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September 15, 2011

Bears put finishing touches on prep for home opener



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BERKELEY -- Picture, if you will, the traffic on the Bay Bridge.

Now, picture a pressed-tor-time California football team, eschewing the team bus because of said traffic. What you would get would be an innovative commercial for public transit -- an entire contingent of blue-clad, fully-padded college football players crammed into a BART -- but not exactly an ideal situation, particularly after the Bears' home opener against Presbyterian on Saturday at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

"All year long, our team hotel will be in the city, so we won't take any chances on something happening getting across the bridge. Wouldn't look good taking BART," laughed head coach Jeff Tedford as he addressed the media on Thursday morning after Cal's final practice in Berkeley before facing the Blue Hose this weekend.

The Bears will travel to the city on Friday for a walk-through at the San Francisco Giants' home park, their second such sojourn of the fall, after holding a fall practice in the China Basin ballpark last month.

"We've only been on it once, and that was for a walk-through practice. It'll be fine," Tedford said. "We played the bowl game there and so we're a little bit familiar with that. It's a great field, great grass and there will be a little transition to the dirt, with the infield, but we practiced a few times down at our baseball field here to kind of feel what this is all about, and when we were over there, doing our walk through, we spent most of the time on the dirt. I think we were pretty familiar with what grass feels like, but playing on dirt will be something new for us."

After some configuration changes which will allow for two separate sidelines, the Bears will set up camp on the third-base side of the playing field on Saturday after a hard week of practice following a narrow overtime win over Colorado.

"I think we've been real focused on the details, making sure that we pay attention," Tedford said. "There's been a lot of attention to detail with everything that we do, with fundamentals. That's what the focus has been."

As players sang 'Happy Birthday' to running backs coach Ron Gould in the background, Tedford said that fullback Will Kapp will be making a full return from his concussion, and will play on Saturday after practicing in full for the past two days.

Tedford also said that among the youngsters he hopes to get into the game - including true freshman tailback Brendan Bigelow -- he will try to work in some more tight ends behind a top two of senior Anthony Miller and sophomore Spencer Hagan.

With junior Spencer Ladner still on the shelf after his second knee surgery, the next two up will be redshirt freshman Jacob Wark and true freshman Richard Rodgers.

"In general, I think we need to play Wark some more, Rodgers a little bit more," Tedford said. "Rodgers, as a freshman, still is learning game plan stuff and things like that, but I'd like to get Wark in the game a little bit more for sure."

Rodgers' recruiting classmate Avery Sebastian was wearing a red jersey on Thursday, and Tedford said that the US Army All-American safety would be questionable to play.

"Avery got dinged a little bit yesterday. I don't know if he'll play this week," Tedford said.

Also on the shelf is starting nose tackle Aaron Tipoti. With him out of the rotation, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said that the top two would be Kendrick Payne and true freshman Viliami Moala. Pendergast also said that outside linebackers Chris McCain and David Wilkerson will see more time this Saturday, given Presbyterian's spread offense.

"Based on what this style of offense is, they're more of a spread, wide-open, so those guys will have an opportunity to get on the field in our base package and in our sub package," Pendergast said. "We're just trying to get better. We're focused on technique, this week. That was one thing that was disappointing the most, was our technique across the board, whether it was defensive line, linebacker or secondary play last week.

"Kendrick Payne will continue to be in there, and of course, we want to get Vei some reps in there, and so we'll roll some guys around in there."

Pendergast has been unusually hard on his players after a sub-par effort against the Buffaloes last week, in which the Bears allowed over 500 yards of total offense.

"I was really disappointed in the amount of big plays that we gave up," Pendergast said. "We didn't give up many big plays last year, and that was one of the things that I was proud of, the way they did it last year. We gave up way too many on Saturday, and we need to correct that."

Pendergast said the problems last week stemmed from technique, not scheme.

"It wasn't really anything that they did that we didn't anticipate," Pendergast said. "We played with poor technique, and we had some opportunities to get pressure on the quarterback and we missed them. We had probably four to five sacks that we missed throughout the course of that game that would have helped us on some of those deep balls."

Pendergast acknowledged that the way that Colorado avoided Cal's pressure could be picked up by other teams during the conference schedule.

"We had things up that would have helped us there that I didn't necessarily call," Pendergast said. "The game was in a pretty close type of situation, so you're not as much in a risk-taking mode in certain situations, the way that the game played itself out. They had a great game plan, and I'm sure we'll see similar game plans. We will move forward, but we have a lot of things that we haven't shown, as well."

While Tedford has said all week that this game will be more about the Bears' offensive execution than the team across the field, Pendergast has preached the same to his defense.

"Week-in and week-out, we look at ourselves as much as we look at the opponents," Pendergast said. "It's important for them to know what other people are looking for.

"Any time you go through a situation like that, where you give up a lot of yards -- and it was more technique than it was anything else; it wasn't scheme, it was more technique -- then you obviously have an opportunity to come back out and work on it. It was all things that we had seen, and there was not proper leverage by the corners or the safeties, whether it was inside or outside, whether a guy was expecting help or not expecting help, and it was or wasn't there, it was miscommunication and technique."

Cornerback Marc Anthony -- who covered explosive wide receiver Paul Richardson for the bulk of his 287-yard receiving day -- was dinged up at the end of the first half, but, whether that slowed him down or not, Pendergast isn't one for excuses.

"He came in the locker room at halftime, after they collided there before the end of the half, and he was a little bit dinged up, but you'd have to ask him," Pendergast said. "I haven't been asking for too many answers. I just want them to listen. I have a lot of confidence in Marc. Marc just needs to play better. He knows that, we've addressed that and I hope that he will."

Be sure to catch The Bear Republic Podcast on Friday, or, come by The Republic on Scott and Lombard at 4 PM Thursday afternoon to see it taped live!



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