Football: Dykes thinks the Pac-12 is the best, most challenging league. Sirius-ly.

Sonny Dykes took some time to chat with College Sports Nation on Sirius XM about offensive depth, the switch to the 4-3, and why he thinks the Pac-12 is the best league in all of college football.

The first three minutes of the interview are available here, but the rest of the interview is for subscribers only.

On getting situated in the Bay Area and in Berkeley:

"Everybody's complaining about how hot it is today, but I think the high is about 83°F, so it's a bad weather day in the Bay."

"It's an exciting time to be here. Real fortunate to come in here right at the completion of the new facilities. There are a lot of positive things happening here, not just in the program, but on the campus. It really is an exciting place to be with so many resources available for the guys here. It's just an awesome place."

Of course, the conversation quickly turned to quarterbacks:

"We have three guys who will be battling as we head into two-a-days and fall camp. We'll see how it plays out. All three of them are capable and good players with a lot of talent, so we'll see how it plays out. The good thing is I think we can win with any of the three. They're each different in what they bring to the table. One's a good runner, one's got a big arm, the other one's a bit more of a combination of the two, so we feel like it's a good solid group and we think we have a chance with any of them. Hopefully we'll make a decision the second or third week of fall camp and name a starter and hopefully they'll go out and perform at a high level."

"The best case scenario is to find somebody [who stands out]. You hope that someone's so good there's no way to keep him off the field. That way you can invest the reps in him and give him game experience, but like anything else, you evaluate it and make decisions based on whatever the situation is. If we have two guys we think are really similar, then we'll make a tough decision and name one the starter, but also have one in our back pocket as well, if we need it. We'll just see how it plays out"

How does Dykes feel about the depth throughout the offense?

"I was surprised how much depth there was in the receiver group. I think it's a really, really good group with a lot of different body types and guys who can do different things. We've got some speed guys, we've got some guys with great size, good route-runners who can catch the ball well. All kinds of different players at that spot. Like you said, Brendan Bigelow at the running back spot is a real explosive guy. He's coming off some injuries, so we've got to do a good job of keeping him healthy and making sure he's full-speed and healthy August 31st against Northwestern. You know, we've got some pieces here; we've just got to get ‘em in the right spots, develop ‘em, bring our young quarterback along, but it looks like we've got a pretty good chance to have a good offensive football team."

"[The offensive line is] a pretty good group. We're a little bit young, a little bit inexperienced, but there's some definite talent. There are some guys who can do some things. We were a little bit banged-up in the spring, but we're gonna get a couple of players back, Chris Adcock being the primary guy who didn't go through spring football, so we're curious to see what he can do. He's played a lot around here, but we're anxious to see how he's gonna transition into the offense. And the same thing kind of at the receiver spot. You've got a lot of bodies, a lot of guys who we think are capable, so we're just gonna see who stays healthy, who has a good summer, who continues to work, and progress, but we think we have seven, eight, maybe nine quality guys that we have an opportunity to win with, so that's a pretty good group. I wish we had a little bit more depth in some spots, but that's typical for how things are."


Dykes, an offensive mastermind, was asked about the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3:

"I think it fits us in the short-term. We've got a lot of good D-linemen. There were a lot of outside linebackers who had the body to change themselves into defensive ends, so we've gotten some guys to do that who were ‘backers in the odd scheme who are 260-lb guys and big, strong defensive ends. So that transition was pretty easy and made sense. There are enough quality defensive tackles to where we could play with two tackles, so that makes sense. And the big thing, from the long-term standpoint, is that we felt like the 4-3 gave us a little bit of an ability to adjust week-to-week for the offenses we're gonna see in this league. It's a very unique and unusual league. One week you're gonna play an Oregon football team that's gonna try to spread you out and run the ball, next week you're gonna play Washington State team who's gonna try to spread you out and throw the ball, then you're gonna play the Stanfurds of the world that are gonna run it right at you. There's a lot of variety in the style of play in this league, probably more so than there is anywhere else, and we just felt the 4-3 allowed it to be a little bit more easy to adjust to the different offenses we're gonna see on a week-to-week basis."

While talking about our new 4-3 defense, the conversation turned to the importance of playing sound defense in the Pac-12 compared to other leagues and comparing the NCAA conferences:

"I've been in the SEC and the Big-XII and the Big-XII kind of became a spread league, the SEC is kind of more of a power league, and this league has just a lot of diversity. There are a lot of different kinds of guys, a lot of different types of athletes, and a lot of different styles of defense as well. You've got a pretty good variety of odd fronts in this league, a pretty good variety of even fronts, you've got stacked teams, 3-3 teams, so you see everything on both sides of the ball and even in special teams. We're breaking down stuff over the summer and special teams has been a bit of a surprise, just how varied even their approaches on special teams are. Everybody's a little bit different, everybody's well-coached,everybody has a good scheme, and everybody presents problems. It's a great league and I think this is the best league from top to bottom out there; I really feel that way. I just think the teams that are kind of the bottom teams in this league are better than the bottom teams in other leagues, so every single week you better play well, especially in the Pac-12 because you're gonna make road trips, you're gonna play in tough environments to win in, and so you have to play at a high level week in and week out in this league, probably more so than any league I've ever been in."


Naturally, that segued into our notoriously tough out-of-conference schedule:

"It's a tough nonconference slate. That's what makes this league difficult too--the nine-game conference schedule. I think that really makes a big difference; instead of playing a 1-AA team, you're gonna play USC or UCLA or Oregon or whomever in the league, so it's tough and when you play Ohio State or Northwestern nonconference, two teams that won 22 ballgames last year, it's even more difficult. But, it's a great challenge for us. We'll find out a lot about our team early on against Northwestern; [Head Coach] Pat [Fitzgerald]'s teams are well-coached and don't beat themselves, so we're gonna have to really execute on offense and defense and play solid on special teams. I think that game will really come down to who turns the ball over, so we've got to do a great job of taking care of the ball. When you play Northwestern, they're gonna play well, they're gonna be consistent, they're gonna be sound, and they're gonna take care of the ball, so we're gonna need to match that."

And how do we relax against that tough OOC line-up? With road games to Oregon, UCLA, Stanfurd, and Washington:

"That's four teams that could be ranked, very easily, in the top-25 on the road. It's gonna be challenging, but that's the nature of the beast in the Pac-12. There's no looking at schedules in this league and saying ‘hey they've got eight or nine wins here." It's a challenging league every single week and, as I said earlier, you're making trips to Boulder and Pullman and [similar places] that are difficult places to go play. It's a lot better league than people think it is. It really is."

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