No news is usually good news on the first day of training camp, and so it was for the Bears as they officially kicked off the 2010 season with their first practice. Unlike two years ago when starting left tackle Mike Tepper arrived on the first day of practice and informed everyone he was out for awhile with a pectoral injury, there was no such type of news today.
Sure, there were some minor ailments. Starting tailback Shane Vereen has a tight hamstring and spent the afternoon working out with the trainers on the sideline. Projected starting fullback Will Kapp didn’t practice after suffering a concussion during a recent summer workout. And defensive back Vachel Samuels suffered a sprained foot early on during practice and was on crutches later.
But everyone expected to report to camp did so, including a freshman class ranked No. 11 in the country by rivals.com. Of course, that ranking really is inflated now after the transfer of linebacker Chris Martin and the fact that linebacker Cecil Whiteside will grayshirt. But there are still a handful of high-profile newcomers in camp, and this was the coaching staff’s first chance to see them in person since they committed to Cal.
Among the new players, much of the focus was on the wide receivers. There are five of them, and at least a couple of them should have a strong chance of making a run at playing time this season. The headliner is Keenan Allen, one of the top recruits in the country. Coach Jeff Tedford said earlier this week that Allen is as “ready-made” as any receiver he’s ever coached, and he sure looks the part — 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, moves well and looks natural catching the ball.
One player that stood out to me during the limited time we could watch practice is Kaelin Clay, the freshman from Long Beach Poly. He appeared to run smooth routes and catch balls nicely in stride, and certainly looks athletic. Tevin Carter and Coleman Edmond also look like they have potential. Terrance Montgomery, the fifth new receiver, has a portly look. He’s listed at 5-11, but that appears to be generous. He actually has a similar build as linebacker Jarred Price.
New quarterback Austin Hinder moves very well. During a rollout drill, Hinder displayed quick feet and good movement as he got into space and delivered passes on the run.
There likely will be a lot of mixing and matching at the beginning of camp, but a few items of interest: The first team offensive line had Mitchell Schwartz at left tackle and Matt Summers-Gavin at left guard. Summers-Gavin played left tackle exclusively in the spring while Schwartz played right tackle, as he did all of last season. Donovan Edwards was playing right tackle.
The first team cornerbacks were Bryant Nnabufie and Steve Williams, but I would expect a lot of rotation there because there is so much uncertainty at that position.
In what apparently is a new sign of Tedford’s commitment to making practice more fun, the Bears now will listen to music during stretching that takes place before and after practice. “Stretching can get very monotonous,” Tedford said. “It’s something to get us enthusiastic for practice and get a little energy. That’s what that’s about.” In fact, at one point when the music playing during pre-practice stretching, Tedford yelled over to video coordinator Matt Fox to turn the volume up. Fox, perhaps making an educated guess, thought actually turned it down. Tedford corrected the young man and the music came blaring out even louder.
Nose tackle Keni Kaufusi is making progress on his recovery from shoulder surgery. In the spring, Tedford gave no timeline for his return, implying that it could be a long time. But Kaufusi was suited up and practiced in a limited role. Tedford said he was ahead of schedule.
Practice tonight was supposed to end at 6:30 p.m., but as can often happen, it was more like about 6:50 when all was said and done. That put the players in a rush to get treatment, eat dinner and shower before an 8:15 p.m. team meeting. That caused Tedford to ban any player interviews, instructing them to move it along immediately.
Getting stuff done after practice will take longer than usual this year with the temporary facilities above Strawberry Canyon. In the past, the players just had to run up about 35 rows of bleachers to get into the breezeway where the locker rooms and cafeteria is. Now, they have to climb all 75 rows on the other side of the stadium and walk up Centennial Way to get to where they need to be.
Day 2 will feature a full 2 1/2-hour practice tomorrow. The Bears will go in helmets only for the second straight day before putting on shoulder pads for Monday’s practice, which is open to the media. The first day in full pads is Wednesday.