BERKELEY -- The California football team went about 40 plays live in full pads on Wednesday in scrimmage-type situations, and now, with three days and four practices left in fall camp, the Bears will try to get their legs back, as head coach Sonny Dykes put it.
But, before camp can wind down, freshman running back Vic Enwere had one more statement to make.
“I thought Vic Enwere looked the best he’s looked in a number of weeks,” Dykes said. “It was encouraging to see him run hard. He did some good things.
“I thought Vic looked a lot different today. He looked really good early [in camp], and then he hit the freshman doldrums that those guys hit a little bit, and I thought he came back and looked good today. I thought he was probably the biggest thing.”
Also showing up for the scrimmage? Freshman quarterback Chase Forrest and the second-team offensive line.
“I thought Chase Forrest looked good today; he hadn’t gotten a ton of reps, and I thought he performed at a high level today and looked pretty sharp,” Dykes said. “I thought our second-team O-line did some good things, so that was encouraging to see, as well. Most of the live stuff at the end was our two’s. We wanted to get them a lot of live work, so they got most of it there at the end, during the scrimmage. It was a good day.”
Dykes said that Forrest moved the ball “pretty well” with that group.
Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff, Dykes said, had one of his typically strong days.
“I thought he looked pretty sharp, and I thought he and Luke [Rubenzer] both had a good day,” Dykes said. “The more [Goff] sees things and the more he does things and the more he resists the temptation – guys get bored, when you run the same route 500 times, you start to think, ‘I don’t want to just throw it to this guy; I want to make something happen with a great play,’ and he’s got to learn to throw it to the same guy. All quarterbacks go through that a little bit, and I think he’s still learning how to deal with that.”
Like a pitcher, Dykes said, Goff has begun to show that he’s learning how to change speeds and to hit the inside and outside corners – which, in football parlance, means the back shoulder or the outside hip.
“That’s what happens: You learn how to be a pitcher,” said the former Texas Tech first baseman. “That’s kind of what the growth of a quarterback is. All the great ones, it’s a work in progress. With Peyton Manning, if Peyton Manning goes out and doesn’t practice well, think how long he’s been doing it, how many balls he’s thrown, and if he goes out and doesn’t practice well, it affects him, and I think that shows you how important every single practice is, every single rep, and everything these guys do is critical.”
At this point last year, Cal knew it wouldn’t have Brennan Scarlett for the season, Mustafa Jalil was barely able to practice and the Bears already lost David Wilkerson to transfer and Nathan Broussard to a blown ACL. Nick Forbes was barely practicing, as was Khairi Fortt. That’s four linebackers, including three potential starters, plus two starting defensive linemen. This year, Cal has lost Broussard and likely redshirt candidate Quentin Tartabull for the season, and backup running back Jeffrey Coprich for eight weeks. That’s a considerable difference in health.
“We’ve gotten through remarkably healthy,” Dykes said. “I hated losing Nate. That was obviously really tough. I hated losing Quentin. I wish we could have gotten Jeff healthy, but I think, for us to go as much live contact tackling as we’ve done in this camp – which is more than any camp I’ve ever coached in – and to have as few injuries as we’ve had, I think is a real testament to their work ethic, and hopefully, a sign that we’re becoming a tougher team. Last year, this looked like a M*A*S*H unit out here, and we didn’t go live nearly as much as we have this year.”
Dykes attributed that to the team being “tougher, bigger … stronger … more physical” and having a “better mindset.”
“All that has allowed us to get a lot of reps in practice,” Dykes said. “We have gotten a remarkable amount of work done up to this point, and the great thing about playing football here in Northern California is you can come out here and get a million reps and your body doesn’t break down because of the heat. The thing we’ve got to do, is we’ve got to mange it, where we’re aware of that and we’re making sure we’re not overloading their legs.”
Cal will go with a double day on Thursday, and another shoulder pads practice on Friday before a light day on Saturday, leading into Golden Bear Day, before starting true Northwestern game week.
Dykes said that the Bears could go live in full pads up to three days next week, leading into the opener with the Wildcats.
“We’ll know [the payoff] a week from Saturday,” Dykes said of the benefits of having a tough camp. “We’re hoping it’s going to be a good payoff. I think the one consistent thing I’ve always found through 20 years of coaching is, you really honestly play like you practice. I just believe that, and right now, we’re a pretty good practicing football team. We’re hoping that carries over to Saturday. Last year, we had good effort in practice, for the most part, but we just weren’t getting as much done as we’re getting done now.”
The group that’s benefitted the most from going live so much has been the running backs, particularly the physical Enwere.
“What makes a running back good is when you hand him the ball and he shouldn’t get anything, and he gets yards,” Dykes said. “The good thing is we’ve seen Patrick Laird get yards consistently, we saw Vic get a bunch of yards today after contact and run physical and run tough, and it’s something we needed to see, and I’m really encouraged by what I saw.”
FALL CAMP NOTEBOOK: Enwere "Best He's Looked"
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