By Jonathan Okanes
Friday, August 17th, 2007 at 1:36 pm in Training camp.
Cal’s first team offense only played one series during Thursday’s scrimmage, but looked sharp. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Nate Longshore hit DeSean Jackson with a 21-yard pass. The possession ended with a 13-yard touchdown run by Justin Forsett.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they may have lost starting fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou during the drive. Ta’ufo’ou caught a short play action pass from Longshore nad was hit hard by strong safety Bernard Hicks. Ta’ufo’ou limped off the field with a injury to his left knee.
Ta’ufo’ou was examined Friday morning. Coach Jeff Tedford didn’t have any update on the severity of the injury after Friday morning’s practice, but said it likely was an MCL. That could keep Ta’ufo’ou out for 3-4 weeks, at the very least. Tedford said Brian Holley and Zack Smith would be the leading candidates to replace him.
Tedford decided to delay his decision on the backup quarterback. Kyle Reed had a better scrimmage than Kevin Riley, but neither clearly stood out. Reed still seems to have an edge because he’s been in the program one year longer than Riley. Tedford said he would likely make a decision by the middle of next week.
While Jahvid Best has been getting a lot of attention during camp, fellow freshman running back Shane Vereen quietly has been impressing the coaching staff as well. He took several snaps with the second unit during the scrimmage, and showed some toughness by coming back in after sitting out one play after getting his bell rung, and scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Junior defensive end Rulon Davis appears to making a move to challenge for a starting spot. He started the scrimmage playing with the second team but saw some action with the first unit as well. He registered a sack on Reed, although Tedford said that was a result of a missed assignment by an offensive lineman.
Redshirt freshman running back Tracey Slocum has become somewhat of a forgotten man with the Bears’ impressive stable of running backs, but he had one of the better runs of the scrimmage with an athletic cutback for 23 yards. He also had a 7-yard TD run, and a potential 20-yard scoring run was wiped out by a holding call.
Jahvid Best had an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Brandon Hampton added a 94-yarder.
Tom Schneider made field goals of 48, 40 and 38 yards and missed a 52-yarder. Backup kicker Jordan Kay missed two attempts, both from 42 yards.
Longshore looked sharp on his one possession, completing all four of his passes for 46 yards. Vereen was the Bears’ leading rusher, totalling 52 yards and one TD on nine carries.
Tedford and defensive coordinator Bob Gregory raved about true freshman cornerback Chris Conte afterward. Conte played with the first unit because Syd’Quan Thompson sat out with a minor ankle sprain. Thompson was back at practice Friday morning.
Another player who missed practice Friday was Hicks, who sustained a mild concussion during the scrimmage when he was accidentally kicked attempting to make a tackle.
The Bears typically run sprints after practice, and starting right tackle Mike Tepper stood out Friday. Tedford has been very pleased with the improvement Tepper has demonstrated during camp.
Tedford said it’s still too early to determine which freshman will play immediately and which will redshirt, but it looks as though Cal will have more true freshman see time this season than usual. Conte looks like a lock, and defensive line coach Ken Delgado has said at least one freshman likely be part of the regular playing rotation. Right now the most likely candidates are Cameron Jordan and Ernest Owusu. Best is so special it may be hard to resist the temptation to find a spot for him on the field.
A glimpse of the future from Friday’s practice had Conte breaking up a pass to freshman Michael Calvin. Calvin made a terrific play just to come close to catching the pass, and Conte made an even better play to knock it out of Calvin’s possession.
Some other highlights from Friday’s practice:
–Middle linebacker Worrell Williams used pinpoint anticipation to intercept a pass during 7-on-7 drills
–Marcus Ezeff also had an interception during two-minute drill work, and Jon Karacozoff and Greg Van Hoesen recorded a sack of Reed.
–The Bears spent some time working on changing offensive and defensive packages on the fly, practicing getting the right players on and off the field.