Jeff Tedford and the coaching staff always looks forward to the first practice in full pads, but there has to be a small part of them that holds their breath a bit. Going in pads, with increased contact, could also result in more injuries. But the Bears came out of tonight’s session clean, and Tedford was happy with what he saw.
One of the things he saw was some pretty good play by tailbacks Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway. Tonight, on the fifth day of training camp, Tedford made his first evaluation of the competition for the backup running back spot. He said Sofele and Yarnway are starting to separate themselves from the others, and if he had to pick right now “those would be the guys that would be right there with Shane (Vereen).”
In the limited access to practice today, Sofele made a couple of nice runs where he made defenders miss in the open field. Sofele is getting increased reps with the first team and he appears to have the early lead in the race for the No. 2 spot.
“I’m out there getting lots or reps, so there is a lot of opportunity for me to get better,” Sofele said. “It’s a chance for the coaches to get a better look at me. It’s another chance to let them know that I’m ready to be out there. We still have a lot of good guys. We don’t know who is going to be the backup right now.”
Tedford said he is happy that Yarnway is running with power, an element that has been missing from Cal’s running attack in recent years. Yarnway has the build to rush for tough yards and possibly be a threat on the goal line.
“Dasarte is a power runner, he’s getting his pads down, he’s really improving his pass protection,” Tedford said. “The natural thing would be that Dasarte is a powerful guy and brings a little bit of extra weight to the goal line, so we’ll definitely take a good look at that.”
Vereen continues to rest his tight hamstring and there is no word on when he will practice for the first time. Vereen still suits up and does training exercises on the sideline, but he has yet to do anything with the team. Tedford is taking a cautious approach, and with another practice in full pads scheduled for Thursday, Vereen figures to sit out again.
Frankly, Vereen doesn’t need a whole lot of camp to get ready. He is entering his fourth year with the program and has already earned a starting role. And after the way he got beat up at the end of last season, the Bears will do everything they can to make sure he is fresh when this season begins.
On a light note, Tedford said today that the music being blared during pre-practice and post-practice stretching is being picked out each day by a different coach. It’s the job of the players to guess which coached chose the musical selections each practice.
Tonight’s picks: The Bears listened to Ozzy Osbourne before practice and the Rolling Stones afterward. Only one problem: Tedford forgot to ask the team to guess, and he himself didn’t know for sure who chose it, although he was pretty sure it was offensive line coach Steve Marshall.