Following the firing of Jeff Tedford, Cal football has found their new head coach. His replacement in Berkeley will be Sonny Dykes, an offensive mastermind who has coached at Louisiana Tech the last three seasons. Dykes will have to rebuild a program that went 3-9 this past season and missed out on a bowl game for the second time in the last three years.
Dykes has previous experience in the Pac-12 Conference. He was Mike Stoops’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona from 2007 to 2009, where his air-raid offense was a success.
Dykes coached multiple NFL products in Tucson, including New England Patriots superstar Rob Gronkowski. Mike Thomas, currently with the Detroit Lions, caught a Pac-10 record 259 passes with Dykes running the offense.
Before coaching at Arizona, he was an assistant at Kentucky under Hal Mumme and later for Mike Leach at Texas Tech, his alma mater. Dykes' father, Spike, is the winningest coach in Red Raiders’ history. Sonny lived up to his father’s name while helping Leach and current West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen run the offense at Texas Tech.
While specifically working with receivers, Dykes helped Wes Welker develop into the three-time NFL receptions leader that he would later become. Furthermore, quarterbacks Cody Hodges and Graham Harrell were among the nation’s best when playing under Dykes.
After years as the second in command, Dykes was finally given a chance to be a head coach when he was hired to replace Derek Dooley at Louisiana Tech of the WAC in 2010. The Bulldogs finished just 5-7 during his first season, but made immense improvements on offense.
He took the program to new heights in 2011. Louisiana Tech earned its first conference title in 10 years after an 8-4 regular season. The Bulldogs made an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl, where they lost to TCU.
2012 featured a number of highs in Ruston, but ended on a very sour note. They cracked the top 25 in the BCS, AP and Coaches Polls, and received a ranking as high as 18 in the Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs won two games against teams from BCS conferences, including a blowout of Illinois 52-24 in Champaign.
Their biggest game of the season, maybe even the biggest game in program history, was a loss to “Johnny Football” and Texas A&M in October. Although they lost 59-57, it was a success because the Bulldogs proved that they could contend with a top-notch program, nevertheless an SEC team that went on to beat Alabama.
Louisiana Tech lost their final two games of the season in heartbreaking fashion to ranked teams. They finished the year 9-3 and earned an invitation to the Independence Bowl, but declined the offer in search of playing in a bigger bowl. When no other bowl called, Ohio had already agreed to take fill the vacancy in the Independence Bowl, leaving the Bulldogs without a home for the postseason.
In the end, Louisiana Tech finished the season as the highest scoring team in the country. In just three years, Dykes took a team that could barely score a touchdown and turned them into an offensive showcase that put up 51.5 points per game. The Bulldogs needed every point that they can get since their defense was the worst in the nation.
Dykes has a lot of work to do at Cal. It is much harder to build a winner in the Pac-12 than it is in the WAC. His onetime mentor Mike Leach's air-attack was shut down during his first year at Washington State.
Dykes is a proven winner. As long as he finds some defense, he should able to turn Cal around into the team that Jeff Tedford helped them become prior to his fall.