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Football: Mustafa Jalil `for sure’ will start vs. Northwestern

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.

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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.

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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.

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Football: Bears determined to develop running game

Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will know things have changed this season when the Golden Bears face third-and-three and he feels comfortable calling a running play.

That didn’t often happen a year ago.

“No, I was afraid to call ‘em,” Franklin said. “We couldn’t block well enough to do that so I had no confidence.”

No one understands that harsh reality better than Cal’s running backs, who have conducted a training camp campaign to make Franklin a believer. “The most important thing,” junior Daniel Lasco said, “is to get the offensive coordinator to trust us at the running back position.”

Actually, the effort to improve has been widespread: The offensive line got stronger, the stable of backs grew deeper and more versatile, and the commitment to create balance in the offense became urgent.

“It makes us capable of winning,” Franklin said.

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CAL’S RUN GAME OVER THE YEARS

Cal’s per-game average of 122.2 rushing yards last season was the program’s lowest since 2002. Here are the Bears’ per-game, per-attempt and rushing touchdown totals for each season since then:

2013: 122.2 rushing yards per game, 3.5 yards per attempt,  10 rushing touchdowns.
2012: 183.0 ypg, 4.9 ypa, 18 TDs.
2011: 154.8 ypg, 4.2, ypa, 25 TDs.
2010: 158.8 ypg, 4.4 ypa, 19 TDs.
2009: 169.5 ypg, 4.7 ypa, 27 TDs.
2008: 186.2 ypg, 5.6 ypa, 22 TDs.
2007: 165.7 ypg, 4.9 ypa, 23 TDs.
2006: 162.4 ypg, 4.9 ypa, 21 TDs.
2005: 235.2 ypg, 5.8 ypa, 27 TDs.
2004: 256.8 ypg, 6.1 ypa, 30 TDs.
2003: 168.3 ypg, 4.3 ypa, 28 TDs.

 

 

 

 

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Football: Bears scrimmage at halfway point to opener

Click here to watch Cal OC Tony Franklin accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

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Two weeks of training camp down and two to go before Cal’s Aug. 30 football opener at Northwestern, and coach Sonny Dykes was in a good mood after Saturday’s closed scrimmage.

“I feel good walking off the field,” he said. “I think we’re at a good spot.”

The Bears ran between 60 and 70 plays in front of referees, and kept mistakes to a minimum, Dykes said.

“I was encouraged by what I saw,” he said. “Just the speed of play – we moved around fast. I thought we tackled well.”

By mid-week, the Bears will begin preparation for Northwestern, which beat them 44-30 in Berkeley last year. “We’ve snuck some Northwestern stuff in without telling our players,” Dykes said.

The players get Sunday off after 15 straight days of training camp, but they can’t help but be excited about what’s around the corner. “We’re trying to beat Northwestern right now,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “We have nothing in our heads besides that.”

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Football: Coprich has successful surgery

Sophomore running back Jeffrey Coprich underwent successful surgery to repair his broken left football, coach Sonny Dykes said after Friday afternoon’s practice.

Coprich broke his foot Wednesday while making a cut during practice and had surgery a day later.

Dykes said the recovery time for Coprich remains anywhere from four to eight weeks.

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Football: Bears to find out how much linebacker depth they really have after Nathan Broussard injury

Attrition is beginning to test the Cal football team again, at least at linebacker.

Junior Nathan Broussard, felled by an ACL tear in his left knee this week, has moved to the shelf alongside fellow linebackers Maximo Espitia (season-long suspension) and Jason Gibson (medical retirement). All three are done for the season.

“We’ve got some options,” coach Sonny Dykes said Wednesday after announcing the news about Broussard.

Maybe, but not quite as many as they once had.

A year after being ravaged roster-wide by health issues, the Bears will find out if the improved depth they believe they have at linebacker will hold up.

Broussard was running with the starting unit at middle linebacker and Espitia came out of spring ball listed as No. 1 at one of the outside spots. The coaching staff hoped Gibson might provide depth.

Now, barely two weeks before their Aug. 30 opener at Northwestern, the Bears are shuffling bodies.

Linebackers coach Garret Chachere enlisted the cliché, “Next man up,” then noted the difference from a year ago. “There is a next man to go up now. We have more depth, more guys who are ready to play,” he said.

The Bears are hoping sophomore Hardy Nickerson is one of those players. Nickerson played all last season with a left foot injury then underwent surgery Nov. 15 for a separate fracture to his mid-foot. He’s been folded into the action gradually these first two weeks, but said his foot is fully healed.

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Football: Tough day for Bears, who lose Nathan Broussard, Jeffrey Coprich, Quentin Tartabull to serious injury

Cal’s football team, which had avoided serious injury through the first week of fall workouts, announced the loss of three players after Wednesday’s closed practice, including a season-ending knee injury to projected starting middle linebacker Nathan Broussard.

Coach Sonny Dykes said Broussard was diagnosed with a torn ACL to his left knee after twice “tweaking” it in recent days. Broussard, a junior, suffered the same injury to the same knee during August workouts last year and missed the entire season.

Freshman safety Quentin Tartabull, expected to be a contributor this season, tore his left ACL during Wednesday morning’s practice.

Sophomore reserve running back Jeffrey Coprich is out 4 to 8 weeks after breaking his left foot while making a cut during practice Tuesday and will have surgery Thursday.

“I hate it for those kids, especially for Nate, coming off that surgery (last year),” said Dykes, who characterized all three as non-contact injuries.

Dykes said candidates to play the middle linebacker spot include freshman Devante Downs, Hardy Nickerson, Edward Tandy and Michael Barton.

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Football: Bears schedule North Carolina, TCU

Cal has scheduled home-and-home nonconference football series against North Carolina and Texas Christian, two opponents the Bears have never faced, the school announced Wednesday.

Cal will face North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sept. 2, 2017, then host the Tar Heels on Sept. 1, 2018.

The series vs. TCU begins with a game at Berkeley on Sept. 5, 2020, before Cal treks to Fort Worth, Texas, for a rematch on Sept. 11, 2021.

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Football: Offense gets the best of things

The offense struck back Tuesday at practice.

Coach Sonny Dykes saw plenty he liked, although he said there remains a good deal of room for improvement.

“The last two days I thought the defense really got after the offense. Today the offense made some big plays,” he said. “Turned the ball over twice, but they made some big plays.

“It has a tendency to happen when you’ve got to tackle. That’s why we’re trying to get a lot of live tackling. We’ve got to improve that.”

Still, Dykes not a couple dropped passes on potential touchdowns and a couple missed easy throws.

“But it was good to see some big plays and some guys do some things with the football after they caught it,” he said. “It was progress.”

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Football: Bears hope off-season `Swagger Games’ strength competition adds muscle to their bid to improve

They were called “The Swagger Games,” hardly a term you’d associate with Cal football after last fall’s 1-11 season.

But Damon Harrington knew he had to get creative. The team’s strength and conditioning coach faced a mountain of discouraging data from 2013. The Bears were winless against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, they had 148 designed running plays that produced 2 yards or less, and the defense allowed an average of nearly 28 points in the first half.

So Harrington devised “The Swagger Games,” an offseason competition designed to generate leadership, increase the strength of the team and improve performance inside the weight room, and most importantly, on the field. Harrington, 36, who came with coach Sonny Dykes from Louisiana Tech after the 2012 season, recognized the urgency of the moment: Get stronger or get trampled again.

“The development from that point to the (start of) the season can make or break us,” he said.

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