Football: Tuesday practice update

In most years, Cal uses the bye week to let its scout team players work with the offense and defense and let its injured regulars heal up. But with a Thursday game following, the Bears don’t feel like they have the luxury to do that.

So today was the only practice between now and Oct. 6 that won’t focus on Oregon. The Bears held a “fundamentals” practice today where they concentrated on the basics. Starting tomorrow, the game plan for the Ducks will be installed and the Bears will prepare for Oregon in earnest.

“It’s not a real bye week,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “We’re having to cram a lot of things in here because Sunday is like a Tuesday practice. Monday is like a Wednesday and so on and so forth.”

The good news for Cal’s players is they still get the weekend off. The Bears will practice Wednesday and Thursday but be off on Friday and Saturday, allowing some players to go home or spend their free time however they see fit. The Bears will get back together Sunday afternoon for a full pad practice.

“The bye week is used to work real hard, clean up some things and also get refreshed mentally and physically,” Tedford said. “The physically refreshing part is giving them two days off. The mental part is the same, give them the two days off to decompress a little bit and go home if they want to go home and then come back here for a good hard day Sunday.”

Much will be made leading up to the game about the job Cal did defensively on the Ducks last season. But it’s obvious so far that this year’s defense isn’t last year’s defense. Plus, as Tedford and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast pointed out, Oregon’s coaching staff clearly will do some things to adjust to what the Bears did last year.

“This is this year. You can’t take last year’s game and just think it’s going to happen,” Tedford said. “It’s a very difficult offense to defend, obviously. It’s a very tough challenge to slow them down. It’s not going to happen by talking about what happened last year. I know they’ll be motivated to make sure they show better.”

It looks as though freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain will continue to play a lot at outside linebacker. And with the bye week, Pendergast is hopeful redshirt freshman Dave Wilkerson will finally be completely cured of the ankle injury that has bothered him in recent weeks. It looks as though those three freshmen are the future at outside linebacker going forward this season, although Ryan Davis and Dan Camporeale are still in the mix.

Pendergast may have to accept some growing pains by the young linebackers at times, but he feels they give the defense the best chance to perform. Playing Oregon will obviously be a supreme test, especially for such inexperienced players.

“We got who we got,” Pendergast said. “Those players are good athletes and I think they have good upside. They just need to continue to play and learn by trial and error.

“I think all three of those guys are works in progress. They are developing young players that just need to play.”

As mentioned in an earlier post, freshman cornerback Stefan McClure is going to start getting significant playing time. McClure tore a ligament in his right thumb during camp and had the cast removed today. He’s played primarily on special teams so far, although did play a lot on defense in the Presbyterian game.

McClure will form a three-cornerback rotation with Steve Williams and Marc Anthony, and will also be available in nickel situations.

“He is a tremendous player,” Pendergast said of McClure, who was a consensus top-10 prospect at his position coming out of high school. “He’s a guy that I targeted in recruiting early. I went and saw him last fall and he just stood out head and shoulders above everybody else from a confidence standpoint.”

Pendergast said McClure has impressed him both on the field and in the film room.

“I like his length. He has long arms,” Pendergast said. “He has good size. He’s one of those guys that you only have to tell something once to and he gets it. Those are the kind of guys you like to coach. The light bulb is on with him all the time. He can come off the field and tell you what happened.”

I asked Pendergast if he had any other revelations about what ails the pass defense after watching the tape of the Washington game, and he continues to point to the big plays allowed. The Huskies coverted a number of backbreaking third-and-long situations.

“We need to get off the field in those situations,” Pendergast said. “It doesn’t matter what level you are coaching. If you allow a drive to stay alive after third down, there’s a higher probability that bad things are going to happen.”

That being said, Pendergast acknowledged it goes beyond the big plays. He admitted the defense simply hasn’t played to the level of last year, when the Bears led the conference in total defense and pass defense. Cal is 7th in the Pac-12 in pass defense this week, and that includes enhanced stats from the Presbyterian game.

“We need to play better, obviously,” he said. “We’re giving up too many yards and too many big plays. We just need to play more of a complete game. We’re trying to get back to the level of last year. We’re not the same defense we were.”


Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Uh Huh!

    I’m willing to wait for the young players to develop this year. If it means more losses now for more wins later (when we get back home in the new Memorial), I’m fine with that.

  • rollonubears

    Me too. But there is no reason we shouldn’t go 7-5 this year. Anything less than that would be a massive failure. Is it that much to ask to go 5-4 in league play, and finish 8-4, with a respectable bowl? Next year, the expectations will be high.

  • Juancho

    Completely agree with Uh Huh. Would love to see youngsters get their growing pains this year and have us be deep and solid for 3 years down the road.

    McClure, Sebastian, McCain, King, Whiteside, Moala, Jalil, Barr, Gibson, and all the other top rated youngsters. Screw it, let ’em play. Let ’em feel what it’s like to go against pac -12 teams. And next year we won’t have that excuse about inexperience.

  • rollonubears

    i think the youngsters make us a better team, anyway. the experience thing is ridiculously overrated. some of these guys have a gift. it’s a shame to see that go to waste.

  • Killer

    Play the babies now; the best ones may not play for Cal for four years anyway. P.S. I think too many of you are too hard on Isi and Coach. The offensive line needs to sustain blocks in short yardage situations and they should be thanking Maynard’s mobility for the fact that there aren’t more sacks.

  • Juancho

    Killer I think some of us are hard on Isi. But these posts have nothing to do with that. Nobody here said sit Isi for someone younger. I think Isi does a nice job running the ball to the edge on downs other than first down.

    I think he’s a bad option to pound it up the middle. But that has nothing to do with the comments above.

    Tedford’s two best recruiting classes at Cal have come over the past two years. Play ’em. I agree that the experience thing is overrated. Our strength the past two years is recruiting. Play the youngsters and show the top recruits this year that they should sign for us b/c we’ll play the kids. I.e., don’t lose Shaq Thompson.

    Shaq Thompson will be the best WR Cal has had since DeSean if he signs. Cal can be very very good next year. Let’s let the most talented guys play and forget about the experience stuff. Forget about the “(Bigelow) can’t yet do some of the stuff we needed” ideas. To me Moala looks better than Tipoti already. McCain looked good. So did Whiteside. What do we have to lose?

  • David

    Shaq won’t be playing WR. Bank on that.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Shaq won’t be coming your way. Bank on that.

  • BlueNGold

    Moron, that is what you said about Moala (or have you had a memory lapse on that one?), so your opinion doesn’t carry any weight here.

  • rollonubears

    Moala carries a lot of weight everywhere. Love that guy.

  • Juancho

    This is a serious note for MoreNCsarecoming.

    I work in the mental health field. Some of your actions are very consistent with actions of people who greatly benefit from speaking to a therapist.

    It’s one thing to add contrary views to blog responses. But continuously looking for identity or existence through disruption and antagonism is a red-flag from a mental health perspective.

    Consider contacting a professional if there are things in your personal life currently, or past, that bring you anxiety or depression.

    Don’t take that the wrong way. It’s not meant as a joke. It’s a serious reminder that talking to a professional is a good thing. Best of luck.

  • Juancho

    I read something a while back that said Cal would play Shaq at WR b/c they feel we have a much bigger need there in the coming years than in the secondary. With Marvellous Marvin gone after this year, I sort of hope he plays WR.

    We’ll have Keenan, and more or less nobody else.

  • rollonubears

    Did any of the Seahawks make it out to the Cal game?