Sonny Dykes came to Berkeley to rejuvenate a Cal Bears football program that had plateaued under Jeff Tedford and begun the quick slide back into the bottom of the Pac 12. He’ll bring a new system on both sides of the ball, face a rigorous schedule and have one of the youngest rosters in the country to try and do it with. That didn’t stop Dykes from getting even younger, however, by naming true freshman Jared Goff the starting quarterback for the 2013 season.
Goff has been on campus for just eight months, but has been impressive through spring practice and into fall camp. He’s continued to improve his game and grow stronger each day, proving that he was the man for Dykes’ offense this fall. The quarterback competition was won because of the incredible upside he showed during practices and has earned the trust of Dykes to carry the offense in his first season as head coach.
The move is significant in that Dykes is fully committing to the youth of this team. He wants the players out there with the highest ceilings so that they can learn and grow on the fly. They may have to take their lumps in the process, but they’ll be molded into better, tougher football players because of it. Passing over the slightly more polished and experienced options on the roster shows that Dykes is committed to the big picture of this program.
That doesn’t mean that the short term outlook is any less bleak. Goff gets thrown into the deep end right away with an opening weekend against the 10-win Northwestern Wildcats followed by a date with BCS National Championship contender Ohio State Buckeyes two weeks later. He’ll get the small benefit of playing at home for both those games, but it won’t make the transition that much easier from prep football to the major college level.
And it won’t get much easier for him when the conference schedule gets rolling. Cal goes on the road to face the Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins, Washington Huskies and Stanford Cardinal as part of their schedule on top of welcoming the USC Trojans to Berkeley. Their only major pass this season is avoiding the red-hot Arizona State Sun Devils, but that’s little consolation considering the road trips they have to take.
This Bears team will take their lumps this season. They’ll do it with a true freshman under center who will be molded into a better leader and better football player by the fire of a truly rigorous schedule. Will the trials of 2013 yield major benefits in 2014 and beyond?