BERKELEY -- California donned shoulder pads for the first time this spring on Friday, with an increase in 11-on-11 periods that will ramp up on Saturday, when the Bears go live for several periods in full pads.
"I think the thing that we came out of the season saying, is we've got to learn how to play football," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "When you have as many young players as we have in our program, you've got to teach those guys how to play football, so that's why there'll be more of an emphasis on 11-on-11 snaps, and particularly, more full-contact practices, where we're tackling and working on it. Obviously, it was not a strength of ours last year, so it's something we've got to get better at, and we like the practice schedule and the set-up. We think it allows us to take care of our players, physically, but at the same time, making sure that we're getting the work done that we need to get done."
Of those young players, tailback Khalfani Muhammad has looked particularly sharp and yes, even faster than he did last year.
"He has, because he's in track season, so he's in top shape right now, top speed," said junior receiver Bryce Treggs.
Treggs, though, steadfastly maintains that, with a 4.38-second 40-yard time this offseason, he's still the fastest player on the team. The two have yet to race, head-to-head.
"I want to. I want it to be a true test of my speed," he said.
As for Dykes, he's a bit more nuanced when taking stock of his sophomore speedster.
"Sometimes, fast guys don't necessarily play fast, and I think he's starting to play fast," Dykes said. "I think the carryover, the speed's there. I don't think that he necessarily runs any faster. I think it's a matter of him being able to play faster on the football field, make faster decisions, trigger a little faster, be a little more comfortable and not as hesitant. That's the key, really, with our offense, is getting enough reps where guys can play. If you're a 4.5 guy, play 4.5. If you're a 4.7 guy, play 4.7. Khalfani's fast, and he's starting to play faster."
Junior tailback Daniel Lasco has looked good in limited action, but has been slowed with what Dykes characterized as "a little hamstring tweak."
The offensive line is still a bit of a mystery outside of the established interior, which is occupied by Jordan Rigsbee at center, Chris Borrayo at left guard and Alejandro Crosthwaite at right guard. Christian Okafor has been up-and-down at left tackle, while Steven Moore has been steady on the right side.
"I think Okafor has shown flashes. That's been his thing, is you watch him do some stuff, and you say, ‘Wow; somebody that big can be that athletic,' and he's just got to become more consistent," Dykes said. "There are times when he really shows up positively, and there are times where he really shows up negatively, and I think we've got to get rid of the negative stuff and make it all positive. That's experience and a mentality. He's still growing and maturing and we just need for him to be consistent."
Aaron Cochran -- who's older brother Matt is still in red after a shoulder procedure – could be in the mix, as well.
"We've been pretty solid. I feel good about what Steven's doing over there. He's a pretty solid guy, and then, I think, with Okafor being able to flip-flop, that gives us a chance to get our best guys on the field. Farley's been pretty good. He shows signs at times of being really good, but he's just got to be more consistent. Cochran's kind of the unknown," Dykes said. "Aaron's been good at times. Same thing: He's just learning. He hadn't gotten a ton of reps, but he's going to get better and better every day, and he's just got to learn how to play football."
Matt Cochran, who played tackle at times last year, as well as center, is better suited for guard when he returns to full health, Dykes said.
Rigsbee was helping tutor J.D. Hinnant on snaps after practice on Friday. Hinnant's snaps thus far have left quite a bit to be desired.
Former starting center Chris Adcock continues his rehab from a severe knee injury which ended his 2013 season, and though he's been in white so far, he has not been completely cleared.
"He's still got a long ways to go," Dykes said. "He's not going to be released until probably this summer. It's going to be a long journey for him, but I think he's ahead of schedule."
Vachel Samuels turned in an impressive pass break-up on Friday, as he continues to round into shape after missing the past three seasons. He has one year of eligibility left.
Dykes also spoke on the return of Kyle Boehm to quarterback, from his sojourn at inside receiver last year.
"Kyle's kind of done a good job of what we need for him to do, and right now, we don't have a lot of quarterbacks here right now," Dykes said. "We've got two coming, butw e don't have a lot here, so he's doing a good job; he really is. Obviously, that's the position where he was recruited and played pretty well, and the great thing about Kyle is that he just wants to help the football team win, so he's doing a good job so far in spring, and we'll see what kind of role he develops. Hopefully he can be a good enough runner where we can play him some and let him run the football at times from that position."
The Bears had Johnny Capra, Dru Samia and Jack Savage on hand on Friday, and will have Savage and Nick Capella in attendance on Saturday.
Spring Practice 3: Is Muhammad Even Faster?
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