Cal Fall Camp Day 13: Release the Kragen

BERKELEY -- Kyle Kragen was a presence in the backfield on Thursday for the Cal defense, tallying a sack and a tackle for loss as the Bears went in full pads ...



BERKELEY -- From early in full-padded team work on third downs, California defensive end Kyle Kragen made his presence felt at Memorial Stadium on Thursday, sandwiching freshman wide receiver Kanawai Noa between himself and safety Damariay Drew.

To Noa’s credit, he hung tight and converted the first down, several plays after he’d already snared a 30-yarder from Ross Bowers. It wasn’t the last seen of Kragen, though, or Drew, for that matter.

The next play, Kragen pushed running back Daniel Lasco out of bounds before he could convert, and in one-on-one work, Kragen blew by right tackle Steven Moore.

Once practice turned to full 11-on-11 work, Kragen scored a touch-sack on quarterback Jared Goff and a tackle for loss on Lonny Powell with the defense backed down deep in its own zone on the penultimate series of 11-on-11 work.

“I thought Kyle had a good day today,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “I don’t think it mattered who was out there. Kyle’s been pretty consistent this camp, and has been a guy that’s shown up a bunch, so it’s good to see him out there making plays.”

Moore had been held out the previous three days to rest his surgically-repaired shoulders, as Brian Farley moved to right tackle, and redshirt sophomore Aaron Cochran took both first- and second-team reps at left tackle. Dykes was not concerned about Moore’s production on the first day back after a layoff.

“We’ll look at the tape and see, but I think it’s more a by-product of Kyle just being productive, day-in and day-out,” Dykes said.

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The defense added a sack by Puka Lopa on Bowers and another by Jonathan Johnson on Goff the play after Kragen recorded his. Johnson and safety DePriest Turner provided pressure on Chase Forrest during his third-down turn, but the redshirt freshman backup quarterback stepped up and delivered a 25-yard strike to Khalfani Muhammad.

Cornerback Darius White added a breakup in third-down work, and linebacker Michael Barton spun Powell down for a loss on third down, with Mustafa Jalil and freshman guard Ryan Gibson exchanging words. Jalil also nearly took Forrest’s head off – hypothetically, were QB contact allowed – earlier in third-down work, but Forrest had already handed the ball off to Muhammad, who ran for a first down.

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Thursday also saw Kamryn Bennett work in at right tackle with the second team, spelling Vince Johnson (who later came in during the final 11-on-11 drive to lay a path-clearing block for Powell on a cut-back touchdown). Freshman Patrick Mekari also worked in at left guard on the second team, with Semisi Uluave on the right.

“I think we’re still kind of moving some stuff around, but we’re going to keep flip-flopping the tackles, because we think Aaron’s really comfortable on the left side,” Dykes said of the continued shuffling up front. “We’ll just keep playing. The good thing is, we’d like to have three, where we can play all three guys. That’s the hope: You develop enough where, if you’re playing 100 snaps, somebody’s playing 60, and the other guy’s playing 40.”

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As for Drew, who’d missed several days of camp due to an unspecified malady, he got back in a big way on Thursday, but drew the ire of the coaching staff after he blasted Kenny Lawler after a catch over the middle from Goff during seven-on-seven work. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was quick off the sideline to offer his pointed thoughts.

“Yeah he did. I’ve been in that situation before. It’s a little bit different when you’re the head coach,” said the diplomatic Dykes, who’s now also coaching the outside receivers – including Lawler. “It’s tough. You want the guys to be physical, and Damariay’s nature is to be physical. We certainly want to keep him healthy, and keep everybody else healthy, too. That kind of stuff happens sometimes in camp, and those guys get champing at the bit. They get tired of watching receivers go across the middle and catch the ball unmolested, so all of the sudden, they’d like to hit them a little bit. That kind of thing happens from time to time.

“I talked to him afterwards: You’ve got to be smart about it. We want to save those types of collisions for Saturday.”

Goff then proceeded to throw a 40-yard touch pass to Maurice Harris for a score, and later in the drive, Goff tossed a jump ball to running back Vic Enwere in the back of the end zone, over Nathan Broussard and Jalen Jefferson, for another score.

Harris has been moved to the X receiver spot at times, after starting at Z, in order to get both him and Lawler on the field at the same time.

“At the X-receiver position for us, Maurice was playing so well that we moved him over to X a little bit, just to ensure that we’ve got the best guys on the field,” Dykes said. “Right now, Maurice is probably playing as well as anybody.”

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Dykes said that Enwere is the No. 2 back now behind Lasco, thanks to his improvements during the offseason. Back in the spring, Enwere cited those improvements as just being more comfortable in the system, gaining weight and strength without sacrificing speed and being more assured of himself

“He runs to the right spot more, he’s more patient in his running, he keeps his pads low, he finishes better,” Dykes said. “He’s a better receiver, still has got to get better, all the things that happen for a running back – understanding how to set blocks up, be patient, when to press things and when you try to cut stuff back.”

Speaking of cut-back runs, after Coprich tried to cut back inside at midfield during the first 11-on-11 drive, he fumbled the football, allowing the defense to recover. On the next play, he was nearly stripped by Cameron Walker, but maintained possession and plunged for a first down. During seven-on-seven, Coprich had the defense beat like a drum up the seam, but Bowers’s throw was just beyond Coprich’s outstretched fingers in the end zone.

“Vic’s been good. Khalfani’s been really good. Tre [Watson]’s been good. Jeff Coprich has probably been as good as he’s been at any point,” Dykes said. “Lonny Powell has shown some signs of being good. We think they’re all pretty good. They’re all a little bit different. Lasco’s probably the most complete guy, when you sit down and look at running the football, catching the ball, he’s our most consistent ball-catcher. Khalfani’s really come on and developed as a ball catcher. Tre’s pretty consistent catching the ball. That's helped us, and we’ve still got to get Vic and Coprich consistent doing that.”

Also carrying the ball on Thursday was Malik McMorris, the 5-foot-9, 308-pound fullback, who also plowed the way for an Enwere touchdown run the day after hauling in his first touchdown pass since his junior year at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.

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Dykes on the run game in general: “We’ve got enough experience on our offensive line, and we’re physical and stronger than we have been there in the past. We want to be able to line up and run the ball when we need to run the ball at the end of a ballgame, to close out a ballgame, when everybody in the stadium knows we’re going to run it. We haven’t been that kind of football team, yet, that can do that. That’s not an easy thing to do. You have to be a good running team, and we want to be that kind of team. Get the ball back with four minutes to go, hand it off six times and that’ll be the ballgame. That’s what we want to become.”

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Jake Kearney has been held out of full-team work for most of camp, but he’s working back in now. Dykes said that he expects him back in full soon.

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Redshirt freshman wide receiver Erik Brown has finished his academic obligations for summer school, but cannot rejoin the team because he was not one of the 105 players allowed by rule in camp.

“We expect him to come back with us,” Dykes said. “He resolved his academic issues, and we expect him to join us once school starts.”

Defensive tackle Trevor Kelly’s situation is a bit more fluid. He could potentially be back before the start of school.

“Trevor will probably be back relatively soon. I think he’s dealing with that issue, and hopefully, he’ll have some answers quickly,” Dykes said.

To make room for Kelly in the 105, Cal could designate a player who is not practicing as injured, and then swap that player out for Kelly.

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Cal will do live, situational work on Friday, a closed practice. The Bears will then do “game rehearsal” on Saturday morning, before Golden Bear Day at Memorial Stadium.

“We’ll do a little bit less individual stuff on Saturday, and a little bit more team, and on Monday, it’ll be more game-time situations,” Dykes said.

Monday’s practice will be closed.

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Wide receiver Bryce Treggs once again did not practice. He was on the exercise bike on the sideline as he works back form an injured foot, which was stepped on several days ago.

“I think he’s fine. We’re just trying to bring him back. If he had to play in a game, he could probably play through it. We just want to make sure he’s healthy,” Dykes said.

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