Football: Sonny Dykes welcomes hot weather

It’s getting hot, and Cal coach Sonny Dykes is happy about it.

The Bears, who will play Sept. 19 at Texas, practiced in temperatures that reached the high 80s Saturday in Berkeley. Beginning Monday, they will venture to east for a series of three morning workouts.

“We’re hoping (it’s) over 100,” Dykes said of what he expects Monday in Concord. “We’ve got to get our guys in some heat. I think it’s good for us mentally. It’s something we’ve got to deal with and not let it affect us.”

Dykes said even this won’t entirely prepare the Bears for what they could encounter in Texas. “It’s hard to simulate humidity,” he said. “But I think it’s more mental than anything. The guys say, `So what, it’s hot. I’ve still got to drive through.’ “


Freshman defensive lineman Malik McMorris, a 5-foot-11, plus-300-pounder, wore a white jersey Saturday and will focus for now on playing a blocking back role when the Bears go to a jumbo alignment.

“We tried to get an evaluation on where he could help us the quickest,” Dykes said. “We felt like he could do that as a blocking back. We’ve got a lot of depth at defensive tackle right now.

“He was a really productive high school football player,” Dykes said of McMorris at Mater Dei HS in Santa Ana. “Played at a storied program, played a great schedule, he was one of their most productive players, week in and week out.

“We thought he could do a lot of different things for us. He’s a pretty unique athlete for a guy who’s 315 pounds. He catches the ball well, so he’s got kind of an interesting skill set.”


Jared Goff was 9 of 11 passes for 141 yards and four touchdowns during the first two trips down the field for the offense in 11-on-11 work Saturday. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Kenny Lawler, and one each to Bryce Treggs and Tre Watson.

Defensive end Kyle Kragen had a pair of sacks during 11-on-11.


Football: Three-star DE commits to Bears

Cal got its third oral commitment from a defensive end Friday when Evan Weaver, rated a three-star prospect by Scout and Rivals, picked the Bears over offers from 11 other schools.

Weaver is a 6-foot-3, 241-pounder from Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash. Scout ranks him as the No. 2 defensive end prospect in the state of Washington.

Weaver also had offers Pac-12 schools Arizona, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Boise State and Army also offered Weaver.

Cal’s 2016 class now has 21 committed prospects, with Weaver joining Russell Becker of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and Tevin Paul of Austin, Texas, as defensive ends.


Football: Ex-Cal player sues over concussion malpractice

Former Cal safety Brandon Hicks is suing UC Berkeley, alleging malpractice involving the prevention and treatment of concussions, the Daily Californian first reported.

Hicks, who played for Cal from 2004 through 2008, suffered multiple concussions, according to the lawsuit, filed Aug. 3 against the UC Regents.

Hicks’ attorney, Matthew Whibley, told the Daily Cal the university did not inform players of the long-term neurological diseases associated with concussions and head injuries.

“The university is the players’ caretaker,” he said. “We think it would be fair for them to at least inform the players what they’re getting themselves into.”

Hicks has sustained “permanent and debilitating” neurological injuries that have caused depression, suicidal shots, dizziness, memory loss, and blurred and double vision, the lawsuit alleges.

Cal officials did not comment on the case, but issued a general statement which, in part, said “the medical care we provide our student-athletes meets or exceeds the standards in collegiate and national sports medicine.”

Defendants in the case include former head coach Jeff Tedford, team physician Cindy Chang and head athletic trainer Ryan Cobb.


Football: No. 2 Cal QB job a complicated picture

Luke Rubenzer understands the No. 1 reality of Cal football when it comes to playing quarterback. “Obviously, they’re pretty comfortable with the guy they have now,” he said, referring to junior honors candidate Jared Goff.

The rest of the Bears’ quarterback picture has far less clarity.

Rubenzer was the backup a year ago as a true freshman, and provided 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a change-of-pace substitute.

Right now, however, redshirt freshman Chase Forrest is No. 2 and Rubenzer is vying for a starting job at safety. But that is by no means set in stone.

Rubenzer was moved to defense in the spring, mostly at his request, because Cal was short-handed at the position. “Honestly, I just want to see the field,” he said after Friday’s practice.

Coach Sonny Dykes said Rubenzer is doing a good job.

“He still needs reps – he’s still not smooth in some of the technical things – but he sees things well, he’s got good instincts,” Dykes said. “He’s not afraid to stick his head in there.”

At the same time, Forrest is ahead of schedule. “Chase’s level of play has been beyond what I could have imagined,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said.

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Football: Rigsbee is fine moving back to center, says he just wants to win games and play in a bowl game

When the Cal center position unexpectedly was vacated, the Bears went to a familiar name to fill the void.

Senior Jordan Rigsbee, who has played all three positions on the offensive line and has started 36 consecutive games, quickly nailed down the spot in the first week of fall camp after would-be starter Matt Cochran was dropped from the team in late April.

There are no complaints from Rigsbee, who started at left guard as a redshirt reshman in 2012, was moved to center for the final eight games of 2013, then to right tackle last season. He was projected at right guard this fall before need prompted another move.

“On one hand it can be frustrating,” Rigsbee said of the constant shuffling. “On the other hand, center’s an important position on the O-line. So far with this coaching staff I’ve gone 1-11 and 5-7 and haven’t gone to a bowl game.

“It’s my fifth year and that’s what I plan to do. If me playing center gets us to a bowl game, then so be it. I just want to win games.”

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Football: Bears in full pads and the defense shows up

Cal practiced in full pads Tuesday for the first time in fall camp and Coach Sonny Dykes liked what he saw: A fairly even battle between his high-powered offense and his beleaguered defense.

“They’re competing hard and they’re doing well. The offense made some plays today, which was encouraging. And the defense made some plays and that was encouraging,” Dykes said. “That’s what happens on good football teams. That’s what we want to see.”

Over much of the past two seasons, the duel usually was a mismatch. Cal’s defense, which allowed 39.8 points per game last season, typically was in over its head against Jared Goff and the offense.

Only a few times in 2013 could Dykes recall the defense enjoying such a productive day in practice.

“I don’t know if it was because we were good or if it was because the offense was that bad,” he said. “They were all not very good. The coaching wasn’t very good, the playing wasn’t very good.”

The Bears are getting more of a push up front and better coverage on the back end.

“I thought we tackled well,” Dykes said. “You could see our athleticism is much-improved. You can improve your tackling, but the easiest way to improve your tackling is in recruiting, quite frankly. We’ve become more athletic and as a result, I think, we’re tackling better.”

Dykes said junior defensive end – who arrived as a JC transfer in the spring – has made a big leap in recent days.

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Football: Player who punched Jets QB Geno Smith once suspended by Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech

IK Enemkpali, the New York Jets player who punched out quarterback Geno Smith and was subsequently cut from the team Tuesday, once ran afoul of the law while playing under coach Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech.

Enemkpali was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer and disturbing the peace after an April 2011 incident at a Ruston, Louisiana restaurant.

Dykes, then Enemkpali’s coach at La Tech, suspended him indefinitely, although he later was reinstated and played the 2011 season.

Enemkpali was involved in a fight at Rabb’s Steak House and eventually punched an off-duty, undercover police officer who was working security in the bar. Ultimately, he was subdued by a taser, according to various media reports.

Enemkpali later received probation on a simple battery charge.

The Jets say they were aware of his history before making the defensive end a sixth-round draft choice in 2014. Smith is out 6 to 10 weeks with a broken jaw.


Football: Bears eager to go full pads 1st time Tuesday; Dykes likes the look of rebuilt defensive line

On Tuesday, the pads go on and the gloves come off. The Bears will begin hitting on Day 5 of fall camp.

Coach Sonny Dykes is eager to see how his team looks when practices are closer to game conditions. He says you can’t fully evaluate the performance of linemen until tackling is allowed, but he has been encouraged by what he’s seen already from his defensive line.

The Bears now believe they have a dozen D-lineman – or more – who can play. “Now, we need our front-line guys to play at an elite level and we’re not there yet,” he said after Monday’s third practice. “But we do have a lot of depth.”

The biggest surprise of fall camp so far?

“It’s maybe David Davis,” Dykes said of the 6-foot, 285-pound senior defensive tackle. “He’s been very effective. He’s moving and playing very strong and very physical. It’s good to see that.”

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Football: Three days, four INTs for Evan Rambo

Freshman safety Evan Rambo had another big practice Sunday, securing two more interceptions to give him four in three days.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder had two all season last fall as a senior at La Salle High in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that – in three practices a guy’s got four picks. It’s good to see out of a true freshman,” said coach Sonny Dykes.

Finding help in the secondary is a major camp objective, but Dykes said it’s way too early to feel like there is any clarity there. Still, he is thrilled by what Rambo has shown so far.

“He’s just got a nose for the football,” Dykes said. “When you go back and look at the tape, he does a nice job breaking on the routes, he reads the quarterback’s eyes well, he’s getting himself in a good position, he’s long, he can run. It’s pretty impressive.”


Another pleasant surprise in the secondary has been the early play of junior safety Damariay Drew, back at Cal after resolving legal issues following an incident on campus last year where he assaulted a fellow student.

Now a non-scholarship walkon, the Livermore native has played well through the first three practices.

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Football: Defense shines again on Day 2

The defense continues to show up.

On Day 2 of Cal’s fall camp, it was the Bears’ much-maligned defense that once more looked most impressive. The team still wasn’t in pads and defenses often are ahead of the offense early in camp, but it seems clear the Bears have made some progress.

Especially in the final 11-on-11 session with the first units, the defense made noise. Defensive backs broke up pass plays, and safety Demariay Drew – yes, he’s back as a walk-on – intercepted Jared Goff and returned it for a touchdown.

“It’s good to see the defense perform the way they’re performing. We know that’s what we need to give ourselves a chance to have a good football team,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “Those guys have performed well the past two days. I’m excited about the progress they’ve made. Still got a long way to go, but excited about the progress.”

In particular, Dykes is encouraged by what he’s seen so far in third-down situations.

“That’s a really critical time in practice and I thought our defense, quite frankly, has dominated that period,” he said. “It’s good to see that.”

Dykes stressed that he needs to see this kind of performance on a consistent basis. And he will need to see it on game days. But the Bears were so bad defensively last season – allowing 39.8 points per game and setting NCAA “records” for pass defense futility – that the first order of business this summer had to be restoring some belief.

“They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing aggressive,” Dykes said. “The thing we needed to get out of camp was confidence.”

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