Football: Odds and ends

Some notes from the past couple of days:

–Freshman running back Dasarte Yarnway looks the part of a potential impact player. The 6-0, 222-pounder is built more solidly than any other tailback on the roster and has good explosion. Yarnway already has gotten some reps with the first and second team, although some of that is due to the fact that Jahvid Best hasn’t practiced lately.

“We want to get him a couple more reps with the first team,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “Sometimes with the third team, there are more blown blocking assignments so he doesn’t get a chance a lot of times. We put him with the 1s and 2s a little bit just to give him some holes, and he’s done a nice job. He’s got a bright future.”

It remains to be seen if Yarnway will play this season. Assuming the Bears are at full health, it’s hard to imagine Yarnway being more than the third-stringer behind Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen.

–Cal’s running backs have done a nice job catching balls out of the backfield, something Tedford says is important.

“You want to have your backs always be able not only to run with the football, but catch the football out of the backfield,” Tedford said. “We’re pretty fortunate that we have backs who can catch the ball as well as the receivers do.”

Two of the Bears’ top four receivers last season were running backs, which is good news for the backs but bad news for the receivers. The Bears undoubtedly hope the receivers take up more of the top spots this season.

–Tedford has been pleased with quarerback Kevin Riley’s improved mechanics this fall. Riley worked with Tedford during the offseason to refine some aspects, and it appears to be paying off.

“His mechanics are much better,” Tedford said. “As we continue to practice, it’s going to become even more natural for him. I think he’s feeling real comfortable with it.”

Riley said that new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has helped with his mechanics, specifically his footwork. Riley said he was “shuffling” too much during his dropbacks last year and now “I’m keeping my feet consistent.”

–Tedford said backup safety D.J. Campbell has come on during camp. The Bears are loaded in the secondary so Campbell’s playing time still may be limited, but the redshirt sophomore may be making a case for more reps down the road.

“He’s always had a great attitude and is a real hard worker,” Tedford said. “I think he’s found the comfort zone a little bit with the speed of the game. He’s not thinking so much, so he can just react and play and let his abilities take over.”

Campbell also has shown potential as a gunner on special teams.

–After practice last night, Tedford talked a little bit about how the coaching staff determines the depth chart from day to day.

“We talk about players daily,” he said. “We move people around. It’s nothing permanent. It’s just getting guys to play with certain guys and against certain guys. If you have a guy who is doing a good job with the 2s, you put him with the 1s and see if he can do the same job. It’s just a matter of seeing how they fit in against the level of competition.”

Tedford said the staff will take a “good, strong look” at the depth chart after Tuesday’s scrimmage. But he added the depth chart will remain fluid afterward. “It will be part of the evaluation process, no question. Gathering information, day to day at practice, is something that has been ongoing.”

–Riley said one of the major differences in his game this fall is his ability to move on after something goes wrong.

“There have been some better days than others,” he said. “The biggest thing is, if a bad play happens, just keep it out of your head and move on. Last season, in games especially, when a couple of things went wrong, I kind of went on a downward spiral. So far this camp, I think I’ve done a pretty good job when a couple of things go wrong of making a couple plays afterward.

“At times last year, I’d just say “What the hell am I doing?” I’d think about it too much. But everybody makes mistakes. You just have to move on and learn from it.”

–Defensive lineman Mike Costanzo said he was too short to play defensive end in college, so he’s been an interior lineman at Cal. But the defensive coaches are letting him take some reps at strong side end, mostly becasue the technique is similar to nose tackle.

Costanzo said he’s welcomed the chance to get some work at end, not only because it will make him more versatile if playing time arises, but he feels more natural there.

“When we switched to the 3-4, I got put into the nose position,” Costanzo said. “That’s something I didn’t feel comfortable with but I’m still working on it. Then just by chance, Coach (Tosh Lupoi) kind of threw me in (at end). I didn’t really expect it. Right away, it just started feeling pretty natural.”

Costanzo said he’s dropped his playing weight from 305 to 285, and he feels more athletic because of it.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.