The Golden Bears suited up again this Sunday to round out a full week of practice. No breaks were given this week as the team works hard to prepare for the upcoming season.
With this practice came the unfortunate news that linebacker Jason Gibson is retiring due to a lingering injury. “He had the Lisfranc surgery and just hasn’t recovered very well,” said Dykes. “He has worked incredibly hard to come back and it’s just been really painful and he’s had a hard time doing it. He’s going to graduate this spring so he’s going to apply for a medical hardship and we expect he’ll get it.”
In scrimmages today, with limited pads, it was clear that the defense was outpacing the offense. When you’re scrimmaging your own team, it’s always tough to determine which side is at fault when the action starts to look uneven. Maybe the offense is just having a bad day, or it could be that the defense is actually playing at a higher level.
“I thought the defense is starting to run around,” Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said. “The guys are playing a lot faster. It’s funny because when they don’t have to tackle the backs the offense always has a hard time moving and when people do have to tackle the backs it’s different. I thought they did a good job.”
Dykes attributes part of the defense’s success today to their depth and the fact that they have so many players to rotate into the game. Like defensive coordinator Art Kaufman was saying earlier in the week, the defense has a lot of committee guys in rotation that keeps the defense fresh and moving quickly. Dykes explained, “They’ve got a lot of depth, the guys aren’t wearing down and so as a result they’re starting to figure out what to do and they’re starting to see things. They’re starting to trigger quickly and just the speed of the game is starting to happen at a much faster rate. I think the big thing, too, is we’re starting to play well on the backend. The corners, to me, are really improved.”
And with that comment the California fandom let out a sigh of relief. As a fan who was there in the student section on Saturdays last season, there was nothing more demoralizing than watching the secondary give up the long, crowd-silencing touchdowns. Granted any problems on defense are nearly always due to more to many accumulated errors than a poor play by any one position but it’s nonetheless good to hear that the backfield is seeing progress this offseason.
As of late, lineman Jordan Rigsbee has been seeing more work, while he’s carefully worked back from injury. With emerging competition on the line, though, the two year veteran has been playing different positions as the team looks to find where he fits best with the current talent. “There’s just a lot of competition going on right now for a lot of those spots," said Dykes. "Granado’s played so well at tackle that it’s allowed us to stick Rigsbee in there at guard where he’s played a lot more and he’s been more comfortable. Farley’s done a good job at tackle as well, so that’s given us options as far as moving people around with Matt being able to flip flop and do some different things.”
With the season nearing players are starting to really fight for those few coveted starting jobs, and the fact that there are so many battles for starting positions is only a good thing for this program. As guys compete, they’re forced to really make progress, or they risk losing out on a starting spot. The internal competition generated from this will only yield faster progress and a deeper team than we had going into this fall camp.
To view post-practice comments from Dykes and defensive tackle Austin Clark, use the embedded viewers below:
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes:
Defensive tackle Austin Clark:
Cal football video feature on junior safety Stefan McClure: