A few notes from Monday’s post-practice session with coach Sonny Dykes:
Defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil, although he’s practiced on a somewhat limited basis, will “for sure” be in the starting lineup against Northwestern, Dykes said.
After missing all last season with a knee injury, Jalil has been held out of some drills just to be cautious, Dykes said. “He hasn’t been sore. He’s responded pretty much to everything we’ve asked him to do, and looked pretty good doing it,” Dykes said.
During 11-on-11 live play Monday, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound junior was being double- or triple-teamed by Cal’s first-team offensive line.
Dykes said sixth-year senior Austin Clark is potentially the starter at the other DT spot, although the Bears intend to rotate as many as six players into those two positions.
Junior Cedric Dozier has the inside track for the starting cornerback spot opposite Cam Walker. Darius Allensworth had a strong week of practice last week and was on the field again Monday when the Bears were using a nickel package. Dykes said the coaching staff continues to ease JC transfer Darius White back from a jammed shoulder on Aug. 4, cautious not to create a problem that lingers.
Dykes squashed the suggestion that sophomore RB Khalfani Muhamad may become purely a situational runner to take advantage of his speed and offset his size.
“I don’t think it’s going to be situational as much as we want him to be rested,” Dykes said. “He’s a fast guy and we want him to be fast in the fourth quarter. Only way to do that is to make sure we’re not doing too much with him.”
WR Darius Powe, who has played one of the inside receiver slots, is getting some practice time in the outside spots in case he needs to make a move because of injury.
Freshman WR Erik Brown, the Bears’ highest-rated recruit, could “potentially” be redshirted.
“I think it would probably be good for him to develop physically. We think he’s going to be a really good player,” Dykes said.
“A lot of those guys it’s better if they can red-shirt for a year and get a little stronger. We’re very high on him, like him a lot. But we do have some depth at that position.”
The starting placekicker assignment will be decided no later than the weekend. James Langford appears to have an edge over Noah Beito, although Dykes has not identified him as the frontrunner.
The Bears will hold two practices Tuesday, with the morning session devoted strictly to special teams. Dykes said he’s been happy with the progress of the Bears’ various kicking and coverage units.
“I think we’re certainly way ahead of where we were last year,” he said. “There’s just more depth on our team. Last year, by the end of the year we had so many guys down that there we so many true freshmen playing.
“A lot of times we were grabbing guys in games, get them coached up and ready to go something that’s pretty specialized.”
How to improve in the punt return game, where the Bears totaled 57 yards all last season?
“We’ve got to make ‘em punt more, to start with,” Dykes quipped.