BERKELEY -- Coach Sonny Dykes thought his Cal football team looked sharp Monday, and though it was only the first practice of a long season, it was a nice way to begin after last year's 1-11 disaster.
"I think everybody's refreshed and ready to compete again," junior wide receiver Chris Harper said after the 2½-hour workout. "The attitude is just a positive one from everybody."
The Bears will not dwell on 2013, when they failed to defeat an FBS opponent. "It's there, it's not going away," Dykes said of his debut season. "But I think we've all moved on."
Most of the players who missed last season with injuries are back, including junior defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil, who had an impressive push against quarterback Jared Goff early in practice but rested later.
It wasn't all good news Monday, however. Dykes announced that junior Maximo Espitia, who earned a starting outside linebacker job last spring, is suspended for the season because of a team rules violation.
"It's pretty serious," said Dykes, suggesting that Espitia won't automatically earn a return to the team. "He's going to have some pretty serious things he's going to need to work through, in terms of punishment and things on our end."
Also, sophomore offensive tackle Christian Okafor, who started five games last season but fell down the depth chart in spring ball, has taken a medical hardship and will retire from football. He will remain on scholarship.
Cornerback Darius White, a JC transfer, landed on his shoulder midway through practice and sat out the rest of the session but should be OK within a few days, Dykes said.
Obviously, a team coming off a 1-11 season has a lot of issues to address before the first game, but here's a look at four key ones:
Harrison Wilfley and Marcus Manley emerged from spring ball on the top line of the depth chart after lone returning starter Jacobi Hunter transferred. The Bears are hoping Jalil will be a force after sitting out last season with knee problems. Two more JC players, Trevor Kelly and David Davis, will be in the mix at a position Dykes hopes can become an area of depth. For now, it's a big question.
Junior Daniel Lasco emerged as the leader after spring ball, but he was a bit fragile last season. Versatile speedster Khalfani Muhammad was productive as a freshman last fall but hardly seems an every-down back. Then there are two promising freshmen, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere. Watson rushed for 3,734 yards and 50 touchdowns last season at Centennial High-Corona, and the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Enwere gained more than 1,500 yards each of the past two seasons in Missouri City, Texas. The Bears need a more productive running game, whether one player carries the load or it's shouldered by committee.
Dykes said the secondary is the Bears' biggest concern. The staff wants to pair former cornerback Stefan McClure alongside Avery Sebastian at safety, but they are coming off injuries that limited them to a combined six games last season. The key is whether the Bears can find three or four capable corners among returnees Darius Allensworth, Cameron Walker, Cedric Dozier and Trey Cheek and White.
Injuries and subpar performance resulted in the Bears using nine O-line starters last season in six lineup combinations. The result was Cal quarterbacks being sacked 34 times and the running game failing to crack 150 yards in the team's first nine games. The Bears are hoping for more production and consistency this fall. The tentative starting five: LT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, C Chris Adcock, RG Alejandro Crosthwaite, RT Jordan Rigsbee.
For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk.