WEDNESDAY: Switching Up the Front

Freddie Tagaloa makes a move to the inside, the offensive line gets shuffled around, Cal chooses to honor a Huskies legend and Dykes gives a timeline on the QB decision and Matt Cochran's return.

READ MORE FROM WEDNESDAY'S PRACTICE ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS

BERKELEY -- The offensive line shuffling that began on Tuesday continued on Wednesday, and California head coach Sonny Dykes said that he will indeed go with some formulation of the starting five the Bears have shown over the past two days: Christian Okafor at left tackle, true freshman Chris Borrayo at left guard, redshirt sophomore Jordan Rigsbee at center, redshirt junior Alex Crosthwaite at right guard and Steven Moore at right tackle, with former starting left tackle Freddie Tagaloa mixed in at right guard.

"We're trying to find some things that work," Dykes said. "We think it's a move to get some guys in positions that we think they can excel in. [They are] long-term moves, as well. It's not something that we're going to do – try a guy here or there – it's a long-term position switch, where we're going to develop that player at that position … They'll stay there for the foreseeable future."

Rigsbee had started all of last season and the first seven games of this season at left guard, while Tagaloa had started the entire season at left tackle. The only player remaining in the same spot is Moore. Rigsbee had a few issues snapping on Tuesday, but solved them quickly on Tuesday. One of the big reasons he's now moved to the middle is because he's one of the better, more persistent blockers on the team, and consistently got into the second level during Tuesday's practice to plow the way for running backs.

"We think Rigsbee has the chance to be our center for a long time," Dykes said. "He's probably the most consistent guy, so if he can take hold of that center position, I think that he'll allow us to develop some other players."

Pulling Borrayo's redshirt was not an easy decision to make, what with five games left, but his talent made it all but necessary given the realities along the line.

"It's something we've been talking about for a while," Dykes said. "We felt like we needed to make the move. It's one of those moves that you don't want to make if you can't justify the playing time, but since he's going to be a starter, and we're playing five important ballgames the next five weeks, we think it's a move that's going to be a good move."

The staff loves Borrayo's intensity and aggression, and every coach BearTerritory spoke with said that he's going to be a difference-maker.

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Injured guard Matt Cochran has come along rather quickly from his high ankle sprain, and was doing explosion drills and conditioning on Tuesday.

"Matt's moving around well. I think we've all been pleasantly surprised that he's coming back as well as he is," Dykes said. "We're not going to rush him back. It's one of those injuries that he's going to look better when he doesn't have contact, and when contact stuff comes, it's going to be a little different. As far as his ability to move around and stuff, right now, he moves looks pretty good."

The staff believes that Cochran could return as soon as the Arizona game next week, though he would return as a guard, not as a center.

That might complicate things at the right guard spot, which is still undecided between Crosthwaite and Tagaloa at the moment.

"You know, I don't know yet; I don't know that we've got that settled yet, between him and Alex – who's going to be the starter and the back-up yet," Dykes said. "I think we'll practice those guys [Thursday] and sit down and make a decision as we go into Friday."

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Tagaloa's switch to guard has been mainly about his performance at tackle, where he's been beaten badly in back-to-back weeks by Anthony Barr and Scott Crichton.

"I think his strength is not playing in space," Dykes said. "It's playing in more confined spaces, and I think the guard position allows him to do that. I think it allows him to play much more aggressive, be less of a finesse player, and I think that's what he's physically best suited for, is to do that, so we felt like the move made sense. I think he'll develop into a fabulous guard, I really do. I think he's got a chance to become a heck of a player inside."

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The biggest position battle, though, is just a few yards behind the offensive line, at quarterback. Jared Goff had an uneven day back of center, hitting a bullet over the right side to Chris Harper for a 40-yard touchdown to start his seven-on-seven drive, but earlier fighting some accuracy issues with three straight bad incompletions.

Goff threw off of his back foot with regularity, and looked tentative with his throws, while Kline stepped into his delivery with regularity. That said, Kline wasn't all roses, either, trying to fit the ball into several tight windows (which he'll face on Saturday against Washington), which he did successfully, for the most part, though he did fumble the ball twice on exchanges.

Kline's signature moments came on a 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Richard Rodgers, and after he bounced back from a Jason Gibson breakup to complete a 40-yard touchdown to Harper under a collapsed pocket.

"We'll get through tomorrow's practice and sit down and evaluate it and probably make a decision on Friday," Dykes said. "I think that'll be the time frame."

Dykes was loathe to play both quarterbacks in any kind of set rotation this Saturday against the Huskies.

"Typically, we want to play somebody and let them get a feel for the game, and let them play," Dykes said. "The last thing we want to do is, somebody gets into a flow and another quarterback's coming in. I've never found that to be particularly effective."

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Several players have helped the defense simulate 6-foot-6, 276-pound tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, with offensive lineman Vince Johnson blocking, and both Jacob Wark and Kyle Boehm receiving passes. Wark got behind the defense and scored on an Austin Hinder pass during scout team work.

"We don't have anybody that really can simulate his size and speed and ability," Dykes said. "We don't have anybody built that way. We've tried some different guys this week to get a look at what he can do, but it'll be a little bit of an adjustment as we move into the game.

"Wark's done a good job, Boehm's done a good job, but as I've said, he's a pretty special athlete."

Despite the trouble Cal has had running the ball as of late, Dykes was not yet prepared to offer Boehm as a viable option, at least on a consistent basis.

"We might use him if the situation calls for it," Dykes said. "It's something we always kind of have in our back pocket, that we'll use when we think we can get a look out of a certain formation. A lot of it depends on how they're going to line up versus certain looks, and whether or not we think we can gain a numerical advantage by having some quarterback run game. It's always available; it just depends on if we think it's a good match-up for us."

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With Keith Price slowed this week, there's a significant chance that the Bears will face back-up Cyler Miles at quarterback for Washington. Miles – at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds and a former U.S. Army All-American – is very similar to 6-foot-1, 202-pound Price, but as a redshirt freshman, is not nearly as advanced as the senior signal-caller.

"I think you always have to assume that he's going to play," Dykes said. "As coaches, you always assume that the guy's going to play. You prepare for him, and he's a good quarterback. He's had a lot of experience playing. He's been really successful. He's a good thrower, moves around well enough to give you problems, so I assume that he'll play on Saturday.

"I thought [Miles] did some good things. I think he executed the offense well. That's what you always look at, for a backup quarterback, is how well do they come in, and how confident do they seem. He came and it seemed like he executes well, knows what he's doing and it was not the same thing, probably, as Keith's got, just from the standpoint of experience, and they're probably a little bit more basic with some of the things they do, but [Miles] is a good player."

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Puka Lopa was very active in the backfield on Tuesday, and after a strong performance last week against Oregon State, he's earned himself some more playing time at the defensive end spot.

"He's starting to play himself into more playing time," Dykes said. "He's active. I think he's playing probably as aggressive as anybody on our front right now, and he's playing fast. He brings us energy when he gets into the game. We've got to get a good pass rush. That's something we haven't done a very good job of, this year – rushing the passer – and Puka's probably been one of our more consistent guys."

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The Bears will wear special Don James memorial decals on their helmets on Saturday, to commemorate the recently-passed longtime Washington head coach, who won four Rose Bowls while with the Huskies and won national coach of the year honors in 1977, 1984 and 1991, and was a 1997 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. James's coaching tree includes Dirk Koetter, Andy Reid, Dom Capers, Nick Saban, Jim Mora and Keith Gilbertson.

"I've got a lot of respect for coach James, and what he meant for college football, particularly in this part of the country," Dykes said. "We felt it was appropriate to honor him and celebrate the positive impact he's made on the game. He obviously was very successful and he's had a lot of guys who have worked for him become successful head coaches, as well. We felt like it was the least we could do."

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