New Cal football coach Sonny Dykes has shown a sensitivity to his new home by trying to immerse himself and his team in campus life.
The most recent example: The team, at Dykes’ suggestion, attended the Cal-UCLA basketball game at Haas Pavilion, cheering the Bears to an upset victory. “I’m trying to get the players involved in student activities, not just sports,” he said, while meeting with media. “I’ve told them, ‘They support you by coming to the games, so you should support them, too.” They enjoyed the basketball game, probably more than they expected to.”
Dykes added that he didn’t believe players should be isolated from campus life, in separate dorms. He didn’t add that separate dorms are the norm for the football powers, along with an academic schedule aimed only at keeping athletes eligible, not educating them.
Dykes and his assistant coaches will start the athletic evaluation of the players on Monday, the first day of spring practice, and he admits he’s not certain what to expect as he switches from the complex offense used by former coach Jeff Tedford to his simpler spread offense. “We’ve hardly even watched the videos from last season,” he said, “because what we’re doing will be so different than what the players had to do before.”
He added that he didn’t think it would take long for the players to learn his offense. “I think they’ll probably know it in 2-3 days,” he said, “but the execution is another matter. If you watch us in the first couple of weeks [all of the practices are open to the public], we’ll probably look pretty bad, but hopefully, the execution will come sometime before the end of the spring practices.”
The biggest question is quarterback, with last year’s starter, Zach Maynard, gone. There will be seven quarterbacks at practice: scholarship players Kyle Boehm, Allan Bridgford, Jared Goff, Austin Hinder and Zach Kline, and walk-ons Brendan Keeney and Joey Mahalic.
Dykes wouldn’t comment on any of them but almost certainly, the real competition will be between Kline and Goff.
Kline was a redshirt freshman last season and was being groomed to start if Tedford had stayed; now, he has to learn a different offense. Goff entered Cal early this spring, after graduating from Marin Catholic, and he played in a spread offense in high school.
It seems strange to say two quarterbacks with no collegiate experience are the leading candidates for the job, but this is obviously a different situation, with a new coach and a relatively simple offense. Dykes would love to have a quarterback who could do the job for at least three years; if he leaves early for the NFL, that will mean he’s done a great job.
There will be uncertainty at other positions, too, because the spread offense requires different types of athletes. The most obvious position is tight end, but Dykes insisted that he can find room for a good tight end. The Bears have one, Richard Rodgers, who’s listed temporarily as a wide receiver, at 275 pounds.
This spring will be a learning experience for the Bears, and, who knows, they may even go to another basketball game.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.