MONDAY PRACTICE LIVE THREAD, WITH PHOTOS OF CAL'S TRADITIONAL BIG GAME WEEK HELMET SHENANIGANS
BERKELEY -- After recording just four catches in the last six weeks, California receiver James Grisom had a big day on Monday, starting off the proceedings with a highlight-reel one-handed grab in scout team work on a roll-out pass from Jared Goff and then turning in an impressive 40-yard grab over the shoulder against Caleb Coleman in one-on-ones. He turned in a third eye-opening grab on a slant route, with a quick snatch in traffic during seven-on-seven work.
"He did some good stuff today. He ran around well, made some plays, so it's good to see him kind of getting back out there and doing some things," Dykes said. "His role is reduced a little bit with the emergence of Kenny [Lawler] and Bryce [Treggs] playing pretty consistently, so it was good to see him back out there, contributing."
Last Saturday, the Bears rotated just three men on the interior of the defensive line -- Viliami Moala (who had a very strong day in the backfield against the scout team offense on Monday), Deandre Coleman and Jacobi Hunter. Against hard-running, physical Stanford this weekend, that may not be enough, particularly given the Cardinal's power running scheme and bullying play up front.
"That's what they do: They test you up front, so it'll be a big challenge," said Bears head coach Sonny Dykes. "They'll practice well and hopefully will get better. It'll be a big challenge for us on Saturday."
Stanford ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing, and 29th in the nation, averaging 205.5 yards per game, and the physicality with which it plays may necessitate a fourth player rotating in. Against a depleted USC front last week, the Cardinal averaged 6.0 yards per carry, ripping off 210 yards on 35 runs.
"We'll probably be a three-man rotation. That's pretty much what we have right now," Dykes said. "Matt Williams could get into the mix a little bit, but he'd be the fourth."
The Bears may not be able to get bigger between now and Saturday, but there are ways that Cal can be bigger along the defensive front.
"We've just got to play tough, got to use our hands, got to play with great leverage and get off blocks," Dykes said. "We'll do those things. They're important. The thing we've done is, at times this year, we've been pretty effective at stopping the run we just give up big plays. We need to limit our big plays, get off blocks and we've got to tackle better. That hurt us Saturday, and we've got to do a better job tackling."
The Cardinal fell to the Trojans in part because of USC's strength in the red zone, where Stanford went 2-for-4 and came away with just 10 points and threw a costly pick on a rushed throw by Kevin Hogan on a slant route to Ty Montgomery.
"USC played well up front. That's the strength of their defense, and I thought they did a good job up front," Dykes said. "I thought they really limited Stanford's big plays, for the most part, and tackled well. We know what the formula is. We've just got to do a good job of playing to it."
As for Cal's own running game, it may get stronger this week if Daniel Lasco is good to go on Saturday after missing last week's game with a bum shoulder.
"We'll see. We'll see how effective Daniel is and how he feels," Dykes said. "The thing is, I thought Khalfani [Muhammad] and [Brendan] Bigelow both have improved significantly and thought they played well Saturday."
Both Lasco and Darren Ervin were in red on Monday, as they were all last week, but both saw plenty of time with the first-team offense against the scout team, as did Bigelow, who's reclaimed his spot in the backfield after his 107-yard game against Colorado.
"I thought last week, I talked to him last week, and he said he felt good, he felt comfortable, he felt faster than he has," Dykes said. "His knee felt better than it has, and I thought, going in, he might have a big game, and he did. It was good to see him do that. We'd like for him to carry it over into this game as well, and hopefully as we start moving into next year and going through spring football. We expect great things from him. We still have high hopes for him."
The duo of Bigelow and Muhammad was the tandem that Dykes and his staff had hoped would lead to an explosive running game before the season began, and a big performance on Saturday could help springboard them into spring ball and the 2014 season.
"That's kind of what we were hoping would happen a little sooner," said Dykes, who's team is 10th in the league in rushing. "But, as I said, we see signs of some improvement, some guys starting to get comfortable and perform at a higher level.
"[Bigelow] had a limited role in fall camp, because his knee, he was coming off of a knee injury, and we didn't want to put too much on him, and I think he was behind a little bit. I think now, he's starting to be more comfortable and playing better as a result."
MONDAY: Grisom Takes Over
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