Trip to Australia will take Cal out of its comfort zone, Dykes says at Pac-12 Media Day

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Sonny Dykes opens up about some of the logistics and challenges of flying to Australia for the first game of the season.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- The purpose of NFL training camp, California head coach Sonny Dykes said, is to have players "step outside their comfort zones."

No one will be more out of their comfort zone when the Golden Bears visit Australia next month to play Hawaii than right tackle Steven Moore. He won't be dipping his toes in the ocean when the team visits Sydney for the College Football Sydney Sydney Cup -- the first college football game of the season. Why? He's afraid of sharks.

At 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, not much scares Moore. Sharks do.

The trip itself initially scared Dykes. "I had a lot of concerns," he said. "The big thing for us was just how it was going to fall in our schedule ... When you're taking 300 people to Australia to go participate in a game, there's a lot of moving parts."

The matter of the 14-hour plane flight there still befuddles the Bears skipper. 

"We leave Sunday night, and then somehow, Monday just disappears," said Dykes. "I want you to explain that to me someday. Then, the cool thing is, we leave at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and we get home at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. We actually get to go back in time two hours."

The flight both there and back presents some hurdles -- and not just metaphysical ones.

First, there are Cal players who aren't exactly happy campers flying the friendly skies, who will have to find some way to fight nerves for more than 14 hours. Then, there are the logistics.

"We've been working on this really since January," Dykes said. "The first step for us was getting passports for everybody. Very few of our players had passports. You can imagine trying to get passports for 120 kids, so that was a challenge in itself."

Next, is the physical challenge. 14 hours-plus is a long time for anyone to stay still, much less college athletes. Even with four days between landing and playing, a tweaked back or stiff legs, combined with the time change and a shifted practice schedule, can do a number on the body. "We're going to use some [NIKE] compression things to try to make it easier on their legs and the recovery process," Dykes said. "We've got a great plan in terms of getting our guys up and walking them around the airplane and exercising, so we'll go straight from landing on Tuesday morning to practice and try to get them acclimated as quickly as we can and ready to play by Saturday."

Images of linemen doing alternating standing toe-touches in the aisles at 35,000 feet just dance through the head, don't they?

In all, over 300 people will be headed Down Under. That 14-hour flight, while a pain in the neck -- and legs -- will provide the Bears with something that not many other teams have, and with 30 newcomers -- including graduate transfers Jeremiah Stuckey and Davis Webb -- those 14 hours will be crucial for team cohesiveness (or at the very least, will test it).

"If you ask coaches, and this is in pro football -- this is why they go have training camp," said Dykes, who spoke with NFL coaches who have taken their teams to Europe about the challenges of international travel and prolonged plane flights. "They want guys to get together, spend time together, get to know each other, and kind of step outside their comfort zone. When you're on a plane for 14 hours with your teammates, and you get to someplace no one's ever been before, then that helps bring them together. This is going to be a great opportunity for our guys to get to know each other. They'll really forge significant bonds with each other."

Cal will kick off the season against the Warriors at ANZ Stadium at 7 p.m. Pacific on ESPN, on Friday, Aug. 26, while locally, it will be at 2 p.m., Aug. 27.

null Top Stories