Football: Freshmen draw raves from Dykes

A strong day for the newcomers Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Freshmen shined during Cal’s sixth practice of fall camp, led by defensive tackle Jacobi Hunter of Houston and running back Khalfani Muhammad of Sherman Oaks. Linebacker Johnny Ragin of Wilsonville, Ore., also had another strong day, coach Sonny Dykes said.

“Good to see those freshman get a little more comfortable,” Dykes said.

Hunter, a 6-foot-1, 300-pounder, has made a favorable impression more than once during the Bears’ first week of workouts. Same thing with Ragin.

And Dykes said the ultra-quick Muhammad, all 5-foot-8 of him, has a good shot at becoming a first-team kickoff return man.

“That’s phenomenal. I’m ecstatic,” said Muhammad, the two-time defending state high school 100-meter champ, who had a couple nice returns Saturday. “You’ve got to believe to achieve. I just want to come out here and try to get better each day.”


The offense, which drew criticism from Dykes on Friday, bounced back.

“The energy was better from the start, the focus was better,” he said. “We’ve kind of hit that point during camp where guys start to lose their legs a little bit and everybody becomes a step slower and the execution is not very good.

“We didn’t have a very good mentality yesterday. The mentality on the offense and the defense was a bit better today.”

That doesn’t mean Dykes is much closer to naming a starting quarterback.

He said all three candidates played better Saturday and that the coaching staff would try to further evaluate.

“We’ll see where we go from there, whether it’s name a starter or narrow it down,” he said. Monday’s scrimmage will factor into the equation, but Dykes stressed that the decision won’t be made based on one day’s performance.

“You want to look at the whole body of work. We’ll look at spring, too,” he said.

Asked to project a timetable, he said, “It’s hard to say . . . I wish I knew.”

He said the starter will need and a week-and-a-half of first-team reps, minimum, to prepare for the Aug. 31 opener vs. Northwestern, ideally two weeks.


Redshirt freshman MLB Hardy Nickerson, getting first-team reps while Nick Forbes rests his back, has scored points with the coaching staff.

“He’s been great,” Dykes said. “He has continued to improve his game. He’s incredibly focused, dedicated, hard-working, ambitious. Guys like that, you want to find a spot for them to play.

“He’s made the most of his opportunity.”


Starting safety Avery Sebastian missed his second straight practice because of pain from a bone spur in his foot, although he was not in a boot on Saturday. Dykes said he’d probably be back for Monday’s scrimmage.

RB Brendan Bigelow was held out of workouts to give his surgically repaired knee the day off and DE Brennan Scarlett (hand) continues to wear a red jersey.

Freshman DB Trey Cheek came off the field after tweaking his hamstring, a situation that could shelve him for several days, Dykes said.


Jeff Faraudo

  • rotfogel

    The potential that Khalfani Muhammad as a return man is through the roof. That’s one aspect of his game that I forgot about.

    As I’ve said before, I really, really like Johnny Ragin III. From what I’ve seen of him, he could be very special.

    Glad to see Hardy Nickerson playing well too.


  • Eric

    My guy Khalfani!!! I’m telling you guys, he is the real deal.

  • ConcordBear

    We are a very young team so VERY good to hear that some of our youngest are showing out well right now.
    A lot of work still to be done before the 31st!
    Most encouraging thing I have seen at camp so far has been the tempo. They are not just talking about it, they are actually going very fast and appear to be in very good shape.
    Still not as fast, controlled and confident as they need to be but they are on the right track.
    Really excited to see what this offense can become this year if they continue to work as hard as they are and continue to be all in. If that happens and the QB position is strong I expect the offense to get better and better every week and if we are healthy to be really good in October and November.

  • 707 Bear

    On Khalfani (it’s been mention before on this post), check out his YouTube video.

    20 more days to Go Bears!