The Golden Bears split their first two games with a 31-24 loss to Nevada and a 50-31 win over FCS foe Southern Utah. Then the losses began to pile up as the Golden Bears dropped three straight, though they did give Ohio State all it could handle in a 35-28 setback. California's high point of the season came next when it routed UCLA, 43-17 and followed it up with a 31-17 victory at Washington State.
However, the Golden Bears quickly plummeted back to earth as they lost five straight games to end the season, losing the final two by a combined score of 121-31. At 3-9, California suffered just its second losing season of Tedford's 11-year run but it was enough to send him packing.
OFFENSE: Hoping to bring some excitement to Berkeley led California to hire former Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes to take the helm.
"Anytime you take over a coaching job at a new university, the biggest thing you worry about is what's going to be the buy-in," Dykes said of his experience taking over. "Sometimes it takes a long time for those guys to buy into your program. To their credit, the buy-in occurred on day one."
If there is one area where Dykes is certain to get players to buy in it will be on the offensive side of the ball. In his third and final season with Louisiana Tech, Dykes oversaw the No. 1 offense in the country as the Bulldogs racked up 577.9 yards per game. The Bulldogs didn't just put up points though as they were 37-22 in Dykes' three seasons, including a 9-3 finish a year ago.
The most important aspect of any offense, but especially Dykes' spread heavy attack, is the quarterback position. Dykes has his work cut out for him in that regard as none of the three signal callers on the roster have ever thrown a pass in college. Redshirt freshman Zach Kline projects the best to run the offense but he will be in a lengthy and tough competition for the job with true freshman Jared Goff and junior Austin Hinder.
"I think that we're obviously undergoing a change in what we're doing offensively and for us, a lot of our success is going to be determined by the level of play that we get from our quarterback," Dykes said. "That's got to be a position that we get settled quickly in fall camp."
Improving a lackluster passing attack that ranked ninth in the Pac-12 last season (208.3 ypg) is that much harder with top receiver Keenan Allen gone. Dykes will need Chris Harper (41 receptions, 544 yards) and Bryce Treggs (21 receptions, 216 yards) to step up right away and lead a number of inexperienced receivers, as Dykes' calls for many four and five wideout formations.
The losses on offense will not just be felt in the passing game. Though Dykes doesn't run heavily, losing the top two rushers from last year's team won't help bring balance to the unit. Isi Sofele (757 yards) and C.J. Anderson (790 yards, 15 TDs) were a great 1-2 punch. Now Brendan Bigelow (431 yards) and Daniel Lasco (109 yards) will need to take on those roles. Though he lacks starting experience, Bigelow is an exciting weapon that can burn opposing defenses. The junior averaged 9.8 yards per carry last season.
The offensive line is also retooling with just left guard Jordan Rigsbee and Chris Adcock returning as starters.
DEFENSE: A new scheme and a new coordinator are coming to campus for the Golden Bears' defense. New defensive coordinator Andy Buh, who was most recently the linebackers coach at Wisconsin, will be installing a 4-3 formation to replace the 3-4 of years past.
Luckily for Buh there is a good group of players up front that will benefit from a shift to a defensive scheme that relies more heavily on defensive line play.
Deandre Coleman (48 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks), Chris McCain (50 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and Brennan Scarlett (40 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) are all back to man spots on the line and should be even more productive this season. Add in promising junior Mustafa Jalil and the group could be one of the more formidable in the conference.
Nick Forbes recorded 84 total tackles and was also effective in getting into the backfield, recording 4.5 tackles for loss as he returns for his junior season at linebacker. Helping to ease the transition under Buh will be Jalen Jefferson, who totaled 48 tackles last season and has starting experience.
Where the biggest question marks on defense loom are in the secondary. Josh Hill led the team in tackles (87) and Steve Williams was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention at cornerback. Neither returns. Free safety Michael Lowe, who had 69 tackles and tied for a team-high with three interceptions, will be called upon to lead the way for the developing group.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Vincenzo D'Amato will be back to handle kicking duties after he knocked through 16-of-23 field goal and 30-of-33 extra point attempts last season. The Golden Bears are also set at punter as Cole Leininger returns after booting 60 punts an average of 40 yards a year ago.
In the return game Bigelow was exciting, averaging 23.1 yards per kickoff return, but will likely be saved to keep him healthy on offense. Therefore Treggs and Lasco should take on the returning duties.
OUTLOOK: There is optimism in Berkeley with Dykes coming in. However, Golden Bears' fans may be in for a tough first ride under their new head coach. The schedule just doesn't line up in California's favor and while playing tough games is admirable, it isn't going to help in the way of picking up victories.
California opens the season on August 31 at home against a Northwestern team that is largely intact from the 10-win rendition a year ago. Then after a respite against FCS foe Portland State, the Golden Bears host Ohio State and visit Oregon in consecutive games. That brutal stretch is followed up by a home game against Washington State before another tough time with three difficult games (at UCLA, Oregon State, at Washington) in a row. The last month of the season also has important battles with USC and Arizona as well as the season finale at Stanford, though a visit to Colorado should give the Golden Bears a bit of a break.
Drastic change is coming for California under the ridiculously high-tempo of Dykes' offense. However with such changes comes a lot of growing pains. California has some very good options at several spots on the roster but not enough to think a winning season is on the horizon.