Read all about Monday's practice in our live thread
BERKELEY -- The football gods giveth, and the football gods taketh away. On Monday, while defensive tackle Deandre Coleman nursed a "bump on the knee," the California football team saw safety Avery Sebastian suit up in shoulder pads and his helmet for the first time since his Aug. 12 concussion, and though Sebastian was limited as far as contact, having him back was certainly a big boost for the Bears defense.
"It was good to have Avery back and to see him back out there," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "It's good that he can play, just from a player's standpoint, but I think in a lot of ways it was a little bit of an emotional lift, just for our players to see him back and see him out there, competing and participating."
Outside receivers coach Rob Likens got the day off to a rousing start, slamming down a can of Red Bull before loudly exclaiming, "It's game week, baby!" and then crushing the aforementioned can on his forehead.
Sebastian – who suffered a concussion during a collision with running back Jeffrey Coprich exactly two weeks ago -- got into one-on-one drills with the wide receivers, and participated in some contact in seven-on-seven work as a part of the second-team defense.
[READ MORE: Sebastian Ahead of Schedule]
"He told me he felt fine, looked great, and we're looking forward to him having a good week of practice," Dykes said. "We're going to continue to progress him. He's full-contact right now, and I would expect him to play [Saturday]."
Sebastian is not fully cleared ("Right now, I'm just going through the motions and getting back to practice," he said), but he's starting to feel like his old self.
"Today, I felt pretty great," he said. "I'm allowed to go and do everything now, so I'm just slowly working through everything and progressively getting more reps with the team and just feeling like my old self."
[READ MORE: DAY 15: Sebastian Passes Tests with Flying Colors]
Sebastian said that whether he plays on Saturday is "on me, and how I'm feeling after this week," so he'll be working in more and more throughout the week, increasing his contact.
"It felt refreshing," Sebastian said of putting on the shoulder pads. "I got some new shoulder pads and got padded up a little bit today, and it felt pretty good, just being out there, once again, with my team, every day I wasn't practicing, I was in the cafeteria eating and watching film, but it felt great to go back out here, apply what we watched on film onto the field, and have coach Stew [Randy Stewart] yelling at me again. It's just a great feeling."
[FEATURE: Sebastian Rock Steady]
The hard-hitting safety said that his first contact on Monday "felt kind of weird," because he hadn't hit anything since the injury. He was a bit more cautious, but, once he started getting warmed up and went through special team drills, he felt "normal."
"I'm really loose, and really refreshed right now," Sebastian said. "I got to fly around a little bit today."
While Sebastian continued his remarkable recovery, Cal was without starting defensive tackle Coleman, who did not dress for practice for the first time since the start of fall camp.
"He should be back tomorrow," Dykes said. "He had a little bump on his knee. He's going to be fine. I would expect him to practice full tomorrow."
Despite Coleman's absence and the continued red-jersey-ing of defensive end Brennan Scarlett, the defensive line had a banner day. On the first play of 11-on-11 work, with the first-team offense going against the first-team defense, freshman quarterback Jared Goff saw his first pass tipped at the line while delivering under pressure, leading to an interception by SAM linebacker Jalen Jefferson.
Defensive end Chris McCain turned in two batted-down passes – both against redshirt freshman Zach Kline -- and both Viliami Moala and Dan Camporeale provided constant pressure off the edges. Moala and Camporeale split a sack on Kline late in 11-on-11s.
Camporeale later tallied a sack during work against the scout team offense, and showed well in place of Scarlett.
"I think those guys have been good," Dykes said of the defensive ends. "I think Kragen's been really solid, Camporeale has really shown up a bunch, Puka [Lopa] is starting to show up more and more, McCain's been pretty solid and shows flashes. I've been pleased with the defensive ends."
Linebacker Nick Forbes was also not dressed, but Hardy Nickerson and Khairi Fortt were both plenty strong.
The star of the linebacking corps on Monday, though, was Jefferson, who turned in two interceptions – one during full 11-on-11 against the first-team offense, and another in seven-on-seven work.
"Jefferson is a guy that has kind of been our bell cow in a lot of different ways," Dykes said. "He's been really consistent and has been a solid player for us. He's one of those guys that probably doesn't get as much attention as he deserves."
At one point during seven-on-seven work, the defense batted down three straight passes from Kline, with cornerback Stefan McClure accounting for one, Fortt with another and Isaac Lapite with a third.
"It's like I told the players tonight: It's a good thing we didn't play tonight," said Dykes. "We didn't have a great practice tonight. It was fine, but it wasn't where we need to practice to get where we want to go. We need to have three good days the rest of the week and get all the kinks worked out and then go play Saturday."
On the evening, McClure tallied three pass break-ups in team periods and a pick at the end of practice.
"I thought [Alex] Logan had the best practice he's had," Dykes said of his secondary. It looked like he was starting to see things and react faster. He showed up more today than I think he has at any point during camp. I feel like Kam [Jackson] is solid, and McClure's been solid. I feel pretty good. I think the secondary's starting to see things, starting to gel a little bit more as a unit, and I'm excited to watch those guys."
While the defense dominated for much of the evening, JuCo transfer Drake Whitehurst had his best practice of the fall. Whitehurst started the day with a fingernail grab over the top on a seam route against Darius Allensworth, showing that his hand issues are almost completely behind him. As if to drive the point home, during the offense's work against the scout team defense in the middle third of practice, Whitehurst hauled in a 40-yard bomb from Goff, once again, over Allensworth.
"I think he's done well," Dykes said of Whitehurst. "I think he had a little bit of a case of the drops, and I think he caught the ball better today, and feels a lot better, now that he's gotten over that. I think Maurice Harris is kind of in the same boat. Maurice did some good things today. It was good to see him back, full speed. I would expect him to be a big part of what w're trying to do."
Harris – who had been one-handed through much of fall camp due to a fractured finger -- spent the day at the Z-receiver position, rather than his usual X.
"Those two positions are interchangeable," Dykes said. "Those guys can play either side."
Harris responded well to the move, and in second-team offense 11-on-11s against the scout team defense, he pulled in a leaping 30-yard grab from Kline over freshman Cameron Walker.
Walker got that one back, though, as he broke up Kline's next pass over the top to Chris Harper.
Harris looked to be comfortable catching the ball with both hands – something that's been difficult to do for the majority of fall camp because of a fractured finger.
-- Middle linebacker Nick Forbes is still out, and did not dress on Monday.
"We'll wait and see," Dykes said on whether Forbes could play at all this week. "He's still kind of day-to-day. Feels good some days, doesn't feel very good other days. I would expect him probably not to play, quite frankly. We'll see how it plays out, but I would say he's more likely doubtful."
If Forbes doesn't play this week, there's a possibility he sits for the next two, considering the Bears' second opponent is Portland State, and having a MIKE linebacker who hasn't practiced for several weeks wouldn't be ideal against Ohio State, especially considering how Hardy Nickerson, Jr., has blossomed in Forbes' absence.
"We'll just see how it plays out," Dykes said. "If he feels really good Saturday, we'll give him a shot, but I would say right now, I wouldn't anticipate him playing."
-- Scarlett has yet to play a single full-contact snap this fall, but he's participated more than Forbes as of late.
"I would say that Scarlett has a better chance than Forbes," Dykes said. "He still hasn't been cleared."
Scarlett will see a doctor later this week to re-assess his hand. He needs to be cleared to even put it in a club in order to play.
"We want him to get healthy," Dykes said. "He could go out there and play with a club and risk further injury and be ineffective, or we can try to get him healthy."
-- All players made it through summer school unscathed. There are no academic casualties, according to Dykes.
-- When asked about the offense's tempo, Dykes said that last year, Louisiana Tech could get plays off in anywhere between 12 and 14 seconds. But, Dykes said, it's all relative.
"The funny thing is, time between plays is in the eye of the beholder a little bit," he said. "It's like 40-yard dashes. 40-yard dashes are relative to who's timing them. If I'm timing me, I'm going to run 4.5. If you're timing me, I'm going to run 5.2."
After a pause, and a smattering of laughs, he backpedaled: "Eh, maybe 5.4."
-- Asked whether the whole offense will be on display on Saturday against Northwestern, Dykes said that the Bears will not hold anything back.
"We're going to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them and try to win a football game," Dykes said. "We'll do that every time we play, regardless of the opponent, no matter what the situation is, no matter if we're down 49, up 49. We're going to keep going like the score is tied. That's just the way we do things."
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