Read More in Our Live Practice Thread (members)
BERKELEY -- Even without star freshman Demetris Robertson -- on the shelf after a dental procedure -- the California offense hummed in its first practice in full pads, with starting quarterback Davis Webb going 8-of-10 for 126 yards and a touchdown, a 37-yard back-shoulder heave to Chad Hansen over the shoulder of Marloshawn Franklin.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1693131-sonny-dykes-talks-... “The great thing is we’ve got another good competition going right now between Chase and Ross for the backup spot," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "That’ll be a fierce competition. It’ll be a very important competition for our program. It’s going to be a big decision we’re going to have to make. We look forward to seeing how it plays out.”
Will the winner of the backup spot to Webb give that quarterback a leg up on being the starter in 2017?
“Definitely. It definitely does. It’s certainly not anything guaranteed, but you’re going to get more reps, and that’s how you get better, particularly at that position," Dykes said. "That’s how you get better anywhere, really, especially quarterback. You just can’t simulate getting repetitions any other way. It’s really important.”
Dykes said that both Bowers and Forrest have improved in their decision-making and some of the finer points of quarterbacking thanks to their work over the summer. They both, Dykes said, operate more quickly, and have a better understanding of the offense. Forrest and Bowers each have also improved their arm strength, as both are going deeper with more accuracy more consistently.
"I think they’re both throwing the ball better, anticipating throws better, just all the things that quarterbacks do," Dykes said. "I think they’re more comfortable in the pocket. All the things that are important, I’ve seen them really improve in every one of those areas.”
Dykes called the proceedings, on the whole, "a little bit sloppy at times," but was encouraged by the fact that the case of team-wide dead legs that normally hits at the third practice hit in the fifth, instead.
"It says a little bit about our strength level," Dykes said. "Today wasn't as bad as it normally is."
The stars of the day, though, were the running backs. Khalfani Muhammad rushed five times for 46 yards, including three of over 10 yards, while walk-on Patrick Laird paced all backs with four carries for 55 yards, including a 41-yard run that ended when true freshman defensive end Evan Weaver running him down from behind to make the tackle. Both Weaver and Cameron Saffle provided pressure off the edge throughout the live period.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1692783-camp-film-day-four... "One thing about him, you never know what you're getting, but one thing he does do, is he competes every down," Dykes said of Weaver. "He loves to play football, and has a tremendous motor. That shows up. You can win with guys that play as hard as he does."
Redshirt freshman Billy McCrary III provided the highlight of the day, taking a quick screen from freshman Max Gilliam, making two tacklers miss and then sprinting 56 yards up the far sideline for a score on Gilliam's first drive. Gilliam finished the day 4-of-6 for 70 yards.
"That's a continuation of what he did in the spring," Dykes said. "You go look at live team periods in the spring, and he made a lot of good plays. It was a continuation of that today."
Dykes feels like the Bears have a "good, solid four-deep" at running back, with McCrary being the fourth behind Muhammad, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere, who had two catches for 10 yards in the team period. Watson had 26 yards on three carries.
On one of the final reps of red zone one-on-ones, Carlos Strickland grabbed a back-corner fade by Gilliam against blanket coverage.
Defensively, Quentin Tartabull had his second straight strong day both in seven-on-seven and in full 11-on-11. During Forrest's final drive, Tartabull's blitz -- during which he lost his helmet -- pressured Forrest into overthrowing Drew Kobayashi 40 yards down field. Tartabull also helped contribute to a coverage sack during Forrest's first drive, but was the first to miss the slippery McCrary during his touchdown rumble.
Linebacker Devante Downs, corner Josh Drayden, nickel back Cameron Walker and linebacker Derron Brown came up with seven-on-seven breakups, with Brown's being the most impressive. The former safety covered half the field in the blink of an eye, flying high up in the air to bat down a missive from Webb to Bug Rivera in the flat.
In 11-on-11 work, Khari Vanderbilt came up with a tackle for loss, as did Walker.
Safety Luke Rubenzer added two interceptions, giving him three in two days, tying Darius Allensworth for the most in camp. Rubenzer's second pick came on a pass intended for Logan Gamble. Rubenzer ripped the ball out of the 6-foot-6 freshman's hands at the goal line right as he caught it.
There was no more spectacular a breakup than the one Evan Rambo turned in during 11-on-11 work. On second down and two yards to go, Webb looked up top to Jordan Veasy -- who's got a lot of bulldog in him, as proven so far this camp -- only to find the 6-foot-3 Rambo vaulting into the air, fully extending his arms and just getting the tips of his fingers on the ball, batting it away.
"I was just playing deep middle, I saw the quarterback roll out, and I saw there were two threats that stopped short," Rambo said. "I saw Veasy just running by himself, and I'm like, 'That's not supposed to happen,' so I start running and running, and I would either have to hit Veasy, or I could go get the ball, and I wanted the ball."
Rambo called the first day in full pads "really competitive," and that showed during one-on-one reps, as well as in the three skirmishes that erupted throughout the day.
"We had some mental mistakes from the young guys that everybody has to pick up, and just tune in to what's going on," said Rambo, who picked up the No. 21 from departed veteran Stefan McClure, now in camp with the Indianapolis Colts. Now with a year under his belt, and four true freshmen to break in, Rambo finds himself trying to live up to McClure's role as a mentor.
"I'm trying to mentally prepare, like Stef did, because he was really good at that," Rambo said.
McClure left a legacy of film study, Rambo said, and a constant state of readiness.
"It comes with time," Rambo said. "We have enough time in camp, I feel, that we can get everything done. It just takes watching film and learning and tuning in."
Rambo said that this defense "is probably the most athletic defense we've had in a long time," and gave the linebackers a vote of confidence.
"We have some veteran guys still on the field that have been here through the rough times," Rambo said. "We have some hungry guys on defense, so I'm not worried too much."
Sophomore receiver Kanawai Noa got more run today. He was dressed in full pads, and participated in walk-through, offensive install, individual work and one-on-ones, though not in seven-on-seven or full team periods.
Cornerback Jaylinn Hawkins also worked out in one-on-ones, but not in full-team periods. He tallied a breakup on a pass from Webb to Hansen, and two more during one-on-one work.
Dykes said that offensive tackle signee Daniel Juarez will delay enrolling until the spring, due to back issues. He has been on the field for several practices, in plain clothes.