Dykes exerting control by reshaping roster

Sonny Dykes

Building up numbers on the offensive and defensive lines, placing a renewed emphasis on in-state recruiting are top priorities for California head coach Sonny Dykes.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Taking over the California football program, there are some things new head coach Sonny Dykes can't control.

Scheduled non-conference games with Northwestern and Ohio State, for example, aren't exactly the ideal conditions to collect a couple of easy win to build the team's confidence or bring along players adjusting to new schemes on both offense and defense.

What Dykes can control is building his roster, one that has significant imbalances as he pointed out Wednesday afternoon during a wide-ranging hour-long media session at the Simpson Student-Athlete High Performance Center.

In one example, Dykes pointed out that, "We've got six scholarship tight ends. We've got more scholarship tight ends than we do receivers. To me, that is a little bit out of whack."

Aside from putting together his coaching staff, Dykes' top priority has been reshaping the team's personnel to hit his plan for Cal moving forward, something that became evident with the addition of junior college defensive ends Sione Sina from San Manteo (Calif.) College of San Mateo and Kyle Kragen from Pleasant Hill (Calif.) Diablo Valley College.

Set to run a 4-3 base defense under defensive coordinator Andy Buh, Cal has a major need for linemen. Dykes indicated it would be likely that some outside linebackers could be playing with their hand on the ground during spring practice because, "From a body type standpoint, there are a lot of guys (there) that look like defensive ends.

"There's going to be some guys maybe that bounce from outside linebacker to defensive end, and some guys that bounce from playing defensive end to inside, so there is going to be some position moves," Dykes said. "That's why we felt it was important to go out and sign two junior college defensive ends to give us some more depth at that position."

The next goal will finding defensive tackles capable of contributing immediately, part of a dramatic roster overhaul that should see Cal signing at least 25 players, though that numbers rise to 30.

"That number is going to be written in pencil, not only pencil but really light pencil," Dykes joked. "Maybe one of those little Etch-a-Sketch deals where you shake it out."

Cal currently has non-binding verbal commitments from 19 recruits, highlighted by Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic quarterback Jared Goff and Corona (Calif.) Centennial offensive lineman Cameron Hunt.

"The most important thing we have is holding on to guys we have now," Dykes said. "Step two will be going out and finding guys we think can contribute, whether it is a junior college defensive tackle or two or high school guys we think have an opportunity to come in and play."

Goff, San Antonio (Texas) Madison wide receiver Dannon Cavil, and Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley kicker Matt Anderson will all enroll early and participate in spring practice, joining Sina and Kragen. That also gives Dykes more flexibility, as those three scholarships could be backdated to the Class of 2012.

There could also be roster attrition because of transfers and academics. Dykes said he was concerned about the status of several players, but final grades have not been posted for the semester.

Dykes made it clear he intends to build this team from the inside-out, stressing fundamentals that begin with strong play on the lines of scrimmage, seeming at odds with his explosive up-tempo spread offense that fans dubbed the ‘Bear Raid' shortly after his hiring.

After reviewing game film from this past season, Dykes said he came away with a more-favorable view of the offensive line, which came under heavy criticism as Cal finished No. 43 nationally in rushing offense and No. 116 in sacks allowed, than he had expected.

"The funny thing about it is I had heard basically the offensive line wasn't very good, but the more tape I watched the better they look to me," Dykes said. "I think it's probably a better group than maybe people think, certainly than I thought. I've been surprisingly impressed with those guys, again based on what I had heard."

But Cal has only 10 scholarship offensive linemen, whereas Dykes would prefer to have 16 to 18 available.

"At the end of the day, you win and lose with offensive and defensive linemen," Dykes said. "The other stuff is fun to talk about. It is much more alluring and exciting than talking about how well some guy blocked, but that is really truly how you win."

Dykes would also like to return the focus on building the team from within the Golden State, as he inherits a roster where almost half the roster comes from outside the state of California.

"That needs to be more like 75-25, 80-20," Dykes said. "That's easy for me to say, I just got here. Our primary focus on recruiting is going to be start in the Bay Area, extend to California and then to other places that make sense. We're not going to go recruit the entire state of Alabama or something like that because it doesn't make sense."

There are some things Dykes can't control just yet. Where he can – with the roster – Dykes is already well underway to building the balanced program that fits his vision.

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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