BERKELEY -- Although the nation’s leading passer -- Jared Goff -- threw precious few balls on Tuesday for California, the Bear Raid was still perhaps as sharp as it’s been this season early in practice, as the offense moved the ball on two drives during two-minute drills, totaling 17 plays in less than four minutes, or roughly one play every 14 seconds.
“I thought it was good. I thought it was the fastest, offensively, that we’ve gone,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “I thought it was pretty smooth. Those are situations that we’ve got to continue to work on and get better at, on both sides of the ball, and it’s always good to start practice with that tempo drill, where everybody’s got to play fast and pay attention to detail, and doing that with a clock behind you. We like to start our day with two-minute a lot of times.”
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Goff was in on the first series, but after that, had very few team reps, mainly working on red zone offense against the scout defense.
With Goff on the shelf to rest his arm, according to Dykes, the offensive line was as jumbled as it’s been since the start of fall camp. Right guard Matt Cochran was in a walking boot and on crutches, and will have surgery to repair a high ankle sprain, leaving a hole on the right side of the line.
“Cochran’s going to be out. He’s probably going to have surgery Thursday, and he’ll be out for a month, at least,” Dykes said. “He’s got a high ankle sprain. They’re going to fuse the bone back together.”
With Cochran out, both Bill Tyndall and Alex Crosthwaite filled in on the right side, while on the left side, Christian Okafor took some first team snaps at tackle, ahead of Freddie Tagaloa.
“Tyndall will get in the mix some, and Okafor will get in the mix some, Crosthwaite will get in the mix some and we’ll see how it plays out,” Dykes said of the right guard spot.
Tyndall will be bounced around a bit, but can play both tackle and guard.
Part of the reasoning behind putting Okafor in ahead of Tagaloa was to keep a fire lit under the 6-foot-8 tackle, who’s play so far Dykes has described as “adequate.”
“If we were 3-0 and ranked fifth in the country, we’d be challenging guys, and I don’t know if we were ranked fourth in the country; but if we were fifth, we probably would,” Dykes joked. “Challenging our guys and making sure that guys are playing as well as we think they are -- that’s what you want to do, is, if you have a guy like Freddie, that’s got tremendous potential, you want him to play to that potential. You don’t want him to be satisfied. We’re going to challenge guys.”
Dykes said that Tagaloa has not played “as well as he can play,” hence the experimentation along the front.
On the defensive side of the ball, safety Alex Logan was at practice, but was not in uniform or pads.
“He got dinged a little bit Saturday,” Dykes said. “He’ll be back.”
Defensive end Sione Sina had another ACL surgery last Tuesday, and will miss the rest of the season, while taking a redshirt. Defensive end Mustafa Jalil was also not in pads again.
Michael Barton was still sidelined with a sprained knee, but he did much more moving about on Tuesday than he did at the tail end of last week.
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“He ran around a bit today, and I think he feels better,” Dykes said.
As for the frustrating case of Brennan Scarlett’s hand, there is still no clear prognosis.
“I think he’s going to the doctor this open week,” Dykes said. “He’s been to a lot of doctors.
Linebacker Johnny Ragin III was also not dressed, but present.
“He was gone this past game, and he’ll be gone most of this week. He’ll probably practice next week, and has just been sick,” Dykes said.
Ragin will be one of the young linebackers likely pressed into service as the season goes on, including, Dykes said, Edward Tandy and Chad Whitener, who’s already on the two-deep at the MIKE linebacker spot, behind Hardy Nickerson, Jr.
“I think those guys are learning and hungry, working hard and doing what we ask them to do. It seems like they’re really improving rapidly. I think you’ll see a lot of those guys start to emerge,” Dykes said. “I think all those three freshman linebackers will be making appearances here before long, and Cam [Walker] will be part of that group in the back end that has an opportunity to play and start.”
After playing safety for just three days last week, Walker came in and played most of the Ohio State game at that position, while former wide receiver Joel Willis came in and played left corner in nickel situations, while Stefan McClure played nickel.
Dykes said that the left corner in nickel situations is still up-for-grabs.
“I think so. Same deal [as the offensive line],” Dykes said. “We’re trying to find who the best four in the back end are, if we’d be better off if we played three linebackers with McClure and Kam [Jackson] as our corners, or are we better off putting McClure and [Isaac] Lapite in there? Those are decisions that we’re going to have to make.”
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Defensive coordinator Andy Buh was decidedly less effusive on the subject.
“I really don’t want to talk about our depth chart,” he said, before being asked if that left corner spot is open. “No, not really. We don’t have a lot of guys, so we’re going to go with the best guy that gives us the best opportunity to win. Right now, that’s going to be McClure.”
Walker played with the second unit on Tuesday (as did Willis, at the left corner), while a very mobile Michael Lowe -- showing no ill signs of his ankle injury – and Damariay Drew were the two starters at safety.
Buh admitted that placing Drew in as the starter last week against the Buckeyes was perhaps not the right move, though it may have been necessary simply because of lack of bodies.
“Damariay was out all week, and then to expect him to not practice all week and perform is not fair to him, but we made that decision because he gave us the best chance to win, athletically,” Buh said of Drew, who was burned for a 90-yard touchdown while guessing screen on the second play of the game. “Obviously, it just didn’t happen for us, or him. It’s not just his fault. We made that decision, because he was the best available healthy body at the time. It just didn’t work out.”
After three games in which the Bears have averaged 556.0 yards of offense per contest (9th in the nation), and, appropriately enough, Dykes said that he thinks the offense is “probably a little ahead of where we’d be,” at this point in the season. The same can be said for the special teams, which rank fourth in the Pac-12 in kickoff returns, second in punting (42.5 net yards per punt), first in kickoff coverage (averaging 44.7 yards per kickoff with eight touchbacks) and fourth in field goal percentage (88.9%).
“Yeah, [Vincenzo] D’Amato’s really been solid. He’s really kicked the ball off probably better than we expected, up to this point,” Dykes said. “He’s been really effective kicking it off, and we’ve covered pretty well. Cole’s been good. It’s been a good group.”
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As far as punter Cole Leininger goes, well, he’s 25th in the nation, averaging 43.9 yards per punt.
“We’ve kind of sprayed it around a little bit more at times at punter than we need to, and we’ve just got to be a little more accurate, where he’s positioning the ball,” Dykes said. “We’re asking him to punt it to certain spots, based on coverage and that kind of thing, but he’s been very solid. He’s much improved from the spring, and I think he’s going to have a good year.”
The bye week gives Cal some much-needed extra time to prepare for No. 2 Oregon, and after three weeks, Dykes and his staff have certainly learned quite a bit about their young team.
“The good thing we’ve learned is that our kids are going to play hard, regardless of the situation they’re in,” said Dykes. “I think that is, of all the things in your program, that’s Point A. You’ve got to get to Point A before you get to Point B, and they have to do that consistently, and we’ve seen them do that. We saw them do it week one, we saw it do it week two and we saw them do it week three. Even though we got off to some bad starts in those games, guys played hard and we got back in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win. [We’re] not quite good enough yet at this point to be able to win against a good opponent. We’ve made too many mistakes, we’ve missed too many opportunities. I think that’s the most important thing.”
The Ducks – who have played Nicholls State, Virginia and Tennessee (winning 66-3, 59-10 and 59-14) – also have a bye this week.
“We’ve got to shore up some areas of our team, and continue to get better, but the thing is, there’s a lot of people in the country that haven’t played anybody, that may be 3-0 right now and they’re getting ready to start conference play or getting ready to start conference play in a week, and they think they’re pretty good, and they’re really not,” Dykes said. “I think we know where we are, we know where we have to improve and, as I’ve said, I’d put our schedule that we’ve played up against everyone in the country, and for a young football team, we’ve done some good things.”
The Ducks, though, are not one of those teams that isn’t as good as advertised, according to Dykes, who knows a little something about offense. Oregon is currently averaging 672.0 yards of total offense per game – second in the nation to Baylor.
“Oregon’s good, good on both sides of the ball,” Dykes said. “I think it’s probably the best probably on both sides of the ball I’ve seen them since I’ve been watching them the last four or five years. I think they’re as efficient on offense as they’ve ever been. They’re as fast as they’ve ever been. Then, defensively, they’re probably playing better than they’ve ever played.”
The Bears have averaged 94.67 plays per game, while the Ducks have averaged 72, but, while special teams coordinator and inside receivers coach Mark Tommerdahl yelled during 11-on-11 work that this game would be “between the two fastest teams in the universe,” Dykes was a bit more to the point.
“They’re scoring a lot more than we are,” he said.
On Tuesday, Bryce Treggs was among nine receivers added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, after pulling down 28 passes for 317 yards in his first three games, with one touchdown.
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Linebacker Nick Forbes -- who, Dykes said, could very well play next week, depending on howe well he practices -- was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team on Tuesday for his community service.
Forbes was part of a 22-man roster across all levels of collegiate football named to the Team on Tuesday. The Team recognizes "good works" of a select group of college football players from across the country. Fans can vote for the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Captain on ESPN.com. The Team Captain and his fellow award recipients will be invited to New Orleans to take part in a community project, leading up to the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Forbes has worked with Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland, the City of Berkeley, Playworks, Read Across America, SAGE Mentorship Project and Swim With Mike. He's also been the vice president of the Golden Bear Student-Athlete Advisory community since 2011, and has represented Cal at the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Conference and the NCAA APPLE Conference.
In addition, Forbes has been a speaker at a local elementary school and to youth football teams speaking on the importance of education, respect, treating others right and staying out of trouble. He even found time to host Cal’s Oski Student Awards show in the spring of 2013 and organized both a fashion show fundraiser and a student-athlete formal earlier this year.
“It’s awesome to be recognized for doing a few unselfish things here and there,” Forbes said. “I enjoy doing all the projects I have worked with so being honored for something you enjoy is cool. I hope that my recognition for this inspires someone else to get involved in their community and give back to someone less fortunate.”
“Nick does a tremendous job in the community and is very deserving of this recognition,” Dykes said.