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BERKELEY -- California sophomore starting quarterback Jared Goff didn’t throw a single pass in the 11-on-11 periods of the Bears’ first day in pads, as the coaching staff elected to see what the two young quarterbacks -- Chase Forrest and Luke Rubenzer -- could do.
“Luke led two scoring drives, so I think that’s a positive,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “We’ll look at the tape and see some of the supporting cast, because some of that depends on who you’re playing against. I thought he ran the ball well. I thought Chase [Forrest] did some good things and ran well at times, too. We’ll go in, look at the tape and see how it went.”
Unofficially in 11-on-11 work, Rubenzer went 14-for-17 passing with no interceptions and a touchdown, and stepped up for a huge 15-yard-plus run in his first 11-on-11 session.
“We put that play in today, the O-line did a good job opening that hole up,” Rubenzer said. “A truck could have run through that hole. That was not me, at all. That was the O-line.”
Rubenzer led two scoring drives during 11-on-11s, culminating in his final drive which saw him do something he did regularly in high school: Make something out of nothing. With the offense in the red zone, Rubenzer scrambled right under pressure, scanned the field and saw a flash of white in the back of the end zone. He threw up a perfectly-placed touch ball to find Patrick Worstell in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, igniting both sidelines.
“He’s had a really good camp. Coach [Tony] Franklin will tell you, he’s made some great plays for us. I thought he had a step on him, I threw it up and gave him a chance,” Rubenzer said. “I kind of scrambled around back there for a minute, but I could barely see him. I thought he had a step on the safety, so I threw it.”
Rubenzer’s ability to improvise, particularly on that final play, was a plus in Dykes’s eyes.
“He’s obviously been a very productive quarterback,” Dykes said of the former Arizona Gatorade High School Player of the Year. “That’s the thing that, when we watched him in high school, that stood out about him. He completed a lot of passes, made a lot of plays, made some with his feet, kept some plays alive. We’ll go in and take a look at it, and he’ll learn a lot. I think the good thing is, when they come out and get to play in these live situations, they learn a lot, and the next time they come out, they’re going to perform at a high level.”
Though Rubenzer said afterwards that he wants to work on staying in the pocket more and finding his reads, he acknowledged that “using my feet is a big part of my game.”
Rubenzer used his feet several other times during 11-on-11 work, stepping up and scrambling for six yards on a broken play, and then, thanks to a great block on the back side by Dominic Granado -- who held his defender at bay for four seconds – Rubenzer was able to find Bryce McGovern for a 36-yard strike.
Both Forrest and Rubenzer took a few licks on Friday, with Mustafa Jalil getting early run with the first team defense and touching Forrest down on a broken play.
On back-to-back plays during his final Drive, Rubenzer was popped once by an offsides Trevor Kelly, who knocked center Matt Cochran back and then plastered the freshman signal-caller. Cochran took exception, some shoving ensued, but there was no escalation, save for an offensive lineman yelling “Shut the [expletive deleted] up, D!”
On the next play, Jonathan Johnson got through the offensive line and hooked Rubenzer’s arm as he threw, forcing an incompletion. Rubenzer’s next pass went in and out of receiver Erik Brown’s hands, but then the freshman out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro found yet another big body, as he did on Wednesday. While on Day Three, Rubenzer was all about Ray Hudson, he was jamming with Drake Whitehurst on Friday, completing three passes on his final drive to the 6-foot-6 receiver, including a first-down missive hat set up the touchdown to Worstell.
Hudson, though, was not left out, laying a big block during Rubenzer’s first drive of 11-on-11s to spring his quarterback for a run and hauling in a five-yard pass in traffic on the drive that ended in the Enwere touchdown run. Hudson has shown an increased level of physicality this camp, compared to his first a year ago.
“It all goes to Damon [Harrington],” Hudson said, referring to Cal’s strength and conditioning coach. “I give it all to Damon. We do a little extra stuff on the side, and that’s been the main thing, is the extra bit. I had to figure that out after my freshman year. It’s not just what you do in practice and in the workouts, but it’s what you do outside of it, when no one’s looking. That was the main thing I wanted to work on with Damon, getting my body in shape. I wasn’t in shape in high school. I just got by with size. When I got out here, I was just exposed, and that was the main thing I needed to fix. I needed to get my body in the right condition. I’m still working on it, lose a little weight, throw on some more muscle, so that’s going to be my main focus going into this season.”
For the first time this camp, the coaching staff was able to get a true read on their freshman running backs Vic Enwere and Tre Watson.
“I thought they both ran the ball well,” said Dykes. “The thing is, particularly Tre, catches the ball well coming out of the backfield. I think that’s a good dimension. The thing he does is exactly what we saw on film: He runs really good with low pad level, finishes runs well and keeps his pads square to the line of scrimmage and feels his way through.”
Enwere provided the big highlight of the day, breaking a tackle by defensive end Sione Sina and another attempted tackle by A.J. Greathouse for a 30-plus-yard run. He wound up in the end zone, but in a full-game situation, the safety would likely have closed out.
“Vic, we need Vic to do what he did,” Dykes said. “We need him to run downhill. That’s still a little bit of a work-in-progress at times. He’s got to understand what he is, who he is, and get north and south and finish runs. At times, he did that today, and other times, maybe he was still trying to do a little too much.”
Enwere also showed great ability to block, taking on a linebacker to open a hole for Rubenzer to run for nine yards in the final drive.
Also on that final drive, Enwere caught a screen pass and gained about seven yards, with five defenders teaming up to finally pull him down.
During the second drive, Enwere spun off of one tackle and bulldozed another to get the first down, and then some. In the second-to-last drive, Enwere dragged about seven defenders for an eight-yard gain.
Watson, for his part, showed great hands catching the ball out of the backfield, and during the first drive, turned a bad pitch from a potential fumble into a 15-yard gain. In his next drive, Watson broke five tackles for a gain of two on a play that could very well have been a loss of three. Later, Watson showed off his devastating spin move to get a first down, thanks to a block by right guard Alex Crosthwaite, who pushed Marcus Manley back 10 yards .Two plays later, Watson delivered a monster stiff-arm to defensive back Cedric Dozier to get a first down across the 50.
“It was a good first day. We did a lot of live tackling, and I thought it was physical,” Dykes said. “We started a little sluggish, and the competitive juices got flowing, and I thought they competed hard against each other. I saw some good things in the scrimmage. We went about 30 plays live, and needed to see some of those running backs run and needed to see some of the guys tackle. I thought it was physical.”
The defensive line, for all the runs by the freshman backs, showed up well on Friday, with the front line consisting of Brennan Scarlett, Jalil, Austin Clark (who netted a sack) and Todd Barr.
“It feels good,” said Scarlett, in contact for the first time in over a year. “It feels good to get the pads on full, and get back into the full gear. It means it’s getting closer and closer.”
There were three on the day, with one coming on a tipped duck coming out of Forrest’s hand and right into the waiting paws of A.J. Greathouse. Stefan McClure continued his physical camp, ripping the ball out of Enwere’s grasp for a fumble. Brown caught a pass from Rubenzer, but was stripped by fellow freshman Quentin Tartabull. Tartabull also had several big hits, including a stop of Watson and a pick and a breakup in the end zone on a pass from Goff to Darius Powe.
“I thought we played very clean today. I was happy,” Dykes said. “There weren’t a lot of penalties. Erik Brown fumbled one time, and we can’t let that happen. We had a false start, we can’t let that happen. But, for the most part, with a lot of young guys out there, I thought we played pretty clean.”
Now that we’ve seen the defense with pads on, it’s apparent that they’re flying to the ball a lot quicker, and swarming receivers and running backs, as Watson and Enwere found out quickly.
“I thought Arthur Wainwright just kind of runs around and has a tendency to make some plays,” Dykes said. “I think both the safeties continue to impress – Michael Lowe and Stef McClure. Both of them are guys that, day in and day out, are getting better, triggering. I thought Piatt made some plays on the football today, in the scrimmage – he made some tackles, was pretty physical, reacted to passes pretty well.”
Nathan Broussard and Chris Adcock, like Goff, were held back from full 11-on-11 work, in order to make sure they stay healthy. In Broussard’s stead at MIKE linebacker, Michael Barton took first reps, followed by freshman Devante Downs.
“Devante Downs is starting to make a little bit of a move,” Dykes said. “I’m glad to see him come on. He’s a guy that’s got the size and strength and is playing a new position, for him, but he’s starting to develop, so I’m pleased.”
Hardy Nickerson, Jr. was not held back, and saw action with the first team at outside linebacker.
“He moved around well, and that’s the biggest thing with him, is, I think he’s getting more confidence, and we’ve just got to continue to work him back in,” Dykes said.
Wide receiver Maurice Harris showed up in a big way during seven-on-seven work, making a leaping catch over Trevellous Cheek on a deep ball by Forrest. Cheek accelerated well to keep up with Harris, but just didn’t have the reach on the 6-foot-2 receiver.
During 11-on-11 work, Harris came back for a ball at the 48 thrown by Rubenzer to make a sticky-handed grab on the east sideline against Tartabull.
While he didn’t participate in full 11-on-11 work, Jordan Rigsbee took reps in skeleton work at right tackle with the first-team line.
With Adcock on the shelf, Cochran took first-team reps at center.
“I thought he did a great job snapping. I don’t think he had any bad snaps, and I thought our operation was pretty good,” Dykes said. “We rested Chris today, and that was kind of the plan. He did some stuff early, as far as individual type stuff, but we held him out of all the team stuff, just to give him a little bit of rest. Plus, we’ve got to make sure that that backup center position is solidified, so it was good to get all those guys live reps. We just wanted to see how they all responded.”
Linebacker Jake Kearney was in uniform for his first practice, but because of NCAA rules, he was not allowed to be in pads.
The Bears will strap on full pads again on Saturday at noon, with more scrimmage-type situations scheduled.
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