Pac-12: Rob Likens

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Headed into his second season at Cal, there's still a lot coach Sonny Dykes needs to learn about his team. Seemingly left with more questions than answers at the end of Year 1, it was clear the spring would be a fact-finding mission as much as anything.

Except at receiver.

There has been some minor tweaking going on during the first two-thirds of spring practice, but it's clear that the coaching staff is confident in the receivers -- perhaps more than any other group on the team.

[+] EnlargeChris Harper
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsChris Harper had 70 catches for 852 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.
'There's some [Pac-12 teams that] probably return, maybe more productive guys than we did, but we've got a lot of guys who can play," Dykes said. "I think our depth has got to be probably as good as anybody's in terms of guys who have played and guys who are starting to to come into their own."

It starts with the duo of Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, who combined for 147 catches for 1,603 yards a year ago, but Kenny Lawler also was productive (37 catches, 347 yards, 5 TD) -- especially late in the season -- and several others are fighting for playing time.

Assistant head coach Rob Likens, who is responsible for the outside receivers, doesn't hesitate to call the receivers the team's strongest unit -- and that he tells them that every day.

"They have to put it on their shoulders," Likens said of the group's importance to the team. "Experience breeds confidence, and that’s the thing we were lacking last year.

"Obviously, when you’re running a new offense, that first year they don’t know what to expect in a game, how its all going to work out. So we’ve gone through that process already, so they know coming into the spring how [the rest of the conference] is going to play."

The most notable change has been Treggs' move from outside to inside receiver. The move was done as part of an effort to get him the ball more often and engineer more matchups against safeties and linebackers. Making the same position change is 6-foot-6 Drake Whitehurst, who provides the closest look to what the Bears had from Richard Rodgers a year ago.

On the right side, Stephen Anderson and Darius Powe are battling at the inside spot, but Likens said both struggled with too many drops last fall. With Treggs inside, the left outside receiver spot is a competition between Hawaii transfer Trevor Davis and junior Maurice Harris. They are splitting time with the first team.

With such a talented group of receivers and a promising young quarterback in Jared Goff, Cal certainly has the potential to evolve into a dangerous Pac-12 offense, but other deficiencies need to get cleaned up. Namely the running game.

"And we know that. We stressed that this spring," Likens said. "[Last year,] we got into games and we realized that everybody realized that we couldn’t run the ball, so it is a lot of pressure on some very young skill guys."

Likens said Cal will "rely heavily on" a pair of incoming freshman running backs, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere.

Cal will plays its spring game on April 26, at which point the coaching staff will turn the responsibility over to the players to get better. Most, if not all, are expected to be around for a majority of the summer.

"In this offense, that’s crucial," Likens said. "If you don’t do that, you don’t have a chance."

It's an expectation Lawler said the players have bought into, and only partially because of the 1-11 season.

Lawler doesn't believe the lack of success had anything to do with last offseason's effort -- "We actually worked out really hard," he said -- but admitted he's willing to work harder and give more things up this time around.

Sonny Dykes hires two assistants at Cal

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
6:36
PM ET
Two Louisiana Tech assistant coaches will follow new California coach Sonny Dykes to Berkeley: Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and receivers coach/assistant head coach Rob Likens.

Franklin, who's been an offensive coordinator for Kentucky, Troy, Auburn and Middle Tennessee, was with Dykes at Louisiana Tech the past three years. This past season, the Bulldogs led the nation with 51.5 points per game. He was a 2012 nominee for the Broyles Award given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach and one of four finalists for the FootballScoop.com Offensive Coordinator of the Year.

“Tony Franklin is an innovative and creative mind who is one of the top offensive coaches in the nation,” Dykes said in a statement. “He’s had a tremendous amount of success producing some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited that he is joining our staff at Cal and look forward to much more success in the years ahead.”

Said Franklin in the same statement, "I’ve been recruiting California for a long time and this is where my wife and I wanted to live. It’s funny how dreams sometimes do come true. ... This is our last stop, this is where we want to finish. I have no desire to be a head coach. I wanted to be here to make this thing work for Sonny and give the Cal alumni something they can be proud of. As much pride as they have in their academics, we want it to be the same for their football program. That’s our goal.”

Likens served as an assistant head coach and wide receivers coach for Dykes at Louisiana Tech the past three seasons. He coached 2012 second-team AP All-American and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Quinton Patton, who was a major contributor to the team’s prolific scoring offense.
In 2012, Louisiana Tech ranked among the NCAA's top 20 in total offense (2nd, 577.92 yards per game), passing offense (4th, 350.75 ypg), fewest sacks allowed (8th, 0.83 spg) and rushing offense (18th, 227.17 ypg). The Bulldogs scored more than 40 points in 11 of 12 games and over 50 points on eight occasions. Louisiana Tech’s 13 turnovers were tied for the 10th-lowest total in the country, while the team’s turnover margin of plus-1.08 per game was also tied for 10th nationally.

Quarterback Colby Cameron was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year and earned the Sammy Baugh Award, presented to college football’s top passer by The Touchdown Club of Columbus. Cameron completed 359 of 522 passes for 4,147 yards and 31 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He ranked fourth nationally in total offense (360.33 ypg) and 24th in passing efficiency (153.19) at the end of the regular season.

Likens directed one of the most potent wide receiver corps in the country in 2012 led by Patton, who paced the WAC in both per-game receiving yards (116.00 ypg) and receptions (8.67 rpg), while ranking fourth in the nation in both categories while compiling totals of 104 catches and 1,392 receiving yards. Patton was also tied for fifth in the nation among wide receivers with 13 touchdowns receptions. Overall, Tech’s receivers recorded 4,209 receiving yards and had more receiving yards than 28 FBS teams had yards of total offense.

Prior to his three-year stint at Louisiana Tech, Likens served for four seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Central Connecticut State (2006-09) and led the Blue Devils to more wins than in any other four-year period in school history.

In addition to his coaching career, Franklin is the owner of The Tony Franklin Systems that conducts a series of football seminars for coaches emphasizing winning solutions. Franklin also has written two books, including "Victor's Victory," which chronicled the tragic death and spectacular life of 15-year-old Hoover High football player Victor Dionte Hill.

Hill died from sudden cardiac arrest on the football practice field during one of Franklin's consulting sessions. The book has helped to continue the mission of Cheryl Hill, Victor's mother, to make teachers, coaches, and parents aware of the need for automatic external defibrillators (AED's) in every school and youth organization in Alabama.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD