BERKELEY -- The California football depth chart on the offensive line is going to look a little bit different than the one put out before Pac-12 Media Days, head coach Sonny Dykes said on Monday.
After a closed practice, Dykes said he and the staff is “pretty locked down” about their starting five, and that five will have Brian Farley at left tackle, Chris Borrayo at left guard, Dominic Granado at center, Jordan Rigsbee at right guard and Steven Moore at right tackle.
Moore started all 12 games last season at left tackle, and played in all 12 games with 11 starts at right tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2013.
“We feel good about those guys,” Dykes said. “They have really been good. Right now, Aaron Cochran has had a good camp, and continues to improve. Right now, he’d be our third tackle.”
True freshman Semisi Uluave will “probably” be the third guard. Another true freshman – late-get Patrick Mekari -- has “started to come on” and compete for the third and fourth guard position, as well.
“I’ve been really pleased with our offensive line,” Dykes said. “Over the last four or five practices, it’s the most solid it’s been since I’ve been here. They’re just starting to gel. I think they’re starting to come along very well and playing at a very high level.”
Rigsbee would be the backup center. Redshirt freshman Kamryn Bennett -- who had been moved to tackle last week – “had some good days” Dykes said, and is “coming on and competing” against Vince Johnson for the fourth tackle spot.
“We’re glad to see that,” Dykes said. ”I’ve been pleased with some of our young guys coming along. We’ve got two true freshmen who have worked their way into the conversation, at least, and we think both of those guys have a chance to be very good players.”
With so much upheaval in a group that, to start the fall, looked fairly settled, Dykes is not worried that there won’t be enough time for that group to get into a rhythm together to protect the Bears’ greatest asset – Heisman hopeful quarterback Jared Goff.
“Oh, no, not at all. I think it’s good; that means there’s good competition,” Dykes said. “That’s what you want.”
Perhaps the deepest group – as far as games and starts are concerned are the linebackers, and it looks like Cal has settled on two starters -- Jalen Jefferson and Hardy Nickerson, Jr..
Why two linebackers in a 4-3 base set? Well, this is the pass-happy Pac-12, which means the Bears are going to be in a lot of nickel and dime situations.
“It’s going to depend on what happens, who’s healthy and who’s getting reps,” Dykes said. “Right now, Jalen Jefferson for sure, and Hardy, would be the two guys who will probably start the game for us, and, depending on who we’re playing and what week it is, it’s going to be two linebackers and five DBs, and sometimes six DBs. It’s just going to depend on who we’re playing against. The good thing is, we’ve got six DBs to dress out and put on the field, where I don’t know that we had six last year, at any point in time.”
The next two linebackers would appear to be Nathan Broussard and Michael Barton. Barton can play the SAM or the WILL, while Broussard can play the MIKE (where Nickerson is expected to play) or the outside spots.
“We’ll sit down and figure out who the best two are, and the good thing about our linebacker positions is that they’re basically interchangeable,” Dykes said. “They’re all kind of the same. They’re all trained to play all three spots.”
Dykes indicated that the starting two defensive ends – as the case has been all camp – will be Kyle Kragen and DeVante Wilson, but there is depth at those positions.
“I think Kyle Kragen has been probably as consistent as anybody this camp,” Dykes said. “He’s had a great camp. He’s been really good. DeVante Wilson has shown flashes of what we want him to do. He’s one of those guys that we need that consistency, day-in and day-out, from, but we think he’s much improved.
“Todd Barr, we think he’s gotten much better, as well. We’re seeing some good things out of Todd. Noah Westerfield got off to a slow start, but he’s starting to come on, and playing at a higher level for us, now.”
Jonathan Johnson tallied a sack in team work on Monday, and Dykes said he “looked good.”
“He had a sack in a pretty critical situation today, so there’s good competition,” Dykes said.
Critical situations were the order of the day during practice, as the Bears went through three overtime periods, red zone, two-minute drills and goal-line situations.
“We got a lot of work done,” Dykes said. “We didn’t tackle today – we went thud – but it was a physical practice, and I thought, offensively, I thought we executed about as well as we ever have. I thought defensively, we were in position a lot of times to make some plays, and the offensive players made a couple more plays than the defensive guys did, but I thought we were in the right position most of the time.”
Dykes’s theme on Monday was consistency, and he’s seen more of that out of the kicking game, between Matt Anderson and Noah Beito.
“We don’t need anybody to kick 55-yard field goals. We need somebody to kick 37-yard field goals, and do it consistently, and that’s what we need to develop,” Dykes said. “We’ve come a long way. We’re still not there yet.”
Dykes said that both Anderson and Beito “kicked well,” and that both are “performing well,” making the decision about who starts that much more difficult.
“I think, early on, Matt Anderson was probably a little behind Noah Beito, and right now, it looks like it’s neck-and-neck,” Dykes said.
Punting is “not where it needs to be, consistency-wise,” Dykes said.
Dykes noted wide receiver Kenny Lawler as one player who’s made huge strides in the consistency department.
“Kenny’s made a lot of flashy catches, and done some good things around here, but he hadn’t always been an incredibly consistent football player,” Dykes said. “I was talking to Kenny, and Kenny’s had 18 good practices, and one okay practice this fall camp. I think that that’s a dramatic improvement. Now, he’s somebody we can count on to do what he’s supposed to do and do it how he’s supposed to do it. He can still make the spectacular plays, but what makes an offense good is making the routine plays, and now, he’s making the routine plays.”
Wide receiver Bryce Treggs -- who had been limited the past several days after having his foot stepped on – played full-go on Monday, and caught a touchdown pass.
If the season started today, it’s likely that the starting two safeties will be Damariay Drew and Stefan McClure, who’s coming back from a knee injury.
“They went today – both Damariay and Stef were out there today, and played a lot of minutes,” Dykes said. “It’s good to see them back doing that. We’re still bringing Stef along slowly. We don’t want to have a setback, but I anticipate him being full-go when we open.”
Griffin Piatt – who had three picks in the first three games last season – is “going to be a little slower,” and is not back yet, Dykes said.
Cal Has Starting Five O-Line Locked In
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