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Football: Pigskins & Pearls event on Saturday

Cal’s annual Pigskins & Pearls charity event will be held Saturday at Memorial Stadium, with coach Sonny Dykes, his assistants and select players offering their expertise to women who wish to learn more about the game.

The event begins at 4 p.m. and there will be registration and check-in at the north tunnel, just inside Gate 1. Cost is $50 per person (with a $25 total discount for each group of five). All proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland.

Participants can choose between an on-field clinic or interactive chalk-talk session, both featuring Cal coaches and players. Those planning to take part in the on-field session should dress in workout gear and athletic shoes.

The evening begins with a social hour on the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza featuring light appetizers and a cash bar and concludes with a talk from coach Sonny Dykes. All participants will also receive a Pigskins & Pearls hat, t-shirts and goodie bag.

“I’m looking forward to Pigskins & Pearls and am excited that it is kicking off the 2014 season,” said event organizer Kate Dykes. “We are hoping to exceed what we raised last year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland. They are an organization that does so much for our local community. We hope you can join us at this year’s event and make it even bigger and better than last year.”

For additional information or questions, call the Cal football office at 510-643-8395.

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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: Could Bears make future visits to Levi’s?

Cal’s visit to Levi’s Stadium to face Oregon on Friday, Oct. 24 may not be the Bears’ only trek to the South Bay in coming years.

Coach Sonny Dykes, while acknowledging he’d prefer never to take a home game out of Memorial Stadium, conceded it could happen again.

“I don’t know. That’s going to be something we have to talk about with our new leadership, to figure out where we’re going moving forward,“ Dykes said during Wednesday’s Bay Area College Football Media Day at the 49ers’ new home facility.

The problem is that all schools in the Pac-12 are required by the current media rights agreement to play two weeknight home games every three years. That creates a severe challenge for Cal, where parking on campus is limited. Spaces used by fans on Saturdays are taken by students, faculty and staff during the week.

“You always want to play games in your own stadium. We have one of these best venues, if not the best, in college football,” Dykes said. “Moving a game from that venue, there’s got to be a reason for it.

“This year, there’s clearly a reason, Playing on a weeknight in Berkeley is a very difficult thing to do because of classes and parking.”

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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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Football: Pac-12 Networks `Training Camp’ schedules visit to Cal practice for Aug. 23

The Pac-12 Networks once again will send its football crew to every conference school during the coming weeks to preview each before the season kicks off.

Cal will be the final stop for the Pac-12 team of Mike Yam, Rick Neuheisel, Curtis Conway and Nick Aliotti, which makes its visit on Saturday, Aug. 23 — exactly one week prior to the Bears’ opener at Northwestern.

The series debuts on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at Arizona State.

Each episode will air at 9 p.m. on all Pac-12 Networks.

Click here for the full schedule.

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Football: Question of the day

Memorial Stadium drew a sellout crowd of 62,583 fans for Saturday’s international soccer game between Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

How many football dates this fall will attract crowds that size?

Certainly the Nov. 22 Big Game will be a sellout.

How many more?

The Sept. 6 home opener against Sac State on Sept. 6? Not a chance.

Sept. 27 vs. Colorado? Seriously?

Oct. 11 vs. Washington? Don’t see it.

Oct. 18 against UCLA? Hmm . . . maybe.

Oct. 24 vs. Oregon? Doesn’t count for this discussion because the game will be played at Levi’s Stadium.

Nov. 29 vs. BYU? An intriguing possibility. The Cougars will draw well, but how many Cal fans still will be interested if a long season to that point had produced, say, three victories?

Anyway, I’ll set the over-under at 1 1/2. If you choose the over, that means you believe the Bears will sell out the Big Game plus at least one more.

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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.