Football: Jack Austin inserts himself into WR picture

On the short list of players who showed the most progress during Cal’s spring workouts, which ended Saturday, coach Sonny Dykes points to sophomore wideout Jack Austin.

“Jack had a great spring,” Dykes said. “If you went back and said who was the most improved? Jack would certainly be in the conversation. Particularly the past two weeks. If he keeps getting better he’ll start to push Trevor (Davis).”

Austin, a big receiver from Chino Hills, did not catch a pass last fall as a redshirt freshman, but seems to have worked himself into position to change that this season.

He made several nice plays during Saturday’s spring game, including a diving catch, and is listed No. 2 behind Davis at the “X” wideout position on Cal’s end-of-spring depth chart.

“It’s a very competitive group. We’ve got great receivers on both sides. Trevor Davis and I are competing a lot,” Austin said. “I’m going to keep competing through spring and then summer and fall as well.”

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Football: Bears’ spring game a little `weird’

The Cal Spring Football Experience on Saturday was a little tough to define.

“It wasn’t practice, it wasn’t a game, it was a little weird,” quarterback Jared Goff said.

“It’s very weird,” said senior running back Daniel Lasco, an 1,100-yard rusher last season who did not carry the ball once in the often scripted format. “The schedule was weird. I wish we would have knew what was going on. (I thought) we’re just going to put the ball out here and start playing.

“I guess in the end it was all good.”

The two-hour event at Memorial Stadium, attended by about 1,000 fans and televised by the Pac-12 Networks, included just 52 snaps in full 11-on-11 tackle mode. Otherwise, there were situational plays, 7-on-7 drills without tackling, plus punts and field goals.

Coach Sonny Dykes came away pleased because the team achieved what it wanted and no one was injured. And that’s no small consideration in spring ball.

“We tried to make it as fan-friendly as possible, but the important thing was get work done, take care of our players. I thought we accomplished that,” he said.

Dykes said the Bears simply don’t have enough healthy defensive backs to run a full-fledged scrimmage. He also noted that he watched USC scrimmage recently and “they didn’t tackle one person the whole time.

“Spring games are what they are,” he said. “I don’t think people necessarily come for the football. They come to enjoy interacting with the players.”

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Football: Rubenzer gets some scrimmage reps at QB

After Luke Rubenzer saw his first action at quarterback this spring, coach Sonny Dykes said Monday there has been no final decision on whether the sophomore will play offense or defense next fall.

Rubenzer was Jared Goff’s backup at QB as a true freshman last season, used as a change-of-pace running threat. Because of manpower issues at safety this spring, he has worked exclusively on defense.

But during a 60-play scrimmage in the Bears’ 13th of 15 spring practices, Rubenzer was back under center.

“I thought he did OK. We had some designed runs. Tough to say because he’s in a red jersey,” Dykes said. “I thought he did fine, thought he threw the ball well, looked comfortable.”

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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.


Football: Here, there and everywhere on Day 1

More observations from coach Sonny Dykes’ after Cal’s first spring practice:

On redshirt freshman Addison Ooms, a 6-foot-4, 290-pounder, who got some first-team reps at center:

“He gives himself a chance to play because he’s so smart and can snap the football so well. That’s going to give him an opportunity to get reps and keep improving. I htought he did some good things today. I don’t think Matt Cochran is just going to let him have that job.”

On junior Dominic Granado, who is competing for the vacant right tackle spot:

“It’s hard to say with no pads. Thought his athleticism was good. It’s always tough to tell with the O-line and D-line when there’s no pads. You see some bursts and see guys move around good, and it catches your attention. We’ll know a lot more when the pads come on. But I thought he did some good things.”

On JC transfer defensive end DeVante Wilson:

“He showed up some today. Encouraged a little bit by what I saw from him.”

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Football: Three priorities for spring ball

Here are three issues the Bears want to address during spring ball:

Embrace the possibilities

After improving from one victory in 2013 to five last fall, the Bears want more in 2015. The process begins this spring.

“I think everybody associated with the program is expecting better things,” Coach Sonny Dykes said. “We’re a program that’s growing up. When that happens, certainly you have higher expectations.”

“We want to win, but we have to get a lot better between now and fall. We know that,” said junior quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 7,476 yards and 53 touchdowns his first two seasons.

“There were so many opportunities we had to be a bowl team and win seven or eight games last season. That’s the next step.”

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