Fall Camp Notebook: Day 14

Best Continues Progression Back to Full Speed

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Jahvid Best continued to work his way back into the Cal football team's fall camp by participating in some early-session position drills Thursday, but coach JeffTedford said that he's still "not ready to snap hard yet."

Best came off the sideline for some pass-catching practice, but did not join in with running back drills in the first 20 minutes of practice that involved quick lateral movements.Tedford said that Best is still day-to-day as far as returning to full contact and reiterated the fact that Best needs those reps to be prepared for the season.

"I don't care what happens, he's got to get in there and experience what it's like to run through there, get a feel for it back and get a little of the rust off,"Tedford said. "We're working hard on the sideline with him as far as doing ball mechanics and things like that, it's just actually running with the football."

With his experience and running ability, Shane Vereen is a "comforting" replacement when Best is absent, Tedford said. A redshirt sophomore, Vereen has produced quietly when he's had the opportunity -- which is typically when he spells Best or spot-starts in his place. Now in his third season with the program,Tedford said Vereen is looking more "confident and comfortable" running with the first-team offense.

"As a running back, as you mature, you know when you get your pads down, you know when to take your chances hitting the holes," Tedford said. "That's where he's at right now."

More From Tad Smith

Tight end Tad Smith, who was lost for the season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Tuesday's scrimmage, recounted the way it happened after Thursday's morning session. Smith said he was blocking a defensive lineman on a rushing play when the pile rolled into his right leg and the knee buckled under him. He had been in competition for the starting tight end spot and had recently returned to action from a fractured scapula that he suffered during spring ball.

"It was kind of surreal," Smith said. "I'd just come back from another surgery, I'd fought so hard for rehabbing my shoulder and getting that back. It wasn't anger, there was nobody to be mad at, it was just kind of one of those things where I just didn't really believe it happened."

Smith tore his left ACL during spring ball in 2006 in almost exactly the same way, although he was playing on the defensive line at that point. He said that while he was being helped off the field on Tuesday, he was pretty sure that he had injured the right one.

"I had a feeling," Smith said. "I had some experience with my other one, so yeah, I had a good idea when it happened that it wasn't good."

Smith got his MRI results back Wednesday with the ACL tear confirmed. He said the surgery is scheduled for Sept. 1.

Smith is a fifth-year senior and if he decides not to appeal for a sixth year of eligibility -- or if he does appeal and the appeal is rejected -- his college career could very well be over. The decision on whether or not to appeal will come later. Having a clear role on the team, Smith acknowledged, would factor into his return, but he guessed that the coaches wouldn't bring him back without a reason and he has shown in the past to be a team-first guy -- his switch from defensive end to tight end was done at the coaches' behest.

"It's definitely an option," he said of an appeal. "I love football. I love this school. It's definitely an option that we're going to be looking at. You know, I can't get away from this team. I've come back from a lot of injuries to be with these guys out here on the field and in the meetings in camp and all that. We're luck to be able to do it and I love it so being able to come back would be a great thing."

He was obviously disappointed about the injury but did his best to maintain a positive outlook on both his future and that of this year's tight end group.

"I'm going to be doing all I can to help these guys out," Smith said. "We've got a lot of young guys -- tight ends that are going to do some good things. I'm going to do everything I can to coach them up as much as I can and give them any bits and pieces of advice that can get this team better."

Quick Hits

-- Tight end Spencer Ladner returned to practice in full capacity Thursday. He had been out since the third day of camp with a hamstring injury. Ladner participated in Cal's team session at the end of its second session of the day and, on one play near the end, caught a pass over the middle.

-- Receiver Alex Lagemann missed both practices on Thursday and is day-to-day with a quad bruise. Center Chris Guarnero is still wearing a cast and sling after having surgery on a torn ligament in his left thumb. Tedford guessed that he will return to practice in the next few days.

-- At the end of week two of camp, Tedford said that the team still has "a lot of work to do."

"I'm happy with the focus and the intensity and things like that," he said. "But we've got to get better in a lot of areas."

Asked if there were any specific areas, he replied: "All areas."

-- Linebacker Mike Mohamed on the team's progress: "We're all still learning, getting plays down, sort of getting our mojo I guess you can say."


Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]

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