BERKELEY-After a relaxed double day on Thursday, the Cal football team crept back up to speed yesterday in a full-speed practice, sans hitting.
"They were going fast speed but they weren't at all hitting today," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "It's called reaction tempo."
The offense moved the ball well in practice Friday. Quarterback Kevin Riley hit receiver Marvin Jones over the middle for a gain of at least 20 yards before the play was whistled dead. Keenan Allen then gained 10 yards on a reverse. Riley followed with another completion over the middle. After practice, Tedford discussed the areas in which he has seen great improvement from his senior signal-caller.
"Great understanding and command of the offense, throwing the ball very accurately, great decisions; he's really done a nice job," said Tedford. "It's really evident that they (Riley and the receivers) have done a lot of work together because they are on the same page. Very solid camp.
"The growth and development of Kevin, in all areas-as a player, as a person, maturity level," continued Tedford. "He's been through the paces here. He's been through highs and lows and everything. I think he understand how to handle not only game situations, he knows how to handle adversity. He's much more poised, much more confidant and doing a great job."
Sophomore QB Beau Sweeney hit receiver Alex Lagemann on a nice pattern on the right hash for a gain of twenty. On the next play, defensive lineman Kendrick Payne and others collapsed the pocket and forced Sweeney to throw the ball away. Tailback Dasarte Yarnway showed some pretty shifty moves for a power back before the team huddled up to end practice.
As camp enters its final week, Tedford has already listed the likely starters for most of the positions on the field. One area that remains totally up for grabs is cornerback, where redshirt freshman Steve Williams, senior Bryant Nnabuife, sophomore Marc Anthony and senior Darian Hagan all are in the running for starting spots.
"It's great to have some depth there, there's no question," Tedford said of his cornerbacks. "You have Marc Anthony and Williams competing for that corner and then you have Nnabuife and Hagan on the other corner and all four of them have times when they do very good things."
"I think we're all doing a good job at camp," said Nnabuife, who had broken up a few plays earlier in practice. "There's a lot of competing going on; overall we look good. I love it; I'm for the team. If everyone's making plays out there I love it."
Others such as Williams see it as less of a competition and more of each individual working to better the group as a whole.
"I wouldn't see it as going at each other," Williams said. "I think we're just trying to be the best that we can be. Trying to do what the coaches want as far as technique and assignments. Playing with vision, playing with alignment, press technique, stuff like that."
Williams redshirted in 2009 in his first year at Berkeley. He went on to explain how this year's camp has been a completely new experience.
"Now that you get a chance to compete for a job, it's a lot different. You are actually in the mix, having to go with the ones and the twos."
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is dead-set on pressuring the quarterback in his first year helming the Bears' defense, and both Williams and Nnabuife love what the guys in the box have been doing up front.
"With a nice front seven, the less time a quarterback's got the better it is for the back four," explained Nnabuife. "If we've got the front seven getting after guys, it's a big plus for the back four."
"You get to cover less," chuckled Williams. "It's gets thrown up. Less time to cover because of the pressure."
Nnabuife, Williams and the secondary as a whole have had their hands full with the explosion of new and returning talent at receiver. Throughout camp the receivers and secondary have gone back and forth with each other, for the most part.
"They've definitely given us some work out there," Nnabuife said. "Guys are working a lot harder this year. The receivers are looking nice."
"The receiving corps is pretty good. I think we have probably the best receiving corps in the Pac-10 maybe," claimed Williams. "With the addition of Keenan Allen and Kaelin Clay, they're pretty fast and shifty guys. They all give you a different type of route; different types of match-ups."
There's no question that the Pac-10 has some of the best receivers in the country, and with the practice Cal's corners have been through in fall camp, they may be prepared for greatness in 2010.
• Tedford went on for quite awhile about the potential of defensive lineman Derrick Hill, saying: "When he's healthy, he's a dominating player. So, of course, we want to make sure that we get him back right. He has kind of a chronic knee and that's a problem for him. We have to be smart with him. We always have him do different conditioning. There's a lot of repetitive pounding and on his knee, do we try to do short bursts up instead of long pounding things for him. It's hard to evaluate him, because if you can't play you can't be evaluated."
• Tedford said of Nnabuife: "He was out the last three or four practices because of his ankle but when he's been in there he's done some good things."
• Offensive lineman Richard Fisher has a banged-up hip. In Tedford's words: "Serious enough to keep him out of reps, nothing long-term. That's something that will heal in a couple days."
• Tedford also had great things to say of safety Josh Hill: "He has a great understanding of what we're doing and as much as anything of directing traffic back there, he understands what's going on to get other people in the right position. A lot of communication goes on back there and he's been real solid when it comes to understand what were trying to get done."