My story on Cal’s two new JC defensive players — Derron Brown and DeVante Wilson after Friday’s first spring practice in pads.
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.”
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.”
If Luke Rubenzer really does wind up playing defense next fall — or anywhere other than quarterback — the Bears are in the market for a backup to Jared Goff.
Coach Sonny Dykes liked what he saw Monday from redshirt freshman Chase Forrest and incoming mid-year freshman Ross Bowers.
“I was pleasantly surprised with both of them,” he said after the Bears’ opening spring workout. “I thought Chase Forrest kind picked up where he left off from the fall. And I thought Ross showed a lot of composure for the first time out. I thought he was good. I was pleased with Ross, I really was.
“Good things out of both of them. Obviously, a lot of work to do. It’s really early and the first time either of them got extended reps. We’ll see how it plays out. But I thought for Day 1, it was pretty good.”
Cal backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer spent the first day of spring practice at safety.
Honest. I’m in Las Vegas covering basketball, so this was news to me, too.
Rubenzer said the coaching staff approached him a few weeks ago about possibly redshirting next season, likely because they didn’t want to use another year of his eligibility with Jared Goff as the clear starter.
Redshirting did not appeal to Rubenzer, who got a fair amount of game action as a true freshman last fall, giving the Bears a backup quarterback with running ability.
“I think it would be really hard to do that as much as I did last year. I think it would be really hard to sit out a year,” he told reporters after practice. “I just said I wanted to play.”
At that point, he explained, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin told him defensive coordinator Art Kaufman was interested in getting a look at him on defense. Rubenzer, who played safety in high school at Scottsdale, Arizona, isn’t sure his quarterback days may not be over.
“I just felt like I could help on that side of the ball a little more this year than I can on offense,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a 100-percent permanent thing. But I’ll give it a shot. Just try to find a way onto the field and find ways to win.”
I’m in Las Vegas for the WCC and Pac-12 basketball tournaments, but word from Berkeley is that senior defensive end Brennan Scarlett has been granted his release to transfer and likely is headed to Stanford.
Update: After Monday’s practice, coach Sonny Dykes confirmed to reporters that Scarlett has received his released and intends to transfer.
Scarlett, who will graduate this spring, has one year of eligibility year and is expected to be able to play immediately next fall. He would join his brother, freshman-to-be running back Cameron Scarlett, a four-star recruit from Portland, Oregon.
Staff writer Jimmy Durkin is covering Cal’s first day of spring workouts Monday and he filed this report.
Cal released its spring football roster today, including uniform numbers for the four newcomers who already are enrolled in school:
* No. 4 Derron Williams-Brown, DB
* No. 7 Ross Bowers, QB
* No. 22 Lonny Powell, RB
* No. 95 DeVante Wilson, DE
Click here to check out the entire spring roster.
Cal announced that spring workouts will begin Monday, March 9 and conclude with its Cal Football Spring Experience and spring game on Saturday, April 18.
Most practices are scheduled to be open to the public.
“We want to share what we are working on with our great fans,” coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “We’ve been preparing diligently in our offseason conditioning program to get ourselves ready to get back on the field for spring ball.
“We’re excited about the work our guys are putting in and the upward trajectory our program is on.”
The Cal Spring Football Experience is an admission-free, interactive event that gives fans an opportunity to get to know players and coaches in the Cal program on an up-close basis.
Several former Cal football players have attended the event in the past. Super Bowl champion and NFL All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks made a surprise appearance in 2013.
Among the Cal Spring Football Experience activities scheduled to take place are …
•Cal football scrimmage
•Opportunities for fans to interact with Cal football players and coaches
•Commemorative posters (first 2,000 fans)
•Cal footballs (first 250 fans)
•Fun Zone with face painters, photo station and much more
•Additional activities, giveaways and details to be announced
Cal’s 2015 schedule begins Sept. 5 at home against Grambling State.
2015 CAL SPRING FOOTBALL OPEN PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Monday, March 9 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, March 11 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Friday, March 13 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Monday, March 16 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, March 18 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, April 1 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Friday, April 3 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Saturday, April 4 (10 a.m. – Noon)
Monday, April 6 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, April 8 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Monday, April 13 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, April 15 (3:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Saturday, April 18 (11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Cal Football Spring Experience, Pac-12 Networks)
* All practices above scheduled to be open to the public at Memorial Stadium; Schedule subject to change.
As he aspires to build his football program, coach Sonny Dykes doesn’t need to look far to find a model for success.
“There’s a lot of different ways to win in football and sports in general,” he said Tuesday during a media briefing, three days after the close of spring workouts.
“The Yankees have won by having the biggest payroll and the biggest superstars. And the A’s have won by having the smallest payroll, no superstars and a great team.
“You have to figure out who you are. I think right now we’re a little bit more like the A’s than the Yankees. And that’s fine.”
What that means to Dykes and the Bears a year after staggering to a 1-11 record is creating a culture where the whole is bigger than its parts. Cal’s roster isn’t bulging with five-star recruits, but can achieve beyond those expectations, Dykes said.
“We’ve got to kind of embrace that and buy into that. I just believe that is how you sustain a program, by having good people and creating a good culture and getting guys to play hard for each other on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
“I think we’re much further along than we were, but I’m not quite sure we’re there yet.”
Encouraged but hardly satisfied, Cal closed its spring workouts Saturday with an 86-play scrimmage in front of an announced crowd of 2,500 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Five months after after completing an historically bad 1-11 season, the Bears are focused on their future, including their Aug. 30 season opener at Northwestern.
Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff said the team is ready to make a leap forward. “We’re done with everything that had to do with last year,” he said. “We’re a brand new team now and we’re ready to go.”
Coach Sonny Dykes has called the Bears a work in progress, and he continues to see good and bad.
“I thought we got better,” Dykes said of his team’s work over the past four weeks. “Our guys are still learning what it takes to win at this level. I’m not sure we completely understand that yet.
“I certainly like where we’re headed, but we still have a long way to go.”
The defense had the upper hand early on Saturday, prompting defensive end Brennan Scarlett to pronounce, “We were dominating.” The offense was more effective in the second half, Dykes noted.