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September 7, 2011
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BERKELEY -- The first order of business on Wednesday for the California football team was to kick practice off -- literally -- with special teams drills.
While a daily part of game-prep practice, given the Bears' special teams struggles last week against Fresno State, the oft-overlooked third phase of the game would seem to have taken on more of a sense of urgency in recent days.
New holder and starting punter Bryan Anger was on the sidelines, though he no longer sported a boot over his rolled ankle.
"Bryan, he tweaked his ankle on one of the punts that probably could have been a roughing call -- a guy got him there in the leg in the third quarter -- but he's fine," said special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk. "He's just such a warrior, as far as treatment is concerned. I think we might have treated that ankle for 20 hours straight, so he'll be fine."
In his stead, redshirt freshman Jed Barnett took over during punting drills, and acquitted himself quite well, putting on one of his most consistent performances and showing that -- should the worst happen, and Anger be sidelined at some point -- there is a very capable replacement leg waiting in the wings.
"Jed Barnett's been coming on and he's really been working on fielding the ball and having his operation time be appropriate," said Genyk. "Then, he's been able to get a lot of spiral consistently, so we're pleased with that, and also in kicking, he's doing a nice job.
"He's done a nice job just maturing through the program, and I think he's ready to go."
On the other side of the field, senior placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio -- who had two of his three PATs blocked last week -- worked on his field goal and PAT launch angle, kicking his balls noticeably higher than in previous practices.
"We've emphasized a couple things, and that is just kicking off grass, so he's been doing some of that during the week, and just trajectory," Genyk said. "Typically both Giorgio and Vince D'Amato have amazing trajectory -- over 10, 11 feet at the line of scrimmage -- so that was a strange set of circumstances on those first two kicks. Hopefully, it was just early-season jitters."
Most of the players on the field, though, snapped to attention when a reverberating clank rang throughout Witter Rugby Field late in the period, as Tavecchio missed a short, 20-yard shot.
"I think that any time you play a position like kicker, snapper or punter, you have really limited reps, and all those reps are very visual to the entire program," Genyk said. "It places more emphasis on that. So, it's the world where the specialist lives, where everything is much more dramatic than a defensive lineman totally blowing his assignment and giving up a touchdown. Nobody really knows that. The aspect of being able to thrive in that environment and not just survive is critical. We talk about that all the time, that if that's the area that you chose in this great game, you've got to really be able to embrace that moment, and I think that he does. The aspect of making the 53-yarder or the 40-yarder against Washington is still fresh in his mind.
"The other thing is that Candlestick is a tricky place to kick. There were some strange winds going on, and I was glad to see that [Tavecchio] made the 40-yarder."
Elsewhere on the field - or, more accurately, off of it - junior college transfer tailback Mike Manuel was in red, after having taken quite a blow during the opening kickoff of Saturday's game.
"He can't redshirt because he's been in for a play," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "He's just dinged up right now."
Senior starting safety Sean Cattouse was still in yellow after sustaining a concussion on Saturday, and starting fullback Will Kapp was not in pads, still recovering from a bell-ringing of his own.
"Kapp didn't practice today, but those things are day-to-day, and they'll get tested," Tedford said. "They have to be symptom-free and then they get exerted and then they go from there. I'd say [Kapp] is probably questionable."
Wide receiver Jackson Bouza wasn't in pads, but was practicing during positional drills. The hand wrap on his broken finger is now much smaller, only encircling his wrist and two outermost fingers. He made one particularly impressive break-down, turn-around one-handed grab which elicited some loud crows of approval from the other wide outs.
"Bouza got his cast off and now I think we're going to be able to ball him up and start letting him play -- by balling him up, I mean protective stuff around his hand so he can get out and start catching," Tedford said. "He's only one day out of it, but he's getting closer."
Both Maurice Harris and Kaelin Clay practiced in full, with Harris seemingly back to 100 percent after a late-fall camp knee injury, and will travel to Boulder, Tedford said. Tedford also said that there is no more clarity on Clay's academic issues that held him out of the season-opener.
"Right now he is not playing because of an academic issue," Tedford said.
-- C.J. Anderson was impressive in passing drills, showing soft hands on a pass from Tedford, who doled out several compliments to the junior tailback.
-- True freshman Brendan Bigelow was moving as smoothly and as quickly as he has since stepping on campus. While he will still likely redshirt this year, he is certainly showing a lot of progress and looks to be far more comfortable in his own legs, as it were.
-- Starting tight end Anthony Miller made a one-handed jumping tip catch on a pass from senior Brock Mansion during passing drills, while redshirt freshman Jacob Wark displayed great sideline awareness and body control in hauling in some difficult tosses.
-- Cornerback Steve Williams and safety D.J. Campbell were particularly physical in pass break-up drills.