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Football: Brennan Scarlett shaking off rust, excited to become Bears’ ace pass rusher

No one waited longer for Cal’s spring football practice to begin than Brennan Scarlett.

Regarded as perhaps the Bears’ best defensive player, Scarlett is back on the field after a 17-month layoff for a broken hand and a string of complications.

“It has been a long time,” the junior defensive end said Saturday after the Bears ended the first half of their four-week spring workout schedule.

By the time Cal kicks off its 2014 season at Northwestern on Aug. 30, it will have been more than 21 months since Scarlett played in a game.

“It’s going to be a great day to run out on that field again,” Scarlett said.

Scarlett was moved from outside linebacker to defensive end a year ago, but never played in 2013 while his left hand — broken for the second time in a month’s span in November 2012 — slowly recovered.

He had a piece of bone grafted from his hip in January 2013, then suffered a bad infection that stalled his recovery. A month into last season, Scarlett knew his season would be lost.

Coach Sonny Dykes is more than eager to see him on game day. “I think he can be a dominant player,” Dykes said. “He’s not there by any stretch of the imagination yet. He’s long, fast, smart … and rusty.”

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Football: Dykes encouraged by O-line progress

Coach Sonny Dykes is beginning to see progress in one area the Bears must show substantial improvement — offensive line.

“They’re obviously a lot better,” Dykes said after Wednesday’s workout. “They know what they’re doing. We’re having some continuity in some spots. There’s a semblance of depth.

“We’re a year stronger in the weight room, a year more physical, a year better shape. There’s a lot of positives.”

Positions are fairly set at several spots, including left tackle, where sophomore Steven Moore has settled in to protect quarterback Jared Goff’s blindside, with sophomore Christian Okafor and junior Brian Farley dueling for the right tackle position.

Dykes said 6-foot-3, 310-pound sophomore Chris Borrayo has been “a stabilizing force” at left guard. Senior Alejandro Crosthwaite is starting at right guard and junior Jordan Rigsbee is the center.

But Cal awaits the return in fall camp of senior Chris Adcock (knee) and sophomore Matt Cochran (shoulder), and they could change the equation. Both will get the chance to compete at center and/or guard.

Redshirt freshman Aaron Cochran, a massive 6-8, 355-pounder, has shown glimpses of his significant potential. “He’s the unknown,” Dykes said.

“It’s got a chance to be a group that’s going to play tough and develop some continuity if we can get some depth issues sorted out,” Dykes said.

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Football: Maximo Espitia, Ray Davison making waves at new positions on defense

Two players who made position changes are making positive impressions this spring.

After Monday’s closed workout, Coach Sonny Dykes cited the encouraging progress of new outside linebackers Maximo Espitia and Ray Davison.

Linebacker is a position where the coaching staff envisioned great depth entering last season. Then injuries caused it to become one of the club’s thinner spots.

So personnel changes were made to bolster the position.

Espitia, a junior from Salem, Ore., came to Cal as a fullback, was moved to tight end, then to wide receiver and safety. Now the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is a linebacker who “has surpassed my expectations to this point,” Dykes said.

“The good thing is he’s got the body to do it. He can carry weight, he’s long,” Dykes said. “I had concerns about how physical he would be, and he’s answered those concerns so far. He’s been more physical, he’s done a good job getting off blocks and tackling pretty well.

“He’s not ready to go by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s making progress and I think ahead of schedule.”

So he could be in the mix come the fall?

“I would expect him to have a chance to be a starter,” Dykes said. “Based on what I’ve seen and the improvement he’s made over five practices I would think he’d be competing for a job.”

Davison, who came to Berkeley last fall as a freshman defensive end, also is getting a shot at outside linebacker.

“A lot like Max, he’s been a pleasant surprise,” Dykes said of the 6-2, 220-pounder. “He’s a little undersized at (defensive end). We moved him to ‘backer this spring to give us some depth and see what he can do.

“He’s got some natural instincts and does some things you want linebackers to do. He is a guy I’m excited about and I think will be competing for playing time in the fall as well.”

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Dykes said players are adapting to new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and his way of doing things.

“I like what they’re doing — we’re doing a lot of fundamental things correctly,” he said. “We’re leveraging the ball correctly. We’re still learning how to run to the football — I don’t think we’re there yet.

“They’re playing faster as a result of of the certainty. I like where we’re headed.”

Dykes said Kaufman already has shown he can make adjustments and get his players to embrace them.

“He’s always trying to stay ahead as far as his teaching goes. Never misses an opportunity to talk about something that could happen in a football game and have an answer for it,” Dykes said.

Kaufman continues to work with one arm tied behind his back. DT Mustafa Jalil, DE Sione Sina, LB Nathan Broussard, Saf Avery Sebastian and CB-turned-Saf Stefan McClure all will do little or nothing this spring while rehabbing after injuries or surgeries.

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Wide receiver Bryce Treggs did some work on the side but otherwise sat out his third straight practice with a tweaked hamstring. His receiving mate Chris Harper is expected to do very little this spring after offseason shoulder surgery.

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Football: Bears using spring workouts to develop a tougher, more physical profile

Coach Sonny Dykes plans to put his Cal football team through live scrimmaging more often this spring for the most basic of reasons.

“We’ve got to learn how to play football,” said Dykes, whose Golden Bears didn’t show much of an aptitude for the game last season while going 1-11 in his debut campaign.

“We’ve just got to get better at playing football and everything that goes along with live reps. So it’s important for us to get as much of that as we can get.”

The Bears dressed in full pads and engaged in live contact Saturday for the first time since spring workouts began Monday. The plan is to scrimmage in each of the eight fully padded workouts — rather than just three or four times during the spring — but for shorter duration.

“I like it,” junior center Jordan Rigsbee said of the greater emphasis on physical workouts. “There’s nothing like live football. You can practice, you can go half-speed, but nothing’s like going full go.”

The Bears ran 40 live plays Saturday and got a luke-warm grade from Dykes.

“I didn’t think it was great, It was OK,” Dykes said. “We’re trying to be more physical. It’s obviously a work in progress.”

Given the team’s severe injury situation last fall, Dykes said he’s wary of putting players in situations that leave them vulnerable. As a result, he’s not sure the Bears will engage in a full-length spring game on April 26.

“When you have that fatigue is when you have a lot of injuries,” he said.

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Football: Goff’s shoulder is healthy, but Bears will be cautious with QB during spring workouts

Note: Because I was busy on the Mike Montgomery story, staff writer Darren Sabedra pinch-hit as Sonny Dykes and Jared Goff answered questions on a media teleconference in advance of Monday’s start to spring practice.

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The shoulder injury Cal quarterback Jared Goff suffered against Stanford last season has healed, but coach Sonny Dykes plans to take a cautious approach when the team opens spring practice Monday.

“We’ve got to be careful not to put too much on him and blow his arm out early,” Dykes said Sunday. “We’re going to bring him along slowly, probably split reps early and see how he handles it, see how he feels, give him the occasional day off.

“It’s going to be important that we manage him the right way.”

Goff, who threw for a Cal season record 3,508 yards last season, underwent surgery Nov. 27 to repair the shoulder that was separated on a hit by Stanford’s Shayne Skov.

The quarterback said Sunday that he has been throwing 100 percent for at least a month and that the shoulder feels great.

“I went through a throwing program as soon as I felt good enough to throw, which started a few months ago,” Goff said.

Click here for the rest of this story.

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Football: Spring practice begins Monday with the first of six workouts open to the public

Cal football practices still will be open to the public this spring, just not all of them.

The Bears begin spring workouts Monday with the first of six practices scheduled to be open to fans.

Unlike last season, when every practice was open, second-year coach Sonny Dykes has decided to give spectators access to just a portion of the spring workout schedule after the Bears struggled to a 1-11 record last fall.

Monday’s first workout runs from 3:30 to 6 p.m. The Bears’ spring practice schedule ends on Saturday, April 26 with the spring game, open to the public and televised by the Pac-12 Networks, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The scrimmage is being dubbed the Cal Spring Football Experience and will include the opportunity for fans to interact with players and coaches during on-field football action. There also will be complimentary schedule posters, coffee and donuts, face painting, balloon artists and a photo station.

Other open practices will be Saturday, April 5 (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Wednesday, April 9 (3:30 to 6 p.m.), Saturday, April 12 (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and Friday, April 18 (3:30 to 6 p.m.).

The Bears open the 2014 regular season at Northwestern on Aug. 31. Cal’s home opener is Sept. 6 against Sacramento State.

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Football: Cal releases post-spring depth chart

Cal earlier this week released its post-spring practice depth chart, notable primarily for the battle that looms at quarterback when fall practice begins Aug. 5. No real news here, but worth revisiting.

New coach Sonny Dykes’ first spring workouts ended with three players still in the mix for the No. 1 quarterback spot — redshirt freshman Zach Kline, freshman Jared Goff and junior Austin Hinder.

Two other areas with questions entering the spring — the offensive line and cornerback– gained some clarity.

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Football: Marshawn Lynch’s cameo TD run highlights Bears’ modified spring game

Ex-Cal running back great Marshawn Lynch injected a surprise lift for the approximately 5,000 fans who checked out the Bears’ spring game on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Lynch, now with the Seattle Seahawks, scored a 22-yard “touchdown” before the current Bears got down to showing what they’ve worked on the past four weeks.

Click here for Carl Steward’s report.