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!