Morrah steps into new role

With every spring practice, numerous opportunities open up. As seniors move on, and players who were once used to being led now find themselves being looked upon as leaders. With the backdrop of a six-loss season behind them, they have the challenge of making sure that the mistakes of last season aren't repeated. One player who's facing new responsibilities is tight end Cameron Morrah.

The 6-4, 245-pound junior now finds himself in a position to take over for Craig Stevens, who was a three-year starter and was a team captain for all 13 games last season.  Replacing Stevens' production on the field, both as a receiver and a blocker will be one challenge, but Morrah now finds himself to be the veteran of a tight end group that includes redshirt junior Skyler Curran, converted defensive lineman Tad Smith, sophomore Garry Graffort, redshirt freshman Savai'i Eselu, as well incoming members of the freshman class who will be arriving at Cal in a few weeks to participate in Summer Bridge.

"I don't talk a lot but I feel like I'm coming out of a shell," said Morrah. "This is my fourth year, so I've got to be more of a leader. The younger guys haven't faced as much and there's a lot that's happening out there so if I feel that I can step in and help somebody, I'll do that."

After redshirting in 2005, and seeing primarily special teams work in 2006, the Claremont High School graduate saw his first extended minutes as a tight end last year, and started four games when the Bears opened up with a two tight end formation.

"Last year was my first opportunity to get minutes [at tight end], and it was great to be able to get time on the field," said Morrah, who finished the season with 13 catches for 155 yards and one touchdown. "I wanted to try to block as well as I could to help the team as well as play at a level where my teammates felt like they could depend on me."

Knowing that he would have a chance to contribute to the 2007 team bolstered the spirits of Morrah who admitted that times were periodically challenging during the previous year.

"Football started getting fun again," said Morrah, who's worked primarily with the first unit during the spring, but has also played with other units as almost everyone's been rotated across different units at some point during spring practice.   "When you don't play, it can be depressing. But you learn that you can't let opportunities pass, and I learned as a redshirt frosh that you always have to be ready to step up and play."

He's done a lot of work with both Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley this spring on running a variety of short- and medium-range patterns.  With his size and speed he's also a threat to get down the field as he showed on a 49-yard reception against Arizona last season, which was one of his best  memories from last season.

But ask him about other moments that stand out from last season, and he's happy to include his fellow tight ends.

"There was the touchdown that I scored against Washington," said Morrah about his 19-yard catch of a Nate Longshore pass, "And Craig (Stevens) caught one right after that so that was big for the tight ends. Also when I went down and couldn't play against Stanford, it was great to be able to see Julian (Arthur) come in and contribute and make a few catches."

Throughout camp, Morrah has been able to catch passes from quarterbacks Longshore, Kevin Riley, and Brock Mansion, sometimes during 11-on-11s, sometimes during 7-on-7s, and other time in drills and he was willing to share his observations about each quarterback.

Brock Mansion: "Brock' going to be a good one.  He's young and after everybody else is gone, he'll be the man."

Kevin Riley: "Kevin's got a quick trigger and lots of velocity. If you don't get your hands up quick, you'll get hit in the head.  Believe it or not, that's a good thing."

Nate Longshore:  "Nate's cool. I've played with him more and we've got more of a connection."

Morrah then explained the difference between playing with Longshore and playing with Riley.

"I know that if I have a route and if things get messed up, Kevin's more mobile than Nate," said Morrah. "So if there's more pressure, I don't have to break off my route but I can work back towards him, and he'll get out and throw the ball to where I'll be.  If Nate's in trouble, he knows I'll fight for the ball and there's that trust that I'll put myself where I can make the catch."

With competition for positions taking place throughout the team, Morrah didn't think that the competition for starting quarterback would be a source of contention for the team.

"We've got confidence in the coaches about who'll be the starter and we'll roll with it," said Morrah, who is an American Studies major. "We'll back him 100% and we'll have all the confidence in the world in him."

While listed on the spring roster as weighing 245 pounds, Morrah says he's at 248 now and would like to eventually keep his weight around 250 even, understanding that with his position, it's critical to preserve speed.

"It's not just about being bigger because when you're bigger you don't move as well," says Morrah who's body fat percentage is 9%. "A big part of it is mental.  When I watch the tape, I feel like I'm slow.  I'm comfortable at 245, last year I got up to 255, but initially I gain weight just before the season and lose it as the season goes on."

Throughout the spring, players have been asked about what it was like to go through the second half of last season. In almost every game, the Bears were a handful of plays away from emerging victorious, and while the difference between winning and losing might have been very fine, the six losses as the ends of the season meant that the once-promising season ended up in a thud.

"We tried to brush things off and tried not to let things sink in," said Morrah, who listens to Anthony Hamilton and Alicia Keys in his spare time. "I don't like being depressed or sad and it was a big test to try to stay positive last year. As a team we had to work through what was wrong, stay focused, and keep going until we had that breakthrough in the bowl game."

Team dynamics are far too complicated to be addressed with a magic button, and while it's hard to know where everything will be headed in four months, Morrah's got a good feeling about this year's team.

"It's not a matter of fixing one thing," said Morrah. "We all needed to come together. The chemistry's better now with the young guys and the older guys, everybody's level and we're not putting too much pressure on things."

* * * * *

The following rotations were captured from the last set of 11-on-11s performed on Monday afternoon. It's likely that the units saw different sets of personnel earlier in the day.  If some names do not appear, it's highly possible that they could have participated in either previous sets of 11-on-11s and/or drills. There were considerable substitutions on both sides with the B units, and with the Unit A defense, there was one sequence when the Bears swapped out the entire Unit A defensive line for a unit that had played primarily with Unit B.

Although there are still a good number of players in red and yellow jerseys, Monday marked the return to action of defensive lineman Cody Jones and wide receiver Sean Young. Eddie Young, Sean's brother, has been seeing more action on the Unit A defense in place of Mike Mohamed who's recovering from an injury.

Offensive Unit A:  Michael Calvin, Sean Young, Nyan Boateng, Mike Tepper, Richard Fisher, Mark Boskovich, Alex Mack, Noris Malele, Chet Teofilo, Tad Smith, Kevin Riley, Shane Vereen, Will Ta'ufo'ou

Defensive Unit A: Tyson Alualu, Derrick Hill, Rulon Davis, Cameron Jordan, Mika Kane, Ernest Owusu, Eddie Young, Anthony Felder, Worrell Williams, Zack Follett, Syd'Quan Thompson, Chris Conte, Bernard Hicks, Jesse Brooks

Offensive Unit B: Drew Glover, Nyan Boateng, LaReylle Cunningham, Sean Young, Skyler Curren, Tad Smith, Matt Laird, Matt Summers-Gavin, Sam DeMartinis, Mark Boskovich, Mitchell Schwartz, Chris Guarnero, Todd Huber, Alex Mack, Kevin Bemoll, T.J. Emery, Justin Cheadle, Justin Prueitt, Brock Mansion, John Tyndall, Covaughn Deboskie, Shane Vereen

Defensive Unit B: Tyson Alualu, Mika Kane, Rulon Davis, Ernest Owusu, Cameron Jordan, Cody Jones, Kendrick Payne, Keith Browner, Devin Bishop, Charles Johnson, Matt Russi, Shea McIntyre, Michael Mohamed, D.J. Holt, Darian Hagan, Jesse Brooks, Bernard Hicks, Marcus Ezeff, Charles Amadi, Chris Conte

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