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Pac-12 media day: Cal picked 5th in North

Not surprisingly, Cal was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 North in the media poll released Friday at media day at Sony Pictures Studios.

“I’m not surprised,” linebacker Nick Forbes said. “We lost a couple key guys and we were 3-9 so we’re going to get dumped. We’ve been working tremendously hard in the offseason and we’re coming together as a team.

“Nobody expects or dreams to be bottom of the Pac. We’re doing the things it’s going to take for us to be successful.”

Oregon was tabbed first in the North, earning 14 first-place votes and 139 total votes. The Ducks edged defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford, which was picked second in the North with 11 first-place votes and 134 total points.

The Ducks also were projected to win the Pac-12 title game.

UCLA won a close vote for the South title over Arizona State. The Bruins earned 12 first-place votes and 130 total points, with ASU securing nine first-place ballots and 124 points.

Here’s the poll:

Pac-12 Football Media Poll

NORTH: 1. Oregon (14) 139 points; 2. Stanford (11) 134; 3. Oregon State 91; 4. Washington 81; 5. Cal 45; 6. Washington State (32).

SOUTH: 1. UCLA (12) 130; 2. Arizona State (9) 124; 3. USC (4) 113; 4. Arizona 73; 5. Utah 58; 6. Colorado 27.

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Football: Dykes chats with fans on ESPN.com

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.

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Basketball: Bay Area previews

Bay Area News Group’s Jon Wilner provides this overview of the six local men’s Division I programs, with four of them led by coaches facing pressure to ratchet things up. Needless to say, Cal coach Mike Montgomery is not among that group.

Here’s my Cal season capsule, and a team schedule.

Click here for a rundown of the best college games on this year’s local calendar.

And a look at approaching milestones for Bay Area players and coaches.

 

 

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Basketball: Bears set for exhibition opener

Cal opens its season Tuesday night with an exhibition game against San Francisco State. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.

The Bears figure to start David Kravish and Richard Solomon up front, with Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith in the backcourt.

It will be intriguing to watch how the Bears’ freshmen fare in their first games against college opposition. Tyrone Wallace is expected to be the first guard off the bench — at least until Ricky Kreklow recovers from foot surgery in a few weeks.

Forward Kaileb Rodriguez is a work in progress, not expected to contribute too heavily this season. Garrett Galvin and Geoffrey Frid are walk-ons, although Frid is 7-foot-1 and may turn himself into a player in a couple years.

The X-factor among the freshmen is 6-7 forward Kahlil Johnson, who comes to Cal from Price HS in Los Angeles, the alma mater of Crabbe and Solomon. Johnson transferred in to Price as a senior, so he never played alongside his two new Cal teammates.

The Bears are hoping Johnson gives them something at either the small or power forward spot. Coach Mike Montgomery said Johnson has potential, but lots to learn to learn.

“He’s got a long ways to go from the standpoint that it’s just so different, all the things that are being thrown at him right now,” Montgomery said. “He’s trying to figure out when he has to make a cut, where he’s going, why he’s going there.

“Like a lot of high school kids, he’s never had to do all that stuff. He’s shown some signs of being able to do some things that are very encouraging. But he has a ways to go to put it all together.

“I hope he can get more aggressive and not get discouraged like most freshmen do. They kind of hit a wall, go to the bottom of the barrel before they start climbing their way out. He’s got some ability.”

Johnson showed a nice 3-point stroke during the team’s intra-squad scrimmage last week.

“He’ll shoot it. He’s not afraid to do that,” Montgomery said. “It’s just a question of does he recognize what a good shot is, what a bad shot is? `What do I do from there? How do I make the next guy a good player?’

“And that’s hard for these guys because we run a lot of stuff and takes a lot of execution.”

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Basketball: Hoops practice gets under way and Montgomery feeling good after 2011 scare

It was just about one year ago when Cal basketball coach Mike Montgomery shared that he’d been diagnosed with bladder cancer, underwent surgery and was declared healthy.

I talked with him about the ordeal and how he views life and coaching as he begins his fifth season in Berkeley.

Click here for capsules on all 12 Bay Area men’s and women’s Division I programs.

Here are links to stories of possible interest:

– Deer Valley-Antioch forward Marcus Lee is at Kentucky on Friday night for Big Blue Madness. Lee will visit Cal a week from now — and take in the Big Game — before deciding between the Wildcats and Bears. Here’s more on Lee’s trip to Lexington.

– Mitty-San Jose star Aaron Gordon, who took an unofficial visit to Cal last month, is at Kansas tonight for the Jayhawks’ Late Night in the Phog.

UCLA held media day with a campus official monitoring questions about an NCAA inquiry into the eligibility of key freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.

– At Arizona, coach Sean Miller expects “great things.”

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Football: Coleman on Hendricks watch list

Junior Deandre Coleman was named to the preseason watch list for the 2012 Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive end.

Earlier, Coleman was named to the preseason first-team All-Pac-12 pick by to USA Today, a second-team selection by Lindy’s and a third-team choice by Athlon.

He is also a candidate for the Rotary Lombardi Award given annually to the nation’s top lineman on either side of the ball.

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Football: Bears reinstate OLB Cecil Whiteside

Cal has resinstated sophomore outside linebacker Cecil Whiteside, who was kicked off the team on May 24 for unspecified rules violations.

Coach Jeff Tedford made no mention of the move during his opening remarks at Monday’s Bay Area college football media day in San Francisco. But he later gave the news to a reporter from CBSSports.com.

“I think that he understands what he needs to do to be a good teammate and comply with everything we do as a team,” Tedford told CBSSports.com.

His resinstatement should be a lift for the Cal defense. Whiteside, who had 17 tackles last season including three sacks, will compete for significant playing time or perhaps a starting job.

A 6-foot-2, 232-pounder from Newport Beach, Whiteside was rated a four-star recruit out of high school by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and Tom Lemming. Rivals and Scout both ranked him as the No. 4 linebacker in his class.

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Football: Media Day Q&A — Josh Hill

Cal senior safety Josh Hill returns off a unit that led the Pac-12 in pass defense and total defense a year ago:

Q. There are concerns that Cal’s defense, having lost so many players who were drafted into the NFL, won’t measure up this season. How do you respond to that and how good can your defense be?

A. We don’t have any concerns. We feel like even we lost a lot of key guys, we feel like we’re going to be better than last year. We have a young team, we have a very experienced team as well. I know the D-line is going to be a lot better. And the secondary. We’re going to surprise a lot of people.

Q. You have played cornerback and safety during your college career and now you are a starter at safety. What do you bring to the field that fans may not have recognized to this point?

A. A lot of leadership. I played the corner, I played the safety, but I wasn’t really considered the leader. Now I am. So now a lot of eyes will be on me. We’ll will have a different kind of swagger on defense. I’ll try to bring that. I like that role because now everything’s on me. If we succeed it’s on me. If we fail it’s also on me. It’s a big role and I’m ready for the challenge.

Q. On Sept. 1, your team will have the distinction of christening the renovated Memorial Stadium. Envision for me the pre-game atmosphere in the locker room and what kind of performance effort that emotion will translate to on the field. Does Nevada have a chance?

A. The atmosphere is going to be crazy. We’re going to have so much energy, we just can’t wait. The chemistry between us is going to be great. Just the new stadium, the whole atmoshere is going to be something I’ve never felt before. We’re going to be the first team in history to be in that stadium. We just plan on making a statement early. You don’t want to be anybody that day. We plan to keep that going the whole season.

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Football: Media Day Q&A — Keenan Allen

Cal junior wide receiver Keenan Allen, caught 98 passes in 2011, is expected to be healthy after undergoing surgery on his right ankle in March following a pickup basketball injury:

Q. Have you dunked a basketball lately?

A. Oh no, no basketball for me. It’s strictly football. I can go out there and play H-O-R-S-E. I feel pretty good. If I had a game Saturday, I could play. I don’t know how long it would hold up because it doesn’t have all its full capacity and flexibility yet. I’ve still got a long time (before the opener).”

Q. The Pac-12 may have the best wideouts in the country, including Robert Woods and Marqise Lee at USC and Marquess Wilson at Washington State. Tell me why you are better than any of them and how you’re better than you were a year ago:

A. I feel like I bring a lot of things to the table, being able to catch the ball, being able to run after the catch, go deep, run a screen. Being able to make a quarterback play, throw the ball if the team needs me to. I have a lot of versatility on the field. Those guys, you’re used to seeing them at wide receiver or punt return. I like to go out there and be versatile.

Q. There has been a buzz since last spring that the eligibility of your half-brother, senior quarterback Zach Maynard, is in jeopardy because of academics. How is he coping with that talk and who do you expect to be under center on Sept. 1 when you guys open the new Memorial Stadium against Nevada?

A. I definitely expect Zach to be under center on Sept. 1. Being with Zach my whole life, I know he’s good under pressure. He’s always struggled, always been in hard times, he’s always under pressure. I have the utmost confidence in him. I know he’s going to come out there and do great things. He’s going to take care of the academic stuff and he’s going to be ready to play football. He’s actually doing pretty good. He’s taking care of his academics. I have no doubts.

Q. After two home games, you guys are on the road for a pair of high-profile road games  — at Ohio State and at USC on back-to-back weekends. Tell me what kind of performance will you expect from yourself on those Saturdays and how important those games will be to Cal’s season?

A. I take the motto that big-time players show up in big-time games. I’m going to come out there and give it my 100 percent for four quarter. They  definitely excite me, but I think all games excite me. Every time I go out there I feel like it’s my turn to shine. I’ve got to impress somebody so I just go out there with that mindset. As far as the team, playing Ohio State and USC back-to-back, that’s going to show our character. It’s definitely going to develop a path for this season.