Editor's note: This is the second of a series previewing the football teams of the 12 members of the Pac-12 Conference.
CULVER CITY, Calif. — It didn’t take long for new head coach Sonny Dykes to sell his approach to the players at California. After going 3-9 last season, the Golden Bears were more than eager to awake from hibernation.
“To their credit, the buy-in occurred on day one. They came to Cal to play championship football,” Dykes said. “They were disappointed with the outcome of last year’s season. This is a focused group. This is a group that has worked incredibly hard in the offseason. I think we will surprise some people.”
The Pac-12 media, however, doesn’t think so. Media members picked the Bears to once again finish fifth in the North Division.
Dykes, who spent the past three seasons at Louisiana Tech before replacing Jeff Tedford in Berkeley, understands. He admits that things may not look very good from the outside for his young team. From the inside, though, the picture is much brighter.
“We think it looks very good,” Dykes said. “We’re around our players all the time. We know the talent that exists in our program.”
OFFENSE: Cal is spreading things out under Dykes, who ran a fast-paced scheme at Louisiana Tech. The Bears, though, don’t have a lot of veterans around to ease the transition. Junior running back Brandon Bigelow and sophomore wide receiver Chris Harper are skilled players who could excel in the new system.
DEFENSE: New defensive coordinator Andy Buh is changing things up as Cal shifts from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme. Something needed to be done after the Bears gave up 121 points in season-ending losses to Oregon and Oregon State. Three junior college transfers will help shore up the defensive line this fall.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Vincenzo D’Amato led Cal with 78 points in 2012. The senior connected on 16 of his 23 field goal attempts.
EXTRA POINTS: Cal hosts two Big Ten teams in nonconference play — Northwestern (Aug. 31) and Ohio State (Sept. 14). A bye week follows the game with the Buckeyes, then comes the Bears’ Pac-12 opener at Oregon. ... The Bears have been rebranded with a new logo and uniforms this season. ... Dykes was Arizona’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2007-09.