CULVER CITY, Calif. -- California head coach Sonny Dykes directly addressed the situation surrounding defensive end Chris McCain's summer of schoolwork, saying that the junior will be a part of the team. McCain was very limited in the spring due to a shoulder injury.
"Chris had some academic work to do over the summer, and so he got his academic stuff he needed to get done, done in the summer, but he's still got some stuff he needs to do this semester, to continue to get himself in a good situation," Dykes said. "His attitude has been great. He's been much more consistent in his approach. At first, he'd have a good two weeks and a bad one week and a good two weeks and a bad one week, but he hasn't had any bad weeks. He's been there on time, he's been there with a smile on his face, he's worked hard on academics, he's been a good teammate. We're expecting great things out of him."
Dykes was pleased with how McCain responded to not only the staff's exhortations that he get his house in order, but his teammates' peer pressure, as well.
"It's just those guys believing that you're prepared to move on without them," Dykes said. "These guys have been told since they were 12-years old how good they are and how special they are and that they're going to play in the NFL. Part of it is these guys learning that they're just a college student, trying to become a starter on the football team. The other stuff happens after that. If they're not going to do well, academically, they're not going to be there. That's the way it is."
"With Chris, we said, ‘Fine, if you're not going to do what we want you to do, we're going to take football away,' and you figure out what buttons to push, sometimes. The big thing is these guys believing that we actually mean it. I think Chris got that point pretty quickly, that we were prepared to move on without him."
Wide receiver Bryce Treggs added that, during the summer, if players missed classes or workouts, they had their faces on the Memorial Stadium video boards during workouts, for all to see. Everyone, Treggs said, was held accountable. Last year, individual discipline and class issues were handled individually, not in front of the whole team.
"My team was the Heem Team, and we were an all-star team; We had all the athletes," Treggs said of the different groups that the Bears were split into during summer workouts and summer school. "I had guys like Isaac Lapite, Kyle Kragen – all these big, fast guys, but what we didn't know, is that we got penalized for not going to class. We were winning every physical challenge, and we see the score, and we have negative points."
Live scoreboards were running on a loop on screens throughout the football wing of the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, with big, bold, red numbers for negative scores.
"It was a good experience," Treggs said. "It helped us a tremendous amount. When somebody missed class, everybody on the team was on notice. It started in spring practice. Coach [Dykes] didn't care: He'd stop practice and make us do up-downs. 400 yards worth of up-downs, because people missed class. Because one person missed class. Not even multiple people: One person. So, everyone was on that one person, holding him accountable. I know for a fact that no one will miss class during fall camp. This team punishment, it's having a larger effect."
The program-wide change, said both Treggs and linebacker Nick Forbes, has been a welcome one.
"I love the transparency," said Forbes.
"This staff will never lie to you, never mislead you, never play any favorites," Treggs said. "The best players are going to get the ball, and the best players are going to be on the field ... We've been working so hard, and we've developed this mentality that we expect to win when we step on the field, and we still have yet to play a game with these coaches."
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