Cal opens 2nd spring ball under Dykes
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Coach Sonny Dykes has plenty of work to do as he starts Year 2 of spring practice at California.
After a disappointing one-win debut season, the Golden Bears opened spring ball Monday looking to overhaul a porous defense by implementing a new system, tinker with a ”Bear Raid” offense that showed flashes last year but lacked consistency and make changes to the practice structure in hopes of making major improvement.
The toughest task might be rebuilding the confidence of the players in a program that only beat lower-division Portland State last season and has lost 16 straight games against FBS opponents.
”It’s a process,” Dykes said. ”You don’t become a confident football team by talking about it. You have to go out and execute at a high level and it happens. Guys feel like last year wasn’t indicative of what we feel like we’re capable of doing as a football program. I think they’re anxious to get back out there and get it fixed.”
The Bears waited longer than any other team in the Pac-12 to get the 2014 season started as spring practice started more than four months after the 63-13 season finale loss to rival Stanford on Nov. 23.
UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State also start spring practice this week but all three of those schools played in a bowl game, while Cal tried to forget a rough season.
”There’s quite the buzz in the locker room right now,” quarterback Jared Goff said. ”Everyone is really excited to move on from last year and start almost a new team this year, a new season and get all of that garbage behind us. We’re really excited about it.”
Dykes waited an extra month to start spring ball in his second season in part to help players recover from injuries, most notably Goff. He had surgery on his throwing shoulder after the season and said he felt 100 percent about a month ago.
Cal plans to limit Goff’s practice time in the spring and give him an occasional day off in order to make sure he has no setbacks.
”We’re like anybody else, we want to get him out there, get him as many reps as we can and start getting him ready,” Dykes said. ”But at the same time, it will be a better long-term plan to bring him along slowly and see how he responds.”
Goff was a rare bright spot in a disappointing season for Cal, breaking the single-season school records for yards passing (3,508), total offense (3,446), passes completed (320) and passes attempted (531) while starting all 12 games as a freshman.
Goff said his priority this offseason is improving his footwork, accuracy and leadership.
Dykes also gets defensive end Brennan Scarlett back on the field for the first time since taking over as coach, adding a potential ”difference maker” to a shoddy defense. Scarlett missed all of 2013 with a hand injury. Defensive backs Avery Sebastian and Stefan McClure and linebacker Nathan Broussard will also be able to practice on a limited basis in their return from injuries.
Those players will give new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman some important pieces as he tries to rebuild a defense that allowed the second-most points (45.9 per game) in the FBS last season. Cal also allowed the most yards passing and second-most total yards in major college football, leading to coordinator Andy Buh being replaced by Kaufman.
”The thing I believe about defense philosophy-wise is being simplistic,” Dykes said. ”Art is very simplistic. He has some basic things he wants to teach. We have to get better fundamentally, we have to get off blocks better, we have to tackle better, we have to leverage the ball better.”