BERKELEY- Fall camp pretty much came to a close Monday as tired and sore Golden Bears ascended the 75-row hike of Memorial Stadium beneath the beading Berkeley sun. Cal will do a quick hour-long walk through tomorrow to officially end camp.
In what head coach Jeff Tedford had said was the most physical camp he had conducted at Cal, he has been most impressed with the effort and competition each player brought during camp.
"The team's willingness to work; it's been very physical and there's been a lot of guys going when they're really banged up," said Tedford Monday. "The competitiveness as well, on both sides of the ball; it's been a very productive camp."
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Starting quarterback Kevin Riley and a few other starters didn't participate in the live-situation practice but tailback Shane Vereen did participate, finding the end zone a total of three times.
"We let Shane play today because he needed to get some game action," said Tedford. "He was a little rusty, should have punched one in on the goal line he got tackled on, so like to see him get his pads down there and get in the end zone, it was on fourth and one. But the practice did him good today I think."
We'll watch the tape and we'll have those discussions in the next couple of days on solidifying the depth chart and moving forward from there.
Freshman receiver Kaelin Clay has been one of the many impressive newcomers through camp. Clay talked after practice about the experience of his first fall camp as a Cal Bear.
"It was more than I expected with the whole playbook and adjusting from high school to college," explained Clay. "Camp is different from high school. You're not the man anymore, so you're behind everybody so you have to take mental reps. That's what all the coaches tell us: take mental reps when you're not in the game. The mental reps are the most important things. Looking over the playbook - when you're not in meetings or even if you're in meetings- that's the most important thing, knowing your assignment."
Clay, who combined for over 1,500 rushing and receiving yards as a senior at Long Beach Poly last year, discussed some of the biggest transitions from a premier high school player to a freshman at camp.
"In high school defenses usually only play one defense and now in college defenses can disguise a coverage and actually move into another coverage during the play," said Clay. "It's different, it's a lot different, but you adjust to it real quick. When you're in the meetings the coaches tell you what to do and if you just listen to what they tell you, you'll get it right real quick."
Coach Tedford has praised his freshmen all of camp, saying that they will see significantly more time than is typical for a freshman class. For Tedford, getting the youngsters as much live game experience as possible early on is essential to their development.
"They've done good. There is a huge learning curve there so it's going to take time, but the basics they understand," said Tedford. "The receivers have done a really nice job of aligning and assigning. But the picture is going to change from time to time, there's something that is always going to come up, so that's why experience is so valuable, because they are going to learn something new every single time."
"They are ahead because we have forced it that way, we have forced them a lot of reps. A lot of the freshmen didn't get a lot of reps, like on the offensive line, they didn't get a lot of reps. So they are behind the receivers because the receivers got to play a lot. They need to, they are in the two of three deep. So that's why the receivers are ahead."
Tedford is fully aware of the tools that Kaelin possesses and is looking forward to seeing how that talent pans out as he gains experience.
"I know he's skillful," said Tedford of Clay. "He can run, he has good skills, but again it's going to be that learning curve of getting game action to see what it's all about."
According to Tedford, receiver Keenan Allen is the only freshman that will start immediately. Allen's skill set is undeniable and Clay has nothing but respect for the character, skills and teachings of his fellow freshman wide out.
"I respect Keenan with everything that I have," praised Clay. "He's a great, great guy and a great competitor. We come out here and we battle each other; we challenge each other to do things."
"He's been here maybe a week or two longer than we have, so he's more in tune with the offense. He has the upper hand, so learning from him can make all the freshmen better because he runs with the ones. Keenan is going to be a big part of us winning this season. I just have great respect for him."
Kaelin made one of the bigger plays of the day on a kick return, though unfortunately he did not finish the performance as planed.
"I think I caught the ball on the three yard line and got it to the other side of the fifty," said Clay before changing tone. "Ball security, that's what the coaches harp about, ball security, ball security. The ball got popped out and luckily my side of the team got on the ball before the other team did. It was a great return. If I didn't fumble we would have been in great field position for the offense to drive into the end zone, but that fumble, those are just mental things that we have to fix."
Despite coughing the ball up, Clay stays focused on improvement and knows what to do next time he's running off a big return.
"Like I said it was a good return - blocking went well, it was a big hole, I just went through it - coach Ron Gould just told me next time instead of shuffling past a guy, just to take one step and break and go because he said I have the speed to get past him. I just put all these coaching points together and f I get a chance to return one maybe I can take it to the house."
-It's been one hard hitting camp for everyone the past couple weeks and Tedford knows that his players will need some rest before preparing for UC Davis later in the week.
"We got to get them back fresh. What I did notice down the end is a lot of guys were worn down and beat up," said Tedford. "So now it's time to get back fresh and heal up all those bumps and bruises and sore legs and sore shoulders and everything like that. We'll work on that tomorrow and then next day."
-Tedford's comments on Cal being below the radar in the Pac-10 going into the season.
"It's not something we talk about a lot. I think when we got to camp we talked about it the first day but we don't harp on it day after day. I think they're eager to start to play games and to prove what kind of team we have."
-Cornerback has probably been the most competitive position throughout fall camp. Darian Hagan and Marc Anthony started Monday in scrimmage, with Bryant Nnabuife and Steve Williams backing them up.
"Marc Anthony has had one of the more solid camps of anybody. He's made a ton of plays. He did a great job of tackling in the open field, did a great job of playing pass defense."