Fall Camp Notebook: Day Nine

Offense Fails to Click in Morning Session of Cal's First Two-a-Day

Skyler Reid/Staff

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People walking by Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning kept stopping to peer inside because, for all the world, it sounded like football season had started. In the quiet of Strawberry Canyon, Memorial was alive was blaring crowd noise, referees' whistles and, occasionally, the hard plastic thud of pads.

In the morning session of the Cal football team's double day, the Bears spent a good chunk of their two hours on the field doing situational 11-on-11's. Unlike a scrimmage, the ball was placed at strategic locations and the first, second, third and fourth strings battled it out in each scenario under the watchful eye of a team of referees and with the added challenge of recorded crowd noise.

"There's obviously some things that were learned," coach Jeff Tedford said. "As much as we can, (we) put them out there on their own and get them used to that. It's as simple as backers manipulating the umpire in there, receivers communicating with the linemen, so on and so forth."

No official score was kept, but it was pretty obvious that the defense had won the day. In many ways, however, the offense was self-defeating. The wide receiver corps -- and almost everyone else who went out for a pass -- had a case of the drops. Several nicely-thrown balls by quarterbacks Kevin Riley and Brock Mansion were dropped on would-be first downs.

A sample of what situational drills looked like today:

--The first drive of 11-on-11's started on the offense's own two yard line. On the first play, Riley overthrew tight end Anthony Miller. On second down, running back Shane Vereen -- who took most of the first team carries as Jahvid Best sat out another day to rest -- rushed for about five yards. On third down with five to go, the defense came blitzing in, forcing Riley to throw the ball away to avoid a sack in the endzone.

--Mansion didn't have much better luck on his first drive. Tight end Jarrett Sparks broke free of his defender and Mansion placed the ball right in his hands only to have Sparks drop the would-be first down. Third string running back Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rushed for maybe one yard on second down, and Chris Moncrease punched out a ball headed for tight end Skylar Curran's hands on third down.

After being given a fresh set of downs, running back Dasarte Yarnway took the next two rushes for five and seven yards, respectively. The huge true freshman also gave a peek into his physicality by dragging defenders behind him all the way on the second carry.

--On more first team reps, cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson proved that while his impeccable pass-coverage is his most well-known skill, his tackling isn't half-bad either. On second down, Riley dumped a short pass off to Yarnway, who was absolutely flattened by Thompson. Facing a third and 15 situation, Riley lobbed a pass that was easily picked off by linebacker Mike Mohamed.

--With the ball in Mansion's hands on the next drive, the offense didn't do much better. On his own 40 yard line, Mansion threw an incomplete pass, Yarnway was ground to halt for no gain on the next play and linebacker Chris Little and defensive lineman Trevor Guyton combined for a sack on third down.

Injury Update

After pursuing Vereen on a 30-yard scamper, safety Marcus Ezeff pulled up lame and had to be carted off the field. Tedford said after practice that Ezeff had a sprained ankle.

The usual suspects from the past few days are all still out as well, except for Darian Hagan who returned for limited snaps. Added to the injury list are Michael Calvin (pulled muscle), safety Brett Johnson (slight concussion) and Josh Hill (ankle sprain).

Tedford said that for this point in camp, the number of players in red jerseys is normal.

On the Special Teams Front

Sophomore kicker Giorgio Tavecchio strengthened his case to retain the starting kicking spot on Saturday with solid showings in field goal, point after and kickoff exercises.

During kickoffs, Tavecchio drilled the ball to the three yard line, the longest kick of the day. Tavecchio also nailed his point after and both of his field goal attempts, one from 34 and one from 41 yards out. Freshman Vince D'Amato also made all three, while Seawright missed wide left on the 41-yarder.

Additionally, Tavecchio looked the sharpest out of the kickers. Each time, the ball came cleanly off his foot with a nice, high arc.

"In my opinion, experience is worth a billion dollars really," Tavecchio said. "You can practice all you want and it's good to practice hard, but I've been very lucky and very blessed to have had that experience from last year. Now I know what to expect and I can prepare for that in a more precise way."

Perspectives on the Offensive Line

There's no way to instantly replace an All-American like center Alex Mack, but the offensive line is doing more to give itself an edge in the season after Mack's graduation.

One of those things is adding new plays. Just ask defensive end Cameron Jordan.

"I don't like the O-line anymore," he joked. "Last year there were plays you expected, blocks you expected. This year, they're throwing in new plays I've never seen before. It's getting ridiculous. It's good for the offense, but I don't like them right now."

But senior Mike Tepper wasn't so sure.

"We're making good progress, but there's always room for improvement," Tepper said. "If we were perfect, we'd be winning national championships and we aren't winning national championships so we aren't perfect. We're doing good but we have a long way to go."

Heard at Practice

"You're frustrated. Control your mind, and you'll be okay." --Linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson to his 'backers during a difficult blocking drill.

"Good! You ate your Wheaties this morning." --Running backs coach Ron Gould on the backs' performance in agility drills.

"They're not perfect. Joe Montana misses a ball every now and then." --Tedford on the quarterbacks' less-than-stellar showing today.


Contact Katie Dowd at [email protected]

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