Dykes searches for right QB in year 1 at Cal
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)
The first major question Sonny Dykes must answer as football coach at California is the same one that bedeviled his predecessor Jeff Tedford in his final years as Golden Bears coach.
Tedford's inability to find and develop a top quarterback after Aaron Rodgers left for the NFL following the 2004 season ultimately led to his firing after a 3-9 season in 2012 despite being the winningest coach in school history and spearheading the project to renovate Memorial Stadium and build a new team facility.
Dykes has whittled a three-man competition down to two in fall camp with redshirt freshman Zach Kline and freshman Jared Goff left battling for the job.
The winner of that battle will play a big determining factor in how Cal does in its first season under Dykes.
''Our success is going to be determined by the level of play that we get from our quarterback,'' Dykes said.
Here are five things to watch for Cal in Dykes' first season as coach:
1. QUARTERBACK QUANDARY: Settling on the quarterback is the most important decision for Dykes, who already eliminated junior Austin Hinder from the competition early in fall camp. While neither Kline nor Goff has taken a snap in college, both participated in spring ball under Dykes and new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and are growing more comfortable with the offense. Kline has the advantage of spending last year in the program to get acclimated to college and has the stronger arm of the two. Goff is the more accurate passer and has more experience running a spread offense.
2. BIG-PLAY BIGELOW: Brendan Bigelow proved to be quite a tease for Cal fans last year when he averaged 9.8 yards per carry and had electrifying runs of 59 and 81 yards on his four carries at Ohio State. But Bigelow got only 44 carries and caught seven passes all season as he struggled to grasp Tedford's intricate offense. Bigelow missed spring ball with a knee injury but should be a much better fit in Dykes' simpler attack that emphasizes speed. Whether he will be used as an every-down running back or a change-of-pace player who mostly gets the ball in space remains to be seen.
3. REDEFINING ROLES: With the shift from Tedford's pro-style offense to Dykes' Bear Raid spread attack, there are no longer any players listed as tight ends on the roster. Richard Rodgers lost about 30 pounds in order to switch from tight end to an inside receiver position. If he can make that change seamlessly it could give Cal's quarterback a deep receiving corps that also includes Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper and Darius Powe. Chris McCain, who excelled as an outside linebacker in last year's 3-4 defense, will have to adjust to playing end in a 4-3 scheme.
4. COMEBACK KIDS: Cal's defense should get a boost with linebacker Khairi Fortt and cornerback Stefan McClure back from knee injuries. Fortt, a transfer last summer from Penn State, will provide needed speed and playmaking ability to the linebacker corps. McClure was emerging as a topflight cornerback before suffering a major injury that cost him all of last season.
5. STICKY SCHEDULING: Dykes inherited a brutal first-year schedule that includes five teams ranked in the top 20 of the final poll last season, including four of the first seven games. The Bears have nonconference games against Northwestern and Ohio State in the first three weeks of the season, as well as road games at Oregon and defending Pac-12 South champion UCLA and a home contest with Oregon State before the end of October. The schedule is capped by a season-ending trip to defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford, making a bowl bid a tough goal in year one of the Dykes era.
Predicted finish in conference: Sixth, North Division.
Online: AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/