As game day gets closer, there is one pretty good development for the Bears — their health.
Cal is pretty whole as it prepares for Saturday’s season-opener against Fresno State. Freshman running back Darren Irvin really is the only player sidelined. Whether he would have been playing as a true freshman is up in the air, but he was getting good reviews from both Jeff Tedford and running backs coach Ron Gould before getting hurt.
Aaron Tipoti is back from his concussion and should share time with Kendrick Payne at nose tackle. What will be interesting to watch is whether Viliama Moala slips in there and gets some plays as well.
It appears to be all systems go for wide receiver Kaelin Clay as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to play a whole lot, if any. Michael Calvin and Coleman Edmond have both been coming on strong, and considering Clay missed all of camp, you’d have to think he’s No. 5 in the pecking order right now.
Today was Cal’s last padded practice before the game. Thursdays are always a day to just go in shells and get players rejuvenated for the game. Then it will be off to Candlestick on Friday for the walk-through.
“We have to make sure we get them fresh. We’ve had two hard days of practice,” Tedford said. “We have to get them fresh and ready for game time. They’re ready to play. They’re ready to suit up against somebody else and get the games started. They want to play against somebody else.”
Tedford was asked if this is his biggest season-opener since he’s coming off his first losing season.
“Every opener is big,” he said. “There hasn’t been one yet that hasn’t been big. Last season was last season. We can’t do anything about last season now. We can just prepare to play this game. We don’t run around talking about last season. There’s some motivation because last year wasn’t what we wanted. It wasn’t good enough, obviously. There’s motivation to do better, absolutely. But last year is over. This is about right now.”
In addition to Tefdord’s history as a quarterback and coach, Cal has some other connections with Fresno State. The most notable is linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who went to Hoover High School, which is right down the street from Fresno State’s campus. And heralded incoming freshman running back Brendan Bigelow also is from Fresno.
“They have really good high school programs there and junior college programs throughout the area,” Tedford said. “I think they feel like they are Northern California more than they are Southern California.”
Former Cal linebacker Zack Follett also is from Fresno, among others.
It’s a big game for Kendricks, who said he expects a lot of family and friends at the game. He grew up following Fresno State but wasn’t recruited heavily by the Bulldogs. Kendricks said it was probably because he started getting offers from BCS conference programs. I’ll have more on Kendricks and the Fresno State story line later in the week.