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Football: Four key issues entering fall camp

As Cal prepares to open fall training camp Monday, here are four issues the Golden Bears must resolve before their season opener on Aug. 30 at Northwestern.

Only four, you say? My editors asked for four; as we know, the list is potentially longer:

* Is there sufficient depth and talent at defensive tackle?

Harrison Wilfley and Marcus Manley emerged from spring ball on the top line of the depth chart after lone returning starter Jacobi Hunter transferred. The Bears are hoping junior Mustafa Jalil will be a force after sitting out last season with knee problems. Two more JC players, Trevor Kelly and David Davis, will be in the mix at a position coach Sonny Dykes hopes can become an area of depth. For now, it’s a big question.

* Who wins the running back job?

Junior Daniel Lasco emerged as the leader after spring ball, but he was a bit fragile last season. Versatile speedster Khalfani Muhammad was productive as a freshman last fall, but hardly seems an every-down back. Then there are two promising freshmen, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere. Watson rushed for 3,734 yards and 50 touchdowns last season at Corona-Centennial, while the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Enwere gained more than 1,500 yards each of the past two seasons in Missouri City, Texas. The Bears need a more productive running game, whether one player carries the load or it’s shouldered by committee.

* How will the defensive backfield sort out?

Coach Sonny Dykes said the secondary is the Bears’ biggest area of concern. The staff wants to pair former cornerback McClure alongside Sebastian at safety, but they are coming off injuries that limited them to a combined six games last season. The key is whether the Bears can find a three or four capable corners among returnees Darius Allensworth, Cameron Walker, Cedric Dozier and Trey Cheek and JC transfer Darius White.

* Can the offensive line gel into a capable unit?

Injuries and subpar performance resulted in the Bears using nine different O-line starters last season in six different lineup combinations. The result was Cal quarterbacks were sacked 34 times and the running game failed to crack 150 yards in the team’s first nine games. The Bears are hoping for more production and consistency this fall. The tentative starting five: LT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, C Chris Adcock, RG Alejandro Crosthwaite, RT Jordan Rigsbee.

THE END

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Football: Cal to keep most August practices open to public

Beginning Monday at Memorial Stadium, Cal will hold 12 practices that are open to the public in the three weeks leading to the Golden Bear Day on Saturday, Aug. 23.

Six of the team’s seven scheduled practices for next week are open to fans. Practice runs from 3:30 to 6 p.m. next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday’s workout is closed, but Friday (3:30 p.m.), Saturday (noon) and Sunday (3:30) are open.

Week 2 practices that are open are Tuesday, Aug. 12, Friday, Aug. 14 and Friday, Aug. 15, all beginning at 3:30 p.m.

During Week 3, Monday, August 18 (3:30 p.m.) and both sessions on Tuesday, Aug. 19 (10 a.m./3:30 p.m.) are open.

The team will hold a short practice that is closed to fans on Saturday, Aug. 23, prior to Golden Bear Day activities, from 2 to 4 p.m. The free event will be held at Goldman Plaza and at the concourse level of Memorial Stadium.

Football players and coaches will attend, as will dozens of other athletes representing many of Cal’s 30 sports teams. Fans can talk with players and coaches and get autographs. There will be concession stands and a ticket booth open.

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Football: Ted Agu continues to inspire teammates

Nearly four months after his death following an offseason training run, Ted Agu continues to inspire his teammates.

Asked about Agu during Wednesday’s Bay Area College Football Media Day at Levi’s Stadium, junior defensive end Brennan Scarlett said Agu’s influence won’t soon disappear.

“It’s crazy how something like that can really bring a group of people together. Because it’s hard to shoulder something like that on your own,” Scarlett said. “It’ll be huge for us, one of the biggest motivational factors for out team. I don’t think it will fade away for years to come.”

Scarlett, asked several times about Agu during an informal interview session, said his unfluence extends beyond football.

“It’s football, obviously, with workouts and on the field. But Ted was a great student. Ted was going to go to med school. He was a great person. He was friendly to everyone. That’s influenced a lot of people on our team to be more like that.

“For me, and I can speak for a lot of other guys, as far as who I am as a person and who we are as a team, it’s changed a lot for us.”

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Football: Three newcomers added to roster

Three new defensive players have enrolled in school and will join the Bears for workouts beginning Monday, coach Sonny Dykes confirmed at Wednesday’s Bay Area College Football Media Day at Levi’s Stadium.

Cornerback A.J. Greathouse is a freshman from Chandler, Arizona, linebacker Jake Kearney is a sophomore from Livermore by way of College of San Mateo and linebacker Arthur Wainwright is a junior from College of Sequoias.

“We recruited them all because they’re very good athletes. I know they can run fast, physically they look good, they’ve been productive,” Dykes said. “How do they fit, what kind of shape are they in? We’ll know more Monday, but we’ll really know a lot more the following Monday.

“A couple of them will really jump off early, then kind of get overwhelmed and take a step back. So it’s really a week in before we can say we’re going to get something out of this guy.”

*****

Dykes said he doesn’t expect sophomore defensive tackle James Looney to be granted a transfer waiver to be immediately eligible. A week ago he was hopeful Looney, from WakeForest, would be cleared.

The younger brother of 49ers offensive lineman Joe Looney is enrolled in school but will likely have to sit out this season.

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Bay Area football media day: Bears anxious to see how defense looks with all hands on deck

Monday is not merely the first day of football training camp for Cal. It’s a reunion of sorts for a handful of the Bears’ best defensive players who missed most or all of last season.

Defensive end Brennan Scarlett, tackle Mustafa Jalil, linebacker Nathan Broussard and safeties Stefan McClure and Avery Sebastian combined to play just six games last fall when Cal’s defense surrendered nearly 46 points per game.

All of them have recovered from injury and they figure to dramatically improve the Bears’ defense.

“Seeing these guys in summer workouts, how strong and fast they’re looking, I think when we all get together on the field it’s going to be something special,” said Scarlett, sidelined all of last season by complications from a broken hand.

Coach Sonny Dykes, speaking at Bay Area College Football Media Day at Levi’s Stadium, shares Scarlett’s eagerness, but also is a bit anxious.

“It’s going to be fun seeing them all lined up out there. It certainly hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

Will they all be on the field for the Aug. 30 opener at Northwestern?

“That’s the goal,” Dykes said. “To have those guys out there, we’ll actually look like a good football team, a team that’s ready to play some good defense and have some experience and some size and some strength.”

Broussard, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in camp last August, has been moved from outside to middle linebacker.

“We think Nathan Broussard’s got a chance to be really good,” Dykes said. “You throw him into the mix and you can make the argument that maybe five of the top six or seven guys (on defense) didn’t play last year or played very little.”

Scarlett agreed. “I think Broussard will be a big surprise for people. No one’s seen him play inside linebacker.”

Jalil, highly rated out of high school, returns after a nagging knee injury that kept him sidelined all of last season. Dykes’ only up-close impressions of him so far came during 2013 spring ball.

“He’s like a phantom. You hear about him and you think he really exists, but you’re not quite sure,” said Dykes, beginning is second season in Berkeley. “In the spring (of 2013), the offense really had a hard time blocking him.”

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Basketball: Montgomery expects a lot from freshmen but says they have work to do

Coach Mike Montgomery hemmed and hawed a bit, suggesting the list of issues that need addressing is so long he didn’t quite know where to start.

“We’ve got to learn to play hard,” he said at last. “Everytime I feel like we don’t know all the things we’re trying to do, we get to standing and we don’t play hard.

“There’s a lot of guys who have to learn how hard you have to play at this level to have a chance to win.”

The Golden Bears, with five freshman on the roster, will get their first chance to demonstrate just how hard they can go when they make their season debut Friday night at Haas Pavilion against Coppin State.

The opener shouldn’t provide a huge challenge for Cal, which has four starters back from a 21-12 team that reached the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Eagles, from Baltimore, were 8-24 last season.

Senior Richard Solomon remembers what it was like to be a collegiate rookie.

“You come in as a freshman and you kind of think you’re somebody,” he said. “I’m not saying those guys have that reputation, but they definitely come from backgrounds where they were that guy.

“It’s a whole different level and they have to start all over. I can relate to them a lot. We just try to help them through that learning curve. The better they are, the better we’re going to be.”

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Pac-12 Basketball Media Day: Justin Cobbs welcomes chance to mentor freshman Jabari Bird

Cal coach Mike Montgomery, peppered with questions about Jabari Bird, called the Bay Area prospect “probably the most high-profile freshman” he has brought to Berkeley and predicted, “He’s going to be a great player.”

But Montgomery said the job of helping Bird become that player falls to senior point guard Justin Cobbs.

“It’s going to be the responsibility of a guy like Justin to make sure that we take advantage of his abilities,” Montgomery said Thursday at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco.

In other words, as always with Montgomery, he wants his upper classmen to shoulder the pressure and leadership on his team.

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Basketball: Az picked to win Pac-12, Cal 5th

Arizona was picked to win the Pac-12 men’s basketball title in a poll of media members who cover the conference. The Wildcats collected 21 of 23 first-place votes.

The others went to UCLA and Colorado, who finished second and third in the poll.

Oregon was fourth, just two points ahead of Cal.

The rest of the poll: Stanford, Arizona State, Washington, Utah, Oregon State, USC and Washington State.

The media has correctly predicted the Pac-12 champion 12 of the past 21 seasons.

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Basketball: Cobbs, Bird listed among CBS’ Top-100

Cal is one of three Pac-12 teams with two players listed on CBS Sports’ rankings of the top-100 college basketball players in the nation.

Senior Justin Cobbs is No. 74 and freshman Jabari Bird sits at No, 93.

Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon is 10th and teammate Nick Johnson 59th. UCLA also has two players on the list — Kyle Anderson at No. 27, Jordan Adams at No. 37.

Other Pac-12 players on the list are No. 9 Jahii Carson of Arizona State, No. 21 Spencer Dinwiddie of Colorado, No. 67 Dwight Powell of Stanford, No. 78 Mike Moser of Oregon and No. 92 C.J. Wilcox of Washington.

Kentucky has seven players on the top-100 list, five of them among the top 36. Louisville and Michigan State each have four players on the list.

The rankings, compiled by Gary Parrish and not based on NBA potential, features 40 seniors, 23 juniors, 21 sophomores and 16 freshmen. But five of those freshmen are ranked in the top-12, led by No. 1 Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.