Our (more than likely) final game takes place tomorrow at UC Berkeley, and although the season has not gone as anyone expected, I think we can all hope for a win for our seniors. Let’s take a look at the coaching staff and special teams unit that the Bruins will be up against tomorrow.
Sonny Dykes is in his fourth year as head coach of the Cal football program. The team’s seven-win turnaround on the field over the last two seasons from a 1-11 record in 2013 to an 8-5 mark in 2015 is tied for the second best in school history. This marked the school’s highest number of victories since 2009. Additionally, the Bears are seeing major academic success under Dykes with an Academic Progress Rate of 997 (as of April of this year). Cal has made major strides under Dykes, including their bowl win in 2015 which was their first since 2008, and offensive records including single-season school marks in passing yardage (4,892), passing yards per game (376.3), passing touchdowns (44), and total offense (6,879). Everyone remembers Jared Goff, right? Well, before he was drafted in the first round by the Rams (which, yes, may have been inflated) he was coached by Sonny Dykes. Goff was the first Cal quarterback to earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors since Aaron Rodgers in 2004, and in his final campaign at Cal as a 2015 junior, Goff broke a pair of Pac-12 single-season records when he passed for 4,719 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Last year, Dykes interviewed for the position at Missouri upon the retirement of Gary Pinkel, although he did not get the job and stayed with the Bears.
Back in September, Dykes had to issue a new rule to his team following a major mistake made by running back Vic Enwere. Enwere appeared to break free for a 55-yard touchdown run against Texas, but as we’ve all seen before, dropped the ball just short of the goal line. From then on, Dykes told his team, “Every time we score a touchdown from now on, we will hand the ball directly to an official,”.
Later in October, Dykes criticized the Bears’ schedule this season, calling it a “disaster”. Dykes was referring to their six days of preparation before they played USC, when the Trojans had much more time off. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Dykes said, “It’s been a mess. It’s been incredibly hard on our kids from an academic standpoint...it's absolutely nuts that we have to go to USC in six days to play a team that's had  days off". Cal ended up losing the game 45-24.
Art Kaufman is in his third season as the Bears’ defensive coordinator, and brings 35 years of experience to the table., and is in his first year working directly with the linebacker unit. He has also been the defensive coordinator for the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Under Kaufman’s direction, Cal has seen major improvements in fumbles recovered, turnovers gained, passes intercepted, and defensive touchdowns. Much of Cal's improvement in 2015 was because the Bears' defense continued to improve at a rapid rate, allowing 9.1 less points per game than the previous season and 15.8 points fewer than the 2013 campaign before Kaufman arrived in January of 2014. According to his bio, defensive tackle James Looney says, “Coach Kaufman has done a fantastic job helping our defense improve. He is always preaching for us to just do our job. We are getting much better at doing that and working together as a unit, and that will be the key to being successful this season”.
Jake Spavital is in his first year at Cal, and spent the last three years at Texas A&M. “It's great to have Jake on our coaching staff," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "He’s an outstanding communicator, very creative and brings a fresh approach. The biggest thing is that our players have accepted him and are comfortable with him, his philosophy and his coaching style. They like what we’re doing schematically and what we’re doing from a practice standpoint, and they are excited to play for him. He is also a fantastic recruiter who really identifies with players and recruits.” Spavital actually started in the college ranks as a scout team quarterback for the Missouri State Bears. On his own bad call, he ended up injured and spent the next three season calling plays from the sideline. He is known as an elite recruiter and is actually the third youngest offensive coordinator in the Power Five conferences. He rose quickly through the ranks at Tulsa, Oklahoma State, A&M, and now Cal. He comes from a family of coaches and has actually crossed paths with Dykes in the past. Spavital was a graduate assistant at Houston, where they were hosting an annual clinic for spread-system coaches. Dykes was there speaking to his peers, and Spavital was running much of the behind the scenes business for the meetings. Dykes sent Spavital a hand-written thank you note, and the gesture stuck with Spavital for years to come. To this day he writes thank you notes to support staffers who help him at events. According to the SF Gate, Dykes says, “Jake is a great relationship builder. He’s a genuine person, and that’s basically what I kept hearing when I did my research on him.”
Field goal duties have largely rested on the shoulders of Junior Matt Anderson. He is 17 of 21 on the season and had a season-best 47-yard field goal against Arizona State earlier this year. He handled punting duties as well last year with an average of 56 yards, but this year we are seeing more from redshirt sophomore Dylan Klumph. His longest punt this season was 64 yards, but he generally punts in the neighborhood of 47 yards. Senior Noah Beito has also seen some action this year, and has kicked off for Cal for an average of 56 yards, with 23 of those being touch backs. This is a category that can kill us. Kicking, punting, you name it, we’ve had issues in this area all year and field position can make or break a game, especially when your opponent is looking like an even match up on paper.
For some reason, Jake Spavital is the one that scares me. I believe Tom Bradley is a better coach than Art Kaufman, but Spavital can call better plays than Polamalu. With a defensive minded coach on our sideline, we need to have someone that is more capable handling the offense. Additionally, if our kicking game is off, that will be a major problem. We cannot have our kicker punting out of bounds for penalties and we also cannot afford to gift Cal yards in the form of good field position. We will see tomorrow.