Shaw, Dykes, and Caragher preview upcoming college football season
At 346 pounds, Cal left tackle Freddie Tagaloa was feeling pretty good about where he was at going into spring practice.
Tagaloa had adjusted well to college football. He was the first true freshman offensive lineman to play at Cal in three years and eager to grab hold of a starting job under new coach Sonny Dykes.
It took about a day for Tagaloa to realize the pace of Dykes' practices were more akin to what he went through playing prep basketball at nearby state power Salesian than those in his lone season under Jeff Tedford at Cal. Everything was done at game speed -- and not the game speed Cal was used to. It was like an Oregon game was taking place on the practice field in Berkeley.
"I'm out there running from sideline to sideline," said Tagaloa, shaking his head, almost in disbelief. "I'm like a receiver. The speed is just ridiculous and the spring was really uncomfortable."
Though not as uncomfortable as winning just three games the same year the university completed a $445 million project which included a major renovation to Memorial Stadium and a new student athletic center. Cal averaged just 19.3 points per game in Pac-12 play and took a five-game losing streak into the offseason.
Under Dykes, who orchestrated the nation's No. 1 scoring offense last season at Louisiana Tech (51.5 ppg), those scoring woes figure to change. At least that's the plan.
On what he was most excited about this season, Tagaloa was blunt: "Putting points on the board. I've seen what he did at Louisiana Tech and I think we have more tools here."
He said the team has bought in to the young staff's energetic approach and most of the players are excited in the program's change of course.
"Our old staff went about the ways of the old don't-really-say-much-but-get-the-job-done demeanor," Tagaloa said. "These guys are just barking like 'Lets go, lets go.' It's kind of exciting."
Tagaloa is one of several Cal players who might need to get new clothes thanks to Dykes' arrival. He shed 25 pounds in the spring and expects to dip under 320 before the season starts.
And while Tagaloa said everyone on the team is fighting for a starting spot -- himself included -- the position battle that will undoubtedly draw the most attention is at quarterback, where three players are vying for the job: redshirt junior Austin Hinder, redshirt freshman Zach Kline and true freshman Jared Goff.
Dykes said he wants to name a starter before the third week practice, 10-12 practices in, in order for that player to get the necessary reps headed into their Aug. 31 opener at home against Northwestern. He also made it clear that he's against letting two guys share the job.
"It's true that if you have two, then you really have zero," Dykes said. "The only way you grow at that position is if you get reps and the only way you get reps is by playing and the only way you play is if you have one guy."
He said that if any of the three -- none of whom have taken a college snap -- clearly separates himself earlier than the self-imposed deadline, he won't hesitate to name a starter at that time.
A native of the quarterback factory that is Danville, Kline was the most highly-touted recruit among the bunch, having been named the Gatorade California Football Player of the Year following his senior year at San Ramon Valley High. Of the three, he has the strongest arm and his leadership qualities are what stood out to Tagaloa.
On Hinder, Dykes said he's: "a little bigger, more physical guy, runs pretty good."
Goff led Marin Catholic to a 14-2 record and the CIF State Division III Bowl Game last year before graduating early to take part in spring practice, where he surpassed Dykes' expectations.
"Young guy that's really mature and a good decision maker," Dykes said. "Good enough arm and all the stuff is there."