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Football: Rubenzer gets a look at safety

UPDATED

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.”

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Football: Brennan Scarlett will transfer . . . to Stanford?

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.

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Football: Cal releases spring practice schedule

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.

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Football: Dykes sees success model in A’s

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.”

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Football: Bears encouraged after spring finale

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.

Goff, just 5 for 11 for 27 yards in the first half, was 9 for 12 for 143 yards the rest of the way. He had an 8-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler and a 37-yard completion to Bryce Treggs, who made a nice over-the-shoulder catch.
 
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Football: All systems go in Sebastian’s comeback

Suddenly, things are looking up for Avery Sebastian.

When we last saw Sebastian on game day, he was being carted off the turf after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2013 opener against Northwestern. That catastrophe came on the heels of suffering a concussion during fall camp that was scary enough an ambulance rolled into Memorial Stadium to take him to the hospital.

But the redshirt junior safety from McDonough, Ga., is on his way back. He participated in Cal’s spring workouts, doing whatever he felt his body would allow, and expects to be in the mix Saturday (11 a.m.) when the Bears hold their spring game.

Plus, by the end of this spring semester he will be just one class shy of earning his degree in American studies.

That will give Sebastian an array of options. He plans to take just a single class in the fall, allowing him to concentrate on all things football.

In the meantime, he intends to take the GRE this summer to become eligible for grad school. Asked about his plans for the fall of 2015, when he’d be able to play his final football season, Sebastian admitted, “I have not thought that far.”

Unspoken is the possibility he could enter the NFL draft in 2015. But he wants to study broadcast journalism and can easily envision himself doing so at Cal.

“You can’t beat a Berkeley education, so if I have that opportunity to do that again (as a grad student), the option’s definitely there,” Sebastian said after practice Wednesday.

Right now, Sebastian is just happy to be healthy once again.

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Football: Kicker job remains open competition

The competition for placekicker will continue into fall camp, coach Sonny Dykes said after Wednesday’s practice.

Sophomore Noah Beito had the upperhand early in spring camp, but the depth chart released on Wednesday showed Beito, senior James Langford and redshirt freshman Matt Anderson separated by “or.”

For all the troubles the Bears experienced last season, placekicker was an oasis of consistency. Graduating senior Vincenzo D’Amato converted 17 of 20 field goal attempts and all but one of his PAT tries.

“Vince was a mentally tough kid,” Dykes said. “If something didn’t go his way, he reacted incredibly well, just believed in himself and grinded through it. That’s unfortunately rare in kickers a lot of times.”

Dykes and his coaching staff will be looking for that mental toughness when they choose among the three candidates in August.

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Football: Cal Spring Football Experience

Coach Sonny Dykes said the Bears will run about 80 plays Saturday during their Cal Spring Football Experience.

The occasion won’t be strictly a spring game. There are lots of festivities planned to go with the scrimmaging, but a full-fledged spring game isn’t practical, Dykes said.

“When you’re an uptempo offense the problem you run into is spring games become a real pain in the rear end,” he said. “When we were at Louisiana Tech we ran I think in the neighborhood of 75 plays in the first quarter of the spring game one year.

“There’s no rest. You have 22 guys playing, so it’s basically like 150 plays. That’s a bit of an issue.”

Dykes said Saturday’s free event will have a mix of fan interaction. “Try to make it a good experience,” he said.

Gates will open at 10 a.m., with the scrimmage beginning at 11 a.m. Pac-12 Networks will televise the proceedings.

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Football: Wilfley, Manley earn top spots on depth chart, but D-tackle remains a question mark

As the Bears prepare for Saturday’s spring practice finale — the Cal Spring Football Experience — there is improved depth and experience almost everywhere on the field.

Except defensive tackle.

With junior Mustafa Jalil shelved while recovering from offseason knee surgery and sophomore Jacobi Hunter out for personal reasons, the Bears have no one at the position with any Division I game experience who will participate on Saturday.

“That’s going to be the big position that’s up in the air for us,” coach Sonny Dykes said Wednesday after practice.

Cal released a depth chart earlier in the day, and redshirt senior Harrison Wilfley and redshirt junior Marcus Manley are listed as the starting defensive tackles.

Wilfley was recruited as a tight end, then moved to defensive end, the position he played at American River College. The 6-foot-5 Sacramento native redshirted last season because of a shoulder injury, and this spring was moved to defensive tackle.

Manley came to Berkeley from City College of San Francisco a year ago, and was redshirted.

Trevor Kelly, who arrived this spring as a transfer from College of San Mateo, also is playing the position, along with redshirt freshman Tony Merkari. Kelly, at 6-2, 315 pounds, needs to drop about 20 pounds, Dykes said.

The total D-I game day experience of those four players: Zero.

The Bears’ experienced player at the position is Jalil, once a top-10 national recruit at his position. He remains a question mark after missing all of last season.

Dykes said Jalil underwent surgery to alleviate pain in his knee caused by a lack of cartilage. Doctors tell the coaching staff the surgery was a success, but Jalil was held out of spring ball to let the knee recover fully.

“He’s feeling much better, but he hasn’t done much,” Dykes said. “He’s got to get in shape, get his weight down and give himself a chance to be a player.”

Still, Jalil was enough of a question mark that the Bears signed JC defensive tackles Kelly and David Davis, who will arrive in August.

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