Over the next several weeks, we will be catching up with the coaches preparing for their first season in a new location and/or role. From recruiting to staff moves and personnel decisions, we will take a look at how the first months have gone and preview the 2013 season ahead. Today's subject: California coach Sonny Dykes.
Coaching experience: Dykes, 43, comes to California after three seasons as the head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he was named the WAC coach of the year following a 9-3 campaign in 2012. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona (2007-09) and Texas Tech (2005-06, also the receivers coach at Tech from '00-'04) and had stops at Kentucky (1997, 1999) and Northeast Louisiana (1998). The son of Texas Tech coaching legend Spike Dykes and a former Tech baseball player, Dykes adheres to the "Air Raid" style of offense created by current Washington State head coach Mike Leach. His last team at Louisiana Tech led the nation in scoring and total offense.
Reason for the change: The Jeff Tedford era finally ran out of gas, as the Bears went just 15-22 the last three seasons. Tedford did a fine job overall in his 11 years, and he built the Cal program to a respectable level. But the expectations that he set early in his tenure proved to be his undoing. There seemed to be an aura of stagnation around the program of late. Tedford appeared unwilling or incapable of turning things around. The all-time winningest Cal coach was fired in December after his worst season at Berkeley.
The First Months
2013 recruiting class ranking (according to 247Sports composite rankings): No. 37 nationally, No. 5 in the Pac-12.
Notable prospects: Four-star quarterback Jared Goff enrolled early for spring ball and acquitted himself well. He's listed as a co-starter heading into fall camp. Four-star defensive end Takkarist McKinley is a rare specimen who has run a 10.70 100 meters at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. Three-star all-purpose back Khalfani Muhammad won the California state 100-meter title after running 10.33, and he might be the fastest player in college football this fall. Massive tackle Aaron Cochran, brother of first-string center Matt Cochran, has the potential to start soon.
Off field: Dykes has done his best to embrace the rather eclectic Cal community. He talks about getting acclimated to Berkeley here:
Fan reaction: Bears fans seem to have taken a liking to Dykes, who has been a bit more active and personable than the often-dour Tedford. Showing up at a Cal basketball game with his team in tow earned him considerable kudos, and he took the time to answer fan tweets in early June. Strangely enough, a coach who hails from Big Spring, Texas just might be more at home with the Berkeley crowd than Tedford, a native Californian.
Advantages: One thing that Tedford did was bring Cal football into the modern era. He left the program much better off than when he arrived, with major facility upgrades that will pay dividends in the seasons to come and a roster filled with decent talent. Dykes steps into a good situation. If he can work his magic to restore an offense that has floundered in recent seasons, the Bears could be back in a bowl pretty quick. He'll benefit right away from a solid defense, which should give him time to develop his young quarterbacks.
Toughest challenge: The Bears are in a tough position in the Pac-12 North, with Oregon and Stanford dominating the division in recent seasons. The first step will be to land firmly in that third spot ahead of Washington and Oregon State. Dykes can do that by dominating recruiting in the talent-rich areas of Oakland, Sacramento and Fresno. But if he eventually wants to challenge rival Stanford, he'll need to recruit better in southern California and use his extensive contacts in Texas to bring in some game changers.
2013 outlook: Expectations are in check in Berkeley. The understanding is that Dykes will need some time to get his system in place. But the potential is there for an explosive offense. Running back Brendan Bigelow could be the next great one at Cal if he can stay healthy. Sophomore wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper look like future stars. And the offensive line, while young, is big and athletic. It will all come down to how quickly highly-regarded redshirt freshman Zach Kline, the likely starter at quarterback, develops. One thing is certain -- the offense under Dykes won't be boring or predictable. The defense switches from a 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment, and the front line featuring Deandre Coleman, Viliami Moala, Brennan Scarlett, Chris McCain and Todd Barr should be among the best in the conference. There are major question marks in the secondary, though. It doesn't help that Northwestern, Ohio State and Oregon are on the early-season schedule, which means the Bears could be much improved but still start out 1-3. If Dykes can get Cal to six wins, it would be quite an accomplishment in his first season.