BERKELEY – With only two practices left in fall camp for the California football team, the Bears continued to wind down their month of training, and begin to step up their preparation for the upcoming game against Northwestern.
“I thought it was alright. I thought it was good,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “I’ll look at the tape, but I thought overall it was a good day. We worked hard, got better, and we showed them some stuff that was a little different than the game from a preparation standpoint. There’s always a little bit of an adjustment when you’re doing that, but I thought it was fine.”
Their preparations include changing the practice time to around noon to get used to the time change when they play in the Midwest.
“In the next week, we are going to practice at 12:30 every day to get used to the 2:30 central time start," Dykes said. "That’ll give us a chance to get them out of here a bit earlier and stay fresh mentally."
Dykes seemed ready to address the fatigue the team might feel after such a long run of camp, leading up to a big game in Evanston, by giving them more time off before practice starts next week.
“We got them for 12 hours every day and grinding out pretty good,” Dykes said. “We got to balance giving them some time off to get fresh mentally. We’ll do a little bit of that and give them Sunday off. Hopefully they’ll come back physically fresh but just as importantly mentally fresh."
Cal’s biggest weakness throughout last season was its injured defense, which was ranked 122nd out of 123 Division I schools in the nation in total defense during the campaign. During practice, Dykes spent a lot of time with the defense as they worked against a scout team, and he apparently came away impressed at their evolution from a horrific performance last season.
“I think they’re doing a good job. I think those defensive guys are playing hard and starting to develop some depth," Dykes said. "Hardy’s getting a lot of reps and if we can get him back and continue to increase his workload, that’s going to help us. The guys up front have all done a good job, so that parts encouraging.”
Stefan McClure came up with an interception early against the scout team, coming across the middle and jumping a route. McClure later came in with a flying breakup, helped out by Hardy Nickerson playing the pass well and sitting in coverage to force a high ball.
Fellow first-team safety Michael Lowe also added a pick in scout team work, while Jalen Jefferson and Trevellous Cheek turned in breakups.
After another day of practice, the MIKE linebacker situation got even clearer despite Nickerson getting more time in the role today. Throughout the past month Michael Barton, Nickerson, and Devante Downs have taken first-team reps, Dykes indicated that Barton will start in the role while Downs and Nickerson will be taking occasional reps.
“[Hardy] won’t be there full time. Mike Barton will be in there taking a bit of the reps and then Devante Downs [will also take some]. The three of them will all play. How much? We don’t know. We’ll wait and see. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t see all three play some.”
In other defensive news, Darius White was at practice in full pads after recovering from a shoulder injury that had him out of pads for a while. He also participated in second-team defense work with the scout team, and looked impressive.
He still didn’t complete the team burpies, which indicated the shoulder isn’t completely healed, but the fact that he was on the field is a good sign for the junior college transfer.
In quarterback news, Jared Goff continued his excellent preseason and looked like he has improved to another level since his impressive freshman season.
Goff’s accuracy was greatly improved with an almost perfect outing completion wise. He threw three touchdown passes during team periods, including a long dart to Bryce Treggs and a liner to Kenny Lawler. Goff had one drive of seven-on-seven work where he went 4-for-5, and another during scout team work where he went 4-for-4 backed down deep.
In the kicking battle, James Langford performance was a mixed bag, beginning with multiple 36 yard field goals going through the goalposts.
However, shortly there after, he proceeded to badly shank a few field goals from a bit closer. Despite the hot and cold performance, he should get the starting job when the depth chart is released early next week.
FALL CAMP NOTEBOOK: Winding Down
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