Football: Offense starts fast, defense rallies

Here’s a more complete recap of Saturday’s scrimmage, thanks to my colleague, Phil Jensen, who attended practice in a pinch-hit role while I’m in Las Vegas covering hoops:

The offense had a fast start, but the defense rallied near the end of Cal’s first spring intra-squad scrimmage.

Quarterbacks Jared Goff, Zach Kline and Austin Hinder played in that order, and each threw touchdowns on their first drives. But coach Sonny Dykes said the order didn’t necessarily reflect the order of the team’s upcoming first depth chart.
“I think we just stuck them out there and let them go play. We will assess it,” Dykes said.
The first depth chart will probably be released Monday.
Goff opened with a drive where he completed six of his nine passes, including a 32-yard TD to Bryce Treggs. Goff completed 13 of his 23 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
“We put him in this situation today to go out there first to see how he handled it, and get an evaluation on that, and thought he did fine. I don’t think it bothered him a bit,” Dykes said. “That was encouraging.”
It took Kline only one pass to reach the end zone. On his first drive, he connected with Joel Willis for a 97-yard touchdown. Kline’s pass traveled approximately 50 yards. Kline completed 6 of his 8 passes for 134 yards.
Then Hinder took over at quarterback on the third drive and completed five straight passes, including a touchdown to Maurice Harris. Hinder finished 6 for 10 for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Kyle Boehm was 0 for 3 with an interception in his only series.
Bryce McGovern had a team-high six catches for 49 yards, and Treggs had three catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense also had some impressive plays later in the scrimmage. Kyle Kragen and Mustafa Jalil got pressure on the quarterback. Isaac Lapite, Kameron Jackson and Khairi Fortt all defended passes well. Avery Sebastian produced a hit that drew “oohs” from the small crowd in the stands.
“I thought the offense came out pretty hot, you know, got a little momentum,” Dykes said. “Then I thought the defense did a good job of getting back.” 

Football: Goff throws 3 TDs in 1st scrimmage

It was just a 45-minute spring scrimmage, but freshman Jared Goff continues to shine, throwing three TD passes to highlight a performance by Cal’s quarterbacks that pleased coach Sonny Dykes.

Goff, who arrived on campus mid-year from Marin Catholic HS in Kentfield, was 13 for 2 for 168 yards. Redshirt freshman Zach Kline, formerly of San Ramon Valley HS in Danville, was 6 for 8 for 134 yards, including a 97-yard TD to Joel Willis. Sophomore Austin Hinder was 6 for 10 for 83 yards and a TD.

“We were trying to throw every possible scenario that we could throw at them today to see if it affected their thought process or the way they played or handled things,” Dykes said. “I didn’t think it affected any of them. I thought they all did a good job of just trying to go out there and execute plays and not try to do too much.”



Football: Bears to hold 1st scrimmage Saturday

Cal will holds its first scrimmage on Saturday during the second half of practice that is scheduled to run from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

As always, practice is open to the public.

I’m in Las Vegas covering various college basketball tournaments, including the Pac-12 starting next Wednesday. We will have a reporter at today’s practice.

Here are some highlights from coach Sonny Dykes’ Friday night post-practice interview:

– Updating situation with senior QB Allan Bridgford, who left the team earlier this week to decide on his future after being told his reps were beating reduced: “I haven’t had a chance to speak to him. We’ll know some more this weekend and see what happens by Monday.”

– On the progress of the rest of his quarterbacks: “I think they are getting better. I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing daily. I think they’ve all improved. Most of them are cutting down on their interceptions. They’re doing a better job in a lot of different ways — understanding the offense, running the offense, making better decisions. They still to learn — all of them, I think — to take completions, not to force the ball down the field, to be happy to dump it down to the back, make the easy throws, complete the easy passes. That’s kind of what makes this while thing work. I’ve been pleased with all of them honestly.”

– On the progress of running back Daniel Lasco, who is being held out of contact this spring after underdoing offseason shoulder surgery: “He’s probably doing a little bit more (than expected). He’s responded well, he feels good. The more we can do with him the better, but we’ve got to keep him out of any kind of contact.”

– On cornerback Stefan McClure, returning slowly after missing all of 2012 following two major knee surgeries: “Stefan’s had a really good spring. He’s very competitive, very physical, runs good. I thnk when he gets back completely 100 percent confident, he’ll be an even better player. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

– On tight end/receiver Jacob Wark, who played right field and was 1 for 2 at the plate in Cal 8-1 baseball win over Fresno State on Friday afternoon, then came to evening football practice: “Pretty amazing. He must have played pretty good, then he came out here and had a good practice. He’s really done a good job of handling all that this spring. I’m really proud of him. I’m glad he’s playing baseball. I think it makes him more competitive, makes him a tougher kid.”

– Said Wark, who has started all 14 games for the baseball team and is batting .298: “It’s pretty tough being out in the sun all day at baseball, playing a nine-inning game and then heading to football afterwards. But I love football and I love baseball, this is what I love to do, so there really isn’t any stress in my mind about it.”


Football: Stefan McClure eager for return

Maybe it’s because he can relate to Adrian Peterson’s spectacular recovery from major knee surgery that Cal sophomore cornerback Stefan McClure is able to joke about the Minnesota Vikings’ star.

“He’s just incredible,” McClure said of the running back, who barely missed breaking the NFL single-season rushing record in his return to the game last fall. “It’s just a testament to his hard work.

“You get to the NFL and you have all day to rehab. He doesn’t have class and anything like that. So those times I’m in class, he’s out there rehabbing. That’s the only difference.”

And McClure had a big laugh.

McClure hopes to make a similarly impressive comeback after missing all of the 2012 season while recovering from a pair of right knee surgeries.

He suffered the injury in Cal’s 11th game of the 2011 season, and the news was bad.

“It was a full everything — I think they call it the terrible triad: the ACL, the MCL and the meniscus. I got all of them,” McClure said after practice one day last week.

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Football: Sonny Dykes on Friday practice

Prefacing his remarks by suggesting it’s early and everyone still will get more opportunity, coach Sonny Dykes on Friday night gave high marks to freshman quarterback Jared Goff for his work in the team’s first day in pads.

“He did pretty well (Wednesday) night, so we wanted to kind of wanted to throw him into the fire and see how he handled it. Looking at it, overall I thought he did some good things, was pretty productive,” Dykes said.

“Kind of similar to the other day — at times looked real comfortable and other times he looked a little bit uncomfortable. That’s what you’d expect.

“I think he’s far ahead of the game right now for a young guy. I just think he’s calm and confident. He’s got some talent, so we’ll see.”

Dykes said the coaching staff will watch video over the weekend, evaluate further, then decide who will get more reps when the team practices next on Monday.

Redshirt freshman Zach Kline also got a good dose of snaps on Friday. Again, Dykes downplayed reading too much into anything at this juncture.

“It’s hard to put too much into it,” he said. “We’re just trying to go through and see who we think deserves to get some more reps. What you do is you eliminate guys as much as you decide on somebody as a starter or decide to give somebody a lot of reps. It’s a moving target right now, really.”

Dykes’ comments on other topics after Friday’s evening workout:

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Football: Dykes on Wednesday’s workout

Here’s some of what coach Sonny Dykes saw from Wednesday’s second spring practice:

– Overall impression: “I don’t know if we executed as well today as we did Day 1 — certainly not offensively. We turned the ball over a little bit more, but that’s going to happen. We added some new stuff, so guys had to think a little bit. Probably wasn’t as clean as you want it to be. But I thought our effort was good, thought our enthusiasm was good. It’s always going to be a work in progress.”

– On giving all five quarterbacks reps: “The thing you want to do is give everybody an opportunity. These guys work their tails off and you want to make sure they have enough of a chance to show what they can and can’t do. Once you do that, you’ve got to start being a little bit more careful with who you’re giving reps to. The idea is to basically eliminate somebody, two guys, three guys, until we have a starter.”

– On giving a number of injured or recovering players some non-contact time on the field: “We gave them what they could do at the beginning, then got them out of there. Our goal is to teach them as much as we can this spring, but our primary goal is to get them healthy and ready for the fall.”

– On the defense: “I like our guys defensively. I saw some guys really trigger and run to the ball today, which is good. We’ve got a lot of depth at linebacker, a lot of guys who can run around and are athletic, that are pretty physical players. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. They seem to know what they’re doing, starting to become more and more active. Our defensive line coming in was a bit of a question mark and I’ve been pretty pleased what I’ve seen out of that group. They’re battling consistency like some other positions, but the talent and want-to is there. I’ve been really pleased with the defense.”

– On Nick Forbes: “He’s what you’re looking for as a middle linebacker. He’s physical and he’s a guy who wants to do well. Just a good teammate. The kind of guy you want to build a program around.”

– On D-lineman Mustafa Jalil: “He’s been active. I think he’s feeling good, moving around pretty good. He showed up a lot the last two days.”

– On the placekicker job: “We’re just going to open it up and compete and see what happens. That’ll go into two-a-days. We’ll come out of spring ball thinking, `Here’s our thoughts on kickoffs, here’s our thoughts on long field goals, here’s our thoughts on short field goals.’ In the ideal situation, somebody handles them all. We’ll kind of see how it plays out. A lot of that changes in the fall when you see whose leg wears out.”

Cal resumes practice Friday night in shoulder pads for the first time.


Football: Jared Goff takes his turn

Evening at Memorial Stadium

On Day 2 of Cal’s spring football practice, freshman quarterback Jared Goff got his first chance to show what he can do. Afterward, the former Marin Catholic High star said he didn’t enroll in college early to be a spectator.

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t trying to compete,” said Goff, who arrived on campus in January. “We’re all pretty even right now, so who knows what’s going to happen.”

Coach Sonny Dykes said Wednesday’s practice was a bit sloppier on offense than Monday, but he was pleased with Goff’s first snaps in 11-on-11 drills after three other quarterbacks shared the reps on Monday.

“There were times when he looked like a kid who ought to be going to the prom. And there other times when he looked like a Division I quarterback,” Dykes said. “He’s got a lot of talent. We’re glad to have him. He’s going to be a good player here.”

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Football: Zach Kline gets our attention

I got my first impressions Monday of redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Kline, other than watching him deliver a few laser-beam passes in last year’s spring game.

Because Kline essentially was off-limits to reporters last season as a freshman, Monday’s informal post-practice interview session was the first chance most of us had to talk with the young man from San Ramon Valley High.

And he got our attention.

Asked a routine question about the pace of Cal’s new no-huddle, spread offense, Kline said he loves it.

Then he added:

“Really demands the best … which is what this program needs. We’re kind of in a lull, but we’re going to get right out of it, that’s for sure.

“We’re obviously expecting a national championship. I know the fans want Rose Bowl, but this teams wants national championship. We’re not going to settle until we get that.”


Let’s see, Cal hasn’t played in a Rose Bowl since probably before Kline’s parents were born, but the Bears will zoom past that directly to the national championship game. That’s right, the team that was 3-9 and ended last season by allowing 62 points to Oregon State.

Look, I’m not making fun of Kline here. He’s a kid, and kids say outrageous stuff. None of us who have lived a little really believe the Bears can win the national championship next season, right?

But sometime after that . . . well, I’m willing to let Kline and his teammates dream. That’s what they should do, what they have to do.

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Football: Spring practice begins on chilly day

Felt more like winter than spring this afternoon at Memorial Stadium, but a new era began when the Bears under Sonny Dykes held their first offseason workout.

About 150 fans were on hand, a departure as Dykes plans to keep all practices open.

There was good energy on the field during a spirited two-plus hour workout. Allan Bridgford, Zach Kline and Austin Hinder got the meaningful reps at quarterback during 11 on 11 drills.

The only injury — junior WR Chad Smith hurt his knee — did not appear to be serious, Dykes said.

The Bears return to the practice field Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Click here for my story.


Football: Talking offense with Tony Franklin

New Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was the man behind the curtain last fall when Sonny Dykes’ Louisiana Tech team led the nation in scoring and total yards.

His spread option system worked at Kentucky, Troy and Middle Tennessee State before La Tech, although Franklin jokes it worked well enough in his one season at Auburn to get the entire staff fired.

Before becoming a college football coach, Franklin, 55, spent 16 years teaching high school history and political science. Beginning Monday, spring football will be all about teaching Cal’s players an entirely new way to practice and play football.

Tony Franklin

 Here’s my conversation with Franklin:

What is your first priority for spring practice?
“Job One is to build a belief system and teach them how to practice. The offense will be installed in three days. They’ll have everything, basically. Then it’s just a matter of the details. That’s the hard thing for a lot of guys. Coaches are different. Some guys are scheme coaches — everything’s about me having the chalkboard and drawing a better play.

“Our deal is going to run a few plays and try to get really good at doing those little things right. We’ve got to get these guys to understand the importance of every rep, that the drills that we do, there’s a reason we do things, and there’s a reason we’re a stickler for doing it right. If we do it right, you’ll play. If you don’t you won’t. There’s not much gray area in what we do.”

How much of what you do is based on changing formations?
“We’re not a huge formation team, either. When I was at Middle Tennessee, we had a really productive offense. We were one back (and four wideouts) all the time. I say that because our quarterback was a special runner. We had a need to be very simple. It made us faster. Last year at LaTech we used more formation stuff. Last two years got more into the power formations. Mainly I did it to have something for the defense they hadn’t seen.

“The other reason is I try to get people on the field if they’re good players — it builds camaraderie. Our offensive line at LaTech was real good — we had about seven good O-linemen. Most line coaches don’t like playing more than five. What I would do is create formations to get those guys on the field. We played a senior who had played maybe five snaps his entire career. We put him at one of the running back slots with a 99 number and had him go hit people in the mouth. That was a formation where he got to play 15 to 20 snaps a game.

“And we had other formations we had a tackle who was almost as good as the starters, so we created a formation to get him on the field.”

How quickly does this offense begin to come together?
“Sometimes it’s ugly early while you’re trying to figure it out. It’s not unusual for it to be halfway through the season and all of a sudden it’s, `OK, we’ve got it now.’ And it starts to click.”

Talk about how you create your fast tempo through practice:
“Everything we do in practice is fast. There’s a lot of people who try to play fast on Saturdays and they can’t because they don’t practice fast. Our whole deal is we’re going to practice extremely fast and get a lot of reps. We’re going to coach on film and we’re going to coach a whole lot of how we’re going to play on Saturday. So if you’re at practice you’re going to see a lot of team drill stuff where there’s no coaches on the field. The first few days there might be, but there won’t be after that.”

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