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Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast With Mike Pawlawski -Episode 1

August 1, 2021

Bear Insider is excited to announce a new partnership with former Cal quarterback and current Cal football color analyst Mike Pawlawski on a regular ongoing video and audio podcast with content on topics like breaking down the Pac-12 North and South divisions, weekly opponent scouting and game reviews, interviews with former and current players and coaches and much more in months and hopefully years to come.

We’re kicking off the inaugural Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast with Mike breaking down the Pac-12 North with Bear Insider editor and senior staff writer Jim McGill this week.

Mike: So today we're talking about Pac-12 North and I'm going to kick it off to you, Jim. I have my obvious takes on different teams around the conference. Who's the team to beat this year in the Pac-12 North?

Jim: You know, it really depends on how you're analyzing it and who you're talking to. Most I think I would say Oregon. They do return a ton of talent. They've brought in a lot of recruiting depth and talent year by year. But I've got to tell you, Cal's gonna surprise a lot of people and I would not be surprised at all to see Cal coming away with the Pac-12 North title. They're bringing back a lot of returning talent. They're bringing back 10 Super seniors (now nine after the departure of center Mike Saffell). They're bringing back depth that I've never seen before in the program. And granted, a lot of it is young depth, but super-talented. And you've got to figure the hit rate on those young, talented, already D1 size guys has got to have at least 25-40% early hit rate. So seeing those guys in the mix with these returning veterans, I'm really bullish on this team.

Mike: They’ve got good talent coming back. Cal’s gonna be good football team this year. We're gonna do the PAC 12 North today but we're not going to focus on Cal today. We're gonna have one separate podcast to break down the Bears heading into the season. So we'll go North first. We'll go south next. But then our Golden Bear breakdown I think should be one single podcast, so that we can talk about the team in its entirety.

But I think Tim DeRuyter’s defense is gonna be really good. A little bit of a shake up up there in Oregon. They've always got talent. They've always got dudes on offense. Their starting quarterback last year, Tyler Schuck  transfers out and goes down to Texas Tech, and I, I can't help but think there was a little bit of a conflict from where he came in to where he ended up with Coach Morehead as the offensive coordinator trying to fit into that offensive box they were trying to put him into.

Jim: Yeah, I think the same thing and it speaks to a little bit of instability in their program, too. You would think with them returning as Pac-12 champs and with all the talent they have that they'd be sort of a ship that sailing straight ahead without without waves, but there might be a little bit of a little bit of waves behind the scenes there too.

Mike: The offseason was weird. The Pac-12. North had four brand new coordinators last year between Bill Musgrave, Morehead, Donovan up at Washington and then Rolovich coming in at Washington State so a bunch of new offenses to learn in the North last year. And so not all of it was going to click with the COVID year and everything But it just didn't seem like they (Oregon) were on the same page or offense didn't have the firepower used to see on that offense. And so I don't know that the scheme fit Schuck as well, though he's a great runner and Coach Moorhead coached Dak Prescott. So he had that type of quarterback in his history. It just wasn't the right fit for him. They have Anthony Brown at QB, who showed well against USC and his redzone area was okay versus Iowa State (in the Rose Bowl). You just have to see what he can do when he starts getting starter snaps. And then they have some tools in the backfield like CJ Verdell who kind of fell off at the end of last season, and they still have Dye coming back at that running back spot. So two big time playmakers there.

Jim: Yeah, they definitely have the talent in the skill positions. although we have to see how quarterback’s gonna work out. And obviously, you know more than anybody how important a strong cohesive offensive line is to play behind for those skill position guys, what do you what do you expect to see out of that offensive line?

Mike: Well, so I always either start or finish my reviews of teams with the offensive line because it is the most important spot on the field and in the locker room. So it's not just about what guys are doing on the field, but it's also offensive line sets the tone for a team so when you're out there, grinding, doing everything else. Those offensive line guys are the guys that give you the chemistry on the team. And so that Oregon offensive line was my like in the beginning the season last year, I thought this is a brand new team like offensively, they had zero returning starters on the offensive line last year. And so now coming back all those dudes have at least one season of experience. And so they've got some dudes coming back they've got they've always got players, you know, the the high recruit guys, but until they step on the field, you don't know exactly what they're going to be. So they've got some talent, right? Oregon is always kind of hit and miss between who's going to show up and who's not going to show up. But they're going to have some talent in that offensive line.

“I think they're going to be good running the football. And we're gonna have to see how that translates into that passing game. Again, Morehead ia trying to get his offensive system in right, RPO-heavy, running quarterback-heavy, and then getting the ball downfield secondary with that run game. So I think they're gonna be good up front, I think they have a talent to be good up front. I think that offensive line needs to set the tone, they need to step up, they need to grow up a lot, kind of in this year. And I think a lot of teams around the conference are like that, because you only have that one year of experience for a lot of those guys who played last year and at that Oregon got seven games. They got the the championship game and then they got the bowl game. And so I think they actually got nine games in last year, which is a huge boon, although they did get their butts kicked by Iowa State in the Rose Bowl. So there's always that.

Alright, let's move down a little bit. Let's talk about Oregon State. Obviously, Jefferson gone. That dude was a stud. I don't care what you say about the conference last year, he was the best running back in the conference, just the way he carried a team on his shoulders with a group that maybe wasn't as potent on offense as they'd like to be. So Jonathan Smith ended up last year having to try to stretch the field with the passing game with a new quarterback or run the ball with Mr. Jefferson. And those dudes up front. Let's talk about that offensive line. They were road grading it for him because he was getting some huge open holes and big breakaway runs. So Oregon State running the football without Jefferson is gonna be completely different football team this year.

Jim: Yeah, you know, they were particularly impressive running the ball last year. And I don't really know how you replace a guy like like that. Are you a little bit surprised what how well they were able to do last year on the run. I mean, Coach Michalczik obviously is a veteran offensive line coach, and he gets a lot out of his talent. And they're recruiting pretty well on the offensive line this year, too. Do you think that's part of the key to their success, or at the major cog in their success? 

Mike: As we talked about, offensive line is always the key, right? So if you can get those guys going, they were great at running the ball, they were not great at pass protection. And so they could run it really well. And you can find some dudes who can do that, who can get off the ball, who can move people and are great run blockers, but then in the Pac-12, you have to be able to turn it around and be past protectors, as well. And one of the things they didn't do well is they didn't protect their quarterbacks very well. And so those guys got hit, you know, Gebbia got hurt in that game vs. Washington and vs. Oregon or Washington last year, he get hurt. Those big guys weren't protecting him. He gets hurt, big-time injury and so you end up getting a quarterback hit a lot. Your passing game is not gonna be as effective. Jonathan Smith as a player had a great running game behind him when he was playing for Erickson there at Oregon State and they could throw the ball, as well. He'd like to find some of that balance, but he hasn't been able to strike it yet in Corvallis with Oregon State because he just hasn't had the tools to put it there.

“So those big guys need to get in their pass pro a little bit. I love Jim Michalczik. He is a great coach. He's a great dude. And so he's got to get his guys to work. But getting the elite guy who can both block for the run and protect the pass is a pretty special thing these days.

Jim: What are your thoughts on the Oregon State defense?

Mike: So they they're great at linebacker. You know, you've got guys coming back at linebacker who are pretty special. And Avery Roberts coming back, obviously a really good football player. And so they're going to be good at that second level. The problem is, even if you have talented linebackers, if you don't have that defensive front, that's what sets everything up on defense because if they can get after the passer if they can cause problems for a quarterback, then the DBs willl look great. The linebackers look better because they're keeping blockers off linebackers. And it makes the whole defense work better. I don't know how good they are up front. They've got try-hard guys, they've got a little bit of talent. They can rush the passer with some scheme stuff, I just don't know that they can do that and stop the run. At the same time with the group of guys that have up front we're gonna have to see kind of what shows up on the field form them this year, but that was kind of their drawback. Last year, they could run the ball really well. And they stayed in a bunch of games, right? They got jobbed at Washington, they beat Oregon. Obviously they won that game versus the bears. And so they were a decent enough football team to win. But they need to get better up front on that defense in terms of in terms of if they want to step up to that next level of play defensively that defensive line so get better.

Jim: That was a bitter loss for Cal last year at OSU. The blocked punt deep in Oregon State territory where they had the easy touchdown and the kick return for the touchdown that was called many ways Cal could have won that game, even with a decimated offensive line with all the COVID holdouts and young guys playing. So that was one of those ones you want to put in the rearview mirror for 2020.

For more thoughts from Mike on the 2021 Pac-12 North division, tune into The Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast.

To listen to the audio version, use this link

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Discussion from...

Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast With Mike Pawlawski -Episode 1

2,517 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by MoragaBear
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We've run some of Mike's videos in the past but we're excited to announce we're collaborating with Mike longterm for Bear Insider-Cal specific podcasts with our new Bear Insider Ultimate Insider Podcast. In the first episode, Mike breaks down the Pac-12 North competition. Next up with be the Pac-12 South, weekly opponent previews and prior week game breakdowns, interviews with former Cal players, coaches and more.

We'll leave this one up for everyone the first day then it will shift to subscriber only.
YLS Bear
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Love this, thanks. Mike P. is such a treasure. Will never forget that hit he delivered on that linebacker, which you referenced. The hunter became the hunted lol.
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is this you tube only? don't see it coming up in podcast directories....would like an audio only version.
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bluehenbear said:

is this you tube only? don't see it coming up in podcast directories....would like an audio only version.

Stay tuned on that. Hopefully it will be up on SoundCloud at least by tomorrow. Hopefully soon on Spotify, too.
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