz are all good players. Several of the undrafted free agents on the list are career backups who have not played a snap this season. Now to look at a similar list of active offensive skill position players drafted out of Cal.
|Shane Vereen||Running Back||2nd round, 56th overall||4th season|
|Craig Stevens||Tight End||3rd round, 85th overall||8th season|
|Jeremy Ross||Wide Receiver||Undrafted free agent||2nd season|
|Aaron Rodgers||Quarterback||1st round, 24th overall||10th season|
|Marshawn Lynch||Running Back||1st round, 12th overall||8th season|
|Marvin Jones||Wide Receiver||5th round, 166th overall||3rd season|
|DeSean Jackson||Wide Receiver||2nd round, 49th overall||7th season|
|Justin Forsett||Running Back||7th round, 233rd overall||7th season|
|C.J Anderson||Running Back||Undrafted free agent||2nd season|
|Keenan Allen||Wide Receiver||3rd round, 76th overall||2nd season|
There is a notable disparity between these two groups. Even some of the lower drafted offensive skill players have become impact NFL players. The accomplishments of Rodgers and Lynch do not need to be discussed here. DeSean Jackson can be one of the most legitimate downfield threats in the NFL. Allen just got off a monster rookie season for the Chargers. Justin Forsett has a golden opportunity as the number one back in the wake of the Ray Rice controversy in Baltimore. Marvin Jones was on the receiving end of 10 TD passes and 712 yards in his sophomore season before injuries have slowed him this year. Forget draft position, the productivity differential between the two groups is huge.
So the Golden Bears are producing more NFL ready offensive skill position players than offensive or defensive lineman, hardly surprising, but how are they recruiting? In Cal’s last 8 recruiting classes the discrepancy between offensive skill position players and quality linemen and defensive skill positions is just as stark. According to ESPN recruiting, in their last 8 classes, the spread of positions by top 10 recruits each year has been as follows;
|Position||Number of Players Recruited|
Looking through their recruiting lists, the offensive bias is obvious. It is also noticeable just how few quality players Cal is recruiting into its secondary. This has been born out in Cal’s play in recent seasons. Porous is not an adequate adjective to describe their recent defensive play. Cal currently ranks 122nd in the NCAA with a whopping 40.4 points conceded per game. Remarkably this is topped by their 2nd in the NCAA 50 points per game by their offense. Cal’s 2014 defense is just shocking. They are currently ranked 119th out of 124 1-A teams and are currently conceding 545 yards per game with 427.8 coming through the air (worst among 1-A teams) and 117.2 on the ground.
My point here is simply that no matter how good Goff is or will become, this recent surge of Cal success is unsustainable until they can address some of their recruiting issues on defense and particularly in their secondary. Cal has never had difficulty recruiting quality classes, usually falling in the 20th-40th range nationally. If they want to create a program with long term success and continue the journey back to consistent respectability they need to take advantage of this improved year and make sure they focus on quality defensive recruits, particularly in their secondary as sooner or later, Goff will have something less than a perfect game and in the long term, will probably follow Mariota in a year or two into the NFL. Cal football is on the up this year, but will they have the foresight to make it last?