BERKELEY — After nine months of preparation, the Sonny Dykes era of Cal Football is finally getting underway at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
In addition to learning a new system, the Bears are returning the fewest number of starters in the Pac-12 and they're ranked 125th out of 126 teams in the nation when it comes to experience, according to college football analyst Phil Steele.
The Bears are featuring three new pieces on the offensive line and junior Chris Adcock is moving from right guard to center, replacing first-team All-Pac 12 center Brian Schwenke, who was drafted to NFL in April.
At center, Adcock won't just be anchoring the Bears' youthful line, he will be responsible for a handful of duties typically delegated to the quarterback: identifying defenses, setting the protection and calling out the snap count.
Despite his inexperience, Dykes expressed confidence in Adcock's ability to tackle the challenges of his new gig.
“Chris is a very smart kid,” Dykes said. “He has a great sense of identifying what people are trying to do defensively and adjusting to it, setting the protection the right way and seeing all the little nuances that you have to see.”
Dykes said the shift of responsibilities is allowing the Bears to start a true freshman, Jared Goff, at quarterback.
Goff agreed that the simplification of his job description is easing the transition from high school to college.
“It's very helpful being new to all this stuff and not having as much to focus on,” he said.
Defending the dual threat: With No. 22 Northwestern coming to town, the Bears defense is cramming to prepare for the Wildcats' two-quarterback offense.
In 2012, senior Kain Colter finished second on the team in carries (170) and rushing yards while junior Trevor Siemian led the Wildcats in completions (128) and passing yards (1,312). The quarterbacks' skill sets complement one another, giving coach Pat Fitzgerald multiple hands to play at the table.
Dykes said getting ready for Northwestern is “daunting” because they can run the option, play power football and throw deep.
“It's like preparing for two or three different offenses,” Dykes said.
Sebastian will play: Avery Sebastian, who suffered a neck injury during a scrimmage two weeks ago, is cleared to play in the Bears opener this week.
The junior safety isn't going to start, but Dykes said he expects him to see action, although it might be in a limited role.
“We're going to be smart about it, bring him back slowly,” Dykes said. “Our No. 1 concern is that he feels good and his health is good.”