BTTV: Spring Practice 4
BERKELEY -- Jared Goff didn't get off to a strong start on Saturday, the first time that the California football team went live in full pads this spring. The sophomore quarterback started off by throwing an interception to Cedric Dozier after a miscommunication with receiver Trevor Davis, and three plays later, delivered a pick to safety Damariay Drew on a 30-yard bomb, trying to squeeze a touchdown in between two safeties.
"You know, I thought it was bad, early," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "He threw a couple of picks early, which is uncharacteristic of him. Then, I thought, once we got into the team period, he settled down a little bit. What happens sometimes is, quarterbacks have a tendency to get a little bored, almost. They start getting tired of taking it easy throws and throwing completions, and he's certainly not to that point yet, but sometimes they develop that mindset, where, ‘Hey, I've got to get the ball down the field a little bit more,' and they make mistakes. That's just a sign of maturity, and he has to become a little more mature and understand that his job is to complete passes."
Goff showed better accuracy on the short-to-intermediate passes throughout the day, but at times overthrew receivers, though that was more of a problem on the long balls.
"There were a bunch out there that I'd like to get back," said Goff, who had offseason surgery on his shoulder after separating it in the season finale against Stanford. "Although I did have a few nice ones, I don't really want to throw any incompletions during practice. I had some open guys that I missed. It's a little bit of coming back, a little bit of just losing focus sometimes. I'll clean that up next week."
Goff – who wore a GoPro camera on his helmet – did show improvement at times from where he was a year ago, hitting a 10-yard diving fade to Drake Whitehurst during team drills for a touchdown, and finding Kenny Lawler on an over-the-shoulder try over the defensive back for a 40-yard completion, then finding James Grisom later in the drive for a touchdown over the middle.
Grisom also had another highlight grab, hauling in a 28-yard pass while falling backwards against cornerback Cameron Walker, who earlier had a breakup in the end zone on a pass from Goff.
Goff found running back Austin Harper several times during the day, but Harper really showed up big in the run game, where he and Jeffrey Coprich took the lion's share of the reps with Daniel Lasco still limited by a sore hamstring, and Khalfani Muhammad taking things easy so he wouldn't wear out from doing double duty with the track team.
"He did some good stuff today," Dykes said of Harper. "We're a little bit limited at running back right now, just with Darren having to retire due to injury, and Lasco's got a little bit of a tweaked hamstring and Khalfani not getting a lot of reps, so guys like Austin, Coprich and those guys can step up a little bit."
Harper's best run came on the first drive of full team 11-on-11s, taking a handoff from Goff at the 40, then planting and shaking Drew, turning up north to finish off a 35-yard scamper.
"He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he was productive today and did some good things," Dykes said of the 5-foot-6, 160-pound Harper. "The great thing about spring football is that sometimes guys like that get opportunities and they surprise you. It was good to see him come out and be productive."
Harper's best grab came on the third and final drive of full 11-on-11s, hauling in a one-handed grab on a five-yard route and snaking in for a nine-yard touchdown.
"He's a great kid," Goff said. "Me and him are good friends, and he's small, but doesn't lack in his heart. He gives it all he's got every play, and there were a few times with a safety coming down hard, like real hard – Damariay – and he just made him miss and picked up 10 yards really easily."
Coprich threw two monster stiff-arms during team 11s, starting by dismissing linebacker Edward Tandy for a six-yard gain to start the second drive, then gaining seven yards by spinning away from defensive back Griffin Piatt on the second play. Several plays later, Tandy once again fell victim to Coprich's strength, with a second stiff-arm getting him seven yards across midfield.
On the third drive, Coprich tore off the biggest run of the day, breaking a tackle in the backfield by David Garner and spinning away for a 48-yard scamper.
Wide receiver Bryce Treggs did not participate during team work, slowed by a pulled hamstring that, Dykes said, could sideline him for at least another practice. Treggs's hamstring grabbed at him late in Friday's practice, and he spent most of Saturday working on the side.
Lawler was once again the star of the receiving corps, along with Grisom, catching two touchdown passes with a smattering of one-handed grabs.
Jack Austin -- now wearing No. 21 – made several notable grabs, including a physical snag on the sideline while getting tackled, keeping his feet in-bounds.
"I thought it was OK. I didn't think it was great," Dykes said of the team's first full-pads practice. "I thought it was OK. We obviously have to tackle better. We had too many missed tackles. That's something that's plagued us. We're trying to get as much of that work as we can build it into our special teams periods, and we're trying to become a more physical football team. That's something that we have to do, and it's obviously a work in progress. At times, we were relatively physical today. Other times, we were really not physical, so we've got to develop that mindset and we've got to become a tough football team."
The defense was highlighted by defensive line play, with Brennan Scarlett getting the most run.
"We talked a lot in the offseason just about how excited he was to get out here and contribute and get all that behind him," Dykes said. "It's good to see him back out here. He's a little rusty, but he's athletic, he's long, he's played physical so far, and so I've been pleased with what I've seen out of him. He's provided a little bit of leadership for us, as well, and he's starting to grow into that role. We're going to need him to be a good player for us."
On back-to-back plays during the second drive, Scarlett wreaked havoc on quarterback Austin Hinder, taking advantage of a high snap by J.D. Hinnant for a sack, and then forcing a bad throw from Hinder though the back of the end zone to end the drive.
"One thing he does well is, he can redirect," Dykes said. "He can redirect and he can chase stuff down. He's still got to work on playing lower. At times he has a tendency to play high and has just got to play with leverage and play physical. He'll do that."
Cal went about 40 plays during full 11-on-11s, and, in an effort to cut down on any full-contact injuries throughout the course of spring, that's what we can expect on Saturdays throughout the rest of the month.
"We'll be a little lighter on the full-contact Saturday practices, probably go a little closer to 50 or maybe 60 during the other [full-pads days]," Dykes said.
As for the finale of spring ball – the spring game – Dykes said it won't really look like a true game, given the sheer number of players who are currently either in red jerseys or limited in what they can do.
"You always set out to do 100 [plays] and then fatigue starts to set in a little bit and you end up doing less," Dykes said. "What happens, typically, if you go back and look at scrimmages, is when you have a long 100-play scrimmage, especially in spring, you're down bodies. Somebody's going to have a pulled hamstring, and all of the sudden, a guy's got to go 50 reps, continuous reps, without a lot of rest. There's no quarters, so what happens when a guy does that, is that he breaks down, and you have another injury, and it just starts to be the domino effect a little bit."
As for the spring game, it probably won't wind up being a 200-play scrimmage, though Dykes said he'd like to get the Bears to the point where they can do that.
The spring game scoring system also isn't on the top of Dykes's list of ‘likes.'
"I don't know how the whole thing's going to play out yet. I hate that modified scoring deal," he said. "The goal for me is to be able to have two teams and to play a game. That's the goal, and that means No. 1 you're healthy, and No. 2 you have depth. That's what I want, more than anything, is to be able to put two teams out there and go get after it. We'll see where we are."
The quote of the day on Saturday comes courtesy of offensive line coach Zach Yenser. Taken completely out of context, it was: "Come violently."
Yenser worked with his charges on, specifically, "arriving at the double-team violently," and in large part, that's exactly what they did over the course of the day.
The line will continue to work without Matt Cochran all spring, meaning that the second-team center will be Hinnant, with Jordan Rigsbee playing cleanly as the first-team snapper.
"We would think it'd be Rigsbee, but it depends on what happens with [Chris] Adcock, when he comes back, and probably, if we're not having issues with snaps, probably Rigsbee, and Adcock could come back and compete for the guard spot," Dykes said about the starting spot. "[Adcock] can play both. That's the thing: You'd better have three centers. J.D.'s done some things, but his snaps haven't been great. He's been a little bit sloppy with his snaps at times. We've got to develop a third center."
The left tackle spot seems to be fairly solid thanks to Steven Moore, who has played consistently well, but the right side is still up for debate between Brian Farley and Christian Okafor.
"The thing about those guys, is that, at times, they're both really good athletes," Dykes said. "They're both really athletic guys. Okafor is a massive guy, and all the tools are there. There's just the consistency that just hasn't happened yet. Farley's been the same way. Last spring, Farley looked really good, and has a tendency to not look as good at times, and so who can be the most consistent out of those guys will probably be the one that ends up winning the job."
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