MESSAGE BOARDS: Talk about camp in Fall Camp Central
PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: News and Notes
SAN FRANCISCO -- For the new guy in town, many of the questions California head coach Sonny Dykes fielded on Monday at the Bay Area College Football Media Day focused not on his future with the program, but on the Golden Bears' past.
Dykes detailed his conversations with former head coach Jeff Tedford, which took place in the week immediately following his acceptance of the job. Dykes said that he sought out his predecessor, and that he plans to do so again.
"I contacted him more just to let him know that, ‘I know you recruited these guys and I want to do everything to put them in a situation to be successful,'" Dykes said. "He cares deeply about his former players and wants to see them do well. I want him to know that I appreciate the job he did at Cal, and appreciate the kind of players he recruited and I look forward to visiting him in the future and getting to know him. He was great. He was receptive."
Many of the graduating seniors stopped by Memorial Stadium during spring ball to check out the new system, as did some faces from years gone by: Marshawn Lynch and Jahvid Best. Dykes has encouraged others to return in order to strengthen their bonds with the program.
"Those guys have been great. They've been incredibly open and receptive," said Dykes. "Jahvid's been at several of our practices and I've gotten a chance to get to know him a little bit. Marshawn's been a guy who's really gone out of his way to be welcoming to us, and I'm really appreciative of that.
"There's a lot of guys that love Cal and want to see it do well. That's always difficult, when the coach that they played for and had a relationship with isn't there anymore. There's loyalty to the coach, but there's also loyalty to the university and the football program. Those guys always want to see our student-athletes have success, regardless of who the coach is."
There is one former Cal star, though, who's been a bit tougher to draw back in to the fold: Aaron Rodgers. Dykes has tried to reach out to the Green Bay Packers signal-caller, but to no avail.
"I've reached out a little bit here and there," Dykes said. "That'll probably take a little time."
In contrast to last season's three-headed monster of playcalling, Dykes unequivocally said that offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will be the man in the booth making the calls.
"He'll be upstairs during games. He'll make calls down to the guys that signal plays in. He'll call the plays," Dykes said. "What I do, I do a lot of the situational stuff: ‘OK, we got the ball at midfield, it's third-and-seven,' I'm going to tell him, ‘OK, you've got two downs,' that type of stuff. I try to help him make his play-calling decisions based on, ‘This is what's coming.' My job is to manage the game, situationally, with offense, defense and special teams.
"There are times when I'll say, ‘Let's run the ball here or let's take a shot here or let's make sure we get a first down here; Our defense is tired,' it's more game management than it is specific plays."
Dykes characterized his friend of 16 years as a "tinkerer," who will make little "screwdriver adjustments" when necessary, but won't make wholesale changes.
"The thing you've always got to do is to make sure we don't change too much. We have a belief in a system that we think works," Dykes said. "We've known each other 16 years, which is a big deal. That's a hard thing to do, when you're an offensive coach, turning over the play-calling is always hard, but I trust him completely, but we're on the same page, so it's really an easy decision."
With a lengthy list of spring injury casualties, Dykes and his staff weren't able to get as good a look at many of their new charges as they'd have liked, but thanks to the strength staff and a bit of relationship building over the past several months, Dykes believes they have a good handle on just what they'll see when the likes of Brendan Bigelow (knee), Chris Harper (shoulder), Chris Adcock (shoulder), Brennan Scarlett (hand), Austin Clark (foot), Jason Gibson (foot), Sione Sina (knee), Daniel Lasco (shoulder), Richard Rodgers (shoulder), Chris McCain (shoulder), Spencer Hagan (knee), Bill Tyndall (ankle), Alex Logan (knee), Todd Barr, Griffin Piatt (knee) and Stefan McClure (knee).
"We know the guys who went through spring football. We don't know the ones who didn't," Dykes said. "We do to a degree – we've got the chance to be around them a little bit – but how are they going to fit into our schemes? How are they going to react to our coaching? All those are a little bit of unknown. The good thing is, we're going in healthy."
Tyndall – who was slated as the frontrunner for the up-for-grabs right tackle spot – will be slowed out of the gate as he recovers from a broken ankle.
"He's doing stuff right now. He's running and participating," Dykes said. "His deal will be similar to some of the other guys: What kind of load can he handle? Is he going to swell, is it not going to swell? Is it going to be sore? What's the range of movement going to be? Nobody knows how he's going to respond. He won't be fully cleared yet, but as I've said, as we move through camp, assuming he doesn't have a setback, I'd expect him to play in the first game.
"Really, Bill Tyndall – who we think has an opportunity to be healthy by week one – we're going in with a pretty clean slate with guys, health-wise. That part of it is a positive. Every time somebody doesn't participate in spring, it's a negative, but the positive is that they're not getting injured. We think we know, but we'll find out."
As for Bigelow, Dykes was optimistic about what he can contribute coming off his third knee surgery in four years.
"We think he's got tremendous talent, a lot of upside," Dykes said. "There's some unknowns because he didn't go through spring, there's some unknowns because of injuries he's had in the past, but he's certainly a guy that, you don't have to watch many plays to see that he's pretty dynamic with the football. You talk to your strength and conditioning coaches and they all say the same thing: This guy's special. What does that mean? I don't know. We'll see."
Linebacker Khairi Fortt was limited at times during spring ball, but still earned at least a preliminary starting nod on the post-spring depth chart at WILL linebacker. He, too, will be a full-go for fall.
"He showed some signs in the spring of being really good, Dykes said. "He's got to be more consistent. He was up-and-down in the spring, and I think that was a byproduct of him just getting comfortable with everything. He'll have to get comfortable quickly or somebody else will be playing. That's the way it is with all those guys."
When it comes to the offense, the losers dominated the conversation – the weight losers, that is.
Offensive tackle Freddie Tagaloa said that he had dropped from 346 pounds to 325, though he lamented he hasn't dropped a pants size. He's still sporting the 40-inch waist, but he told BearTerritory that his hips, back, ankles and knees feel the best they have in years.
"I'm in the best shape of my life right now," the 6-foot-8 behemoth said.
A bit further out along the offensive front, Rodgers – who looked slow and plodding during spring ball – has trimmed quite a bit of fat. Dykes said that Rodgers has gone from nearly 280 pounds during the spring to a svelte 250.
"He couldn't run two plays at a time, before," Dykes said. "He's just a big guy. He naturally gets big, so he's going to have to keep himself in great physical condition. He just needs to be able to do something, and we'll figure out how to use him."
The new offense – with inside receivers in lieu of true tight ends – should be a better fit for Rodgers than the previous system, in Dykes's estimation.
"In Richard's case, it will, just because he's not a line-up, hit-you-in-the-mouth tight end," Dykes said. "He's more of a finesse player. I think what we're doing fits the style of play he's comfortable playing, probably better than putting his hand in the ground and blocking a defensive end.
"He's bigger. He's a bigger guy. He's got a real knack for getting open, running routes. He's got good ball skills and uses his body well. I think this is an offense that's kind of tailor-made for what he can do. He didn't do much in the spring, but we think, we suppose, we hope. We'll see how it plays out."
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