READ MORE IN OUR LIVE THREAD FROM SUNDAY PRACTICE
BERKELEY -- The California offense started its first Sunday practice of the season with two sets of 40-second drives, one by the first team, and one by the second. The first team finished up with a 42-yard field goal by Vincenzo D'Amato, while the second-team drive ended when Zach Kline threw a pick in the end zone to Isaac Lapite, but on the whole, the Bear Raid averaged one play every 10 seconds of game clock. Not bad, but not quite up to snuff for head coach Sonny Dykes.
"It was close," Dykes said. "It was good. Working two-minute there, that's something we've got to continue to try and work on, for both sides of the football. I thought we got lined up quickly and made a couple big plays early, and then, I liked the way the defense responded. They forced a couple of field goals, so I thought it was a positive period."
The linebackers and the secondary were very active on Sunday, with two break-ups apiece from Stefan McClure, Damariay Drew and Jalen Jefferson during 7-on-7 work against the Bear Raid, and Jefferson adding two more against the scout team in skeleton work and another in the end zone against the scout team offense.
"I think the biggest thing is being lined up, getting the call and everybody doing the right thing out there," Drew said. "We're in a new three-deep, cover-three look, so I think everybody is starting to get the hang of it, and everybody's getting their drops going right and slotting into the defense. We just want to get better."
Drew gave up the first big play of the day against Ohio State in Week Three -- a Buckeyes-record 90-yard TD pass to Devin Smith -- and he's not about to let anything like that happen again.
"We came out the past three games and we haven't been playing well as a whole defense, so we're just trying to improve," Drew said. "The first thing I learned was to control my eyes better. I was out there, just really excited to play, and then I tried to make a play, lost focus and didn't get my eyes right. I think our defense, as a whole, we need to do our assignments, just do our jobs and not try and do anybody else's. I think, if we improve on that, we'll improve a lot on defense."
Drew also came up with a third break-up against the skeleton second team offense, earning a great deal of praise on the play from Dykes, before another break-up by McClure ended the drive.
"Damariay was playing better," said Dykes of his first-team safety. "The more reps those young guys get, the better they're going to play, and it's good to start to see them come into their own a little bit and be more comfortable."
Alex Logan was back in full pads and without a red jersey as he continues to work back from a head injury. He spent time with the second-team defense, along with Jason Gibson.
"I think he will be [ready to go]," Dykes said of Logan. "I don't think he's 100 percent yet, but I'm hoping that he will be, by Saturday."
Stressing the defense was Hawaii wide receiver transfer Trevor Davis, who made tough, physical grabs against both McClure and Kameron Jackson in scout team work, playing the role of Oregon receiver Josh Huff.
"That's a positive," Dykes said. "Trevor's a good player, and a guy you know would be a starter for a lot of football teams, so he gives a great look, and he'll help our DBs get better and get ready."
Davis's movement from one side of the offensive formation to the other mirrored with the Ducks will do with Huff, who has 14 catches for 298 yards this season.
"He's flipping around, depending on the strength of the formation," Dykes said. "He's going both sides just to show those guys and give them a good look. They'll do it based on formation. They'll flip the sides and that kind of stuff based on their formation strength."
Defensive backs coach Randy Stewart exhorted his unit to battle back during seven-on-seven work, yelling "Where's the stress?!" after quarterback Jared Goff hit the second of seven straight passes leading to a touchdown throw to Jackson Bouza -- in the seam between Cameron Walker and Logan.
That accuracy will be paramount against one of the best Oregon secondaries in recent memory, with three picks already in three games, holding opponents to 189.3 passing yards per game.
"They play really aggressive," Dykes said of the Oregon defensive backfield. "They can do that, because they know they're going to score points. I think that's the big deal: They can play a little bit like Ohio State. They can play very aggressive and confident, because if they give up a big play, it's something they can deal with.
"When guys are aggressive, they're going to be more inclined to make plays and play with confidence. They trigger faster, and that makes windows smaller. Timing's more important, accuracy to an extent. The more confident, the more athletic a group is, the more pressure they put on you, offensively, to execute."
With the Bears losing 22 man-games so far to injury, linebacker Michael Barton looked to be very close to top form with the second-team linebacking unit.
"I don't know if he's completely full strength yet, but he's getting closer," Dykes said. "I would anticipate that, by Saturday, he'll be full strength."
Also listed on the bi-weekly injury report, Dykes termed linebacker Nick Forbes (back), wide receiver Chris Harper (hip), Logan and safety Michael Lowe (ankle) as probable for Saturday. While Harper spent much of last week's practices working his hip flexor, he participated in full, from start to finish, on Sunday.
Second-string freshman linebacker Johnny Ragin -- who said he's feeling better than he was at the end of last week – is still listed as questionable with an illness.
"He's kind of been sick," Dykes said. "I would anticipate him being cleared and being back, as well."
As he did last week, redshirt junior quarterback Austin Hinder is playing the role of Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"What makes Oregon different is the quarterback," Dykes said. "Obviously, DeAnthony Thomas can run, and they have a host of guys that can run, but Mariota is a different guy. His ability at that position, to break the game open, I think, is one of the things that makes him really unique."
Dykes admitted that, as mobile as Hinder is, "it's something you can't really simulate."
"That's why Oregon has a lot of the success that they do," Dykes said. "That's the thing about these guys. They put big numbers up against pretty much everybody, and it takes a special effort and a special team to shut them down."
In the running game, all three top backs -- Brendan Bigelow, Khalfani Muhammad and Daniel Lasco -- took reps with the first team, with Lasco being perhaps the most impressive of the three, in terms of his physical style. Last week, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said Lasco's performance at the end of the Ohio State game earned him more snaps.
"I don't think any of us have been particularly happy with the way we've finished runs at the running back position," Dykes said. "We've had a lot of two- and three-yard runs that we've blocked as two- and three-yard runs, and part of what's made us so productive in the past has been we've had a back, we block it, the guy gets contacted at three yards, pushes the pile to five or six, and it makes a big difference. We haven't gotten that style of running yet. We think we will. We think Muhammad and Bigelow both have the potential to do that, but Lasco's a bit bigger, a more powerful guy, so he's got to learn to run with his pads lower and finish runs, but he's certainly, physically, got a chance to do that."
This week, redshirt junior Geoffrey Gibson will get his crack at right guard, after Bill Tyndall tried his hand last week in the absence of Matt Cochran.
"Gibson's back in there, working a little bit, which is good to see him back over, competing," Dykes said. ?He's done a good job on the scout team, and we feel like he had earned an opportunity to come back. We'd probably have brought him back, regardless if we hadn't had the injury, but we'll let him compete for a spot. It's going to be fine. I really feel strongly that Alex [Crosthwaite] and Gibson both will give us a shot."
Dykes said that Tyndall will be in the mix, as well, but he is not 100% after offseason ankle surgery.
Freddie Tagaloa spent most of his day with the first-team offensive line, seldom being replaced by ,b>Christian Okafor, who saw time at the No. 1 LT spot last week.
"We'll continue to let them compete and see," Dykes said. "Whoever has the best practice will be the guy who goes the next day. That's going to be that way at a host of positions."
Cornerbacks Adrian Lee and Joel Willis fielded punts.
Cameron Walker spent time with the second unit as a safety, along with Jason Gibson and Logan.
Lucas King picked up a red-zone fumble recovery, while Lapite recovered a muffed punt return early in practice.
Wide receiver Kenny Lawler impressed as the second Z receiver behind Harper.
Dykes almost exclusively watched the defense during the second half of practice.
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