Things haven’t started off so well for the Cal Bears under new head coach Sonny Dykes. While many expected the young roster to struggle with a daunting early-season schedule, there is still plenty of disappointment with the team’s current 1-3 mark. Part of that disappointment has been how poorly the defense has played so far but that didn’t stop Dykes from dismissing his best pass rusher Chris McCain from the team after the Bears’ 55-16 loss to the Oregon Ducks.
So far this season, the entire Cal defense has struggled to stop opposing offenses, allowing 181 points through the first four games. McCain was supposed to be the team’s best defender and pass rusher after moving down to the defensive end spot from his 3-4 linebacker position he played in 2012. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior had prototypical length to blossom into an elite pass rusher this season and provide a much needed boost to the Bears’ defensive front.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the way things panned out. McCain made 11 tackles in three games (he didn’t play against Portland State) with one quarterback pressure and a forced fumble. He got himself ejected from the season opener against the Northwestern Wildcats on a targeting penalty and has reportedly been involved in some less-than-sportsmanlike behavior during games on the field. Dykes finally saw enough from McCain, kicking him off the team for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
On paper, this will hurt Cal’s defense immediately. The Bears are already short-handed due to injuries and have been forced to throw many young players into the fray before they’re prepared to handle it. But Dykes needs leaders who have bought into what he’s building in Berkeley and will be a positive influence on the team even in tough times.
McCain wasn’t meeting that expectation and was in danger of becoming a distraction in the locker room. For the long term chemistry of this team and the foundation that Dykes is building at Cal, there was simply no place for McCain on this roster.