By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 at 10:12 pm in Mid-week.
The week of Big Game practices got going tonight at Memorial Stadium. One tradition about this week is the scout team players wear white helmets – a la Stanford – and mark them up with an “S” or the tree, along with statements aimed to provoke the player they are going up against in practice. Some of the things written can’t be reproduced here, but let’s just say they are aimed to motivate the players.
One of the first things that stuck out today was the presence of tight end Anthony Miller, who has missed the past two games following arthroscopic knee surgery. Not only did he return to practice today, he did so in full capacity. No red or yellow jersey, meaning he is already cleared to play Saturday. Jeff Tedford confirmed this after practice.
Nose tackle Derrick Hill, who hasn’t practiced in several weeks, was back on the practice field wearing a yellow jersey. So he’s still limited, but it’s an improvement over his complete non-involvement in practice in recent weeks. Tedford said Hill will be monitored throughout the week and is “possible” for the game.
Talked a bit with defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who was happy with how Bryant Nnabufie performed in his first career start. Nnabufie will get another start Saturday.
Nnabufie looked athletic and talented enough to make an impact from the moment he arrived at Cal last year, but experience is starting to pay dividends.
“Energy is a big thing,” Gregory said. “There wasn’t always that energy that you like to have. He’s been practicing much harder and been playing much harder. That helps you make plays and be in the right position and execute your technique and all that.”
Tedford talked at length about Stanford running back Toby Gerhart during Monday’s media luncheon, but tonight was the first time to get Gregory’s thoughts on him.
“He’s like a big thoroughbred horse,” Gregory said. “He’s different because he’s so big and strong. He’s different than the other guys we have seen. I don’t know that you can stop him. I think you just have to try to slow him down a little bit. If you can do that, maybe you have a chance.”
Had a chance to also talk to Shane Vereen tonight. Vereen was moving around like a back who is coming off a 30-carry game. But he said he feels fine.
Vereen caught long touchdown pass from Kevin Riley in last year’s Big Game and will make his first Big Game start Saturday.
“I guess it adds a little bit to it but I’m going into this game the same way I went into the last game,” Vereen said. “The Big Game is big in itself whether you’re the starter or third string.”
Jahvid Best attended practice tonight for the first time since his injury. He was around last week, but only to get treatment and wasn’t present for practice. Best was on the sidelines for practice tonight and will hold his first meeting with the press tomorrow. It will be the first time Best speaks at length since his scary fall against Oregon State. The only comments he’s made so far came during the brief interview he did with Versus before last Saturday’s game.