BERKELEY -- The Cal football team is in a hurry.

It's in a hurry to improve, to grow up, to get healthy, to embrace a big-boy schedule and, above all, in a hurry to snap the ball as quickly as humanly possible.

It all begins Saturday night when new coach Sonny Dykes debuts his team at Memorial Stadium against No. 22 Northwestern.

There are a lot of moving parts in the Golden Bears' quest to remake themselves a year after skidding to a 3-9 record. They envision the puzzle taking shape quickly.

"We want to win this year, we want to win on Saturday," sophomore receiver Bryce Treggs said. "We don't want to wait. That's wasted time."

Cal Bears head football coach Sonny Dykes laughs during practice at Memorial Stadium on Feb. 25, 2013, in Berkeley.
Cal Bears head football coach Sonny Dykes laughs during practice at Memorial Stadium on Feb. 25, 2013, in Berkeley. (Aric Crabb/Staff file)

Fans who have watched practices this month understand time rarely is wasted in the Bear Raid offense, a no-huddle spread scheme.

After Cal clipped off 67 offensive plays -- plus special teams work -- during 60 minutes of real time in a recent scrimmage, Dykes noted, "That was kind of slow, honestly."

Oh sure, compared to last season, when his Louisiana Tech team ran 101 plays in a 59-57 loss to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.

Louisiana Tech led the nation in scoring and total offense, partly because it ran 87.8 plays per game. That's nearly seven per game more than Pac-12 juggernaut Oregon ran last season, about 20 more than Cal managed on an average day.

Treggs, who studied lots of Louisiana Tech game tapes, said, "You'd watch them run a play and you'd see the chain gang running to keep up because they were going so fast."

Getting there is a process, Dykes said. "I think they're learning to do that in practice and hopefully it carries over to the games."

Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin smiles when reminded how many schools now are playing up-tempo football.

"We were fast before it was cool," said Franklin, who operated the same offensive scheme at Kentucky, Troy, Auburn and Middle Tennessee before arriving at Louisiana Tech in 2010.

The Bears are hoping to rejoin the cool kids of college football.

"We've made a tremendous effort to become this team that coach wants us to be, this fast-paced offense," sophomore receiver Chris Harper said. "We're going to put up a lot of points this year."

There are potential obstacles, starting with youth. Cal fields the nation's second-least experienced roster, according to a formula put together by Phil Steele's football magazine. The Bears have one senior starter listed on offense and one on defense, and Jared Goff will become the school's first true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback.

Goff will operate behind an offensive line featuring three starters who have zero combined career starts.

At least the offense is healthy. As many as three defensive starters could miss the opener with injuries.

Dykes all but ruled out middle linebacker Nick Forbes, who is dealing with back issues. Safety Avery Sebastian was cleared this week for contact two weeks after sustaining a concussion, but it's not a sure thing he'll be ready.

And defensive end Brennan Scarlett has worn a no-contact red jersey throughout fall camp, nearly 11 months after breaking his left hand for the first of two occasions last season. He still is awaiting clearance.

All that change and uncertainty teeters against an ominous backdrop -- a minefield of a schedule featuring seven preseason AP Top-25 teams, including No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Oregon before the end of September.

Dykes' response? "Everybody's got problems."

From his vantage point, the Bears' problems aren't daunting.

"I don't anticipate us having the kind of growing pains that some people think we will," Dykes said. "We want to come out and play as fast as possible and execute and play at a high level."

For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.

offensive mind

As head coach at Louisiana Tech, Sonny Dykes led one of the most prolific offenses in college football last season, leading the nation in total offensive yardage. Here's a look at the national leaders, plus Cal, in that category from 2012.

Rank, Team G Plays Yards YPG
1. Louisiana Tech 12 1,054 6,935 578
2. Baylor 13 1,072 7,439 572
3. Texas A&M 13 1,025 7,261 559
4. Oklahoma St. 13 1,014 7,111 547
5. Oregon 13 1,058 6,986 537
69. Cal 12 817 4,695 391
SOURCE: NCAAFOOTBALL.COM

saturday's Opener

No. 22 Northwestern at Cal, 7:30 p.m. ESPN2