During a time of transition, new Cal head coach Sonny Dykes is going to be looking for leaders to step up. Linebacker Nick Forbes is one of those guys. Forbes took a few minutes this week to chat with the Pac-12 blog about spring football, Cal's transition to an even-front defense and why he goes out of his way to get involved in the community.
What's your assessment of spring ball? How did everything go
Nick Forbes: I think we had a good spring ball overall. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm with the new coaches. There was a lot more energy and it was really fun. Learning a whole new system, you'll have your bumps and you'll get caught up on little things here and there and with communication as far as understanding the new scheme. But I think we did a very good job of understanding the fundamentals. We learned a lot about base football and learned more about what an offense wants to do. We became a smarter unit this spring.
How difficult -- schematically speaking -- is it going from an odd-front 3-4 to a 4-3 base?
NF: Football is football regardless of what you call it. We were able to translate a lot of things over. The thing that coach [defensive coordinator Andy] Buh taught us was that there will be aspects of the 3-4 incorporated into the 4-3. Some of the personnel might be different here and there. But it's proved to be really effective for us. The personnel grouping we have are really coming together to put guys in great positions and to allow us to be successful as a unit overall. We're really anxious to see how it's going to work against different offenses and power teams. But it's worked really well against our new spread offense.
How different is it going to be specifically for you?
NF: It depends on what call it is. In a lot of the situations, the Will and Mike [linebackers] are in the box, just like the Will and Mike in the 3-4. There are certain situations where you'll be in space or you'll be in the box by yourself. But those same situations came up in the 3-4 as well.
What about adjusting to new coaches, new philosophies and new coaching styles?
NF: This is a compliment to our administrative staff who hired the coaches because it's been really easy. Outside of football, the coaching hasn't changed. They care about us. They hold a high value on academics. It's been a very easy transition. You can feel a sense of caring beyond just the Xs and Os with the whole staff. The support staff are great and they relate to us. It's a fortunate situation. We've been having a lot of fun this spring with some of the activities we've had to liven up the mundane training phases. It's been a good transition.
Last year was really your first extended playing time, and now you're one of the leaders on the team. How comfortable are you in that role?
NF: I feel really comfortable because of the guys around me. There are lots of ways you can be a leader. I try to lead by example and have the character you want the other guys to have. It's been simple. I make sure I get to class. Make sure I'm on time for meetings and hope the young guys follow my example. We were a young team last year and I think we have a very mature team this year.
Speaking of leading by example, I know you do a lot of community service work. How'd you get involved in that?
NF: I've been very fortunate to be in situations with people looking out for me and I've always wanted to give back when I could. This last weekend I participated in the Pac-12 Student Athlete Advisory Conference with all of the Pac-12 schools. It's community service, it's career development. Locally, I've put together a few events having kids at the school and encouraging them to pursue higher education. We have a Cal Sports Day where all the teams set up stations and run the kids through drills to expose them to different sports they may not have had a chance to see and experience. It's really rewarding. We did Read Across America with an elementary school. It's fun to see how much the kids are interested in Cal and they are delighted to see us. They are screaming and jumping around when we walk in. One of the schools had a "Go Bears" chant when we walked in and that was really cool. The most rewarding is the reaction from the kids because you know you are having an impact on them.
Fill in the blank for me. In 2013, Cal football will be _______________?
NF: In 2013, Cal football will be aggressive, in the sense of how we're going to approach the game and how we're going to play.