Cal passing attack disjointed, but Demetris Robertson and Zion Echols make some noise

BERKELEY -- Zion Echols and Demetris Robertson provide highlights on a day where the offense struggled after a day off on Sunday.

FALL CAMP CENTRAL

Practice 7 Live Thread (members)

BERKELEY -- Freshman California running back Zion Echols, like classmate Derrick Clark, is here to learn. There are three veteran backs ahead of him who figure to get the lion's share of reps -- Vic EnwereTre Watson and Khalfani Muhammad -- and two more, in Patrick Laird and Billy McCrary III (who was held out on Monday), who will see situational work this season. He has no illusions. But that doesn't mean he's taking camp lying down.

"They all provide something different, like Vic's the bigger back, so he shows me how to navigate to the holes and how to punch through," Echols said. "Khalfani's more of a speed back, like myself, so he's able to tell me to just trust my speed, and he's able to help me build that confidence I need to run the ball. Tre, Tre's just a nice running back, so he helps me when I need help."

On Saturday in full pads, Echols rushed three times for 30 yards, including one 16-yard scamper. During 11-on-11 work in uppers on Monday, Echols made Quentin Tartabull miss with a deft sidestep for a six-yard gain, and then continued his eye-opening day by ripping off a 55-yard run, going over right guard and bouncing out to the sideline, only to be caught from behind at the five-yard line.

"I got the ball, knew where the hole was supposed to be, saw it open up and burst right through it," Echols said. "The line's working hard, honestly. They're big guys, they know what to do and they have a great coach, so they're able to open up holes. It makes it easy."

Head coach Sonny Dykes said that the Bears came out of the off day on Sunday with dead legs, and Echols certainly felt the effects.

"Man, I got hawked at the end," Echols said. "I didn't score, so my legs aren't that good."

Echols did wind up scoring, though, on the next play -- a five-yard touchdown plunge.

"Zion gives us a little different dimension at running back maybe than we have," Dykes said. "He's a shifty guy."

Running back Billy McCrary III was sidelined with a sore hamstring, which set the stage for Echols's extra reps.

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Wide receiver Demetris Robertson has never been a full-time receiver -- he played all over the field in high school -- but one thing he's done, and done well, throughout his football life has been returning, and he showed that right off the bat on Monday.

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1690378-countdown-to-kicko... In the first full live kickoff return of the fall (still only in uppers, after two days in pads), Robertson teamed with the equally-dynamic Melquise Stovall as the second pair of returners (behind Muhammad and Watson), and yes, it was just as exciting as the proposition sounds. Even Robertson giggled at the proposition, after practice, and for good reason: Who would you want to kick to; the four-star slot car or the five-star stick of dynamite, each of whom took back 50-yard kicks in the U.S. Army All-American Game? In this particular instance, the Juggs machine chose Robertson.

"Stovall and Demetris give us something a little bit different," Dykes said. "We're looking at those combinations right now."

Robertson took the kick at the five-yard line, weaved up and left, finding a block from Stovall and knifing through the coverage, just outside the left hash and through for a would-be touchdown. When asked about it, an uncontrollable grin stretches across his face.

"It's kind of natural, really," Robertson said. "Once you do it a lot, it's all natural. Melquise had the block, so I just followed him through."

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1694105-dykes-less-than-en... As a senior at Savannah (Ga.) Christian Prep, Robertson returned four kickoffs for 149 yards, and 10 punts for 145 yards. 

"I feel a lot of confidence if I get it -- I know [Stovall] is going to set a good block," Robertson said. "If he gets it, I know I'm going to set a good block for him, because I want him to do well."

We'll have more from our one-on-one with Robertson later.

"The good thing about him is that he's sudden, and when he decides where he wants to go,he's pretty fast," Dykes said.

*****

Overall, the offense was a bit disjointed on Monday, but not necessarily because of anything the defense did. Early in one-on-one work, receivers and quarterbacks couldn't seem to get on the same page (starter Davis Webb did not throw in one-on-ones; he instead was on the south end of the field working with the offensive line), with overthrows, underthrows and seemingly not in sync on routes.

"I thought we might respond a little bit better than we did," Dykes said. "It wasn't as popping as it needed to be, but we'll go in and look at the film. It's usually not as bad as you think, never as good as you think either. You could tell some guys lost their legs a little bit."

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1694171-curhan-offensive-l...On the other side, the offensive line owned the board drills against the defensive line early in practice, with one standout, in particular: Freshman tackle Jake Curhan.

The 6-foot-6 Larkspur (Calif.) Redwood tackle enrolled early and missed all of spring due to injury, but he has shown up consistently over the first week of camp, exploding on Monday by completely dominating the one-on-one drill.

Despite his height, Curhan kept a low-to-high trajectory and fired off the snap hard. He used great leverage and didn't ignore his hands. Many linemen like Curhan, who come from weaker leagues where they've just used their great size to dominate, don't have much in the way of technique, but Curhan has proved to be a quick study. The biggest tell? Steven Moore roundly praised the understudy right tackle as soon as his second rep was over. 

While it's standard for offensive linemen to redshirt, if anything happens to Aaron Cochran (he left the field on an injury cart late on Monday), or Vince Johnson -- who was exceptional in one-on-one work -- can't go, Curhan certainly seems like a viable option.

During full 11-on-11 work, Curhan picked up two big blocks -- both on a charging Chinedu Udeogu -- that saved sacks on Gilliam, though Gilliam wound up throwing both balls away.

*****

Receiver Vic Wharton offensive guard Jeremiah Stuckey were absent, taking care of academic work, and while nickel back DePriest Turner (Achilles) and defensive end Noah Westerfield (ankle) did not practice, both were out of their protective walking boots.

Receiver Jordan Veasy went to the ground during the final special teams period, after getting hit in the quad, though it seems as though there will be no lingering effects.

*****

Quarterback Chase Forrest had his best day in 11-on-11, going 8-for-10 for 123 yards, one touchdown and one interception, a ball that was tipped by leaping linebacker Cameron Goode that fell into the hands of David Garner..

"I played inside underneath with the receiver -- I've been working on that a lot -- and I finally got it down with my hips, to stay underneath, and got my hands on the ball," Goode said.

Forrest benefitted from a backside block from Patrick Laird on his first drive, hitting Chad Hansen for a 35-yard gain, and then hitting Hansen again for six on a quick slant for a touchdown. Continuing to work on red zone offense, the offense re-set, and Forrest once again got a block from Laird to clear the way for a 10-yard touchdown run. 

On his next drive, Forrest hit freshman receiver Logan Gamble for a nine-yard slant, but on the next play was tagged for a sack by defensive tackle Russell Becker. It was one of three sacks on the day, as starting quarterback Davis Webb was dropped for a loss by Evan Weaver and Cameron Saffle, and Russell Ude tallied one on Max Gilliam, who was 3-for-5 for 26 yards.

Webb made up for his sack on his next drive, going deep to Robertson for a 43-yard completion between two defensive backs, which set up a four-yard Watson touchdown run.

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1635274-flash-sale-four-mo... Webb finished the day 9-for-12 for 110 yards.

Robertson, early on in camp, was routinely overthrown, but on Monday, there were two instances -- the 43-yarder included -- where he had to slow up and nearly stop to make a grab.

"The quarterbacks, we've just got to get on the same page, really," Robertson said. "Coaches said just keep going, keep going, because I asked them, 'Coach, you want me to stop or slow down for the ball?' No. 'Keep going, keep going, we'll get the quarterback on the right page.' I was trying to figure them out, so now, I just go as hard as I can."

*****

Backup center Dominic Granado worked on long snapping after practice.

*****

Redshirt freshman defensive end Trevor Howard worked with a back brace on Monday, but still held his own in the board drill against the offensive line.

*****

Hansen piled up 77 receiving yards and one touchdown on six catches -- leading the team in both categories in 11-on-11.

Robertson finished with two catches for 49 yards. Bug Rivera caught four passes for 32 yards.

Muhammad rushed twice for 37 yards, including a 30-yard gash up the middle. He made it to the opposing 45, but De'Zhon Grace was running stride-for-stride with him, and the play was blown dead. Another casualty of mid-camp dead legs.

Along with setting several key blocks, Laird rushed six times for 16 yards.

Freshman quarterback Ross Bowers went 3-for-4 for 14 yards passing.

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