Cal Football: Ten ‘Super Seniors’ Returning for the Bears in 2021
They are calling them Super Seniors, which does not suggest octogenarians with the ability to fly or bend steel beams with their minds.
It is a catchy and appropriate title for a one-time class of college athletes returning for a final season they aren’t usually afforded.
Athletes from this past college football season are being allowed to “replay” their season, given the option by the NCAA to return for one more year of athletic eligibility after a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will make for some deeper, more experienced teams across the country next fall, and Cal will benefit significantly.
Cal had 16 seniors or redshirt seniors on its 2020 roster, and 10 of them are taking advantage of the NCAA ruling to remain on the team in 2021.
“It’s great news for the program. I think it’s a win-win,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It helps our team from their ability standpoint and also from the leadership they provide, especially through times like this. I think it benefits them as well for their futures in football.”
Five of the 10 coming back were at least honorable mention All-Pac-12 selections in 2020.
Seniors returning next fall are:
Wide receiver Trevon Clark: Played in three games last fall, catching four passes for 23 yards. In 2019 played in all 13 games, starting seven, and had 25 receptions for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Kekoa Crawford: Arrived as a transfer from Michigan prior to the 2019 season and has caught 35 passes for 504 yards and four touchdowns while playing in 10 games. He had a career-high 10 receptions for 14 yards vs. Oregon State in 2020 and was voted All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso: Started and played in just one game (UCLA) last season but has 34 starts since transferring from Oregon in 2017. Has started 12 games each at left tackle and left guard, 10 at right guard.
Running back Marcel Dancy: An all-purpose back with the ability to run or catch the ball, Dancy has played two seasons with the Bears after transferring from Laney College. In 20 games, he has rushed for 485 yards and three touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 236 yards.
Inside linebacker Kuony Deng: A 6-foot-6, 250-pounder, Deng was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 last fall in his second season at Cal. He has started all 17 games since arriving from junior college prior to the 2019 season, and has career totals of 150 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, eight pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He had 119 tackles in 2019.
Defensive back Josh Drayden: A versatile DB, Drayden started all four games last fall and has career totals of 78 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups in 43 games. He returned one of those picks 54 yards for a touchdown against Oregon State this past season, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 plaudits.
Outside linebacker Cameron Goode: A second-team All-Pac-12 selection last fall after collecting 19 tackles, including 8 tackles for loss, during the Bears’ four-game schedule. For his career, Goode has 125 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Safety Elijah Hicks: Has played in all 42 games of his career, with 34 starts. Hicks played three seasons at cornerback before moving to safety. He has 141 career tackles and two interceptions and last year earned praise for helping to raise money to feed children of low-incoming families during the pandemic.
Center Michael Saffell: Has started 23 games since arriving on campus in 2017, including all 15 the past two seasons. An injury interrupted his 2018 season. Saffell was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 picks last fall and recently was named Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for football.
Offensive lineman Gentle Williams: Has played in 11 games with three starts (all at left guard in 2018). Did not play in 2019 or ’20 due to injury.
The NCAA announced the change in August, in part to eliminate uncertainty for athletes who wondered if a year of their college eligibility would be wiped out by the pandemic.
Cal gave its seniors time after the season to consider their options before making a decision.
Cornerback Camryn Bynum, tackle Jake Curhan and defensive end Zeandae Johnson announced they would pursue their pro football dreams.
Three more seniors — quarterback Devon Modster, running back Bradrick Shaw and fullback Drew Schlegel — entered the transfer portal.
“We had those discussions throughout the winter break and guys sorting through things, and we’re really, really pleased that those guys are back with us,” Wilcox said. “All of the are working extremely hard this offseason. They’ve got goals for the team and for themselves that they’re working toward.
“So really pleased that that group of guys came back and wanted one more run at it.”
Cal has a number of player opt out of the 2020 season, including senior defensive end/outside linebacker Tevin Paul and wide receiver Jeremiah Hawkins. Paul has reportedly retired from football while Hawkins transferred to Texas State.
Cal has not yet released an updated roster, nor announced dates for spring practice.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo