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August 7, 2010

Allen impresses on Day One

BERKELEY-It's the one day a year when the Cal football team's practice features not a single red jersey. That didn't last long.

Early in Saturday's opening act of fall camp, cornerback Vachel Samuels went down with a sprained left foot. So much for "Get the Red Out."

"We have to get an x-ray," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "He sprained his foot, so we have to get an x-ray to see what that's like."

Another casualty-though not from camp activities-was fullback Will Kapp, who was held out because of a concussion suffered during late summer workouts.

"Will Kapp has a concussion," Tedford said. "He accidentally ran into someone on the field as they were doing their summer workouts. Usually Kapp doesn't get the worst end of that, though."

Spelling Kapp at fullback with the first-team offense was sophomore Eric Stevens.

Starting running back Shane Vereen saw a light workload, spending much of the afternoon doing some core work on the sidelines beside safety Chris Conte, who spent the early part of the day on the exercise bike, but was right in the thick of things later on, taking his place alongside Sean Cattouse in the middle of the first-team secondary.

"Shane's fine, he has a tight hamstring, so we're resting his hamstring," Tedford said. "We'll see how it is tomorrow."

In Vereen's stead, true freshman running back Trajuan Briggs saw several snaps with the first-team offense, showing off a bruising running style that made it easy to forget that the team was just practicing in helmets. He gained seven hard yards on a sweep late in practice, dragging several would-be tacklers along with him.

"We know what Shane can do, pretty much, and so that's one of the goals of camp, is to find who the backup tailback is, or who the group of backup tailbacks are going to be, because we never like one guy to carry the load," Tedford said. "You need some depth there, and so that's what we're really looking to do in camp."

Now that that's out of the way, it's time to get down to business. Tedford was practically glowing when he described the tone of the first practice of the 2010 season.

"You could tell that the guys really had a great summer, and there are some good, young recruits that are here for the first day," Tedford said. "It's really nice to see those guys run around a little bit. Our receiving corps, for a young group, you could tell they really have some ability, but it's going to be a process."

Easily one of the most impressive participants in Saturday's late-afternoon session was freshman wide receiver Keenan Allen, who was one of the more physical wideouts and even saw some first-team snaps.

"He's a really good-looking player," Tedford said. "He can run, he has great range, he's physical, catches the ball very, very well. Him and Tevin (Carter), Kaelin (Clay), Coleman (Edmond), really have a lot of ability."

Allen and fellow newcomer Coleman Edmond were the two largest and most muscled pass-catchers, catching the eyes of all the assembled media with their sure hands and crisp routes.

Edmond was particularly notable for his hard cuts and his change of direction during receiver drills as well as during 11-on-11s.

Junior receiver Marvin Jones looked rust-free and ready to roll this afternoon, and has taken to his new leadership roll like a fish to water, mentoring the bevy of young receivers.

"Marvin's the same old Marvin," Tedford said of his No. 1 wideout. "You know what you're going to get with Marvin. He's very solid. The thing about Marvin, he's a great leader. He's taken these young guys under his wing and spending time with those guys. Even when Marvin's doing the scout team, when we're walking through things, he's coaching those guys up all the time, so he's a great leader."

The most notable difference from last season was the surety of the hand of the receivers, who seldom dropped passes and often hauled in difficult catches in traffic. Edmond, for his part, showed some remarkable leaping ability, making several snags over the heads of his defenders.

Both Allen and Edmond saw some early-practice reps fielding kicks and punts, as did the Bears other new receivers, Tevin Carter, Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery.

Right now, the spots for kick and punt returners are relatively wide-open, with the possible exceptions of wide receiver Jeremy Ross, running back Isi Sofele and cornerback Steve Williams.

"It was everything we saw on film, really," Tedford said of the return ability of the new speedsters. "There's a lot of potential there, but, it's a long process. It's the first day, it's very basic. There's going to come a point when there's a little overload mentally, because that's what you fight, mainly. It's not so much the physical ability; it's now the learning curve to get the new guys in the loop."

Williams, who was not on the published two-deep that Cal issued before camp, made a hard push early for consideration as a starting corner, seeing several reps with the first-team defense. As things stood on Saturday, Bryant Nnabuife and Williams each saw significant time with the first team.

Also making a solid showing on defense was redshirt freshman defensive lineman Keni Kaufusi, who is far ahead of schedule in returning from offseason shoulder surgery.

"Kaufusi is doing things in practice," Tedford said. "He had the shoulder surgery back in spring, but he's doing some things in camp right now. We just have to bring him along and see how it goes. He's ahead of schedule."

True freshman defensive end Gabe King made his presence known as well, practicing with the third-team defense. Late in practice he sniffed out a run on the right side and wreaked havoc in the backfield, putting a hit on freshman tailback Mitchel Bartolo.

On the offensive side, there was a slight alteration to the pre-fall depth chart, as both Mitchell Schwartz and Matt Summers-Gavin lined up at left guard and left tackle, respectively to start camp, giving senior quarterback Kevin Riley a bit more blindside protection.

Riley, for his part, looked as though he has been doing quite a bit of core work since spring camp, and has added a not inconsiderable amount of muscle during summer weight lifting. Having worked extensively during the summer with his new receivers, Riley showed a good rapport with even the freshmen during one-on-one drills.

"Consistency," said Tedford, on what he'd like to see out of Riley going into the season. "I think he's got a pretty good grip on the offense, so to put everything together and just be consistent."

A new addition to practice was a bit of musical accompaniment, and, no, it wasn't the dulcet tones of Jones and Allen. The Bears opened up practice rocking out to Drake's "Over," and there was nearly an uprising when the music was briefly turned down. The rock music was piped back up during the post-practice stretch, as well.

"During stretching, you know, when we're starting practice or finishing practice, stretching can get very monotonous," Tedford said. "The same stretches every day, things like that, so it's something to kind of spice it up, get us enthusiastic for practice and get a little energy. That's what that's about."

It was at the request of the players that Tedford added the music to the routine, though he's not the one in charge of the playlist.

"Sure, they do have some input. Players always have a voice. It's their team," he said. "They have a voice, but I still have all the votes."

Notebook
Starting punter Bryan Anger looked like his old self again in early-practice punting, bombing several 60-yard punts with in-flight-movie hangtime … Walk-on freshman kicker Jed Barnett sported the No. 45 jersey-the same as tight end Spencer Ladner-and looked just as big, showing some solid leg strength and accuracy early in the session … Placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio hasn't missed a beat since spring, and split the uprights on several 40-yard field goal attempts … The first-team offensive line looks like Schwartz at left tackle, Summers-Gavin at left guard, Chris Guarnero at center, Justin Cheadle at right guard and Donovan Edwards at right tackle … Tyler Rigsbee saw reps at left tackle on the second team, teaming with Richard Fisher at left guard and Dominic Galas, who was solid as the No. 2 center … Quarterback Allan Bridgford looked very crisp with all of his passes today, and hooked up with both Carter and Clay.


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