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Football: Director says Lynch photo was staged

NFL star Marshawn Lynch of Oakland is being lampooned on the internet and TV for a photo showing his parked white Lamborghini protected by velvet ropes.

His people want to set the record straight.

The scene was staged, according to Mario Bobino, the director of “Family First — The Marshawn Lynch Story,” which concluded filming in Oakland last weekend.

“It was a prop for the movie,” Bobino said Thursday. “We did that.”

Lynch’s representatives reached out to this newspaper to “set the record straight” about the photo, which was taken from an upstairs apartment window across the street from where the car was parked Sunday.

Since then, the photo has gone viral on social media, and has been shared by websites including CBS Sports, Deadspin, Washington Post and NFL.com. Bobino said two Bay Area news stations showed it.

Click here to see the photo and the rest of this story.

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Football: Pac-12 media day leftovers

A few more items from Pac-12 media day on Wednesday in Hollywood . . .

In all my running around Paramount Studios, never managed to post results of the annual media poll on BearTalk. Of course, you probably didn’t expect Cal to finish on top, anyway.

In fact, the Bears were picked last in the Pac-12 North, collecting 41 total points. That means only two of the 39 voters picked Cal as high as fifth place. Everyone else has them finishing sixth again.

Oregon received 37 first-place votes to easily outdistance Stanford for the top spot in the North, followed by Washington, Oregon State and Washington State.

UCLA got 37 first-place votes to top USC in the South division, followed by Arizona State, Arizona. Utah and Colorado.

Twenty-four voters picked Oregon to win the Pac-12 title game, with 13 votes going to UCLA. One voter each picked Stanford and USC.

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Cal coach Sonny Dykes said senior Chris Adcock, who missed the final eight games last season with a knee injury, likely will regain his starting center spot. Adcock is expected to be eased into workouts, beginning Aug. 4, but Dykes said he should be ready to play the Aug. 30 opener at Northwestern.

That will allow junior Jordan Rigsbee, who finished last season at center, to shift to right tackle, where no one has stepped forward to secure the position.

If everything falls into place, here is Cal’s projected O-line: LT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, C Chris Adcock, RG Alejandro Crosthwaite, RT Jordan Rigsbee.

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Dykes said there is no word still on whether James Looney will be granted the waiver he has requested to be immediately eligible after transferring last spring from Wake Forest.

A sophomore defensive tackle, Looney would be an impact player for the Bears, Dykes said, if available.

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Looney’s presence would be doubly important because, as I reported last week, Dykes confirmed that sophomore DT Jacobi Hunter has left Cal. Hunter was married earlier this year and will play at a small school in his home state of Texas.

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Football: Stefan McClure embraces safety role, but Bears need others to develop at cornerback

It says a lot about Cal’s troubles in the defensive secondary that a player who missed half of last season due to injury and now is playing a new position is the unit’s key man.

Junior Stefan McClure, who played five games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has been shifted from cornerback to safety in a position group with lots of moving parts.

Whether the Bears can afford to keep McClure there depends on how others develop at corner.

“I like the depth on our football team,” coach Sonny Dykes said Wednesday during Pac-12 media day at Paramount Studios. “But the secondary is still one part of our team that we still don’t have as many bodies that are ready to play as we need to.”

McClure had sufficiently recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus that he was able to participate in spring ball. That allowed him to learn a new system under first-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and new defensive backs coach Greg Burns.

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Football: Bears’ No. 1 priority — red-zone efficiency

The No. 1 priority of the Cal offense this season is to transform opportunity into points.

The Golden Bears piled up gaudy yardage totals during their 1-11 season in 2013, but it didn’t translate into touchdowns.

More often than not, the red-zone became a dead zone for the Bears.

“It’s definitely frustrating, getting down there so many times and not being able to punch it in,” Goff said Wednesday during Pac-12 media day at Paramount Studios. “Getting that ball from the 20 to the goal line is the whole game, really.”

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Football: Bears excited to start anew

No one is more excited than Cal that a new college football season is at hand.

“I can’t stress how happy we are to have last year in the past and to be where we are now,” sophomore quarterback Jared Goff said Wednesday at Pac-12 media day. “We can see the growth — mentally, physically. It’s a different team. It’s not even remotely the same team as last year.”

Coming off a 1-11 season, the Bears open Aug. 30 at Northwestern. Coach Sonny Dykes said fans will have no trouble seeing the difference in his squad.

“We were so bad last year, I think the improvement’s going to be pretty obvious,” Dykes said. “We weren’t very competitive last year in a lot of games. That’s going to be the biggest difference, competing in games, giving ourselves an opportunity to win.

“What happened so often last year is midway through the first quarter you’d look up and we were down by 21 points. I think it’s going to be obvious to everybody — our fans, our opponents — that we’re going to be a much-improved football team.”

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Football: Cal-Northwestern kickoff time set

Cal’s season opener Aug. 30 at Northwestern has been set for a 12:30 p.m. PT kickoff. The game will be shown on ABC and ESPN2.

The Bears and Wildcats opened the 2013 season in Berkeley with the visitors from the Big Ten topping Cal 44-30 in coach Sonny Dykes’ debut.

Northwestern went on to a 4-0 start, then lost seven straight games — albeit two of them by three points and two others in overtime — on the way to a 5-7 season. They were 1-7 in conference play.

Northwestern is projected as a forth-place finisher in the Big Ten West Division by Athlon Sports magazine and tied for sixth by Lindy’s.

The game is the fourth on the Bears’ schedule whose game time has been set.

Cal’s home opener Sept. 6 against Sacramento State will go off at noon.

Cal’s Oct. 24 game against Oregon at Levi’s Stadium will kick off at 7 p.m., and the Nov. 13 game at USC has a 6 p.m. start.

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Football: Ex-Cal star Marshawn Lynch encourages kids to ask for help and seek their own path

Marshawn Lynch’s white Lamborghini was parked well out of sight, but that was about the only thing the Seattle Seahawks running back and former Cal star held back from two dozen young teens during a motivational speaking appearance Tuesday.

Lynch’s contract status never was a topic of discussion, nor was his decision to skip the Super Bowl champions’ visit to the White House in May.

Lynch and fellow Oakland Tech High grad Josh Johnson, a backup quarterback with the 49ers, sat under the trees on a sunny day outside Pleasanton and encouraged East Bay youngsters to ask for help and seek their own path.

Dressed in a black “Beast Mode” sweat outfit, Lynch, 28, talked comfortably about his own childhood in Oakland, where he could have permanently taken a wrong turn. He explained how he went to Piedmont to steal bicycles and shoplifted from grocery stores as a grammar-school kid.

“I was doing bad things,” he said.

Then things got serious.

“The people I was out there doing bad stuff with, they started dropping off,” Lynch said.

After attending a funeral for a neighborhood friend slain at the age of seven, Lynch told himself, “I don’t want that to be me.”

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Football: Cal legend Joe Roth’s courageous story traced in new documentary — `Don’t Quit’

Former Cal football coach Mike White called it, “the biggest secret in the history of college athletics.”

Even White didn’t know during the fall of 1976 that Joe Roth, his All-America quarterback, was playing out his senior season while battling an aggressive strain of malignant melanoma. By February 1977, just 21 years old, Roth was dead.

Roth’s remarkable tale — the way he lived and the way he died — unfolds in “Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story,” a documentary film five years in the making by Cal grads Phil Schaaf and Bob Rider.

The 85-minute film, which made its debut in April at the Newport Film Festival, had its first Bay Area showing Wednesday night in front of about 300 Cal fans at Memorial Stadium.

The home crowd — including his former coach and a handful of ex-teammates — watched as Roth arrived in Berkeley from Grossmont junior college, became almost an overnight star who won friends with his low-key charm, then silently labored through his final painful months.

“In the end it has nothing to do with the sport,” Schaaf said. “Instead, it’s about humam elegance in the face of unfathomable adversity. In Joe’s case, it’s against this backdrop of athletic greatness.”

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Football: Harper, Leininger join watch lists

 Juniors Chris Harper and Cole Leininger were named to preseason watch lists Wednesday, with Harper earning a spot on the wide receivers list assembled by the College Football Performance Awards, Leininger for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter.

Harper is one of 42 wide receivers on the list with the winner of the award to be announced on January 14, 2015.

Harper has been Cal’s most productive receiver over the last two seasons and is the team’s active career leader in receptions (111), receiving yards (1,396), receiving touchdowns (7).

Last season, Harper caught 70 passes for 852 yards and five touchdowns.

Leininger is one of the Ray Guy Award’s 25 preseason candidates for the first time and is a member of the award’s watch list for the second consecutive year.

Leininger is coming off a 2013 sophomore campaign in which he increased his punting average by 3.0 yards per punt to a 42.9 mark for the eighth-best avearge in school history.

His 41.5 yards per punt career average ranks No. 10 on Cal’s all-time list.

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Football: Bears land 4-star quarterback

The Bears missed out on two Bay Area prospects they were pursuing, but landed a verbal commit Tuesday from quarterback Ross Bowers of Bothell, Washington.

Cal whiffed on four-star cornerback/athlete Isaiah Langley of Foothill-Pleasanton, who chose USC, and three-star athlete Stephen Johnson of San Leandro, who said he will attend UCLA.

All three players made their announcements at The Opening, a prestigious camp held at Nike headquarters in Oregon.

The 6-foot-1, Bowers, rated as a four-star quarterback. by espn.com, is a pro-style quarterback according to rivals.com. He chose Cal over Colorado State, the school he was favoring until recently.

“I’ve always considered myself the underdog,” he said on ESPNU. “That’s how I work out, that’s how I train.”

Scout.com rates Bowers as a three-star player and the No. 58 QB prospect in the country. Rivals also rates him as a three-star prospect.

Bowers, whose father coaches at James Madison University, visited the Berkeley campus a couple weeks ago and was taken by Cal’s coaching staff and sophomore quarterback Jared Goff.

“I got to talk with (Jared Goff) on my visit and I realized he’s such a good dude and definitely be a guy I can look up to and definitely help me on my way,” Bowers said. “Being under him coming in as a freshman and trying to learn and soak up as much as I can from him. He’s a great guy and just try to be the best I can be in that program.”