Football: Safety remains a source of concern

There is no way to put a good spin on a Cal defensive secondary that allowed 42 touchdown passes last season.

Are those defensive backs embarrassed by the 2014 season?

“There’s no question,” second-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman said. “The DBs, the pass rush . . . I think all of us are.

“That’s what we were. What are we going to do about it?”

Kaufman now sees a defensive line that could go three-deep and should provide a better rush than a year ago, when the Bears dropped opposing quarterbacks just 16 times in 12 games. He characterized improved depth at linebacker as “a committee.”

But until the action is live Sept. 5 against Grambling State, no one will know whether the Bears’ secondary will hold up.

“Safety is a little bit of a mess,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes conceded.

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Football notebook: Improved depth at running back has everyone excited

A year ago at this time, the Cal football coaching staff was hoping for production in the running game.

Now those coaches are salivating at the talent and numbers they have at their disposal.

“We have a lot of depth now,” coach Sonny Dykes said after Saturday’s ninth practice of spring ball.

“We’ve got some good players,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin added. “We don’t have a selfish football player and that’s an amazing thing.”

That will be critical next fall when the Bears may be tempted the share the ball more in the running game. Senior Daniel Lasco is coming off a season in which he ran for 1,115 yards, but he will be pushed by sophomores Vic Enwere and TreWatson, along with freshman Lonny Powell, who already is enrolled and participating in spring ball.

Dykes said depth at the position means the Bears won’t have to wear out Lasco. “Him carrying the ball 40 times in the first game of the season probably doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Dykes said.

Lasco is OK with whatever comes.

“If I go out there for two plays and run 30 yards, I feel confident when I see someone else go in there and hold the rope,” Lasco said. “I feel that way with Tre, Vic and Lonny.”

Enwere, who ran for two short touchdowns and caught a TD from Jared Goff during scrimmage action Saturday, now weighs 230 pounds. “He’s just a load,” Dykes said. “He’s one of those guys when we put he pads on and tackle he looks a lot better than he does when he’s got the shorts.”

Dykes said Watson has gotten stronger and Powell has performed very well for a young player who could still be in high school.

The biggest difference from Lasco’s point of view is the change in the coaching assignments that has Franklin overseeing both the quarterbacks and running backs.

“There’s no middle man,” Lasco said. “We don’t have to hear from somebody else what to expect from the offensive coordinator. We’re hearing it straight from the main source.”

Franklin said the change is no big deal and, in fact, what he typically did in previous jobs. “I never even think I’m not coaching everybody,” he said.


The Bears have four safeties sitting out spring ball while rehabbing injuries or surgeries, and four more defensive backs scheduled to arrive on campus this summer.

As a result, it’s impossible to project what the starting group will be Sept. 5 when the Bears open against Grambling State.

But Dykes said those who are practicing this spring are making the most of their opportunities. Cornerback Darius White, who was injured in fall camp last year and struggled to recover, had his two best practices ever on Wednesday and Friday, Dykes said.

Cornerback Darius Allenworth has made strides and quarterback-turned-safety Luke Rubenzer “has surpassed everybody’s expectations,” Dykes said.


With starting offensive tackle Steven Moore sidelined this spring after having surgery on both shoulders, senior Brian Farley has emerged as a contender for a starting job. “Farley’s been as good as anybody all spring,” Dykes said.


Two new players looking for a niche are Harry Adolphus, a Cal rugby player and left-footed punter from Guilford, England, and Ashtyn Davis, a Santa Cruz native and freshman hurdler on the Bears’ track team, trying to catch on as a kick return specialist.


Football: Bears resume spring workouts

Cal resumed spring practice Wednesday after a break of nearly two weeks, and coach Sonny Dykes said the team’s performance was predictable.

“You could tell we had 12 days off,” Dykes said. “For the first day in 12 days, it was probably a little better than I anticipated. Obviously, it’s got to be a lot better.”

The Bears will practice again without pads on Friday (4 pm), then perhaps do some scrimmaging on Saturday (10 am). Both practices are open.

Dykes continues to be pleased with the progress on the defensive line, where he believes depth is growing and players are settling in.

“We have guys that have played and know how to play,” he said. “They’re doing some good things and I’m encouraged.”

Dykes singled out junior defensive tackle Marcus Manley, and also said he’s pleased with the efforts of tackles James Looney and Tony Mekari and ends Kyle Kragen and Puka Lopa.

Asked about the defense in general, Dykes said:

“It’s night and day from where we’ve been just because there’s carryover, The guys know what do to. The coaching staff’s the same, the teaching’s the same. We’ve got so many guys coming back that have experience from last year. It’s just a lot different.

“There’s still some areas we’ve got to get better at – a lot of areas – but we’re making some progress and I’m starting to see some guys become players like we think they can.”


* The Bears got their first look at a new punter as a left-foot rugby player worked out with the squad. “I don’t have any idea what his name is,” Dykes said. It’s Harry Adolphus, and he’s a junior. Dykes is intrigued because left-footed punters can pose problems. “The ball does a lot of different things off their foot.”

* Senior offensive tackle Brian Farley has gotten the attention of the coaching staff. “If you said right now who’s played as well as anyone on the offensive line, Farley’s name keeps coming up,” Dykes said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s playing at a very high level.”

* Linebacker Jalen Jefferson, hampered this spring by a hamstring pull, saw limited action Wednesday. Dykes said his activity level should increase Friday and Saturday.


Swimming: Franklin, McKeever earn Pac-12 honors

Sophomore Missy Franklin and coach Teri McKeever, who led the Cal women’s swim team to Pac-12 and NCAA championships, were named Swimmer of the Year and Coach of the Year in the Pac-12.

Franklin won the 200-yard individual medley, 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke and swam a leg on the victorious 200 free relay and 800 free relay at the NCAA meet. Her 200 free time of 1:39.10 broke the American record by more than a second. Franklin was recognized as the NCAA Swimmer of the Year for her efforts.

“It’s an honor to be named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year,” Franklin said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the season from both an individual and team standpoint. Cal’s win at NCAA Championships was truly a team effort and we didn’t just come together as a team, but we came together as a family. I am so grateful to have such wonderful teammates and an amazing coach staff.”

McKeever is the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the seventh time in her career. Under her directions, the Bears won their fourth NCAA Championship in March, setting a school record with 513 points.


Football: UC Davis, Cal Poly added to future schedules

Cal has completed its 2019 and 2020 nonconference football schedules by adding home games against UC Davis and Cal Poly.

The Bears will face Davis in their season opener on Aug. 31, 2019, and will play Cal Poly on Sept. 12, 2020.

Cal is 9-0 all-time vs. Davis, all of the games in Berkeley. This will be the Bears’ first game against Cal Poly.

Here are Cal’s future nonconference schedules:

2015 – Grambling State (Sept. 5); San Diego State (Sept. 12); at Texas (Sept. 19)
2016 – South Dakota (Sept. 3); at San Diego State (Sept. 10); Texas (Sept. 17)
2017 – at North Carolina (Sept. 2); Weber State (Sept. 9); Mississippi (Sept. 16)
2018 – North Carolina (Sept. 1); at BYU (Sept. 8); Idaho State (Sept. 15)
2019 – UC Davis (Aug. 31); San Jose State (Sept. 14); at Mississippi (Sept. 21)
2020 – TCU (Sept. 5); Cal Poly (Sept. 12); at Auburn (Sept. 19)
2021 – at TCU (Sept. 11); Auburn (Sept. 18); 1 TBA


Football: Wide receiver Chris Harper remains confident his decision to enter the NFL draft was correct

Former Cal wide receiver Chris Harper, in his first public remarks about his decision to leave school a year early for the NFL draft, said Tuesday he was concerned his production would drop in the Bears’ diverse offense.

“The fact that there’s a lot of receivers and the ball’s going to be spread around a lot more, just like it was this year,” Harper said after participating in Cal’s Pro Day workout in front of scouts from 29 NFL teams.

“It was more about my draft stock. I feel like next year it wouldn’t have been as high. With my production dropping every year, going into next year I wouldn’t have had as many balls or as many opportunities as I’ve had these last couple years.”

Harper caught 41 passes as a freshman in former coach Jeff Tedford’s offense, then had 70 and 52 catches the past two seasons playing in coach Sonny Dykes’ pass-oriented attack. He caught 11 touchdown passes the past two seasons.

Cal returns the rest of its receiving corps next season, including Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs.

Harper made what he called an “educated decision” to leave Cal after talking with family and mentors. He did not involve Cal’s coaching staff in the conversation. “No, because I felt it was my decision,” he said.

Harper said he was surprised and disappointed when he was not among the 44 receivers invited to the NFL combine last month in Indianapolis. But he remains confident he will be selected somewhere between the third and seventh rounds in the NFL draft, which begins April 30.

The website NFLDraftScout.com rates Harper as the No. 48 receiver prospect.

Harper, joined by six other former Cal players who were measured and tested in various areas at Pro Day, thought he fared well. He said he did 11 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, and had a 35-inch vertical leap. His 40-yard dash times were in the low 4.5-second range.

“I dropped a ball — I was pretty frustrated by that,” he said. “Other than that I think I tested really well.”

Harper’s agent, Los Angeles-based Jerome Stanley, said neither Pro Day nor the draft will dictate Harper’s future as a professional football player.

“Chris is the kind of guy that’s successful in the NFL,” Stanley said. “It’s not a draft thing, it’s a can-you-play thing.”

Other former Cal players who participated at Pro Day were safety Michael Lowe, offensive lineman Alejandro Crosthwaite, defensive end Harrison Wilfley, kickers James Langford and Vincenzo D’Amato and long snapper John Sheperdson.


Football: Cal’s pro day set for Tuesday morning

Cal’s pro day workout will be held Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.

The workouts, in front of NFL scouts, are open to the public and free.

Cal players who have completed their collegiate career are eligible to compete. Expected participants include Alejandro Crosthwaite, Vincenzo D’Amato, Chris Harper, James Langford, Michael Lowe, John Sheperdson and Harrison Wilfley.


Football: Brennan Scarlett statement

Here is a statement from Brennan Scarlett, explaining his decision to transfer to play his senior football season at Stanford:

I have made many great memories here at Cal, with secial thanks to my brothers with whom I have had the pleasure to share my blood, sweat and tears. It is a brotherhood unlike anything else I have been a part of, and I am very thankful to them all. In addition, I would like to thank the Cal football staff: coaches, academic advisors, trainers, and doctors. I also would like to thank the Walter A. Haas School of Business and all of the professors and counselors. All of these people have been a fundamental part of my amazing experience at Cal, as I have always been supported both athletically and academically. Overall, I would like to thank the University of California, Berkeley community as a whole for four incredible years. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have attended and to graduate from such an amazing institution.

As has been reported, I am leaving Cal following my graduation from the Haas School of Business in May. I have been accepted into the Stanford University Master’s of Management Science and Engineering program and I am intending to begin in the autumn quarter of 2015. This is a tremendous opportunity that I am very proud to have, as it is in alignment with my career goals and academic interests. It is a one year program that does not require prior work experience and allows me to potentially complete before I begin my life-long dream of playing in the National Football League. In addition, I also intend to play my last year of eligibility for the Stanford football program. Interestingly enough my brother, Cameron Scarlett, will also be attending Stanford as a freshman this Fall. This makes my intentions family-oriented as well, but the motivation is mainly educational and career-based. It is a unique fit that allows me to pursue my aspirations in the two equally important aspects of my life, football and academics.

I am not oblivious to the fact that my decision may not be taken very graciously by all. Regardless of the response to my decision, whether positive or negative, I believe it shows the passion that flows throughout the Cal community. It is a passion that I appreciate and will carry with me through my life journey.

Good luck to the squad. Thanks for the memories.

Much Love,
Brennan Scarlett