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August 17, 2011

Cal hits the field for first scrimmage



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MORE FALL CAMP: VIDEO: Day 11 | VIDEO: Evans Diamond Practice

BERKELEY -- While Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones showed off some good arm strength while having some fun on the sidelines of Witter Rugby Field before practice - Allen even hitting a 35-yard pass into a sideways passing net - the arm that's impressed the most through fall camp has been that of emerging No. 2 signal-caller Allan Bridgford.

The California football team already has its starting quarterback in Allen's brother -- mobile junior Zach Maynard (clearly, good arms run in the family) - but Bridgford, coming off of major shoulder surgery a year ago, is coming on strong as the backup option.

"The goal is to be the starter here, and I'm just doing the best that I can every day," Bridgford said. "No matter what happens, I'm just going to keep trying the best I can."

After shortening his throwing motion, Bridgford had a decent spring, and has had an even better fall, excelling in Wednesday's scrimmage, which saw the starters take few reps in full pads.

"I think I did pretty well," Bridgford said. "I didn't have any turnovers, completed a few balls here. There's only one play I would change, which was still a completion anyways. I'd have rather thrown it to a different guy, but I thought I did pretty well. I hit Terrance [Montgomery] on a sit-route and I could have gotten out to the swing for a bigger gain."

Spring camp was the first time that Bridgford had even played since his surgery in the fall, and while his motion still retained some artifacts of reluctance -- a long, wind-up release -- it served to get the bugs out of the system, as it were.

"I'm finally getting back into a rhythm of playing football again," Bridgford said. "I felt a little funny after spring, and now, I feel a lot more comfortable. That's definitely a huge change, because it's hard not playing football for a year and a half, or whatever it was. Just the fact that I hadn't taken any reps. Mental reps are one thing. Mental reps help, but you need physical reps, too, for muscle memory. You can't just watch. Someone can't just watch football and know everything and go in there and be able to play perfectly.

"I took extra throwing after we had workouts during the summer. Extra stuff on my own, like grabbing a couple receivers and working on the little things like throwing no-laces on bubble routes, or the quick throws, getting those out, working on timing and stuff like that. There's stuff that you don't really cover when you script 30 plays during summer workouts, when it's just the players."

Bridgford has since shortened his motion and his release has become notable quicker this fall than it was in the spring.

"I think that ever since the first day that I came back throwing, I've felt the same," Bridgford said. "I haven't really lost what I used to throw, but I feel like my mechanics are getting better. There's definitely, way back when, in May of last year, when I first came back, throwing, there was definitely a mental block, like, 'Is this one going to hurt?' It was a pretty traumatic thing I went through, when I hurt my shoulder first, but it feels great now. That's all in the past. I never think about it anymore. Everything about my game has gotten a lot quicker now that I've gone through spring ball and had reps under fire there. I feel like, in camp right now, I've been getting the ball out really quick, and I'm not taking any sacks, no turnovers, nothing like that. Everything's been a lot quicker, including my motion."

With a mobile quarterback such as Maynard - who has become more adept at his decision-making, particularly regarding when to pull the ball down and run - the necessity of a No. 2 QB is heightened. Given that last year's starter, Kevin Riley, went down and was replaced by senior Brock Mansion -- who struggled down the stretch -- having a capable replacement becomes that much more crucial. Bridgford, it would seem, is one play away from being the guy, and has been taking the lion's share of second-team reps.

"No matter what, I'm the type of guy that's always going to be the most prepared person on the team," Bridgford said. "Just because, if I were to be the backup, come the first game, if I was last string come the first game, I would still prepare just as hard, if not harder, than a starter does."

Head coach Jeff Tedford said that he will name a No. 2 quarterback within a week, with the top two candidates being Bridgford and Mansion.

A good number of backups and candidates for third and fourth spots on the depth chart saw significant action on Wednesday, after the starters played for the first series.

"There was good in everything that we did," said Tedford. "There were a lot of things to learn from, obviously. A lot of guys did some good things. This is great to scrimmage, because there are so many things, football-oriented, when somebody gets injured, what happens, situational changes on the field, just all kinds of good things. Everybody played today to get their feet under them a little bit. The one's hardly played at all, today. Mychal Kendricks and [D.J.] Holt and [Sean] Cattouse, [Trevor] Guyton, those guys didn't play. They just took that very first series. Same with Keenan and Marv and Anthony Miller. We were trying to really get a look at the younger guys."

Some of the younger players who stood out were freshman safety Avery Walls and freshman cornerback Kameron Jackson, who recorded a big interception. Junior transfer tailback C.J. Anderson also made a big impression.

"I think C.J. made a couple nice runs," Tedford said. "I thought Mike Manuel did a couple good things. The interior, we'll have to wait and see the tape.

"Avery made a really good play today, Kameron Jackson had an interception, a nice interception."

A notable absence was freshman cornerback Stefan McClure, who was seen wearing a soft cast on his right wrist.

"Stefan didn't play because of his thumb," Tedford said. "He had a little surgery on his thumb. Tore the ligament. He'll be back in a couple days. He'll be OK with the cast on."

Senior wide receiver Michael Calvin continued his solid camp, and is now the No. 3 target behind Allen and Jones.

"The other guy that really stepped up has been Coleman Edmond," Tedford said. "He did a couple nice things today, both in the return game and at receiver. He's getting better every day, and that's nice to see, because he's in that top five guys that we need to step up."

During individual work before the scrimmage began, Edmond displayed his vastly-increased vertical leap, and throughout camp, has proven to be a physical force on the outside. Edmond will be among the top three kickoff returners, along with Allen and Jones. Allen and Jones are also competing for the punt return job.

"For me, it's about getting as good as I can get out there, so if I'm five, six, seven, I'm still going to come the same every day with the same intensity," Edmond said.

That intensity worked against Edmond last season, when he worked out on his own outside of team lifting, which led to a few nagging injuries.

"All the time, just for that mental edge. That's how I got here, so when I got here, I didn't know how to put that aside," Edmond said.

Since new strength and conditioning coach Mike Blasquez arrived, though, Edmond has seen significant gains in both his strength and speed.

"The problem all the time is overworking. I like to do a lot of stuff off the field to improve myself, and I've got to find that balance between when is it too much and what the right things I need to do are," Edmond said. "They definitely simplified the plan for me this summer in the training room. Coach Blasquez and we all sat down about a month before the season and I've stayed on that. I feel the best now that I've probably ever felt in the last three years. I bought in, and it definitely worked out.

"[Blasquez] stayed consistent with what we did. It wasn't like, one easy day. Every day was the same. Same consistency, same intensity, and people buy in and started seeing gains, and they liked it."

With redshirt freshman speedster Kaelin Clay still on the shelf due to knee surgery, Edmond has risen into the ranks of the top wide receivers, and credits passing game coordinator and wide outs coach Eric Kiesau with helping him crack the code of the offense.

"[Last year] it was all on me. It was the mental aspect of getting all the plays down and everything, coming to a little bit harder system than I was in, in junior college. Once I get that down, I'll be fine," Edmond said. "He's simplified everything a lot. Coach [Kevin] Daft was also a great coach, but coach Kiesau, he puts it out there in a way I understand a little bit better. They're both great coaches. Some people just learn a little bit differently, and coach Kiesau is able to teach me the way I learn best."

Others in the top five group along with Edmond include Allen, Jones, Calvin, freshman Maurice Harris and walk-on freshman Bryce McGovern, according to Tedford.

"It could be Kaelin and it could be 'Rice, but he got hurt today, so we'll have to see how he's doing," Tedford said. "He tweaked his knee a little bit, so we don't know exactly what it is."

On Wednesday, Clay was still in the telltale red jersey, but was catching stationary passes on the sideline, clearly showing the itch to return.

Tight end Spencer Ladner was in a white jersey, but was limited. After suffering a light sprained ankle, fullback Will Kapp was back in action, and participated in the scrimmage after sitting out Tuesday's practice at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

"Kapp did well," Tedford said. "At the beginning, he had a 60-yard play, a catch, that was nice."

All of the tailbacks in camp got reps in during the scrimmage, though Sofele and Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson -- who seems to have locked up the No. 2 slot -- were held back a bit to let the youngsters have a go.

"We've seen a lot of Covaughn, so we kind of know what he can do," Tedford said. "We really needed to see those other guys play today, so that was the emphasis."

Tedford was hesitant, though, to say which of those other younger backs were making a push for the No. 3 slot.

"We're still evaluating," he said. "We'll watch the tapes, see how they did in pass protection and the whole other part of it that they're responsible for."

The scrimmage also served to help clarify the outside linebacker spot opposite of starter David Wilkerson, with the leading candidate seeming to be freshman Chris McCain.

"You have McCain, you have Cecil Whiteside, Ryan Davis, all those guys are taking reps," Tedford said. "I feel like there's pretty good depth there."

Freshman nose tackle Viliami Moala has quickly risen through the ranks, thanks in part to starter Aaron Tipoti's concussion, which resurfaced during the scrimmage on Wednesday.

"He had a little flashback with his concussion, so he's going to be out," Tedford said of Tipoti. "he came back, and then had some more symptoms, so we have to hold him."

Tedford said that Moala, at this point, is third on the depth chart.

"We have Tipoti, Kendrick Payne and Moala," Tedford said. "Keni Kaufusi plays more end."

Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu are the two starters at defensive end, though there is one youngster who is making moves.

"I like the depth we have there," Tedford said of his defensive line. "Moose -- Mustafa Jalil -- is doing a real nice job. It's possible he could wind up in the two-deep."

Wednesday was also a chance for Tedford to get a look at some of the younger offensive linemen, including center Mark Brazinski, Alejandro Crosthwaite, Geoffrey Gibson, Bill Tyndall and Matt Williams.

"I have to check it out and watch the tape, but I think some things were good, and some things weren't," Tedford said. "That's going to happen, and we'll have to evaluate and see, because that's the other part. We have to get the top eight guys -- besides the first five, who are the next three who are going to fill in. Tyler Rigsbee's been out for so long [with a shin contusion], but he'd be the next guy in there [at tackle], but he's been out for so long. We need to get him back and get him going. This will be a good tape to learn from, gearing it up, nobody's on the field with them in game-type situations."

The team will have another scrimmage next Monday, and will start game planning for the Sept. 3 opener with Fresno State on Wednesday.

UPDATE:
Statistics for the scrimmage are now available. Here are some of the highlights:

-- Maynard completed 9-of-13 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 45 yards rushing and another pair of scores on the ground on four carries.

-- Anderson rushed for 101 yards on 10 carries, including a 44-yard touchdown romp and a one-yard score.

-- Dasarte Yarnway ran for 80 yards on eight carries, including one for 50 yards.

-- Freshman defensive back Joel Willis had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

-- Manuel ran off a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown. -- Kapp hauled in a 25-yard catch on the first play of the first drive. -- Edmond caught four passes for 31 yards and a score, while Terrance Montgomery caught three balls for 35 yards.

-- Freshman QB Kyle Boehm completed all three of his pass attempts for 48 yards.

-- Placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio (2-2 FG, 3-3 PAT) and Vince D'Amato (2-2 FG, 1-1 PAT) both connecting on all four of their kicks, with Tavecchio making field goals from 47 and 19 yards, and D'Amato hitting from 33 and 39 yards.

-- Jackson returned his interception for 16 yards.

-- Redshirt freshman safety Michael Coley made a team-high six tackles.

-- Robert Mullins made five tackles, while Jalil and Alex Logan each made four. Jalil had a sack, and Logan had a pass break-up. Tyre Ellison and DeAndre Coleman each had four tackles.

-- Both Jalil and cornerback Steve Williams forced fumbles.

-- Kaufusi and Kameron Krebs each recovered fumbles.



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