BERKELEY (AP) — Coach Sonny Dykes has plenty of work to do as he starts Year 2 of spring practice at California.
After a disappointing one-win debut season, the Golden Bears opened spring ball Monday looking to overhaul a porous defense by implementing a new system, tinker with a “Bear Raid” offense that showed flashes last year but lacked consistency and make changes to the practice structure in hopes of making major improvement.
The toughest task might be rebuilding the confidence of the players in a program that only beat lower-division Portland State last season and has lost 16 straight games against FBS opponents.
“It’s a process,” Dykes said. “You don’t become a confident football team by talking about it. You have to go out and execute at a high level and it happens. Guys feel like last year wasn’t indicative of what we feel like we’re capable of doing as a football program. I think they’re anxious to get back out there and get it fixed.”
The Bears waited longer than any other team in the Pac-12 to get the 2014 season started as spring practice started more than four months after the 63-13 season finale loss to rival Stanford on Nov. 23.
UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State also start spring practice this week but all three of those schools played in a bowl game, while Cal tried to forget a rough season.
“There’s quite the buzz in the locker room right now,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “Everyone is really excited to move on from last year and start almost a new team this year, a new season and get all of that garbage behind us. We’re really excited about it.”
Dykes waited an extra month to start spring ball in his second season in part to help players recover from injuries, most notably Goff. He had surgery on his throwing shoulder after the season and said he felt 100 percent about a month ago.
Cal plans to limit Goff’s practice time in the spring and give him an occasional day off in order to make sure he has no setbacks.
Goff was a rare bright spot in a disappointing season for Cal, breaking the single-season school records for yards passing (3,508), total offense (3,446), passes completed (320) and passes attempted (531) while starting all 12 games as a freshman.
Goff said his priority this offseason is improving his footwork, accuracy and leadership.