Football: Dykes chats with fans on ESPN.com

This is a big media week for Pac-12 football coaches, and Cal’s Sonny Dykes was in the spotlight on Wednesday morning as half of the league’s coaches participated in a live chat on ESPN.com.

I’ll be in Los Angeles Friday for the annual Pac-12 media day, where Dykes and Cal players Bryce Treggs and Nick Forbes will talk about the upcoming season.

Here’s Dykes’ conversation with fans on ESPN.com:

Ken (CA): What was the best surprise you discovered about the Cal program/the Cal players?

Sonny Dykes: The biggest positive surprise was I think a little bit more of a willingness to buy in faster than I expected. Positive attitude. Good work ethic. The negative would be we don’t have a lot of depth in some key spots. But overall, more talent than I expected.

bob (CA): You going to soundly defeat Ohio State?

Sonny Dykes: We have a couple of tough ones before we play those guys! I know our players are excited about playing a marquee opponent like that, but we’re getting ready for Northwestern in the first game.

Davidson (Bear Territory): When will you like to have a starting QB in place?

Sonny Dykes: Well, certainly we’d like to by practice 10 or 12. Maybe faster than that. As we enter the third week, we need to have a starter in order, if we can.

Tim B. (Los Angeles): Hi Coach. Cal fans were mostly disappointed with Jeff Tedford’s ultra-conservative play calling last season; what can we expect from the “Bear Raid” this year?

Sonny Dykes: I think our philosophy lends itself to being aggressive. We go for it on fourth down probably more than most teams. We’re pretty aggressive on playcalling. The thing that we have to make sure is being able to make first downs. If you play with a fast tempo and you make those first downs, then the defense is at a big disadvantage.

Jordan Brenner (Los Angeles ): Coach Dykes, how long do you think it will take for Cal to be in the mix for a Rose Bowl?

Sonny Dykes: Shoot, I want them to be in the mix from Day 1. I think that I don’t know that this is a complete rebuilding job. That’s not our philosophy. Our philosophy is to win now. I think that we have enough pieces in place. We’re still trying to navigate where people go. There are enough pieces here for us to be successful. Stay healthy, be confident.

Phillip (A stadium near you): Coach Dykes, what was it about this program and university that attracted you to this job?

Sonny Dykes: Just potential. The program has tremendous potential. Great resources. Great place to live. Great recruiting. Strong commitment to being successful. That’s what you can ask for. I felt Cal checked off all of those boxes.

calflip (Orange County): Coach, What is the strangest thing you have seen in Berkeley so far?

Sonny Dykes: It was in San Francisco. I took my wife and daughters to the pier and we saw a group of about 40 people on bicycles and most of them were wearing nothing. That was kind of strange. But everything in Berkeley has been pretty tame so far.

Isaac (Berkeley): What can you say to the student body at Cal to get them excited for the season, and get them packing Memorial Stadium on a weekly basis?

Sonny Dykes: Our guys will play hard. Our kids will play hard. They’ll play for the student body, for the alums. We’re not going to be afraid of anybody. We’re going to go out every Saturday and lay it on the line. See what happens. You’ll see a team that plays tough, hard. Hopefully we’ll see some good results.

Davidson (Bear Territory): Will you and your coaching staff have any jitters going into your first game against NW. It’ll be a night game and hopefully the crowd will arrive nice and amped after a day of “festivities”

Sonny Dykes: You always do. It’s more excitement than nervousness. It’s always the unknown, how guys will respond. What the environment will be like. It’s more excitement than jitters. I know Cal Memorial Stadium can be a great environment to play in. We’re excited to put our product out there for our fans.

Logan (Southern California): Coach, lots of talk about who may play QB for the Golden Bears…but you have some real talent at the WR position too! Who has really impressed you so far? And will a TE be involved much?

Sonny Dykes: I think it will probably be the strength of our team. A big group of guys that can contribute. Big guys, various skill sets, various bodies. I feel likt it will be a strength of ours, the WRs and TEs. The H-backs. All of those guys that give us different options.

John R. (Washington D.C.): Coach, with Northern California being such a large recruiting hot bed for football recruits, what are your selling points for local Bay Area talent? How do we lock down the Bay and sign stellar recruits like Mixon or Pickett?

Sonny Dykes: That’s where recruiting starts for us, in our own backyard. The Bay Area has more talent than people think. A lot of our success will depend on keeping that talent at Cal. It’s a focus point.

Larry (Bay Area): What has been your biggest concern so far during training?

Sonny Dykes: The thing that you always have to manage is undertanding the work load that has to take place, but also keeping your players healthy. We have some depth issues, OL, DL, DB. The biggest concern is getting the competitive reps that we need, but at the same time, keeping our guys healthy. That’s the juggling act every year.

alpha1906 (Inglewood, CA): Coach, do you look at the pre-season predictions about Cal and think people are grossly underestimating the talent on the team?

Sonny Dykes: I don’t know any coach in the country that doesn’t think they’re underestimated. I pay attention a little bit to it and am aware of peoples’ expectations of our program. I like our team a little better than the national media. But there is a lot that needs to play out. A lot of things that will play out between now and Aug. 31. The thing we have to do is focus on improving every day.

Nick (Seattle): Coach Dykes, Go Bears! Do you think that you guys will be confident enough of Bigelow’s knowledge of the playbook to give him a few more carries against OSU this year?

Sonny Dykes: Yes. I would anticipate Bigelow knowing everything he needs to know to be one of the focuses of our offense.

Vib (Long Beach): How prepared do you think the offensive line and defensive line will be for teams like Ohio State and Northwestern, given that you are implementing new schemes? I am looking forward to seeing the Bears finish off what they started in Columbus last year. Go Bears!

Sonny Dykes: Those are the last two areas that come together on a football team, the OL and DL. That really will be a key for us. Our ability to play good upfront defensively will determine a lot of our success. Our ability to develop depth on the OL and getting them to come together will be critical. Just as important as the QB position.

Sam (Birmingham, AL): How fun has it been to bring almost your entire staff from LA Tech to Cal?

Sonny Dykes: It’s been good. It’s certainly makes the transition easier, when you have people that you like and trust. Share the same philosophy with. I think it puts us with ahead of the game. Different players abilities to pick things up in the spring puts us ahead as well. We feel like we’re in a good place right now.

Charles (Burlingame): How successful do you expect to be year 1? Would you determine success this year on # of wins or how well the foundation is set for 2014 on

Sonny Dykes: I think as a coach, your goal is always to get your team to play to its potential. I don’t know enough about our players yet to what that potential equates to. A lot of that depends on who we play. What we want to do is play hard every Saturday, get better. Build a good culture. If we can do those things, then I think that will allow us to be more successful than a lot of people think.

Sonny Dykes: Thanks for being interested in Cal football. Look forward to seeing you Aug. 31. Go Bears!



Jeff Faraudo

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Generic responses, save the naked bike riders. We got more specifics about a family trip to SF than we did about the team.

    Not like we should expect anything more, of course.

    I can’t wait for the blogosphere to give updates after every open practice. That’s when we’ll start learning more about these guys.

  • Ondal

    Yes, very boilerplate.

    P.s. Jeff, I love you.

  • ScottyBear

    Still 100% better than Tedford’s interviews, especially his last few years. Getting stoked for an exciting play to win attitude. If Tedford can almost beat Ohio State (should have won) on the road with his 4th and 1 and punt attitude, I can’t wait to see Sonny get a shot at the Buckeyes at home. Go Bears!

  • ThisisCal

    Does Dykes have enough time to implement his system so that we can win right away? Or, are we looking at a transition year marked by growing pains and defeats? What’s your guys’ gut feeling?

  • Drizzlyboy

    Since when is naked bike riders in San Francisco not generic? Has it become less commonplace? (Hopefully!)

    I like hearing about the players buying into the system. Attitude seems to have been one of the biggest problems the past 5-6 years, so I’m looking forward to seeing that turn around. The close game at Ohio State and teh UCLA win tell me that this team can play well when properly schemed and motivated. Of course, having attended the debacle in Corvallis last year (in the pouring rain, no less), I’m quite aware of how far down this team can get.

    New coaches, new attitude, new QB… hopefully that spells success. I’m excited to buy some tickets tomorrow morning. Planning on Oregon, UW, and road trip for USC.

    Go Bears!

  • rollonubears

    Thank you for posting about football.

  • discdude

    Biking naked has gotta hurt the sacko, right?

    Football time? About time!

  • rotfogel

    Two areas I think Cal will be very good at and Sonny mentioned one:

    WRs should be really, really good. I remember seeing the tape of lawler and thinking he was the best freshman WR of last year’s class. I wondered why he didn’t play. Regardless, him plus Rogers, Harper, Treggs and Powe is quite formidable.

    LBs are stacked. Love our LB core, and all apologizes to Phil Steele, I think our LBs are more talented than USCs or anyone else’s in the Pac 12 this year. Wilkerson, Fortt, Forbes, Gibson (I know we haven’t seen him yet but the guy is built), Jefferson (who looked really good in spring), and the move to LB of our most talented LB, Scarlett. That is a STACKED LB core.

  • Eric

    National media interviews almost always are generic. But there is one tidbit that you never would have heard from Tedford – going for it on fourth down. Hell yes!

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Is Scarlett going to LB in a 4-3? I am not holding my breath on the defense until I see what Buh does with them against real teams. I’m not happy about switching to the 4-3 (way moreso than losing the pro set offense), and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it works out. Best way to screw up a talented set of LBs is to put one less on the field and minimize the looks and blitzes they can give an offense.

  • Rollonubears

    Does it matter if you call it a 4-3, if one if the lbs is just up on the line? I thought that was going to be the plan some of the time, as well as the 3-4 on occasion, but that the best athletes were going to play.

  • Juancho

    Scarlett got moved to d end.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Rollon, Buh said he is going with what he knows, which means a 4-3. The options an offense has to be ready for out of a 4-3 base defense are cut substantially compared to the 3-4. This matters.

    If he wants to sprinkle in some 3-4, that will be a disaster, just as Tedford tried to sprinkle in some spread, remember? It becomes painfully obvious which few plays are being called by formation. This actually limits options and give the opposition a huge advantage should they have just mediocre scouting.

    I’d love to see some statistics on how many teams have changed to a 3-4 over the past 5 and 10 years, also with the number of teams changing to a 4-3.

    The game is so much more about speed, now. The 3-4 is better suited, IMO, not to mention easier to attract top LB recruits.

    I’m not saying a 4-3 cannot work. I just think it’s a much weaker system from a strategical standpoint.

    If you get 4 awesome DLs that can get a push on anyone, even against a vertical pass set, you are golden.

  • Rollonubears

    That makes sense wisdom, but if Scarlett is a stud, I’m not sure it will make that big of a difference if he’s a few steps up. He can always drop back. It’ll be just as hard for the o to figure out what we’re going to do. Not sure he’s big enough to get penetration though, but our Achilles heel has been defending the option, so this basically bumps up the risk/reward and makes for more exciting football in my opinion. Against a great qb, it might hurt us more, but the best qbs are already on our sideline.

  • covinared

    Wisconsin’s 4-3 was better overall and more consistent than our 3-4 the last couple years. Let’s give it a shot. 230 lb olbs can transition to athletic DE’s.

  • BlueNGold

    I am just hoping that the team will out perform the cow’s dreary pessimism.