MONDAY: Playing Through the Pain

Lasco and Ervin plow through injury, Fortt held out and some more clarity on Brennan Scarlett in today's practice report.

Trevor Davis goes nuts and more in today's LIVE PRACTICE THREAD

BERKELEY -- After several weeks relatively free of the injury bug, California saw two of its top three running backs -- Daniel Lasco and Darren Ervin in red jerseys on Monday as the Bears returned to practice, and starting WILL linebacker Khairi Fortt out of pads, nursing a biceps strain, according to head coach Sonny Dykes.

"I think both of them have little shoulder deals," Dykes said of the two backs. "Lasco's still got the same thing he's got. He's fine. He's just a little sore. We kind of thought he would be after playing. Ervin has got about the same thing, certainly not to the degree Daniel has. We would expect them to play. They're just a little sore right now."

Dykes also said that he expected Fortt – a Butkus Award semifinalist -- to play on Saturday.

In Fortt's place, Michael Barton saw first-team reps at the WILL.

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Lasco mentioned off-hand on Monday that the holes he saw on Saturday from the newly-reformulated offensive line were the biggest he'd seen this season, and while receivers coach Rob Likens chided the line at times, saying that just because they gave up no sacks on Saturday, that doesn't mean they were "All-Americans all of the sudden, or Outland Trophy winners."

"I've seen some growth. Didn't give up a sack Saturday, but we saw a lot of drop-eight, so that was part of it," Dykes said. "I thought they played better and I thought they set better and did a lot of little detail things better. Part of that was we saw a lot of drop-eight, and saw a fair amount of blitz, but didn't see a lot of four-man rush, so at times, it was either a three-man or five-to-six-man, depending on whether they were man blitzing or playing man-free."

While center-turned-guard-turned-tackle Matt Cochran dressed last week, he did not play, and is still working himself back into game shape after missing five weeks.

"I think he's just getting out there," Dykes said. "Conditioning is still a little bit of an issue, still. He's still got to work himself into football shape, but I think he's getting more comfortable, and kind of knocking the rust off. He's been gone for a while, so it's going to take him a little bit of time getting comfortable getting back in there, but I anticipate him doing that as the week progresses, and hopefully getting an opportunity to play on Saturday."

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As for the team's running success behind Ervin and Lasco, Dykes saw reason for optimism with a unit that's been woefully inadequate as far as getting the run game going all season.

"I think the offensive line play's been better. I think those guys have finished blocks better, and I thought our backs have run better, and it's just what happens," Dykes said. "You get better as an offense as the year goes around, and guys get more reps and get a chance to play more, so I think we've gotten better. I think part of it was we had some good numbers running into the box. There were times where we didn't have numbers and times we did. The times we had numbers, we ran it pretty successfully, an the times we didn't have numbers, we still, at times, ran pretty effectively. We've got to get better. We've got to run it better than we did, and that's something we've got to continue to work on. It's certainly a point of emphasis for us, but it was good to see some positive signs."

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Cornerback Cedric Dozier -- who had five tackles on Saturday against Arizona – had two picks during Monday's practice in scout team work.

Asked if Dozier cemented his starting gig, Dykes said, "For today, yeah."

"We'll just continue to see," Dykes continued. "He was making a move a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to get him some playing time, and we were going to try to play him a bit more early, but didn't quite feel like he was ready, so it was good to see him respond the way he did when he got an opportunity Saturday. He's been working hard to get himself in a position where he could compete a little bit. I thought he did a good job."

On Monday, Dozier jumped a corner route for his first pick after good pressure from Barton on scout team quarterback Austin Hinder and turning in a second pick on a reach-around of his receiver.

"He's got the best ball skills of any DB we've got. He catches the ball well, he breaks on the ball well, so he's been one of those guys that I've kind of been waiting for him all year to make a move, and it's good to see him do it," Dykes said. "I think he's just comfortable. He's learned how to play things and how to make adjustments. He's just gotten more reps. The more reps he's gotten, the quicker he can perceive things and respond and trigger. That's really important for that position. I think he's got a lot more confidence. That's the biggest thing. As a corner, you always have to have confidence. You've got to believe in yourself, because you're on an island so much out there by your self, and I think his confidence early was maybe a little shaky, and I think he's gotten more and more confident."

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Wide receiver Chris Harper cycled through several receiver positions as he has all year, but never in the same practice. The emergence on Saturday of redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler has enabled Cal to play around a bit with its top playmaker.

"I think Chris, we'll kind of play it by ear, see how he does, but we've moved him around at times this year," Dykes said. "We're always trying to figure ways to get our best four receivers on the field. There's been some big increases in figuring out who those guys are, and it was good to see Kenny take a step forward Saturday."

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Dykes also said that a conclusion has been reached regarding the status of defensive end Brennan Scarlett, who has not played at all this season because of a healing bone graft in his twice-broken hand.

"He's still waiting for his hand to heal. He's got to get cleared, and he hasn't gotten cleared, so what we'll do this year is, we'll just redshirt him," Dykes said. "That's going to be the deal this year, and we'll redshirt him. He's still got an available redshirt, so he'll have two more years.

"He had a strange set of circumstances with that hand. Had a surgery, had an infection, had a bone graft. That's some pretty serious stuff going on inside that hand, so we wanted to make sure he got healthy and was able to get well, and he's still not there completely, but I think he's much closer than he was."

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With Senior Day looming on Saturday, it was appropriate that redshirt senior defensive tackle Deandre Coleman ended practice with a field goal block.

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