Today was a benchmark day for Cal.
Today was the day the Bears hit the annual training camp wall.
There comes a point every August where the team simply needs a break. Practices every day – sometimes twice a day – can add up, and the aches and pains can get overwhelming. At that point, it’s time to scale back, take off the helmet and pads and simply focus on the mental part of the game.
That’s what happened tonight. After watching his team practice in shells this morning, coach Jeff Tedford realized the Bears were dragging. He canceled the full pads practice scheduled for tonight and instead Cal held a shorter walk-through where they simply took mental reps on the field.
“We’ve been going so hard and hitting. We’re at the point in camp where we have dead legs and we’re beat up,” Tedford said. “You can only go so far until you have to give them a little break from hitting. There’s always that time of camp where it’s time to get their legs back and get them fresh, and now is that time.”
The Bears were especially drained after going through their first live practice on Wednesday, where they went through scrimmage-like situations with full pads. Cal will do the same thing again on Monday, which will mark the unofficial end of training camp, and Tedford wanted to make sure the team was fresh before the last couple of practices leading up to it.
“We played so hard in our situation practice yesterday,” Tedford said. “In order for us to get some quality work over the next two days, it was really important for us to back off them a little bit and just do a lot of mental work. Now, it’s time to start getting them back healthy, get them back fresh and have a real productive three days coming up.
Tedford said the team has been hitting more and doing more team sessions than in years past because of the number of inexperienced players that figure to see significant playing time this season, and because new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is installing a new system.
“We’ve been hitting quite a bit and we’ve had a major emphasis on running,” Tedford said. “They’ve all done a great job of trying to do everything we ask them to do. We have some young people playing. We have a new defense. People need to be evaluated.”
Tedford has been much more forthcoming than in the past when it comes to discussing the depth chart during camp. He has not been hesitant to talk about who is winning starting jobs or who is leading at a certain position.
When asked today which positions were still competitive for starting roles, Tedford essentially went through each position on the field.
On offense, he said the definitive starters as of right now are QB Kevin Riley, RB Shane Vereen, WR Marvin Jones, WR Keenan Allen, TE Anthony Miller, LT Mitchell Schwartz and C Chris Guarnero. Allen was the only player he quantified with “as of now.”
On defense, Tedford said the only concrete starters are DE Cameron Jordan, ILB Mike Mohamed and OLB Mychal Kendricks.
Tedford also said Giorgio Tavecchio would handle both kickoffs and field goals if the season started today.
A few days ago, Tedford said Keith Browner was the starter at weakside linebacker. But today he said true freshman Dave Wilkerson is still in the mix there. Tedford also said Kendrick Payne is probably the starter at nose tackle, but it is still competitive with Derrick Hill and Aaron Tipoti in the mix.
Tedford said both corner positions are still up in the air, with Darian Hagan, Steve Williams, Bryant Nnabufie and Marc Anthony competing for the two spots.
In injury news, Vereen took his first team reps of the season, but not in full pads and he still hasn’t been hit. Tedford said Vereen would take some more team reps tomorrow and could take his first hits by Saturday.
Jordan (shoulder) returned to practice. Safety Sean Cattouse is still out, and Tedford said his hamstring pull is “significant.” D.J. Campbell has been taking Cattouse’s reps in his place.