Football in Berkeley, Calif., will look a lot different this fall.
It'll be exciting for sure, but excitement isn't always a positive thing in college football—Michigan fans can attest to this. Whenever Denard Robinson cocked his arm for a deep throw, it was pucker time.
Cal has a new coach in Sonny Dykes, and his former team, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, was exciting to watch. His offenses at Tech were ranked No. 1 in total offense in 2012 and No. 51 in 2011. In two years, Dykes took a 5-7 team and turned it around to a 9-3 team.
So far, so good.
Those stats were from his days in the WAC, when five of its seven teams' defenses also gave up 400-plus yards per game. The Bulldogs' defense was ranked last in the league in total defense, giving up an average 526 yards per game in 2012.
The Pac-12 is a little tougher in defense. Not one of its teams finished the season with a 500-plus yard average in total defense, and only five of its 12 teams' defenses had a 400-plus yard average.
Dykes recently talked to ESPN's Ted Miller, and Dykes sounded impressed with Cal's defense:
Dykes: I feel good about where we are defensively. We've been vanilla to this point. We're teaching base techniques. The offense knows where the defense is lining up right now so they are taking advantage of that in scrimmage situations. We'll do more blitzing this week. That's by design. I'm not worried about the defense. I like what I've seen.
Dykes also liked how well the offense has picked up the tempo of his "Bear Raid" offense:
I think on Saturday our players got into a good rhythm during the scrimmage. They got a sense of how demoralizing that can be to a defense. Tempo is always an area that we try to stress. You never have it figured out completely. But our guys are picking it up pretty fast. Anything under 10 seconds is pretty good.
Oregon has done very well with that up-tempo offense, so the Bears know it can work. The question is, with depth as an issue at several positions, can the reserves maintain that tempo when players, specifically the offensive linemen, need some rest as the game wears on?
Former Duck coach Chip Kelly recruited well and found players who fit the prototype player for the spread/zone read. But Cal's players, for the most part, were recruited for Tedford's Power I/Pro Set offense. Will they truly be able to adjust?
Before Cal had its first practice, Dykes was prepared for the worst. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
[Dykes] said the offense is easy to learn but hard to master with the speed and consistency necessary to be successful.
"They'll look terrible at first," Dykes said. "You'll come to practice and say, `Wow those guys are awful.' It's part of the deal. When you're teaching 90 guys something brand new, that they've never done before, it's not going to look like poetry in motion."
Cal football will definitely be more exciting to watch, and that's a welcome break from last year's offense as well as that dreadful 2009 offense.
But you can't fit a square peg in a round hole, and thus some players, as Dykes pointed out, aren't going to adjust as well as others in this new offense.
We'll count on seeing a lot more points scored by the Bears this fall— but we'll also count on some growing pains as Dykes works with the players he has, as well as with the new guys he has recruited specifically for this new offense.