Bears Go Live on Wednesday

On Wednesday afternoon, the California Golden Bears went through a padded practice, which acted to imitate live game situations. Head coach Jeff Tedford best described the goal of Wednesday: to let the players do their own thing…

"When we practice, we are out there on the field with them, and if they don't know what to do when they break the huddle, we tell them what to do," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford.

"[For Wednesday's practice], they are going to be on their own out there. Their mistakes are going to be magnified because, if they don't line up right or do the right thing, it could cost us a penalty or a blown assignment."

So how did Tedford view the results?

"There was a lot of learning," said Tedford. "We are going to learn a lot off of the tape. This is the first time they've been on the field alone. For the most part, I thought it was pretty clean; not too many penalties or turnovers. But it was good."

Junior running back Shane Vereen continues to progress in his return to the practice field from his injured hamstring. Tedford said that they will increase Vereen's individual workload on Thursday, but will not take part in any team activity. Tedford is hopeful that Vereen will be ready to go with the team by Monday, so that Vereen will get two full weeks of practice leading up to Cal's season opener September 4 against UC Davis.

If Vereen can return Monday, that allows for Vereen to go through live hitting in practice, before Cal begins to implement the game plan for UC Davis next Wednesday.

"If [Vereen] practices next week, which I expect him to, we will do some things where they are live and he'll go through that."

Sophomore Isi Sofele continues to get the majority of reps with the first team in absence of Vereen, while freshman Dasarte Yarnway and sophomore Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson split the reps with the second team.

Another focal point of Wednesday's practice was getting the opportunity to see the new wide receivers – freshmen Keenan Allen, Tevin Carter, and Kaelin Clay, and junior Coleman Edmond – in game-like circumstances. Overall, Tedford was very pleased.

"I thought they did a real nice job today," said Tedford about the wide receivers. "They are all young, and mental mistakes were at a minimum. That's what you look for right now. Can they line up? Do they know their assignments? Things like that... we feel pretty good about their ability to make plays. But, when you are that young and you have a whole offense that has been installed, it can be easy to be confused, especially when some of them are playing multiple positions. I was pleased."

Tedford came out earlier this week and said that, if the season started today, Allen would start at wide receiver opposite of junior Marvin Jones, and that Allen, Clay, and Edmond would all be "right there" in terms of playing time.

One other major area of question heading into fall camp for the Golden Bears has been special teams, which has sort of attained a new look and philosophy with the arrival of new special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk. For the first time where special teams ran live, the results were a bit mixed.

Tedford has been very pleased with the improvement on kickoffs and kickoff coverage, and Wednesday was no different.

"[The kickers] kicked off very well," said Tedford. As of now, Tedford said that junior Giorgio Tavecchio has taken the lead in the kickoff department. "As of today, it's pretty clear," said Tedford, in regards to who will be kicking off come September 4.

The news is significant after the Bears really struggled with their kickoff game and coverage in 2009, which ultimately hindered the defense by giving up short fields to the opposing team. Coach Genyk has really emphasized depth, and it seems to be paying off. You almost get the feeling that the coaches are even confident about kickoffs and kickoff coverage heading into 2010, such that it might even be a strength.

On the other hand, the field goal unit really struggled in their first opportunity in game-like circumstances. Tavecchio went 1-for-3, hitting a 31-yard kick from the left hash, while missing a 38-yard chip shot and a 42-yard straight-away. The last miss, in an all-or-nothing drill that puts pressure on the kickers, resulted in the team running half-gassers to close out practice. Sophomore Vincenzo D'Amato went 1-for-2, making a 31-yard try and missing a 38-yard attempt, which hit the right upright. Junior David Seawright went 1-for-2, making from 31 yards and missing from 38. Freshman Jed Barnett also went 1-for-2, making and missing attempts from 31 yards.

"It was an 'off day'," said Tedford regarding the field goal unit. "The field goals just weren't good enough. [In regards to the conditioning,] that's on the kickers. They kick for half-gassers. So, they had 4, and then it was double-or-nothing on the last kick, and [Tavecchio] did not make it. He's either a hero or a goat, which is typical of the real thing."

In other injury-related news, Tedford said that many of the players – including junior fullback Will Kapp (concussion) and Vereen – are "very close" to returning. Mike Calvin (groin) returned to practice today, while senior defensive end Cameron Jordan (shoulder) continued to sit out.

Other Notes

  • In the 'clutch' period, which simulates the offense being down late in the 4th quarter, the defense held their ground, forcing a long Tavecchio field goal that fell short, and a failed Hail Mary attempt of 40 yards.

  • Tedford said that, as of now, junior Mychal Kendricks and senior Keith Browner are the starters at outside linebacker.

  • In addition, the depth chart at quarterback features senior Kevin Riley as the starter, sophomore Beau Sweeney as the primary backup, and junior Brock Mansion as the third-string.
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