BERKELEY -- California went 32 plays in team 11-on-11 on Wednesday, the Bears' first day in shells of fall camp, with another 32 plays scheduled for Thursday, before the first day of full pads on Friday, when Cal will go 40-45 live plays.
"It was physical," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "It was the most physical first day we've had, certainly since I've been here. One of the more physical practices I can remember, at least the first day."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1686075-countdown-to-kicko... Defensive back Khari Vanderbilt got things going with a big hit during screen pass drills, and Carlos Strickland continued his strong camp with several physical catches over the middle, including a leaping grab that saw him haul in a ball while reaching behind the back of his defender.
"We do a screen drill with the wide receivers and defensive backs, and I thought that was a really spirited, physical day, much more so than we've had in the past," Dykes said. "The good thing about this group is they want to be physical. We don't have to drag them or force them to be physical. They've been wanting to do it. That's who they are. That's who we are as a program. They take pride in it. It's a dramatic improvement over what we've had. Still not exactly where we need to be, but it was better."
That physicality seemed to -- at least briefly -- cost the Bears, as starting defensive end Noah Westerfield (who had a resurgent spring) went down with a rolled ankle during 11-on-11s. Dykes said he should be fine in a matter of days, and described it as a sprain, but didn't yet have a full report.
Even with Westerfield going down, though, defensive line coach Fred Tate said, there's not much of a drop off.
"If I had to say who's starting, I'd say co-starters," Tate said. "That's how close that race is, in terms of a guy running on the field first."
Saffle has put on about 15 pounds, and at the same time, leaned up, since last season.
"He's toned his body, in terms of muscle mass -- he's added more muscle than he has chubbiness," Tate said. "He bulked up a little bit."
"We've lost three experienced safeties, and we've got to develop depth at corner," Kaufman said. "The corner position, we've got some freshmen coming in, but they're very limited."
Due to the early start of camp forced by the early game against Hawaii in Sydney, Australia, the freshmen are still in Summer Bridge, which has frustrated their development, to an extent, Tate said, and Kaufman echoed.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1689352-countdown-to-kicko... "They've been in Summer Bridge, and come to practice by 10th period, so we haven't gotten a good, true evaluation on them, because they haven't been here through individuals, and the better part of the teaching aspect of practice," Tate said.
Some players -- like receiver Demetris Robertson -- get extra work in after practice, and for Robertson, in particular, that has shown over the last three days. Mainly a running back in high school, Robertson has improved by leaps and bounds, even within the confines of single practices, to say nothing of day-to-day improvement.
That said, freshman Traveon Beck had two breakups in one-on-ones, after struggling over the first two days of camp, as did Chibuzo Nwokocha (one in one-on-ones, one in full team 11-on-11). Freshman corner Josh Drayden contributed a tackle on a quick pass by Ross Bowers to tough-to-tackle Melquise Stovall in 11-on-11, and Evan Rambo -- the redshirt freshman safety -- has been very active both in coverage and coming up in run support. Senior defensive back Antoine Albert -- a JuCo transfer in his second season -- had a breakup and a tackle in full 11-on-11.
Marloshawn Franklin, who had hoped to come in to Berkeley during spring ball, but had to make up a class, also looked better, with a hard stop on running back Tre Watson. Franklin, though, has been up and down, and the starting corner opposite of Darius Allensworth -- who had his third pick in two days, during one-on-ones -- is still up for grabs.
"The good thing is, we've got guys who are going to develop and get in there," Dykes said. "We've got options now, for the first time. There's some young guys, but we think they can play."
Speaking of Watson, he broke off one of the more impressive plays of the day, bouncing over the left guard and to the far sideline, running for over 40 yards before being tagged down.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1692318-tre-watson-wants-t... "I like to try to finish everything," said Watson, who still trotted to the end zone, after he was tagged down. "I feel like if you practice that, you'll be able to do it in the game. Every time I get out in the open field, whether they blow it or not, I still try to finish the play."
Watson averaged 89.75 yards per game over his final four games, and feels he's even faster this year.
"I say I run a 4.2 [40-yard dash]," Watson said, somewhat facetiously. "But, realistically, I've definitely gotten a lot faster, so I'm excited. My explosion outside the 40 -- that's where I was really struggling, so that's what I was trying to work on, to get to that next level. I feel like I've got a new gear, and I'm excited to show it."
Watson's run of course wasn't the only highlight. Vic Enwere bounced over the right guard, shimmied into the second level and then chugged his way to an 80-yard touchdown run during 11-on-11 work.
"He's been doing that since his freshman year," Watson said. "He has this little kick he likes to do to get out. We like to compete and we like to race."
Both Watson's run and Enwere's came on the inside -- Watson's over left guard, Enwere's over right. The offensive line, Watson said, is so much bigger and stronger than it was last year, and it shows.
"First day of uppers, and we did inside run, and they were up there, destroying it," Watson said. "I'm excited to go into the season. I feel like I can trust every single one of them. We have depth."
The defense gave up four first downs on six drives until Enwere's run.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1681815-countdown-to-kicko... "We tried to throw a couple long balls, and guys made some plays on them, a couple of good plays by some corners, and a couple of misfires on the quarterback and a drop, really, by Chad [Hansen]," Dykes said. "The defense is challenging the offense, and making some plays, and competitive plays."
The ability to consistently run behind a bigger, stronger line, which is using the kick-slide instead of the vertical pass set retreat, could help mask some of the deficiencies on defense by controlling the ball on offense.
"It's early, but I like the group," Dykes said, as Watson lurked behind the camera. "Tre Watson's not very good (laughs), but the other guys are pretty good. The O-line, we're just bigger and stronger, and you guys see it. It's not hard to see. They're just experienced, they have a better mindset than thy've had in the past. There's a different work ethic, a different level of toughness. It's just better. It's just better. When you have experience on the offensive line, and you have experience at running back, you should be able to run the football.
"To be able to be the kind of football team we want to be, we've got to be able to line up off the ball and run the ball when everybody on the stadium knows we're going to run it. That's what good offensive football teams do. When you've got a lead at the end of a ball game, line up and knock people off the ball, make first downs and run the clock out. We hope that we're progressing and becoming that kind of team."
At this point, it looks like Jeremiah Stuckey will take over at right guard for Jordan Rigsbee, while Addison Ooms will start at center. Offensive line coach Brandon Jones had expected Stuckey to not only play at, but start at center, and realistically, it seems as though he's the No. 2 behind Ooms, while Dominic Granado, listed as the No. 2, is realistically the No. 3.
"There are three, four guys that are involved in that competition before all is said and done," Dykes said of center. "The good thing is, we have enough depth to be able to mix and match. We can bounce a lot of guys around. Brandon does a nice job of double-training guys. This offense cannot operate without a center."
It seems as though the Bears are moving closer and closer to naming Davis Webb the starting quarterback. After every long touchdown, in one-on-ones to seven-on-sevens to 11-on-11s, he sprints down the field for a celebratory body bump with his receivers, and seems to have the most nuanced grasp on the offense. That said, Bowers has shown more confidence, and Chase Forrest is perhaps the most accurate of the three.
Bowers notably hit a leaping Strickland for a 15-yard gain in seven-on-seven work.
"I think they're all improved," Dykes said. "I can say that for sure. Certainly, Chase is much further along than he was in the spring. Ross is much further along. Those two guys, I'm very encouraged by the progress that they're making.
"I think with Davis, he understands what we're doing and has a good feel for it. He's a new guy to our program, but in some ways, probably has a bit more experience doing some of the things that we're doing, and the way that we communicate is something that he's been doing for three years. I think, in some ways, just his experience in the communication and running the football team helps him. I think at some point, we'd like to make a decision in the near future, so we can start getting the kinks worked out and start building the offense around our quarterback."
Dykes said the staff will "keep looking at the film," and will make a decision when it's ready to be made.
After having been ramped up each of the first two days, Kanawai Noa saw an increased work load, and did participate in shoulder pads.