Cal wrapped up its preparations for Oregon this morning at Witter Rugby Field under overcast skies with rain in the past and in the forecast.
Hmmm…sounds a lot like the place the Bears are headed Wednesday morning.
The forecast in Eugene calls for pretty steady rain Wednesday and then some morning showers on Thursday morning. It actually might let up for the game, but the conditions should still be wet.
That’s what it was like this morning at practice, although the rain had stopped early enough Monday night that the field actually wasn’t too damp.
“It was nice,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “It’s probably going to look a lot like this. But it didn’t rain this morning. I wish it would have rained a little bit.”
The Bears got to practice for Oregon five times rather than the usual three, which is extra significant because the Ducks’ breakneck pace on offense can be a challenge for which to prepare. Like last year, Cal’s scout team spent the practices trying to emulate Oregon’s pace, which is essentially a hurry-up offense the entire game.
Freshman Darren Ervin played the role of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas on the scout team. Ervin played some quarterback at Lamar High School in Houston.
“The ball comes out of his hand. That’s a start,” Tedford said.
Tedford said it’s exciting to be on national television but acknowledged playing a Thursday game disrupts practice and academic schedules.
“It’s great to be on TV but it really does create a lot of disruption through the week with your schedule and classes,” he said. “It throws everything off a little bit. Your classes are scheduled around a Saturday game.”
While talking about the development of quarterback Zach Maynard, Tedford pointed out that Thursday will mark the fifth different venue in five games for the Bears. Cal will finally get a small dose of familiarity next Thursday when it hosts USC at AT&T Park.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said linebacker Dave Wilkerson has benefitted from the bye week and should see his workload increase against the Ducks. After starting the opener, Wilkerson has played in a limited role because of an ankle injury. But the extra time off has helped the ankle heal and “he’s moving around good,” according to Pendergast.
Although Wilkerson will play more, you can expect a lot of rotating at all positions on defense as the Bears try to keep players fresh to contend with the Ducks’ pace. Fellow freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain, along with senior Ryan Davis and sophomore Dan Camporeale should all see action.
“When you play a game like this with their tempo and the number of snaps they average a game, a lot of players are going to play,” Pendergast said. “We’re really going into this thing with two platoons and we plan on playing a lot of guys. We’re going to try to stay fresh.”
Pendergast reiterated that he expects freshman cornerback Stefan McClure to see increased playing time as well. McClure had the cast removed from his right hand last week after tearing a ligament in his thumb during training camp. McClure should see time at cornerback in the base defense and in the nickel package.
“I anticipate him only playing more as the season moves on,” Pendergast said. “He’s ready now. (The cast) was one of the issues I had about putting him out there. He couldn’t really catch. He struggled to get his hands on balls. Obviously at corner, you have to be able to tackle and get your hands on balls. I thought it held him back. In my eyes, that was one of the reasons we haven’t played him that much.”