Relationships often take several months to develop. Cal football head coach Sonny Dykes had only two months to build relationships with this year’s recruiting class.
Taking over the Cal football team on Dec. 5, Dykes zeroed in on fixing three of the Bears’ most dire concerns: the offensive line, defensive line and academics. Of the 25 recruits who signed their letters of intent to Cal, five were offensive linemen and eight were defensive lineman.
“The first thing I noticed is that we needed to build depth on our offensive and defensive lines,” Dykes said in his National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday. “(It’s) going to determine the success of our program.”
Cal’s performance in the trenches on both sides of the ball was lackluster in 2012. The Bears were ranked 118th in the nation in sacks allowed last year, with 40. On the defensive side of the ball, Cal sacked the opposing quarterback only 25 times — tied for 59th in the nation.
In his press conference, Dykes also honed in on academics. A glaring concern for the Bears, which ultimately played a role in Tedford’s firing, was their graduation rate of 47 percent among players who enrolled between 2002 and 2005. It was the worst in the Pac-12.
“Our student-athletes need to be equipped to deal with the competitive atmosphere in the classroom,” Dykes said. “We’ve got to represent this institution the right way with this football program.”
Dykes pointed to three in particular who he believes will receive early playing time: cornerback Cameron Walker, wide receiver Jack Austin and running back Khalfani Muhammad.
Walker is a solid open field tackler who possesses good closing speed. Austin is regarded as a good route runner, which will help him transition to the college game. His 6-foot-3 height also enables him to make tough catches over defenders.
Dykes believes Muhammad gives the Cal offense an added explosive threat. In addition to starring in football at Notre Dame High School, Muhammad was the Californian state champion in the 100- and 200-meter races.
“(Muhammad) gets going … fast,” Dykes said regarding the Sherman Oaks, Calif., running back. “He had about a 20-minute highlight reel.”
Moving forward, Dykes acknowledged the fast pace of the spring season, which is something that he’s looking forward to. The next two weeks will be used as an “evaluation period,” and when spring ball commences, Dykes will get a better idea about the football team he has assembled.
“We weren’t trying to win any kind of Signing Day accolades,” Dykes said.
“The best thing about this class is that we signed a football team.”
Contact Sean Wagner-McGough at [email protected].