Cal did its final live tackling of fall camp during a 40-play scrimmage Wednesday, after which coach Sonny Dykes raved about the progress his team has made.
Acknowledging the loss of linebacker Nathan Broussard and safety Quintin Tartabull for the season, both to knee injuries, Dykes said the Bears have emerged from 2 ½ weeks of tough practices “remarkably healthy.”
Compared to a year ago, when the team’s season-long injury epidemic developed its momentum in August, this has been a major turnabout.
“For us to go as much live tackling as we’ve done in this camp — which is more in than any camp I’ve ever coached in — and to have as few injuries as we’ve had is a real testament to their work effort,” Dykes said. “Hopefully, it’s a sign we’re becoming a tougher team.
“Last year this looked like a M*A*S*H unit out here and we didn’t go live near as much as we have this year. I think we’re tougher, I think we’re bigger, I think we’re stronger, I think we’re more physical, I think we’ve got a better mindset.
“All of that has allowed us to get a lot of reps in practice. We have gotten a remarkable amount of work done to this point.”
Dykes said he hopes the payoff comes a week from Saturday in the season opener at Northwestern.
“The one consistent thing I’ve always found through 20 years of coaching is you really, honestly play like you practice. I just believe that. Right now we’re a pretty good practicing football team. We hope that carries over to Saturday.
“Last year we had good effort in practice for the most part. We just weren’t getting as much done as we’re getting done now. That’s encouraging.”
The Bears will back off some over the next few days, hoping to eliminate the soreness of camp and be at full speed, literally, for Northwestern.
The standout in the closed scrimmage, Dykes said, was freshman running back Vic Enwere.
“I thought Vic Enwere looked the best he’s looked in weeks. It was encouraging to see him run hard,” Dykes said.
Dykes said both Jared Goff and his quarterback understudy Luke Rubenzer played well, and also had good words for freshman QB Chase Forrest, who had gotten fewer reps the past week.
The second-team offensive line also delivered a good performance in the scrimmage, Dykes said.