Considering the turmoil the Golden Bears endured in the run-up to signing day, losing two assistant coaches within the conference and resulting effects on their recruiting class, the scene was something of an omen.
One phase is over, the next beginning.
"Man, it was hectic," defensive back Josh Hill said of the offseason shakeup. "It's all over and done, man. It's crazy. It seems like it is crazy every year.
"Now we can focus on spring ball, focus on getting better right now as a team."
That focus began in earnest after a two-day delay because of heavy rain, postponing the first session from Tuesday to Thursday, but Cal head coach Jeff Tedford was pleased with the results.
"First day is really hard to evaluate," Tedford said. "You look for the energy, you look for organization, you look for the hustle, that type of thing. It was good. It was upbeat. Guys were flying around, great attitude and great enthusiasm."
The biggest different from a year ago was the presence of quarterback Zach Maynard, with a season under his belt as a starter. His development, Tedford said, allowed the offense to do things it couldn't have imagined at this time last year.
"We were able to do some no-huddle stuff, where no way we could have done that on the first day last year," Tedford said. "You go through a year of game planning and offensive terminology, it's just a lot easier when you have a veteran quarterback coming back."
Maynard threw for 2,990 yards and 17 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, showing marked improvement as the season went along, capped by leading the Bears to wins in three of their last four games to close out the regular season.
And while Maynard is now firmly established, the redshirt senior will be tasked with leading an offense going through a dramatic overhaul. Wide receiver Keenan Allen will miss the spring after undergoing ankle surgery, leaving Maynard without his top five receivers from last season.
The Bears are also breaking in a new center and both offensive tackles must be replaced.
That puts an added emphasis on Maynard to stabilize the offense, something running back Isi Sofele said was evident.
"Zach is in there taking more leadership," Sofele said. "He's getting in there, talking more calm. He has been there before, so he knows what is going on and what to expect. He is feeling more confident right now."
"You could really tell Zach is a veteran," Tedford said. "He ran the offense great, no hiccups. Everything mechanically went really well."
"It was night and day from last spring on the first day, night and day."
Maynard said he was happy with the first practice, but must continue to develop. He pointed to "protections, concepts, really dissect the defense" as keys to work on.
"Just focus more on the mental game than the physical," Maynard said. "The physical is there, you just have to apply it."
Centers of Attention
The Bears tried out four different offensive linemen at center, Tedford said, including senior Brian Schwenke, redshirt junior Mark Brazinski and redshirt sophomore Chris Adcock.
But the most interesting note was that redshirt senior Dominic Galas did the snapping during 7-on-7.
Galas, who started all 13 games last season at center and has played in all 38 games over the last three, is being held out of contact drills as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
-Sofele said he is currently at 185 pounds, but wants to play at 190-195 this season.
-Linebacker Kameron Kribs has been moved to fullback, Tedford said.