Coach Sonny Dykes plans to put his Cal football team through live scrimmaging more often this spring for the most basic of reasons.
“We’ve got to learn how to play football,” said Dykes, whose Golden Bears didn’t show much of an aptitude for the game last season while going 1-11 in his debut campaign.
“We’ve just got to get better at playing football and everything that goes along with live reps. So it’s important for us to get as much of that as we can get.”
The Bears dressed in full pads and engaged in live contact Saturday for the first time since spring workouts began Monday. The plan is to scrimmage in each of the eight fully padded workouts — rather than just three or four times during the spring — but for shorter duration.
“I like it,” junior center Jordan Rigsbee said of the greater emphasis on physical workouts. “There’s nothing like live football. You can practice, you can go half-speed, but nothing’s like going full go.”
The Bears ran 40 live plays Saturday and got a luke-warm grade from Dykes.
“I didn’t think it was great, It was OK,” Dykes said. “We’re trying to be more physical. It’s obviously a work in progress.”
Given the team’s severe injury situation last fall, Dykes said he’s wary of putting players in situations that leave them vulnerable. As a result, he’s not sure the Bears will engage in a full-length spring game on April 26.
“When you have that fatigue is when you have a lot of injuries,” he said.
Junior running back Daniel Lasco is limited because of a minor hamstring issue and sophomore Khalfani Muhammad, who is splitting time with football and track, sat out Saturday’s contact period to stay fresh.
That made room for others, including sophomore Jeffrey Coprich, who had a 50-yard run. Redshirt freshman walkon Austin Harper, formerly of El Cerrito High also made a splash, with a couple nice runs and a one-handed catch for a touchdown.
“He did some good stuff today,” Dykes said. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he was productive. The great thing about spring football is guys like that get opportunities and they surprise you.”
Listed at 5-foot-6, 160 pounds, Harper was all smiles afterward. “I had a good day. It was exciting,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep pushing forward. Every day has got to be like this.”
Sophomore Steven Moore has been moved from right tackle to the left side to protect quarterback Jared Goff’s back, and is solid in the position. Sophomore Christian Okafor and junior Brian Farley are battling for the right tackle spot.
Out until fall camp following surgeries last season are Chris Adcock (knee) and Matt Cochran (shoulder), both able to play center or guard.
Slot receiver Bryce Treggs will be out another couple practices after tweaking his hamstring during Friday’s practice.
Cal’s next practice open to the public is Wednesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m.