In yesterday's recap, I covered what Sonny Dykes discussed during the "press conference" period of Pac-12 Media Day. Today I move onto the luncheon where the media had the chance to sit down with Jared Goff, Stefan McClure, and, later on, Sonny Dykes. Here are the highlights from the luncheon:
Poor Jared. This was his first Pac-12 Media Day and he was a bit worn down from all the interviews and other activities. He was still in good spirits and happy to talk with us, but he mostly seemed happy to get some time to sit down and relax a bit. He showed us his scar from shoulder surgery; it wasn't as pronounced as I thought it would be. Fortunately he answered some questions for us.
- Which incoming freshmen will have the biggest impact? He said the running backs. All of them.
- How much freedom do you have at the line of scrimmage now? He says Coach Franklin has given him more freedom to change plays at the LoS. That has been the biggest change to the offense this offseason.
- Which is your favorite uniform combination? Goff likes the gold tops with blue pants. He also liked the shiny, white helmets with the silver Cal logo that were at Media Day.
- What needs to happen to improve the tempo on offense? I was surprised to hear Goff say that he thinks the offense is plenty fast already and that he wasn't sure the offense needs to pick up the tempo. (I also asked this question to Coach Dykes, who provided a different answer)
- With which receiver do you have the best connection? Goff mentioned that he and Kenny Lawler always seem to be on the same page. He said he has great chemistry with all the receivers---Treggs, Harper, Powe---but says he and Kenny seem to have the best connection.
- How do you like Pac-12 Media Day? He had a good time, but it's a long, tough day.
- Is the team looking forward to playing Northwestern? Absolutely. In the locker room the team has a countdown that tracks the number of days until the Northwestern game.
- Everyone says the Tony Franklin offense is easy to learn. Were there any surprises you encountered over the season? Any unexpected challenges? Not really. [I was a bit surprised by how frank he was about this]
- What's it like having such a talented receiving corps? "I've got to be the luckiest quarterback in the nation"
- [I don't remember the question that prompted this] Goff thinks the running game will make some improvements this year that will open up the passing game. Goff looks forward to running playaction passes that get the safety to bite on the run. Without a credible running threat last year, playaction was not as successful as it could be.
- What's it like running the offense against Kaufman's D? Kaufman does a great job of disguising coverage and disguising his blitzes.
- Have you put on weight in the offseason? Goff is up to 205 pounds, compared to his playing weight of 185 lbs. last season. He was 195 during spring practice and has since put on 10 lbs. He says this should help him avoid sacks. He specifically mentioned arm sacks as a problem last season. He also expects his stamina to be better.
- How do you feel about your performances last season? Looking back, Goff is frustrated with his play early in the season. He specifically mentions the Northwestern, Ohio State, and UCLA games. He was happier with his performances later in the season.
- Sonny mentioned that you put too much pressure on yourself last season. Do you agree? He agrees and says he was "trying to do too much." He now recognizes that he "can chip away one play at a time" instead of trying to score 30 points at once.
- How did the team respond to finishing 1-11? "I think it brought us together as a family." Growing together through that adversity built character. [Side note: I've been hearing this at Media Day for years now. Tedford's players said it after the 2010 bowlless season and they said that last year after Dykes took over for Tedford. We'll see if there's a difference on the field this year.]
- [I don't recall the exact question] Goff mentioned that Vic Enwere and Tre Watson are eager to learn and are constantly asking questions about the offense.
I didn't get the chance to talk much to McClure, so this is mostly what I picked up from others' conversations with him.
- How did the passing of Ted Agu impact the team? It brought things into perspective for many of the players. They recognize more clearly that they need to play for more than themselves.
- How committed is the team to improving? Guys are fully buying in this summer and are committed to turning things around. He says "we're all done with last year."
- How do you like Kaufman's defense? McClure is very happy as the "QB of the defense" (free safety).
- How is the recovery going? McClure says he's up to about 85-90% speed now. His acceleration is back to normal, but he's slowly regaining his top-end speed. He joked that if things go well on defense, he won't need that top-end speed to chase players down in the open field. He expects, however, to be 100% by the start of the season.
- [I didn't hear the question] McClure mentioned that Cam Walker has gained 20 pounds and is up to about 180. He doesn't know how he played safety last year at only 160.
Around 2pm Sonny Dykes joined us at the lunch table, which gave Goff and McClure a much-needed break.
- Various updates on player statuses. Demariay Drew: "Nothing new...still pending." Jacobi Hunter has transferred to Sam Houston State. Wake Forest transfer James Looney's status is still pending. We should find out during fall camp whether he'll be eligible to play this season. Dykes expects him to make a big impact based on his Wake Forest tape. Chris Adcock will move back to center, which will move Jordan Rigsbee to right tackle. The staff keeps waiting for Brian Farley to take that next step, but he hasn't yet. Dykes doesn't expect anyone to be unable to play for the Northwestern game.
- On the running game: Dykes believes the team will be better equipped to run this year, both at RB and O-line.
- On Luke Rubenzer: Dykes expects Rubenzer to compete for the backup quarterback spot.
- What are your thoughts on possible NCAA rules further limiting contact in practice? The team had over 50% full-contact (i.e. tackling) practices in the spring. He plans to keep that ratio during fall camp. He plans on having more full-contact practices than usual this fall due to the amount of youth on the team. Dykes doesn't plan to have many extended scrimmages, however. He wants scrimmages to have 30-40 reps because replicating a full game means running 150 reps. That large of a quantity of reps may lead to injuries.
- On the kicking competition: The team plans to continue to have a three-man competition for the job. The staff thinks Langford will win, however. Dykes does not like having multiple field goal kickers (long distance specialist and shorter distance kicker) but is willing to have multiple kickers if that proves to be the best option.
- Practice: [Man, we talkin' 'bout practice] Dykes plans to begin fall camp with afternoon practices. They will transition to morning practices to prepare for the Northwestern kickoff time. Dykes plans to open the majority of practices to fans.
- On Kaufman's new defense: The defense will be multiple because that is a "big part of Art's pedigree." The defense will operate under a 4-3 base, but will shift depending on the opponent.
- How do you measure success this season? To be successful, the team must "just get better." Dykes told us a story about his time at Louisiana Tech. The first year was similar to his first year at Cal (albeit with more wins) and the team struggled to start the 2011 season. They started 1-4 but won 16 of their next 17 games. Instead of focusing on the wins, the players simply focused on getting better. Once overall improvement becomes the focus, the "wins take care of themselves." Dykes believes his team has the talent and character to turn things around.
- How is Hardy Nickerson doing? Dykes expects him to be fully cleared. Coming back from Nickerson's foot injury can be complicated. Some come back quickly while some take a while. He said Nickerson runs straight ahead well, but he still hobbles a bit when going side to side.
- What was the biggest mistake of your career? [I bet he was thinking Andy Buh] Dykes says the biggest mistake he made was not giving his team more rest during the latter half of the 2012 season. They were ranked up to #16 but struggled late in the season. He thinks they were worn out as the end of the year approached.
- Thoughts on the JC route: Dykes had considerable success signing JC players both at Texas Tech and Louisiana Tech. The staff intentionally kept some scholarships available for last-minute signings.
- Which lessons learned in the 2013 season shaped how Dykes conducted the recent defensive coordinator search? Dykes was looking for a coordinator with three characteristics: 1) extensive experience, 2) familiarity with playing a variety of offenses and working with an uptempo offense, and 3) the demonstrated ability to turn defenses around.
- Are you satisfied with the tempo of last season? "I don't think it's where it needs to be." He wasn't satisfied with the pace last year and wasn't satisfied with the pace this spring. He mentioned that having a defense that forces three-and-outs is helpful because he cannot push the pace if the defense is going to spend the whole game on the field.
- On bouncing back from last year: The team has learned that is needs to be "earning the right to be successful." Every team in the nation trains and does 7-on-7s. The players have grown to understand that.
- And finally, we have the question that many of you were probably waiting for: What are your thoughts on Sandy's departure from the AD role? "It's not an ideal situation. I have a lot of respect for Sandy and what she's about. Change is inevitable in college football." He reiterated that "I have enough to worry about in things I can control" and that he shouldn't worry too much about things he cannot control. "I have a lot of faith in John Wilton. They'll hire the best athletic director in the country; I believe that." Does he think the new AD might want to bring in his or her own football coach? "I don't think so." Dykes says he was brought in to fix academics and win games. Last season they fixed the academic issues and this year they expect to begin fixing the problem with winning games.