EXCLUSIVE: Dykes Talks Fall Ball

Shortly after the California athletic department unveiled its new unified branding effort, head football coach Sonny Dykes gabbed with Cal Sports Digest on a variety of topics, including some concrete dates for fall camp and the intricacies of the quarterback battle.

BERKELEY -- Shortly after the California athletic department unveiled its new unified branding effort, head football coach Sonny Dykes gabbed with Cal Sports Digest on a variety of topics, including some concrete dates for fall camp.

Dykes said that the Bears will report to camp on August 5, with the first practice being held on August 6. He also said that it has not yet been determined if the team will go on a group excursion to build bonds with each other and the new staff, but they "haven't ruled anything out yet."

Dykes also gave injury updates on several players, including tailback Brendan Bigelow, who modeled the road whites.

"Everybody but them will be full-go from Day One, assuming we keep them healthy over the summer. We ought to be able to," Dykes said. "The good thing is, we'll have our whole team, which, obviously, we haven't had. We'll see how all the pieces fit together and get a lot better sense of where we are."

Having the whole team will not only include the lieks of Brennan Scarlett (hand), Khairi Fortt (hamstring), Chris McCain (shoulder), Daniel Lasco (shoulder) and Chris Harper (shoulder), among others, but also incoming freshman tailback Khalfani Muhammad.

"I'm really excited," Dykes said of having Muhammad in camp. "Anybody that can run like that, I think presents issues for people. You hope that you get the same kind of stuff you'd get from a Jahvid Best, with great big-play ability and great speed and quickness, as well, where he's elusive. We saw it on tape, and if you have a guy that's elusive and has the speed to make people miss, that's when it becomes a problem. That's what made Jahvid Best so special, was that he was so fast, but he could also make people miss."

Dykes also expects to have Sione Sina at nearly full-strength, though he won't push the JuCo transfer defensive end.

"I think the guy that I'm anxious to see is Sione," Dykes said. "I think seeing him coming off the ACL and seeing where he is, is exciting, because he's gotten so big. He's really gotten big and strong. I'm kind of curious to see what he can bring to us. We'll have to bring him along slowly. We've got to be smart about all of these guys, and make sure that they're ready to play against Northwestern and that we don't beat them up trying to get ready for the first scrimmage."

One of the stars of spring practice was Sina's fellow early-enrollee JuCo defensive lineman Kyle Kragen, who earned a spot on the two-deep at rush end with a strong showing. With another junior college D-lineman in the pipeline in Marcus Manley, though, Dykes isn't relying on lightning to strike twice.

"I think so, possibly," said Dykes on whether he expects Manley to make as big an impact as Kragen. "Manley will be a little bit more of a project than Kragen, physically and mentality-wise, too. Kragen was such a get-after-it guy."

Last, but not least in the minds of Cal fans, is the quarterback battle, which did not resolve itself after 15 spring practices.

"We'll see when it plays out," Dykes said. "The sooner, the better, but it's like anything else: You've got to see where they are. And, there will be some guys that make a jump probably more than you'd think and some guys that will take a step back more than you'd think, between now and then.

"It's really predicated on when guys get in team settings and scrimmage situations. When you look at the whole picture, sometimes you can see that a big part of being quarterback is being able to look down field without being affected by the D-line and what's going on with all of that."

Dykes said that he favors consistency and execution over just pure explosiveness, which may just mean that early-enrollee freshman Jared Goff could have a bit of an edge, as he did for much of spring before redshirt freshman Zach Kline seemed to pull away towards the end.

"The guy that can get us in the end zone the best and takes care of the football the best will be the guy," Dykes said. "In our offense, the home runs take care of themselves. You're always better off hitting singles, then you hit a single, you hit a single, you hit a single and then you hit the home run, as opposed to trying to force it. That's been our approach, and we'll take some shots in games, but most of our big plays are throwing a screen and guys blocking well and a two-yard pass turns into a 50-yard touchdown. We're a lot better off doing that than we are chucking it 50 yards and just hoping somebody catches it."

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