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March 5, 2013

Dykes wants success on and off the field

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

A 4.19 in the 40-yard dash is unheard of. A 4.19 high school grade-point average is the median student accepted at Cal.

For Sonny Dykes, combining players with athletic prowess and attention to academic success is a challenge as he takes over the Pac-12 program that sunk from a top 10 finish nationally to a three-win team.

It is a challenge he welcomes after accepting the head coaching position at Cal on Dec. 5, following the dismissal of Jeff Tedford.

Dykes said the path in front of him has been blazed and he believes it can be again.

"There is no question that our biggest obstacle will be recruiting guys who fit academically, much more than athletically," he said. "But the good thing for us is that usually the people who have that initial interest in Cal football know that going in and aren't wasting our time, either.

"This is a place that looks hard at academics, but when you see the success that has been had here recently, it also shows that it is committed to athletics."

In the first seven years under Tedford, Cal's football program was 59-30 -- all with winning records -- and five bowl victories. The last four years brought a 23-27 record and not one bowl victory.

Dykes signed on to rebuild.

The program will be losing a senior quarterback, running back, fullback and three offensive linemen. Two starters on the defensive line and two in the secondary are graduating.

Coming from the Mike Leach coaching tree, Dykes has had success as a head coach, leading Louisiana Tech to a 22-15 record in three years. The Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in total offense this past season.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said he believes Dykes has the cachet to land quality players.

"He's a great offensive mind with lots of good recruiting experience at the BCS level and a guy who will fit in perfectly in the Pac-12," Farrell said. "He will recruit skilled kids very well out there and take advantage of the California talent."

The recently signed class of 2013 would support that stance.

Dykes held together a quality class that filled the roster needs.

Jared Goff and Khalfani Muhammad stayed true to their pledges. The four-star quarterback from Kentfield (Cali.) Marin Catholic and four-star running back from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, respectively, were the two bright spots for the class.

The group featured eight defensive linemen and five offensive linemen to rebuild lacking depth.

According to Dykes, it was an all-around success over the last two months of the process.

"We were able to keep the kids who were committed and still go after some guys the new staff wanted to get," he said. "It was good to get that class behind us so now we can get out recruiting and spend time with the guys on the roster."

Dykes maintained his relationship with the Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame pipeline. The first pledge to the class of 2014 is athlete Koa Farmer from the Southern California school.

For Dykes, getting to know his current roster started as soon as spring practice opened last week.

The biggest battle for Cal will be at the quarterback position, where Kyle Boehm, Allan Bridgford, Jared Goff, Austin Hinder and Zach Kline are competing for the starting spot.

"We're repping five guys, trying to evaluate them and cut it back if we can," Dykes said. "You don't want to eliminate someone until you have a starter. We'll do it as quick as we can."

Once he gets through practice, the recruiting process will start again.

"Once we see what we actually need, then we can start to address that," Dykes said. "It is an exciting time for us. It was fast, getting here, recruiting kids here and now getting to know all of the kids that were already here.

"We will have to stay with this pace for a little while longer as we search for the things we need on offense and defense."

What the 43-year-old coach said is working in his favor is that there are very few negatives about the program.

"We have won here, and that alone appeals to a lot of kids," Dykes said. "But more than that, we have a place in Northern California that is always voted among the nicest places in American to live, and we have an education package that few can match. This is the top-ranked public education that a kid can receive. We have it all.

"We have 36 former players in the NFL, and that number stands out."

Those 36 players -- for Dykes -- are still juxtaposed with the 4.19 median grade-point averages for accepted students.

It is an admissions obstacle that Dykes feels will help him weed out the wrong types of players from his program.

"We have to try to use the academic standards in our favor," Dykes said. "I think what has been obvious so far is that the kids who meet our requirements are just hard workers at their core. If you are going to have good work ethic in the classroom, we believe it will translate into good work ethic with the weights and on the field.

"Kids who have those grades are ready to be leaders, and I feel good about bringing in a group of kids who have those intangibles."



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