Sonny Dykes settling in as Cal football coach
Not only has he been impressed by the program’s “tremendous potential” and outstanding “commitment to facilities,” but one other significant aspect has stuck out.
“I’ve been very impressed with the fan base,” said Dykes in a phone interview. “We have passionate fans – people who have donated time and resources to the program that care deeply for Cal football. (The first few weeks) have been very smooth and better than expected.”
That’s saying something for a program that has been flirting with mediocrity for the last several years. Since 2006, the Golden Bears have compiled a 39-37 record, recording just one nine-win season.
And coming off just three wins in 2012, it didn’t look like those numbers were going to improve anytime soon.
“I think you have to get better every day,” said Dykes on the rebuilding of a program. “The key for us is to improve every day. It’s going to be a different way of doing things: We need to do a great job of teaching our schemes and have to be better than we were yesterday.
“It’s a gradual day-by-day process,” he added. “I don’t know how quickly (the players) will pick up the system, how guys will fit – they’re all unknowns. But we have to do a good job of creating a culture that’s built on accountability, mutual respect and team concept.”
Dykes has wasted no time working on getting guys that will thrive in his system. Seven prospects for the class of 2013 have signed with the Golden Bears under his tenure – all but one from the state of California.
That doesn’t even include four-star offensive guard Cameron Hunt, who gave his verbal commitment in July but is scheduled to make an official visit January 25.
“We want to build our program around the offensive and defensive line, and to sign a good core of both,” Dykes said. “They’re very, very important. …we have to improve the overall athleticism of our football team. We feel good with what we have but we need to find one or two game-breakers.”
Cal currently owns the No. 35-ranked recruiting class, according to Scout.com. National Signing Day is February 6, and Dykes still have five more scholarships to hand out before then.
As for the current roster, that’s still an unknown. The Bears lose 19 seniors to graduation – including 12 offensive players – and will be forced to play a lot of underclassmen this fall.
But that doesn’t faze Dykes, who believes there should be some optimism with this young team.
“We have young receivers that have to be good players early; there’s a lot of skill at running back; the offensive line has some good, young players,” he said. “There’s not a ton of depth, so we have to bring in guys that can contribute early.”
California will undoubtedly undergo some growing pains in its first full season under Dykes, but that shouldn’t last too long. If his career with Louisiana Tech is any indication with how Cal will perform, the Bears will be competitive in the Pac-12 North Division in two or three years.
By then, expectations will be sky high.
“We want to build a championship program and compete for conference championships and get to the Rose Bowl,” said Dykes of his long-term goal. “That’s where it begins and ends for us.”
Cal hasn’t been to The Granddaddy of Them All since 1958, and hasn’t won there in over 74 years.
But given its fresh start with Dykes, the right scheme and culture, and the Bears could be back to prominence before you can say, “The band is on the field!”
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