- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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At his introductory press conference, new California head coach Sonny Dykes addressed a wide range of topics, including offense, defense, special teams, recruiting, academics and what it means to play in the Pac-12. But he said the No. 1 priority will be filling out his coaching staff -- specifically naming a defensive coordinator.
"That will be the biggest, most important hire that I make is hiring a defensive coordinator that will come in and get to work from Day 1 and get a defense established," Dykes said. "In the Pac-12 you've got to be able to play versatile defense. You've got to be able to adjust. One week you may play Stanford and one week you may play Oregon -- two completely different teams philosophically, but you have to be prepared to play against both styles of football."
While Dykes comes in with impressive offensive credentials -- the kind that are tailor-made for the Pac-12 -- his former Louisiana Tech squad was last in the country in yards allowed (526 per game) and ranked 116th in total defense -- yielding 38.5 points per game. Worth noting, however, that they led the nation in offense.
"We did have a bit of an anomaly this year," Dykes said. "We were No. 1 in the country in offense and last in defense -- which is something that's a little bit unusual. It's something we know we need to get addressed ... Certainly it's not something we want to make a living doing. We want to play great defense. Great defense is like pitching. It's consistent, day in and day out. If you can be a great defensive football team, that's going to allow you the opportunity to win every ball game.
"My No. 1 job's going to be to go out, hire the best defensive coordinator I can find in the United States. I've got four or five names right now that I plan to interview and go get the best one, bring him here and combine great defense with great offense and great special teams and try to go win a championship. "
Dykes said he plans to have his staff assembled in the next 10-14 days and it could include members of Jeff Tedford's staff.
"Hopefully [we'll] have a complete staff as we break for Christmas," he said. "As far as the existing staff, I will meet with every one of them and they'll be given an opportunity to interview and to be part of this staff as well."
A few more highlights from his introductory news conference:
On academics: Our job every single day as coaches is to get our players to do their best every day, in any endeavor they chose to be a part of. What we have to do from Day 1 is instill expectations. We expect our players to attend every class, every study hall session, every tutoring session, and not only attend them, but do their best when they are involved in those sessions. And then I think what we have to do is build an overall team that understands what opportunity they have being here. How fortunate they are being part of this university and the opportunities afforded to them.
On recruiting: This is not a bad time to come in. Anytime you have a coaching search you get a bit of a late start. But to Cal's credit, this happened very quickly. It's given us time to get in there and get some work done on the recruiting front this week and all of next week we'll have an opportunity to get out and see all current commits and perspective student-athletes. I think it was done in a very timely manner ... we're going to be reaching out to our current commits. Obviously, that's our No. 1 goal is to retain those commitments and continue to build those relationships with those players.
On quarterbacks: If we have a quarterback that can run, we're going to run him. All of those opportunities exist within the offense. In a perfect world we'd have a [quarterback] that is mobile and could carry the ball 8-10 times per game. We haven't had that at Louisiana Tech. Our guys have been more pocket guys so that's the style of play we've adjusted to. We're not a true spread-option team. It's not going to be Oregon spread and it's not going to be Texas Tech spread. We run the football a lot ... it's a diverse offense that can throw the ball, run the ball, that creates matchups.
On the current roster: I've had an opportunity to delve into it a little bit. Most of the quarterbacks I knew because we recruited those guys either at Arizona or Louisiana Tech. They were all highly-regarded players and so I'm pretty familiar with most of them. I know there are some outstanding young receivers in the program. I think there are some tight ends that can do some things that are unique and will give our offense some diversity. Defensively, I think we need to get bigger and more physical up front -- on both sides of the line of scrimmage. That's an area we're going to have to address as we move forward in recruiting. It's imperative with the physical play that happens in this league that you're big on both sides of the line. Recruiting always starts for us with offensive and defensive linemen. I think it's where you build your program and it's going to be important to us to recruit those types of players.
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