Anything But Red
BERKELEY -- The first day of spring practice for the California football team looked a lot like the end of last season – a lot of red jerseys. Eight, to be precise.
But, for the first time in over a year, the scarlet-clad Bears did not include defensive end Brennan Scarlett, and he's more than relieved about that.
"I felt great," he said. "It felt great to finally get back into things. It's been a little over a year since I've had a little contact and been out with the team. It's good to be out there with my brothers, being coached up by the coaches."
Scarlett had been sidelined in one fashion or another thanks to four surgeries on his twice-broken left hand, which included pins and a bone graft and several infections before it finally cleared up enough for him to be a full-go this spring after missing all of 2013.
"I had almost too many to count," Scarlett sighs, talking of the number of procedures he had on his hand. "That was definitely frustrating. [The injury] was a long time ago, but it lingered on for so long, and that was probably the most frustrating part. Last season, not being able to come and contribute and having such a rough season and not being able to help us get better, it's definitely tough, but by the same token, it makes it so much better to come back now and actually be able to do some stuff."
In a preseason conference call, head coach Sonny Dykes said that "it all starts with Scarlett," referring to how effective the defense was going to be. That's a lot to put on the shoulders of a young man who hasn't played a down in over a year.
"That feels good," Scarlett said. "Honestly, I'm ready to bear that weight. It all starts with the D-line. We're going to get some penetration and play in the backfield and get some pressure on the passer. Going through it already, on the first day, it's real simple, so it's going to allow us to play fast and get to the ball. It's going to be good for us."
Dykes, for one, was impressed with what Scarlett was able to do on Monday.
"It's good to see Scarlett out there. I thought he made a couple of plays," Dykes said. "It's been a frustrating deal for him. He's been dealing with this injury for 18 months or longer. It's good to see him back out here. To his credit, he did a good job of hanging in there. His attitude has been positive, and he's had some unfortunate things happen to him, but I thought his attitude's been good. He's a guy who I think we're probably going to count on for some leadership, as well, and I think he's becoming more comfortable in that role and I'm anxious to see him get better."
Scarlett's new coach -- Fred Tate -- took an immediate shine to the junior defensive end.
"Brennan Scarlett hadn't played football in a while because of his injury, but he's definitely got talent," said the first-year defensive line coach. "He's got talent to be a good edge rusher."
Tate was also impressed with defensive tackle Jonathan Johnson, saying "he's got a lot of twitch," at the defensive end position.
Tate also noted Antione Davis ("I thought he moved around pretty good, today."), Jacobi Hunter ("He's doing some good things,"), Marcus Manley ("He showed up in there a little bit,"), but, since it was the first day, just in shorts, Tate still has to go check the film to see how the defensive line performed, in depth.
In positional work against the offensive line, Johnson had several notable reps, particularly one early snap where he split the guard and tackle with a nice rip move, and a second rep won by looping all the way around Aaron Cochran.
Kelly and Hunter were quite the duo in the middle, with Kelly wreaking some quality havoc on the interior of the offensive line. On one rep, Kelly bullied the middle enough to move the pocket and force quarterback Jared Goff to scramble.
Kelly is notably cousins with 2014 signee Hamilton Anoa'i, and both are a part of a legendary professional wrestling family that includes Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Kelly himself was a wrestler in high school, and it just so happens that his fellow defensive tackle -- Austin Clark, who was one of the men in red on Monday – notably wears an Austin 3:16 shirt under his jersey on game days. So, have the two gotten into any arguments about who's better – the People's Champion or Stone Cold Steve Austin?
"We haven't gotten to that argument, yet," Kelly said. "I'm pretty sure once we get to know each other a little bit more and talk about our personal lifestyles more, that'll come out."
The quote of the day on defense came from Tate: "I don't watch one inch of film on guys from a year ago. I didn't coach them, so I'm not going to critique them. It is what it is, what they were taught in the pass, but we're moving on to something different."
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