On a day where the skies opened up with hail in the middle of practice, toe-headed Vic Wharton provided a ray of sunshine for the California offense during the Bears' penultimate open practice session of the spring.
After an interception yesterday during team work by Derron Brown, it was Darius Allensworth's turn early on Saturday, picking off a pass from Ross Bowers in start-of-practice speed team work. Bowers got second reps behind Chase Forrest, and while Forrest was dependable -- hitting the short routes, including a slant to Wharton.
Wharton also picked up a 52-yard slant from Forrest, and a 12-yarder mid-practice 11-on-11 work, but the first drive ended in a 33-yard field goal by Matt Anderson, and the second stalled out after Forrest made a bad pass to the back of the end zone.
Bowers, though, showed the more consistent, bigger arm, hitting Ray Hudson 35 yards down the deep middle, and Matthew Rockett on a deep slant during seven-on-seven work, but as often as he'd hit the explosive pass, he'd overthrow a receiver, including Hudson down the far sideline, and he threw the day's only interception. Hudson was one of the more dependable receivers in the day, and just as impactful as Wharton.
During early-practice 11-on-11 work, Bowers hit a fade touchdown to an uncovered Jordan Veasy from inside the red zone.
Forrest did what Forrest does -- hit the short, easy passes, leading receivers, hitting the outside shoulder to allow a receiver to turn up field, and hitting his receivers in stride between two defenders, including Logan Gamble between two linebackers in seven-on-seven work.
After a brief interlude of hail that began with a sack of Bowers by Cameron Saffle, and continued with Noah Westerfield making snow angels at the 50, Forrest hit a 12-yard pass to Wharton, who was the top receiver on the day. The sun finally came out with Forrest at the 10, where he hit a five-yard pass to -- who else? -- Wharton. Forrest threw a third-down pass out of the back of the end zone, though, and the drive ended.
Bowers's next red zone drive ended with a seven-yard scramble for a touchdown.
Saffle had two sacks, including one on a late-practice drive by Bowers. That drive, though, was kept alive by a 15-yard run from Patrick Laird, setting up a pair of runs from Zion Echols, the final one being a three-yard score. Tre Watson also ended a Bowers drive with a lengthy touchdown run in the 26th period. Laird was one of the more impressive runners on the day, showing power and vision. The short swing passes were well covered, though, taking the running backs out of the passing game. Alex Funches Funches was particularly adept at that.
Billy McCrary also stood out, taking a dump off on Bowers's second late-practice drive for about 20 yards.
Veasy added a touchdown on a drag from Bowers, rolling right, on his penultimate drive of the day. Veasy added another leaping grab on Bowers's next drive. Not to be outdone, Forrest hit freshman Taariq Johnson on a leaping 30-yarder on his penultimate drive, between several defenders. Downs, several plays later, dropped Echols in the backfield. He later added a sack.