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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.

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Under: Football, Spring practice | 24 Comments »
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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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Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
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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.”

Wow.

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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Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
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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.

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2013
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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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Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2013
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Football: Talking defense with Andy Buh

With spring practice set to get under way Monday, here’s a Q&A I did recently with new defensive coordinator Andy Buh, who came to Cal from Wisconsin, where he coached linebackers last season for a Badgers team that played in its third straight Rose Bowl.

Buh is recovering from from shoulder surgery he underwent the week before signing day to repair a torn left rotator cuff he suffered in a fall while jogging on an icy day in Madison.

Buh and his wife also are awaiting the birth of their second son, due in the next couple weeks.

 

Andy Buh

Here’s our conversation:

Why change to the 4-3 in an era when most teams are using the 3-4?
“First of all, it’s what I know — that’s probably the most significant reason. Anytime you coordinate a defense you want to be a master of it.”

What do you see as the strengths of the 4-3?
“It can defend all the different types of offenses we’re going to face. I believe in the way football has become where the quarterback is such a threat, both run and pass, that four defensive linemen are almost critical in terms of keeping linemen off the linebackers, having good pass-rush lanes, squeezing and constricting gaps and not making it such a space game. Those are all the principles of the 4-3. We’ll sit more on our technique and our fundamentals than our scheme.”

What are your priorities for spring ball?
“No. 1′s always going to be putting our personnel in the right positions. No. 2, once we do that, teaching the base fundamentals of our game.”

Cal has a lot of returning linebackers. How will you adapt your personnel to the 4-3?
“The first thing I did when I got here was analyzed what that transition was going to be like. We analyzed a lot of film and looked at a lot of the body types that we had. We found out that a lot of our outside linebackers could be converted to close and open-side defensive ends. The open-side body types for us are speed, edge rushers, Chris McCain-type guys. The close-end side they’re a little bit beefier. Kyle Kragen is that type, Brennan Scarlett is that body type.”

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Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2013
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Football: Spring practice fan guide

Here’s what you need to know as we approach the start of Cal’s spring football workouts next Monday.

All practices are free and open to the public (and the media!)

Schedule

– Monday, Feb. 25: 4 to 6:30 p.m.

– Wednesday, Feb. 27: 4 to 6:30 p.m.

– Friday, March 1: 6:30 to 9 p.m.

– Monday, March 4: 6:30 to 9 p.m.

– Wednesday, March 6: 4 to 6:30 p.m. (Cal-Stanford basketball at Haas, 8 p.m.)

– Friday, March 8: 6 to 9:30 p.m.

– Saturday, March 9: 1 to 3:30 p.m. (tentatively, 1st scrimmage)

– Monday, March 11: 4 to 6:30 p.m.

– Wednesday, March 13: 6 to 8:30 p.m.

– Friday, March 15: 6:30 to 9 p.m.

– Saturday, March 16: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

– Monday, March 18: 4 to 6:30 p.m.

– Wednesday, March 20: 4 to 6:30 p.m.

– Friday, March 22: 6:30 t0 9 p.m.

– Saturday, March 23: 4 to 6:30 p.m. (Spring game, televised by Pac-12 Networks)

Entering Memorial Stadium/Seating

Fans should enter the stadium at the north end through Gate 1, where they will be directed onto the concourse level and into available seating in the lower area of sections EE, F, FF and G.

Parking

Parking near Memorial Stadium is limited and available on first-come, first-served basis. Most spots are metered. A parking-specific map is available online at http://pt.berkeley.edu/sites/pt.berkeley.edu/files/content/NewPadMap2011.pdf

 

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Under: Football, Spring practice | 1 Comment »
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Football: Competition for QB begins Monday

New coach Sonny Dykes held an hour-long informal visit with reporters Wednesday to discuss the start of spring football and delivered blockbuster news about the vacant quarterback position:

“I’d love to have a starter after Monday,” he said. “That would be ideal. One of the guys is so good, you go, `Wow.’

“I don’t anticipate that happening … (but) the sooner the better.”

The Bears begin four weeks of spring practice Monday, and among the coaching staff’s laundry list of things to do is finding a quarterback.

There are five scholarship candidates:

– Sophomore Kyle Boehm, yet to take a snap in a college game
– Senior Allan Bridgford, who started three games last season
– Freshman Jared Goff, just arrived from Marin Catholic HS in Kentfield
– Junior Austin Hinder, yet to take a snap in a college game
– Redshirt freshman Zach Kline, who begins his second spring in the program

Dykes said they all begin spring ball with a clean slate.

Sonny Dykes visits with Bay Area reporters.

“We haven’t been able to make any judgments just because it’s a new system,” he said. “It really doesn’t do us a lot of good to go back and look at a lot of stuff.”

There is no set timetable, but Dykes said he hopes to narrow the choices to two or three as quickly as possible because “reps at quarterback are the most valuable commodity there is.”

So, what will Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin look for in their quarterback?

“Timing, accuracy, leadership, ability to inspire confidence from others,” Dykes said.

Learning the assignment and executing it are two different things.

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Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
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Football: Brendan Bigelow says he will be fine

Running back Brendan Bigelow, among as many as a half-dozen potential starters who will miss Cal football spring workouts because of injury, said he will be at full strength in time for fall camp.

Bigelow had surgery late last month to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee — the same knee in which he underwent two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries while in high school.

“It’s feeling good, like I could go ahead and run a 40 right now. I really want to play,” Bigelow said.

By August? “Full capacity. Full throttle,” he said.

Click here to ready the entire story.

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
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Football: RBs coach Ingram confident Bigelow, Lasco will be healthy for fall camp

Headed into the start of spring practice on Feb. 25 without top returnees Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco — both sidelined by following surgeries — new Cal running backs coach Pierre Ingram said two newbies will get their shot.

– Sophomore-to-be Darren Ervin will get heavy reps during workouts.

– And redshirt freshman Jeffrey Coprich has moved permanently to offense.

Ingram, 28, told me he is entirely confident that Bigelow, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, and Lasco, who had shoulder surgery, both will recover fully.

In Bigelow’s case, it’s the same knee on which he twice tore his ACL during high school.

No worries?

“Not at all. It’s the same knee, but not even close (to being as serious). Not a concern,” Ingram said. “I’m confident, the kid’s confident, spoke to his family and they’re confident. I’m completely confident the kid’s going to be there (next fall) first game, first practice.”

Asked his impression of Bigelow when he first saw him on videotape, Ingram said, “Special. I think he fits the mode of the running back we need in this offense. We look for playmakers. He’s explosive. At anytime, something can happen.

“Lasco’s the same — he’s just never had the opportunity. And those guys are hungry for success. It was running back by committee (here last season). It’s now their chance to be a part of a bigger thing.”

In the meantime, Ervin gets the chance to be the featured back during spring ball. The 5-foot-10, 197-pounder from Houston has not carried the ball in two seasons on campus after a prep career in which he played quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

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Posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Under: Football, Spring practice | 4 Comments »
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