Spring Football Notebook

Chris McCain

Position changes and injury absences come into focus ahead of the start of spring practice next week.

BERKELEY, Calif. – It took some creative roster management, but California enters spring practice with bolstered depth at wide receiver and on the defensive line, the two positions where new head coach Sonny Dykes had been most concerned.

The updated roster, released Wednesday as Dykes previewed spring practice, lists 22 receivers and 18 defensive linemen, often by having players change positions to better reflect the new systems set to be installed starting next week.

Tight ends Richard Rodgers, Jacob Wark, and Spencer Hagan are now regarded as receivers, while Harrison Wilfley has been moved to defensive line. Rodgers (shoulder) and Hagan (knee) will not be available as they recover from injuries, while Wark will be splitting his time between football and baseball.

While Dykes' spread offense would seem to position them as inside receivers, which values bulkier body types with the ability to make catches in traffic, they could still end up playing from a three-point stance.

"We're going to sort it all out as we go through," Dykes said. "They could be a standup guy that is still playing inside depending on what we are trying to accomplish."

On defense, four players – Brennan Scarlett, Chris McCain, Nathan Broussard, and Dan Camporeale – that had been outside linebackers under the previous staff are now defensive ends.

"If you look at some of the best pass rushers at any level, sometimes those guys are lean guys like Chris," Dykes said. "That's the good thing about being an even front team is defensive ends play the run and rush the passer. They don't have to worry about drops and trying to cover people and making adjustments."

Scarlett (hand) and McCain (shoulder) have been ruled out, however, along with junior college transfer Sione Sina because of a knee injury he sustained last season.

Others that will not participate include receiver Chris Harper (shoulder) and offensive lineman Chris Adcock (shoulder), while defensive lineman Austin Clark (foot) and linebacker Jason Gibson (foot) will be limited.

After reviewing tape and seeing the team go through non-football workouts, Dykes came away impressed with the overall degree of athleticism, saying it was better than he expected.

"I think the talent is good, I really do," Dykes said. "I don't know how it compares to the rest of the league. We have some holes in some spots where we just don't have a lot of depth.

That especially applies to those players changing positions.

"The defensive front is much better than I anticipated," Dykes said. "They will improve dramatically.

RB M.I.A.
With the only experienced running backs on the roster sidelined – Brendan Bigelow with a knee injury, Daniel Lasco with a shoulder injury – Dykes doesn't "know if we're going to light the world on fire" with the ground game, but does expect someone to emerge.

"The good thing is we will see somebody step up," Dykes said. "We'll be surprised by somebody this spring."

Still, Dykes knows that Bigelow, Lasco, and incoming freshman Khalfani Muhammad may well serve as the top three rushers come the fall, with Bigelow's breakout performance at Ohio State becoming something of a constant reference point for the offensive staff.

Having already gone through two major reconstructive surgeries during high school, Bigelow underwent a minor surgical procedure to repair a torn meniscus in that same right knee.

"It's a different deal. Believe it or not, it's kind of an unrelated injury," Dykes said.

And while Bigelow could have potentially returned for the end of spring, Dykes has elected to hold him out entirely and not risk a setback.

Quick Hits
Cornerback Stefan McClure, who did not play last season because of a knee injury, is expected to participate fully in spring practice, Dykes said. … Dykes indicated there was a strong likelihood that Cal could add to its 2013 recruiting class once grades and test scores were resolved. … Running back Dasarte Yarnway, who left the team late last season, will not return.

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

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