Acknowledging his debut season “wasn’t much of a honeymoon,” Cal football coach Sonny Dykes said the process of trying to get better after an historically bad 1-11 season already is under way.
End-of-season interviews with players began Monday and coaches will be on the road recruiting starting next Monday.
But two days after a record-setting 63-13 loss to Stanford in the 116th Big Game, Dykes said he won’t make changes to his coaching staff merely to appease frustrated fans.
Dykes gave defensive coordinator Andy Buh a vote of confidence for the second straight week following a season in which the Bears allowed a record 45.9 points per game, but also played much of the schedule without five would-be defensive starters.
“If you did things for appearances, all you would do is try to win today,” Dykes said. “Building a program is about doing things the right way over a long term. In coaching, it’s funny how you get dumb really fast, then how guys get smart again really fast.”
Buh has a three-year contract which gaurantees him his salary for all three if he’s fired without cause. That means he’d collect a total of $1 million due him for the 2014 and ’15 seasons if let go.
Asked if finances would allow him to make changes he deems necessary, Dykes said, “I would think so.”
Either way, Dykes didn’t minimize the magnitude of the job ahead.
“We’ve got to get a lot better,” he said. “Physically, we’ve got to get bigger and stronger. That’s pretty obvious to anyone. Our football team will look a lot different next year than it does this year.”
Here’s more from Dykes’ season-ending news conference:
Freshman quarterback Jared Goff underwent an MRI on his right shoulder separation but Dykes said there is no decision yet on what might be required medically.
Asked if he thought the hit by Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov that caused the injury was an example of targeting, Dykes said, “I thought we’ve gotten called for roughing the quarterback for a lot less than that. It’s probably better if I don’t say anything.”
His message to his players in the locker room after the Big Game: “I got after them pretty good. I wanted to be honest with them and I wasn’t happy with some things I saw the last 2-3 ballgames. They’re going to reveal their character to us by the way they handle this. It’s easy to be a good guy when you win the lottery.”
Dykes anticipates signing about 20 players, and said the Bears will bring in junior college players to fill specific needs if they are academically qualified. Areas of need include almost everywhere on defense, plus the offensive line and a big running back.
Given the lack of tangible progress this season, Dykes said prospects are being asked to make a leap of faith about the program’s future.
“During the recruiting process, since we first contacted these kids, we told them this year has a chance to be a little rough,” Dykes said.
The Bears likely will postpone the start of spring practice until after spring break. At issue is allowing injured players to get healthy in time for workouts.
Among the ailing players, Dykes said he’s not sure whether linebacker Nick Fornes’ bulging disk and accompanying nerve pain linebacker will allow him to return. Otherwise, he expects everyone back by next fall.
He said cornerback Stefan McClure (knee), defensive end Brennan Scarlett (hand), linebacker Nathan Broussard (knee) and defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil (knee) should be available on a limited basis in the spring and safety Avery Sebastian (Achilles) is expected to be ready full-time.
Cal reported that 138 players on its two-deep chart missed games this season due to injury. By this newspaper’s count, injuries caused starters to miss 73 games.