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Spring Practice Primer: California Golden Bears

By Chris Huston | College Football Writer

College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Today, we take a look at the California Bears and what they'll be working on this spring.

TB Brendan Bigelow is one of several Bears sitting out the spring  (USATSI)
TB Brendan Bigelow is one of several Bears sitting out the spring (USATSI)

Spring Practice Begins: Feb. 25

Spring Game: March 23

2012 Record: 3-9

Returning starters: 13 (seven offense, 6 defense)

Jeff Tedford is out after 11 seasons following a 3-9 record in 2012. New coach Sonny Dykes comes to Berkeley from Louisiana Tech and Bears observers are already impressed by the energy he has brought with him. A decent nucleus of talent is in place, so Dykes definitely has a chance to get Cal back to a bowl in his first season.

What Cal wants To accomplish in spring drills
-- Learn the new schemes. Dykes brings to Berkeley a wide-open, one-back passing offense that is a significant departure from the pro-style system run by the Bears under Jeff Tedford for the past 11 seasons. The Bears must shed the terminology, the philosophy and the formations learned under Tedford and relearn them under Dykes, who claims that his offense -- the 'Bear Raid Attack' -- will basically be installed in the first three days of spring. On defense, the Bears will shift from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3, which means more of Cal's deep defensive line contingent will get a chance to see the field. Dykes is essentially overhauling the entire squad, and how the team warms up to the new schemes in spring will go a long way toward determining the Bears' success come fall.
-- Stay healthy. The Bears are dinged all up and down the roster, with several starters sitting out the entire spring due to injury. It will be a challenge for Dykes to run full scrimmages at times and he can ill afford to lose any more players. On the other hand, it gives him a chance to take a hard look at some players who otherwise might not have gotten much playing time.
-- Find a quarterback. The quarterback makes Dykes' system go and the Bears have had a hard time finding a top-flight signal caller since Aaron Rodgers left back in 2004. It could be that Tedford bequeathed to Dykes just the right guy for his system in redshirt freshman Zach Kline, who many think will end up being the starter in the fall. Nonetheless, Dykes is taking a good look at senior Allen Bridgford and junior Austin Hinder as well. He wants to find his starter as soon as possible and build around him. Whoever ends up starting should end up throwing for a lot of yards and touchdowns in the fall.
-- Resolve position switches. With the change in schemes, there are a lot of players switching positions. Dykes doesn't use tight ends in his offense, so that means a promising player like Richard Rodgers will no longer be in a three-point stance coming off the line. Instead, he'll be listed as a wide receiver, though he'll often be used to block the way a tight end would. Some of the outside linebackers in the 3-4, like Brennan Scarlett and Chris McCain, are now defensive ends in the 4-3 alignment. Getting everyone accustomed to their new positions within the new schemes will be a key challenge this spring.
 
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