Cal tabs Dykes as next head coach

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Cal tabs Dykes as next head coach

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) California hired Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes on Wednesday in hopes that the offensive mastermind can revive a program that struggled in recent years under the fired Jeff Tedford.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour made her biggest hire at Cal just more than two weeks after firing Tedford. Dykes will be formally introduced at an on-campus news conference Thursday.

"Sonny Dykes is one of the brightest offensive minds in the country, running a high-octane style of football, one that I'm certain will allow our student-athletes to thrive and that our community will love on game day," Barbour said in a statement. "However, it was far more than his history of a top-ranked offense and his proven success on the football field that solidified my decision; it was the way he described his responsibility to the University at large and his commitment to creating a climate of comprehensive excellence and success for his student-athletes."

The 43-year-old Dykes had a 22-15 record with the Bulldogs, improving their win total each year. The Bulldogs averaged 35.9 points and 452.5 yards per game in his tenure.

He takes over a Cal team that went 3-9 this past season and missed a bowl for the second time in three years. Dykes inherits a roster with some talent, most notably heralded quarterback recruit Zach Kline, who did not play as a freshman but is in line to win the starting job next season.

Dykes also will benefit from a facilities upgrade that Tedford helped engineer. Cal opened its remodeled $321 million stadium this past season that is adjacent to a $150 million on-campus High Performance Center.

"Cal offers one of the best combinations of athletics and academics in the country, and a passionate fan base to match," Dykes said. "I'm looking forward bring our exciting and enthusiastic brand of football to Berkeley. Our objectives are numerous. In addition to winning football games, we will strive to develop the total student-athlete in the classroom, on the field of play and in the campus and local communities."

The Bears will be without standout receiver Keenan Allen, who announced earlier in the day that he will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Allen is Cal's career receiving leader and is expected to be one of the top receivers taken in next April's draft.

Tedford, once known as a quarterback guru for his work with Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers, struggled in his later years at Cal to find an elite passer. The Bears had a 34-37 record in Tedford's final 5 1/2 years, leading to his dismissal.

Dykes, the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, is known as an offensive mastermind, who runs a spread system that he honed as coordinator under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Dykes later spent three seasons as offensive coordinator at Arizona under Mike Stoops before becoming head coach at Louisiana Tech before the 2010 season. He also coached two years as an assistant at Kentucky.

Dykes coached one of the nation's most prolific offenses at Louisiana Tech this year with the Bulldogs leading the nation with 51.5 points per contest and ranking second with 577.9 yards per game.

They opened 9-1, losing only 59-57 to Texas A&M, and were in position possibly to make it into a BCS bowl. But Louisiana Tech lost the final two games of the regular season to Utah State and San Jose State and now won't even play in any bowl.

La Tech was offered a spot in the Independence Bowl last Saturday but wanted to wait before accepting in case they got a better bid. The Independence Bowl invited Ohio instead and the Bulldogs were left out when Northern Illinois got into the Orange Bowl, knocking Oklahoma out of the BCS.

Oklahoma State (7-5) then filled the Big 12's final spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue, while Iowa State (6-6) landed in the Liberty Bowl to play C-USA champion Tulsa as an at-large pick and the Bulldogs were left out.

"We want to thank him and his family for the past three years and wish them the best in the future," Louisiana Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde said in a statement. "We will move meticulously and expeditiously in our search for our next head coach."

There was no immediate word on the terms of Dykes' contract. Cal still owes Tedford $6.9 million over the final three years of his deal, although Barbour had said the sides were working on a settlement.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.