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Since Jared Goff left for the NFL, there has not been too much to get excited about for CAL Bears football. However, this season features some exciting players that Sports Al Dente will be following all year long. Here are the top CAL Bears prospects and players to follow in 2018.

Ross Bowers, QB – 6’2″, 200 lbs (RS Junior)

Standing 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Ross Bowers is tasked with leading this Cal offense once again. He had quite the prolific season in 2017, throwing for 3,039 yards and 18 touchdowns. While these were among the top in PAC-12 play, he also added a ghastly 12 interceptions. It is not a guarantee that he will start or end the season as the starter, however. Despite all of this, his knowledge of the Cal system should help him secure the starting job for week one.

This kid has a cannon for an arm (albeit a little wild). Even though he can get a little wild with his throws, his strength lies in his willingness to make plays happen. And despite his running ability (or lack thereof), he has the type of arm talent scouts will love.

Many draft scouts notice his gunslinger mentality and are eyeing him as a possible late-round prospect. If Bowers can learn how to keep his interceptions down and still show off his arm talent, his stock will rise.

Patrick Laird, RB – 6’0″, 200 lbs (RS Senior)

RS Senior running back Patrick Laird is the engine that will keep this Cal football team running this season. Standing 6’0″ and weighing in at 200 pounds, Laird is already on the national radar. He was nominated to the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award (top player and top running back, respectively) watch lists. With a rather inconsistent QB and offense surrounding him, Laird will be the lone beacon of consistency if he can build upon his 1,192 yards and 9 touchdowns from 2017.

He will be an every-down back because of the lack of depth behind him. As long as his offensive line can block, he will find holes and exploit them as he has every game. His skills as a blocker are underrated as well, which will help give QB Bowers more time in the pocket.

Running back is usually a deep position, so Laird might not go early in the draft. However, he should be a steal to a team that will pick him up in the later rounds (5th-6th). He could serve as a workhorse in a committee backfield in the pros. Either way, he definitely has a future at the next level.

Jake Curhan, OL – 6’6″, 330 lbs (RS Sophomore)

As a 6’6″ and 330-pound behemoth in the middle, OL Jake Curhan will be the anchor on this offensive line. After starting all 12 games in 2017, he has proven himself as both a solid pass and run blocker. He helped RB Patrick Laird and QB Ross Bowers to solid seasons, and they’ll need him again in 2018.

A lineman is another position of depth in the upcoming draft. However, it is also a position of common late-round steals. Teams will be on the lookout for him due to his reliability and consistency both in the pass and run. So while you might not hear his name on day one or two, he will make for solid depth on the offensive line.

Camryn Bynum, CB – 6’0″, 180 lbs (RS Sophomore)

Despite being only 6’0″ and 180 pounds, Camryn Bynum is the real deal. He lead the team in interceptions, passes defended, pass breakups, and placed 5th in tackles last year. Bynum looks to lead the defensive charge. in 2018

He has the excellent ability to be in the right place at the right time to defend a pass. A solid work ethic is his key to success. He has that “first one in and last to leave” mentality when it comes to practice. Coaches say that he always asks for the film on opposing teams and their offensive routes before games.

His on-field production, coupled with his work ethic and energy, will make him a prized CB in the draft. Teams will be vying for a guy who is only looking to get better than he already is. He has been compared to Richard Sherman in terms of his football IQ and skill set. With all of his talent, don’t be surprised if you hear his name called in the early rounds.

Vic Wharton III, WR – 5’11”, 200 lbs (Senior)

At 5’11”, 200 pounds, senior wideout Vic Wharton III will be the focal point of this CAL Bears receiving corps. After the transfer of Demetris Robertson, Wharton is now the active leader in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.

The slot receiver is becoming a more integral part of football in college and the pros. Wharton’s ability to run different routes with precision makes him a deadly weapon in Cal’s arsenal. He has great hands in traffic and fights for yards after the catch. While he may not be a deep threat, his ability to make players miss makes him dangerous in open space. Either way, he has been a solid player when given play time and should shine this season.

His draft stock could be all over the place. If he performs well, he could become similar to Ram’s receiver Ryan Switzer and go around the 4th-5th round. If his season is mediocre, he may fall to the 7th or even go undrafted. Barring a horrible injury, a team should take a chance on him and he could have a solid career in the pros.

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Sports Al Dente 2019

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