Report On Cali Team in Cali-Florida Game

A few days before the 2nd Annual California/Florida All-Star game, here's a report from the practice field. The California team's defense has some standout players, including UCLA commits Matt Ware, Jibril Raymo and Marcus Cassell...

There will be two main keys for the California squad if they hope to defeat a very talented Florida team. One will be whether or not the California offensive line can give their quarterbacks, Matt Leinart and David Koral enough time to throw the ball against what will be a fierce pass rush all game long.

Secondly, will the California defensive backs be able to hang with some Of the nation's best and fastest wide receivers?

"Right now our defense is well ahead of the offense," California head coach Jon Mack said. "I've really been impressed with the entire defensive unit. Matt Ware is incredible. He covers so much ground in the secondary and he's been a real team leader for us. Jibril Raymo, Dominic Robinson and Marcus Cassell have all been outstanding players.

"Raymo is the most vocal of the group and is a tremendous player. What more can you say about Robinson. He's one of the hardest working players I've seen and he'll do anything for us. The guy is just a football player. If I asked him to play center for us, he would do it in a second, he just loves the game. Cassell has been a surprise. He's been covering real well and has a lot of speed."

The front seven for the California squad has also been active and has made it difficult for the offense to even run a play at times.

"Yeah our front four is really fast and aggressive," Ware said. "Randall Bowen and Mike Patterson both are so quick off the ball and Bernard Fano Has probably been the best of the group."

Coach Mack echoed the comments about Fano. "His natural position is probably defensive tackle but we've been using him as a defensive end and he's been great. His fist step is unbelievable and no one has been able to block him. Bowen has a great first step and he's been splitting double teams all week long. Grayling Love has had a great week and I've liked him a lot. He's very coach-able and will do whatever you ask him.

"The linebackers have been great as well. Michael Craven has been a joy to watch but the real surprise has been the play of Josh Martin. He's really looked good and plays his butt off. He's big, strong and fast and has had a great week of practice."

Game rules stipulate that the defenses have to run a standard four-three scheme (four lineman, three linebackers) and can not have more than four defensive backs in the game at one time. What that means is if the offenses have four wide receivers on the field, the safeties and linebackers will have to play them man up.

"That's been a tough adjustment for us to make but luckily for us, we have safeties and linebackers who can run," Mack said. "Ware can cover anybody and Craven runs like a safety so we'll use him a lot in coverage. With the way both teams are expected to throw the ball, I expect a pretty high scoring game."

Offensively, the line has struggled coming together and with Florida defensive ends Willie Jones who had 34 quarterback sacks last season and Chauncey Davis coming off the edge, it could be a long day for the Leinart and Koral.

"Today was the best day for the line," Leinart said. "They're starting to play a little better but it's tough because they don't know each other and the communication hasn't been there. They're all good players individually, they just need to learn what each player is doing. I'm really not worried."

Terrence Whitehead was moved from defense to offense to give the team another playmaker and he's been great all week.

"Terrence has been very impressive and shows a lot of explosiveness," Mack said. "We're going to use him a little all over. He'll play in the slot and catch passes, run out of the backfield, we just need to get him the ball."

Tyler Ebell has also been solid when there's actually been some room for Him to run.

"I think a lot of the guys were surprised with how hard Tyler runs," Mack said. "He'll hit you right in the mouth and won't back down from anyone. He can obviously juke and jive with the best of them but he's tough and runs hard. He catches the ball well too and will be returning kicks for us."

According to California defensive back Dominic Robinson, all of the receivers have been impressive to him.

"They can all run and catch well," Robinson said. "I've liked Phillip Goodman a lot, I think he's been the best receiver out here. Charles Ealy has been good, Demetrious Williams is good. Big Joe Toledo at tight end catches everything and no one really wants to tackle that guy."

Both quarterbacks have looked sharp and appear to have a good grasp of the offense. In the seven on seven scrimmages, they were completing passes to their second and third options but again, the key will be giving them both the time to throw the ball down the field.

"Today was our best practice so I'm confident we'll be ready to go by game time," Mack said. "The whole week has been real enjoyable for me and I can honestly say there hasn't been one bad kid in the group who has given us any problems. The kids all like each other and have bonded nicely and it's been fun working with so many talented players."

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