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Pac-12 Media Day: Sonny Dykes Press Conference Recap

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Dykes touched on all aspects of his program, from bouncing back from the 2013 season to red zone offense to Pat Fitzgerald's silly handshake comment.

Dykes gets up close and personal with reporters under the new interview format.
Dykes gets up close and personal with reporters under the new interview format.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Sonny Dykes met with reporters for about 40 minutes during Cal's interview period.  Here is a quick look at the highlights from his Q&A session.

General

  • How much improvement will the team show over the 2013 team?  "It's going to be obvious to everybody."  The team played poorly enough last year that it's hard not to expect considerable improvement.
  • How does the team use 2013 as motivation?  It's a balance, as "you've gotta put it behind you" but they also want to use it as motivation.
  • What are your thoughts on Pat Fitzgerald's comments? "Pat's a good guy...highly respected.  I've got a lot of respect for him."  Dykes said he believes the comment about the postgame handshake was taken out of context.
  • Will the expiration of USC's scholarship reductions make things tougher for Cal to recruit in Southern California?  Not really.  Recruiting in that area is always tough, especially since more programs are looking west for their recruiting needs.
  • How did you keep the team's spirit up during the season?  Dykes mentions that young people are "a lot more resilient than older people" and that he was surprised with their optimism.
  • Did you watch The Drive? "I haven't watched it."  He didn't want to watch it during the season and at this point he does not want to relive the 2013 season.  He mentioned that he'll eventually watch it.  He noted, however, that the staff received a surge of positive feedback from people who watched the show.  He said people praised the resilience of the staff and players as they continued to fight for a victory.
  • How has the team bounced back from the passing of Ted Agu?  Remembering Ted was a "unifying experience."  Dykes mentioned that these kinds of tragedies bring people together and forge strong bonds among them.  He said "the players have done a great job honoring Ted."
  • How big of a role will the JC players have this season?  It's tough to forecast because players transition at different rates.  It depends on their adjustment to the FBS level and how well they adjust academically.  Those who make the best adjustments academically aren't always the top athletes.
  • What's the biggest adjustment to playing football in a BCS league?  "Recruiting."  He says it's still football and they play the game the same way, but recruiting at the BCS level is the toughest part of the transition.
  • What had the coaches overlooked last season?  Dykes mentioned that instilling trust and building reliance on each other were important elements that the team didn't have last year.  [Note: anyone watching the way we defended the zone read should find the lack of trust utterly unsurprising.  Players constantly left their assignments and tried to cover too much of the field instead of trusting their teammates]

Offense

  • Where does Jared Goff need to improve?  Because the team often fell behind by double digits in the first quarter, Jared felt pressure to put bunches of points on the board to get the team back in the game.  He says Jared should "not put so much on himself."  He also mentioned consistency and pointed to Jared's midseason lull in performance.
  • How do you improve the red zone offense? "Red zone is always the last area [of the offense] you get cleaned up."  In that condensed part of the field, players are required to hold their blocks longer and QBs must pass with incredible precision.
  • What can you tell us about Bryce Treggs' move to inside receiver?  At that position, the "biggest component is consistency" and Dykes mentions "that's his best quality."  Treggs executes well on every single play and Dykes believes that will suit him well for the position.
  • What are the keys for improving a second-year quarterback?  [Note: Dykes didn't really answer this, but his statements were nonetheless interesting]  Dykes says that struggles in the first year do not doom a QB.  Despite the team's awful record last year, Goff can still be a great QB.  He mentioned his past QBs Graham Harrell and Colby Cameron as players who thrived despite adversity early in their careers.
  • What can you tell us about Goff's leadership?  "It's tough" trying to be a leader as a true freshman.  He said Goff put leadership "on the back burner" while he was settling into the starting role.  Now that Goff has more experience and is more comfortable in his position, Dykes expects Goff to take a more pronounced leadership role.
  • What can you tell us about Jeffrey Coprich?  He'll be among the 4-5 guys competing for the starting role.  Dykes doesn't yet see a specific, situational role for Coprich.

Defense

  • How much focus did you put on defense last year? "I paid more attention to defense than I ever have before."  He then joked that "maybe I'll pay less this year."  He mentioned he had an active role in all phases of the game and will continue to emphasize all three phases of the game.
  • Is Stefan McClure's move to safety permanent?  Dykes hopes so, but this depends on how healthy the CBs are throughout the season.  He expects McClure to spend most of his time at safety.
  • What can you tell us about the interior of the defensive line?  He expects plenty of depth at DT and plans to "play eight to ten guys."
  • How will the defense improve this year? Dykes expects the defense to "function better as a unit."  He said it was "tough to put eleven healthy bodies" on the field last season and that this year the team will have several contributors who didn't see the field last year.  He mentioned Mustafa Jalil, Sione Sina, and Brennan Scarlett as major contributors who couldn't play last year.  Dykes says Jason Gibson can be in the mix among major contributors, but he has had a difficult time staying healthy.
  • Is Jalil healthy?  He's healthy but the staff will "bring him along slowly" during fall camp.
That covers the bulk of what Dykes talked about during the press conference.  The official transcript is available online, but is missing most of the questions due to technical issues with the microphones. I'll try to talk to Jared Goff and Stefan McClure during the lunch period and hope to pass along quotes from them soon.

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In addition, our esteemed east-coast correspondents Leland Wong and LEaseCoastBears were watching the Pac-12 Broadcast and transcribed the interviews with Dykes, Goff, and McClure.

Sonny Dykes

On managing a tough schedule: "Can't worry about it. Just have to get better every day. Unfortunately they don't ask me who we get to play in the conference."

On Jared Goff's return from injury: "He had a solid spring. Not much practice from Dec-March b/c Furd injury, so spring at times was rough. He did a great job of picking up where he left off after the spring when he returned in the summer. More confidence in what we do as offense and what he has to do."

Neuheisel asked: "What's harder, fixing problems or fixing public perception?"
Dykes: "Both are hard. Lucky that he's never had to do it before. Hard on you in so many ways. In this job, you get labelled by how your team does. Credit to players for fighting hard, working, improving. Didn't mope at end of last season; started building for future."

When asked about offensive schemes and the deep crew of WRs: "Look at who's getting hot and what you see defensively, but you don't want to react. You want defense to react to you. Tempo plays a role in this. Need creative ways to get ball to players, esp if player is hot."

On DC Art Kaufman: "He's done it in a bunch of different leagues. Against option offense in SEC. Against spread. He's seen everything. Important to find a coach who's worked w/ up-tempo offense, which he did at Texas Tech and Cincinnati. Has specific system and way of defending things. Good approach in recruiting. Dykes and players have confidence in him."

On the return of injured defensive stars: "They'll bring depth, maturity, experience. Recruited lots of JC for competition and older players. Should be improved. Still lacking depth on back end, so have to stay healthy there."

On the Great Injury Epidemic of 2013: "Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Looked at everything (e.g., training, rehab, practice). Considered everything that affects health. Made screwdriver adjustments, but need luck. Honestly, had bad luck last year. Will have good luck this year."

Stefan McClure

Update on his current health: "Knee is 85-90%. Feel better every week. Feeling more and more comfortable with every football activity."

On his history of repeated injuries leading into each season: "Frustrated that he always has rehab right before season. Looking forward to camp and competing. Will get 100% w/ time and will just play w/ where his body is."

On his move to safety: "Excited. Able to impact defense in right spot. Understanding O and how they'll attack. Nothing set in stone, but just to see where he fits: corner, safety, nickle."

On the importance of Week One: "We've got to learn how to win, and how to win quickly. We should be more competitive. That first win is going to be huge."

Jared Goff

Update on his current health: "Had surgery in late Nov, but is 100% now."

Reflecting on the hardships of starting as a true freshman: "Always times when you have second thoughts, but generally a confident person. Never wavered. Knows what he can and can't do. Times were hard, but he stayed confident."

The hardest adjustments for him: "Learning defenses. How fast they are, especially DBs. Windows close faster. D-line faster. Everything sped up. Northwestern game was good learning experience."

On the importance of Week One: "Always important to get off to a good start. We know a lot about Northwestern."

On the Bear Raid offense: "Love the offense. Love the freedom for QB, but wouldn't mind if RB gets 400 yards rushing if that means a win."