Football: Friday night practice

Just a reminder that Cal has moved its Friday practice to 7 p.m., in order to simulate conditions a week from Saturday when the Bears open their season against Northwestern.

I am off today and will not be attending either of this weekend’s practices because both coaches and players are off limits for interviews.

On Saturday, I will post a notebook, featuring a look at the Bears’ young defensive secondary.


TECH ISSUES RESOLVED: Our webteam informs me the problems we have experienced over the past week have been fixed. We were not hacked. Instead, the problem was internal and affected two of our sports blogs.

Thanks for your patience during all this and I encourage your feedback if you experience any future issues. Hopefully, that will not happen.



Football: Dykes encouraged by defense

After practice Wednesday, with 10 days left until the season opener, coach Sonny Dykes expressed confidence that the defense — hindered through fall camp by a series of nagging injuries — is beginning to take shape.

“Defensively, I think we’ve made some major strides the past two or three days,” he said. “I think that’s starting to get more solidified out there. It’s cleaning up. It’s what you want.

“Guys are starting to settle into their position and understanding what we’re doing defensively. We threw a lot of stuff at them, and now we’re getting a little more focused and narrowed down now that we’re starting preparation for Northwestern.”


MLB Nick Forbes, after practicing the two previous days, was off. Dykes said he likely would be one on, one off through next week. Expect him to play against Northwestern.

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Football: Scarlett still dressed in red

The good news: DE Brennan Scarlett went to the doctor Tuesday to have his surgically repaired hand checked.

The bad news: Scarlett still wasn’t cleared for contact and was wearing a red jersey at practice.

“Still kind of waiting to get cleared . . . for the doctor to sign off,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “He didn’t get cleared.”

Time is getting short — the Bears’ opener vs. Northwestern was just 11 days away on Tuesday. Could Scarlett actually be ready to play if, say, he were cleared late this week or early next?

“I think he probably could because he’s done everything but non-contact,” Dykes said. “It’s different for a guy coming off an injury that hasn’t practiced or participated at all.

“The fact that he’s in condition, the fact that he knows what’s going on, I think will allow him probably to come back faster.”

Also still out at the position is JC transfer Sione Sina, who had knee surgery last spring.

Even so, Dykes said he is comfortable with the Bears’ numbers at the position.

“We have five of six guys that are competing. I think they’re all playing pretty well,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a position of strength for us. We’re going to play with five or six different guys because they all do something different.”

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Football: Avery Sebastian returns to Memorial Stadium, says he’s feeling much better

Safety Avery Sebastian returned to Memorial Stadium on Monday — one week after he was taken from the facility by ambulance.

Sebastian confirmed he sustained a concussion during the Bears’ Aug. 12 scrimmage that led to an overnight stay at the hospital, thanked fans for their support and said he’s excited to return . . . as soon as he is fully recovered.

 “I’m actually feeling pretty good today,” Sebastian said. “First and foremost, I want to thank all the fans for sending out all the prayers and making me feel better. It’s greatly appreciated.”

Sebastian said he’s going through tests, getting lots of rest and “calming my symptoms.”

“I would love to play whenever. I just want to make sure I’m fully healthy and can get on the field safely,” he said. “I don’t want to risk anything by coming back too early.”

Sebastian isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the Aug. 31 opener against Northwestern.

Coach Sonny Dykes is pleased that Sebastian appears to be on the mend.

“What we’re going to do is make sure we do it the right way and handle it carefully,” he said. “Anytime that somebody has an injury like he did, we want to bring him back slowly.”

Sebastian said he remembers the play . . . until the hit.

After that, he said, “It was pretty much a blur. I don’t remember (being unconscious). It was brief. I didn’t feel any pain. I was just laying there, thinking about what happened. I could move my hands and fingers and I could look around.

“They just told me to relax. That was the big thing, just make sure I wasn’t doing anything.” 


Dykes said he’s not worried the Bears are running out of linebackers in the wake of Nathan Broussard’s season-ending ACL injury and David Wilkerson getting his transfer release.

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Football: Broussard to have ACL surgery; Wilkerson granted release to transfer

Suddenly, the Bears have personnel issues at linebacker.

On Sunday, the Bears lost backup Nathan Broussard to a season-ending knee injury and backup David Wilkerson was given his release to transfer.

Coach Sonny Dykes said Broussard tore the ACL in his left knee during Saturday’s scrimmage and will undergo surgery within two weeks.

Wilkerson, originally a four-star recruit from Monte Vista High in Danville, has been plagued by injuries during his Cal career. He has seen limited action in fall camp after missing all of last season after having ankle surgery. Wilkerson also served a medical redshirt in 2010.

“He just came in and said it wasn’t working out. We agreed,” Dykes said of Wilkerson. “It’s just kind of time to move on.”

The Bears got some encouraging news with the return of projected starting linebackers Nick Forbes (back) and Khairi Fortt (knee) for Sunday’s short, light workout, along with reserve Hardy Nickerson.
“They’re not at full speed yet, but getting closer,” Dykes said.
Freshman DT Jacobi Hunter sat out practice with a sore shoulder.
Asked about backup quarterback Zach Kline’s strong performance in Saturday’s scrimmage, Dykes said the evaluation process is non-stop.
“If we think we need to do something different, we’ll do something different,” he said. “I don’t think we have that feeling right now. The quarterback competition is the same as the competition at every position on our team.”
He stressed he prefers not to use two quarterbacks, but won’t completely rule out potentially giving Kline playing time alongside starter Jared Goff.
“You really would like to have one,” Dykes said. “But I think if they both merit an opportunity to play, you never say never. We think developing one quarterback always gives you a better shot to win than playing two guys.”

Football: Offense sharper in scrimmage No. 2

The Cal offense was much more efficient — and faster — in Saturday’s second scrimmage than it was five days earlier.

“I liked what I saw today,” Dykes said. “We were a lot cleaner, a lot less penalties. Tempo was much better. Still got a long way to go.”

Newly installed starting quarterback Jared Goff was 12 for 19 for 113 yards with two touchdowns and an interception — his first of fall camp. Zach Kline was 14 for 17 for 156 yards and one TD.

Dykes was happy with both players, as he was with third-stringer Austin Hinder.

The tempo was noticeably faster . . . but 80 snaps in 60 minutes was not fast enough for Dykes’ liking.

“That was kind of slow, honestly,” he said with a completely straight face. “Typically, it’s about 30 minutes for 80 plays. We have some special teams in the middle there that slowed us down.”

Junior running back Brendan Bigelow, coming off a knee injury that kept him out of spring ball, rushed five times for 51 yards.

“I thought he was good,” Dykes said. “We wanted to get him the ball some, see how he reacts. Anytime you suffer a knee injury like that you want to come back and be comfortable. I think he gets more comfortable every practice.

“He looked a lot more dynamic today than he did a week ago. I think his comfort level is part of that. We’ve got to be smart about how much he gets, but at the same time we’ve got to get him ready for the 31st.”


Less than two weeks before the Aug. 31 opener, and defensive end Brennan Scarlett continues to wear a bulky wrap on his left hand and a red jersey in practice. Mostly, be waits.

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Football: Kline handles a tough day well

The guy facing the toughest circumstances on Friday at Memorial Stadium handled himself with the kind of grace and confidence any coach would want in his quarterback.

Zach Kline didn’t get the starting call from first-year coach Sonny Dykes. That went to true freshman Jared Goff, who did just enough in the areas that matter to win the assignment.

But with video cameras and tape recorders rolling, Kline faced the media after practice, projected a winner’s attitude and said all the right things.

“Definitely, it’s disappointing. I know I’m a good quarterback. I know I can win games and I can lead this team to where we want to go,” Kline said without bitterness. “In the same breath, I’m going to support Jared because that’s what a good teammate is going to do. At any moment, I could get in the game.”

If and when that happens, Kline said he will be ready to “be the best quarterback in the nation” because “that’s what a backup has to do.”

“This competition is not over. That’s how I have to keep my mentality,” he said. “It was definitely tough, but it’s just another challenge. In challenges you become better.”

Presumed since last November to be the heir to the quarterback job, Kline got the news early in the day, then came out and delivered what the coaches called one of his best practices of fall camp.

“You could tell he was raised good. He’s a team guy and he wants to win and he wants to win at Cal,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said. “We told him this is a funny business. There’s lot of quarterback stuff that goes on. He’s got to be ready and I think he will.

“Today showed you that. He came out and he performed well. He had great attitude and great vibe. I think he’ll be Jared’s supporter and at the same time he’ll be ready if anything happens to come in to play.”

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Football: Dykes says picking Goff was `gut-wrenching’ call; Kline says he’s staying

When Jared Goff takes the field at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31 against No. 22 Northwestern, he will be Cal’s first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener since at least World War II.

Named the Bears’ starter on Friday by first-year coach Sonny Dykes, will Goff be equipped to handle the pressure?

“When all these guys come in, I tell them you can be a freshman or you can be a football player. I think he’s a football player,” said Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. “He’ll go out, he’ll smell the air, he’ll be nervous. I told him, Tom Brady’s still nervous.

“Then he’ll go out and perform.”

Goff, who beat out redshirt freshman Zach Kline of Danville and junior Austin Hinder in a duel that began last spring, said he expects to be nervous when he settles under center against Northwestern.

“Of course, there’s going to be a little bit of nerves,” he said. “You just have to kick them out and go out and do your job.”

Click here for the rest of this story.

Goff’s parents share the joy of their son’s big day.

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.


Football: Goff’s high school coach says `he’ll do great’ as freshman starting QB for Bears

When Jared Goff takes the field at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31 against No. 22 Northwestern, he will be Cal’s first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener at least since World War II.

Named the Bears’ starter on Friday by first-year coach Sonny Dykes, will Goff be equipped to handle the pressure?

“I think he’ll do great,” said Mazi Moayed, who coached him for three seasons at Marin Catholic High in Kentfield.

“What’s going to help him out a lot is his calm and coolness. He doesn’t really get rattled,” said Moayed, recalling a playoff game during Goff’s sophomore season when he threw four second-half touchdown passes to rally his team.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.



Football: Are you surprised by the decision?

When spring ball began months ago, Zach Kline seemed a lock to eventually win the starting quarterback  job.

Even when Sonny Dykes put off the decision until fall camp, it seemed mostly to make sure everyone felt he got a fair shake.

But the longer this process stretched out since camp began on Aug. 5, the more clear it became that Jared Goff was a real contestant in the battle.

Ultimately, his accuracy, consistency and ability to limit mistakes won him the job over Kline’s bigger arm and extra year on the planet.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch this season unfold and chart Goff’s development, especially given the enormous challenge of a schedule that features three Top-25 teams in the first four games.

I don’t expect Kline to go stand in a corner and sob. He will compete, knowing there are plenty of second chances in a long college season.

So tell me, what do you guys think about how this plays out?