Spring Sit-Down: Dykes Wraps Up Spring

BERKELEY -- From the dismissal of Pierre Ingram to the search for a new wide receivers coach, from Jared Goff's continued ascendence to a review of the offensive line, Sonny Dykes goes far and wide in our post-spring conversation.

BERKELEY -- California head coach Sonny Dykes sat down on Thursday in advance of the NFL Draft to speak with the Bay Area media about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the non-renewal of Pierre Ingram’s contract and his trouble with the law, to the process of filling the now-vacant wide receivers coach slot, to the draft itself and how his team – and his quarterback, in particular -- came out of spring ball.

Regarding Ingram, who was suspended and then non-renewed following his arrest in relation to a prostitution sting, Dykes said, “It’s not anything you ever want to hear. I was disappointed, surprised, but it was obviously a very serious matter, we tried to deal with it as quickly as we could, and move forward.”

[READ MORE: Dykes Talks Scheduling, Special Teams, Defense and More]

“We got out in front of it, tried to address it with all our recruits, with phone calls, and sent emails and stuff to current people, and didn’t get anything back but good support,” Dykes said. “I was disappointed, surprised, but it was obviously a very serious matter, and we tried to deal with it as quickly as we could and move forward.”

Ingram was one of the coaches Dykes brought from Louisiana Tech when he was hired before the 2013 season, and while he said that “It’s hard when somebody you know goes through a hard time in their life, especially somebody that you know well,” he’s already set himself towards the task of replacing Ingram.

Burl Toler III, who was a special teams quality control assistant this past season, tallied 61 catches for 795 yards as a senior in 2005 for the Bears, has hit the road recruiting, in Ingram’s stead, and has already started working on one of the top prospects in the Bay Area

Toler will certainly be “in the discussion” to succeed Ingram as the wide receivers coach, Dykes said.

“We’ve got some time right now. Burl Toler is on the road recruiting for us right now,” Dykes said. “Burl’s such a good ambassador for the university. It’s like anything else. You’ve got to figure out the fit, first, before anything else, and that’s what I’m trying to do: Talk to some of the players and current staff members and assess what we feel like is our need, and if our best person is in-house, then we’ll hire him, and if not, we’ll go outside and hire somebody.”

Whether or not Toler is the guy, he would stay on staff, regardless.

Dykes acknowledged that it’s “an unusual time” to try and hire a coach, but he’s had some inquiries about the position.

“I’ve been pleased with the people interested in the job. It kind of speaks to how people view the program, from a coaching standpoint, or maybe from a national standpoint, that we’re kind of up-and-coming,” Dykes said of the “surprising interest” he’s received. “We’ll find the guy that fits the best and make a determination here, quickly.”

As for who will be the recruiting coordinator, Ingram’s other job title, Dykes said that, “it depends on who we hire. That’s going to be one of the potential qualifications.”

The job will “go to the most qualified person,” Dykes said.

•••••

Dykes said that, after watching early spring practices compared to late spring practices, and then comparing those with last year, the team is “night and day” compared to last year at this time.

“We’re just a different football team,” Dykes said. “There’s more depth. There’s more competition.”

Still, though, Dykes said, “We have a lot to do between now and when we report in the fall.”

•••••

The player who arguably made the biggest jump was quarterback Jared Goff.

“I thought he was a completely different player,” Dykes said. “To me, that was the biggest jump I’ve seen from Jared, in the two-year process that he’s been in. He ended the fall as a really good quarterback, and I thought he came he came back this spring and finished spring practice at an elite-level quarterback.”

That process, though, didn’t happen overnight.

“As a quarterback, year one was, threw him in the mix, and it was about surviving,” Dykes said. “Year two was about how to play the game. We came out of year two with a clear game plan of what we wanted to improve on.

“He was aware of that, went out and improved those areas that we needed to improve in. Jared’s got a really high ceiling. He’s got a chance to be a really good football player. For him, it was just getting those reps and getting that comfort level and getting that confidence and more time working with the guys and more time making the decisions he has to make. He’s way ahead of where he was a year ago, and I expect him to be way ahead of where he is now, a year from now.”

Goff’s advanced understanding of the game is now at a level where he’s gained more on-the-field control of the offense, and part of that was the trust he’s afforded by the staff, because of how he’s worked in the offseason.

“He’s improved in the areas that he needed to improve in,” Dykes said. “We were real specific with him in the offseason, said ‘Hey, look, you’ve got to get better at this, you’ve got to get better at this and you’ve got to get better at this.’ He went out with a clear purpose and addressed those issues, and I think he’s in a really good place right now. He’s had an opportunity to be certainly one of the best quarterbacks in a league full of quarterbacks, and if he’s one of the best in this league, he’s going to be one of the best in the country.”

Goff has also truly assumed the mantle of leadership he was voted into at the start of last season, when he was named a team captain.

“I think it’s happened naturally; he hasn’t forced it,” Dykes said. “He’s revered by his teammates, and they like him, they respect him. They respect him because he’s a good player, they respect him because he’s a good person, they respect him because he does things the right way off the field. He’s the kind of guy you want to build your program around, and he has become really comfortable as a leader, he has those leadership abilities in him, and I think they’re starting to come out, now.”

Goff has worked on not holding the ball as long, checking down to a running back and, overall, just not putting so much pressure on the offensive line.

“The biggest thing is just confidence. He’s more decisive, makes faster decisions,” Dykes said.

•••••

That offensive line – while missing tackle Steven Moore -- proved to be one of the most consistent, and dependable units during the spring, and much of that credit goes to new offensive line coach Brandon Jones.

“I thought our players really bought into it,” Dykes said of Jones’s style. “I think the thing about Brandon, is that Brandon coaches like the line coaches I’ve been around in the past. When you look at the guys that coached him in college, some of my best friends – Robert Anae, who’s the coordinator at BYU, and Bill Bedenbaugh, who’s the line coach at Oklahoma, who was my O-line coach when I was at Arizona, and was our line coach at Texas Tech – those guys coached Brandon in college, so he’s assumed their personality in a lot of ways. That’s just kind of who he is. From that perspective, I knew exactly what we were getting, and I also knew our players would respond in a positive manner, because he’s just not a BS-er. When you have a straight-shooter who is going to be demanding, but at the same time, very respectful, guys have a tendency to buy into that, especially offensive linemen.

“I think, from a personality standpoint, he was exactly what we needed. I think the group needed to get tougher. I think there needed to be more accountability, and I think he’s brought that to that position, so I think it was a home run for us.”

•••••

The players who sat out completely during spring – S Quentin Tartabull, S Stefan McClure, LB Nathan Broussard, S Griffin Piatt, S Patrick Worstell, OL Steven Moore -- as well as the limited players – LB Jalen Jefferson and DT Mustafa Jalil -- are proceeding apace in their rehab.

“I think everybody is where you want them to be,” said Dykes. “I think Piatt’s ahead of schedule. I think Tartabull is on schedule. Nate Broussard is probably on schedule. I think Steven Moore is ahead of schedule. I think Stef is maybe a little bit ahead of schedule. I feel pretty good about the rehab these guys have gone through and where they are. They’re pretty significant pieces to this puzzle You have a good taste going through spring with what we had, and then you add those guys in.”

•••••

Regarding the NFL Draft, Dykes said that Chris Harper told him before Christmas that he would be coming back to Cal. That, of course, turned out not to be the case. What kind of inquiries did he receive from NFL scouts?

“Maybe not as much, but that doesn’t filter up to the head coach unless they’re going to be pretty high picks," Dykes said. "I haven’t fielded a ton of questions.”

When asked if he was surprised that one of the reasons Harper wanted to leave was because he felt the offense would not feature him, and would spread the ball around too much, Dykes said, "Not really."


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