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BERKELEY -- California head coach Jeff Tedford was in good spirits following the Bears' first scrimmage of the fall. When asked who won, he smiled.
"The Bears -- the Bears won," smirked the Cal skipper.
Indeed, the team as a whole could count Wednesday as a victory, thanks to the continuing emergence of the young receivers, headed by Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper, who - along with fellow freshman Darius Powe -- took center stage with top wide out Keenan Allen taking it easy for much of the day.
"We had a little variation from practice because of our depth at D-line, so we were still able to get the outside guys -- the skill guys -- a lot of work today, which was great," Tedford said. "I was really pleased with the young receivers, for the most part, about lining up, assignments and all that type of thing, which you really look for their first time on the field, live and in-color. That was good. There were a lot of big plays, a lot of nice catches, a lot of great throws. It was good."
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Tedford said that soon, the staff will pare down the number of receivers getting reps from 14 to eight, which will very likely include at least several of the true freshmen.
"That's what we did today. Keenan didn't play today. We don't need to see Keenan much," Tedford said. "All those guys played. Treggs, Powe and Harper all went with the ones today to get them some looks against the ones. They looked great. They looked good. They looked comfortable. I was pleased."
Treggs had been fighting things a bit early in camp, though his father -- former Cal star Brian Treggs -- was doing his best to buoy up his progeny. Over the past week or so, though, the younger Treggs has come on quite strongly.
"I think Treggs started out a little bit slow -- not by his doing, but because he didn't have a lot of action coming his way," Tedford said. "He kept working, and I think he has a really good feel for what he's doing."
"He was getting reps, but the balls weren't going his way, necessarily. We tried to manufacture some things for the young guys to get him some balls. We'll work with the defense and say, 'Give us this coverage because that way, we know the ball's going there,' and then you have multiple defenses, and you're not sure where the ball's going to go, so we tried to work and tried to make sure that we can get some guys evaluated on route running and catching the ball and running after the catch."
Tedford has been particularly impressed with the advanced knowledge of the game which has allowed Treggs to focus on physically getting up to speed quicker.
"He's fast, he's a good route-runner, quick -- has some nice quickness. He catches the ball really well, good body control. Him and Harper, both," Tedford said. "Harper is very skilled. Those two are right there together. There's really no separation between those guys. Both those guys are dependable guys who can run. They're very quick. They both have great hands."
Brian has been up to Berkeley to watch several practices so far, and every time, he sees the results of the hard work that the two have been putting in ever since baby Bryce first cooed, 'Daddy, I want the rock.'
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"He's trusting his training -- he's trusting his abilities," the elder Treggs said at the beginning of camp. "He's feeling confident out there. He's comfortable in what he's doing out there."
Treggs and his father worked out two or three times per week during the offseason in preparation for perhaps taking the No. 3 or even No. 2 receiver spot come Sept. 1.
"At least two hours each," Brian Treggs said. "Our workouts were usually around two hours, and it was intense. He's been doing workouts like that since he was five or six years old, so it's not something that he just started doing overnight. A lot of people call me up on his videos and ask if it's going to help their son. Well, you've got to understand: Bryce looks really good in those videos because he's been doing those drills for a long, long time. I never worried about his footwork, his ability to execute, his ability to play the position. This is just the speed and strength: is he going to be able to adapt to the speed of the game and the strength?"
Thanks to running track -- including a 10.7-second 100m dash, a 21.5-second 200m -- in his last spring at Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, that speed and strength has allowed Treggs to skip over some of the tougher adjustments of a receiver's first fall camp.
"He's very natural. He's adjusted," Tedford said on Wednesday. "I think it took him about three days and then he said, 'I've made the adjustment to the speed of the game,' and so he was feeling better."
The scrimmage on Wednesday required some fiddling and manipulating outside of the receivers, due to the fact that many defensive linemen were either limited or unable to go. Neither Viliami Moala nor DeAndre Coleman were able to participate in scrimmage activities. The lack of a defensive front, though, allowed the linebacking corps to get more of a close look from the coaching staff.
"I think [Brennan] Scarlett played well. I think Todd Barr played well," Tedford said. "Those guys flashed.
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"Any time we can have this opportunity to do this and give them some live reps, it really helps, and we'll evaluate this one and then we'll go again here, shortly, because I expect some D-linemen to be back, so we'll turn around here pretty quick and do it again," Tedford said, before adding that the next scrimmage-type practice will happen next Monday, at the latest.
The defense got the better of the offense at times on Wednesday, including two tipped balls at the line of scrimmage that led to interceptions. However, Tedford was pleased with the performances of quarterbacks Allan Bridgford and Austin Hinder.
"They both did a nice job. The defense actually got two tipped-ball interceptions in the red zone today, so it was good to see the defense get the ball back, down there. They were tipped balls up in the air, and they went up and got them," Tedford said.
One of those tipped picks came from Bridgford, and the other, Tedford said, came from freshman Zach Kline.
The still-in-flux offensive line had perhaps some of the toughest work, due to not being able to really go up against a full defensive line.
"Decent. Blew a protection," Tedford said. "Went the wrong way on protection, but I thought they came off well and had some positive plays in the run game. [Daniel] Lasco had a big run, probably about a 60-yard run. The offensive line played decently."
Cal had approximately 45 plays of full scrimmage, followed by 30 plays with the offense playing against the linebackers and secondary, because of the limited personnel.
Wednesday afternoon will consist of some community service work and heading to a water park, before the Bears finally get to step on the California Memorial Stadium turf for the first time in a helmets-only morning practice on Thursday as part of Cal's third double day of camp.
"Tonight at the team meeting, I'll tell them. Then, I'm sure they're anxious to get in there. I'm very anxious to get in there," Tedford said. "We're going to be in a helmets practice, and we're going to have some individual and some team, and really, we're going to try to move around quite a bit and just get used to the footing, in there. We have two practices tomorrow, but the morning practice will be in helmets in the stadium, and in the afternoon, we'll be up here."
Because the North Tunnel still isn't paved, the Bears won't be able to hold a true full practice with all the requisite gear, but they will at least get a start at finding their footing on the new Matrix Turf.
"We can't actually get gear and sleds and things in there until the 24th," Tedford said. "We will have some practices where we'll have half our practice up here where we have our sleds and our chutes, and all that, and then we'll go down for the second half of practice."
With Richard Rodgers limited because of a balky shoulder and Spencer Hagan nursing an injured hand, some of the back-up tight ends got into the action on Wednesday, inclduding Maximo Espitia, Harrison Wilfley and Jacob Wark.
"Maximo played well," Tedford said. "He did some with the ones. Wark caught a few balls today, so that was nice to see. Wilfley was wide open and got overthrown, but he took a lot of reps today, as well. Those were really the three guys that played today at tight end."