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July 26, 2013

Medai Day: McCain rights ship, close to return

A month and a half after being suspended indefinitely by Cal football head coach Sonny Dykes, defensive end Chris McCain is slowly working himself back into good standing: both academically, and personally.

"Chris had some academic work to do over the summer," Dykes told GoldenBearReport Friday in Culver City at Pac-12 Media Day. "He got his academic stuff he needed to get done the first semester done. He still has some stuff he has to get done in this semester to continue to get himself in a good situation.

"His attitude has been great -- he's been much more consistent in his approach. You know Chris would have a good two weeks and a bad one week and a good two weeks and a bad one week. And he hasn't had any bad weeks. He's been there on time, been there with a smile on face, he's worked, he's worked hard on academics, he's been a good teammate, so we're expecting big things out of him."

The Bears' active sack leader, McCain was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2012 and one of Phil Steele's Top-50 NFL draft prospects at defensive end coming into this season.

"I think he's in a good spot. Assuming that he takes care of his academic stuff, basically he'll reset the bar," Dykes said.

And he'll do it with 35-ish pounds of newly added muscle, according to teammate Nick Forbes, who was floored when McCain's suspension was first reported.

"You know, seeing him, and Keni Kafusi is another one who had to face that. I don't know if that lit a fire, but to see one of your guys go down, and his face, I mean I was hurt. When Chris said,
'hey, this is the situation, I don't know'. I went in the back and took his bag tag for him. Those are the guys we go through everything with. I think it probably did have an impact. This is serious, we do need to make a change or we're going to lose some guys."

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"For him to get his academic situation handled... to gain weight. To see him bulk up... two weeks ago he said he was at 245, I think he's around 250 now. That's not even with training table. I'm ecstatic for him."

Forbes credits Dykes with McCain's, and the team's, new-found academic commitment.

"You see coach Dykes on campus, in classes. They changed the structure around class checking and what it takes to be on time, and the discipline aspects of it. Just the general interest in, 'How are you guys doing? You got classes here? Office hours? What's Berkeley time?' It was a a learning process for him, but we appreciated it.

"That was one of the beautiful things that came with (coach Dykes). He set the standard. He said you make class a priority, if not you get punished as a team. Those team punishments came, now the word around the locker room turned into 'make sure you're not late', 'you coming to campus? I'll give you a ride, come on, let's go'. We're now looking out for one another more. It's going to translate in the Fall."

Dykes says he essentially took an educated gamble with McCain.

"Part of it is those guys believing you're prepared to move on without them. These guys have been told since they were 12 years old how good they are, how special they are, and you're gonna play in the NFL and all this. Part of it is just those guys learning they're just a college student trying to become a starter on their football team.

"If they're not going to do well academically, you're not going to be there. That's a process to get some guys to understand that. With Chris, we just said, OK, fine, you're not going to do what he want you to do, OK we'll take football away. You've gotta figure out what buttons to push sometimes. The big thing is those guys believe, 'these guys mean it'. I think Chris got that point pretty quickly, that we were prepared to move on without him, and as a result, he jumped in the boat."

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