GoldenBearReport - Cal Football Countdown: 15 Days, Surprises of Fall Camp
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Cal Football Countdown: 15 Days, Surprises of Fall Camp

Cal true freshman S Craig Woodson has turned heads this fall camp
Cal true freshman S Craig Woodson has turned heads this fall camp (Marcus Edwards - KLC Fotos)

We're only four days from the end of fall camp, and today on the Cal Football Countdown, we're looking at some of the surprising players from Cal's Fall Camp practices so far.

Safety Craig Woodson

Woodson, a two star recruit in the class of 2019, is proving that it's hard to be bad at safety when your last name is Woodson. With safeties Ashtyn Davis and Trey Turner stepping back this fall as the staff knows what those two can do, Woodson has gotten a ton of reps, looking right at home playing next to Jaylinn Hawkins with the first group.

"With some of the reps he's been able to get, with some guys out with some things," DB coach Gerald Alexander said Monday, "he's done a great job of getting out there and competing, showing what he's able to do, and doing a great job of trying to learn his responsibilities and the communication that comes with playing safety."

Woodson, teammate of Cal OLB Myles Jernigan in high school, may not play as much safety this year with Davis and Turner set to play big roles, but his performance now sets him up well to earn time on special teams in 2019 and to earn a starting spot in 2020.

OLB Ben Hawk Schrider

The Berkeley native has made an early impact for the Bears. A walk-on grad transfer from UT-Chattanooga, Schrider took reps with the first group during Tuesday's scrimmage (Cam Goode was held out), and he's flashed among the defense.

"I've really been pleasantly surprised with him," defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said last week, "I knew, watching his tape, that he was a hardnosed football player, we recruited him when I was at Fresno, so I knew about him. He wanted to come here, so when he graduated, he wanted to get his masters here, we talked during the offseason (about getting him here) as a grad transfer. I really like the attitude he has, he's a physical football player, he played outside linebacker in a package similar to ours, so it's mostly learning the language. For me, most importantly, it's the mentality, the guy can set an edge, he can rush the passer, he knows enough about coverage to play in space."

Schrider, who's getting his master's in public health, should be in the rotation for the Bears on August 31st.

Makai Polk has held his own among the first group in practices
Makai Polk has held his own among the first group in practices (Norman Mo/Cal Athletics)

WR Makai Polk

Polk enrolled early in the spring, and that time has done him wonders. As seen in some one on ones from last Saturday, Polk has gone one on one against Cam Bynum and come out the other side as a victor.

Polk did get banged up yesterday, but if healthy, he's going to play this year. Bynum mentioned him as someone young who had stepped up at receiver, and the offensive staff has already shown faith in the former El Cerrito star.

DL Braxten Croteau

Croteau has also taken reps with the first group at times, as after enrolling early, he's added size that hasn't taken away from the quickness that made him an effective player at Liberty.

"I probably should've mentioned (Croteau) in the group of guys that weren't surprises," DeRuyter said Monday, "but will get an opportunity to show what they can do. He was here in the spring, so he seems like a veteran, but he hasn't gone through a fall camp. I really like his progress, he's in that combo position, we call it a 'Long,' someone who can play defensive end in our base package, playing a 4i, and he's also got the athletic ability and the length to play defensive end in our nickel package, and then learn how to do drops in all our coverage stuff. Guys like Tevin, guys like Chinedu, we've got in that role, and I think (Braxten) is going to be a good one by the time he's done understanding what we want from him in both those roles."

WR Ricky Walker III

Justin Wilcox spoke highly of Walker's speed during Pac-12 Media Day, so it hasn't been entirely surprising that he's in that rotating first group at wide receiver. What has surprised is his route running, particularly in some of the short area routes. Walker looks like a veteran getting a release and getting into his breaks quickly.

Walker did earn a start last year due to Vic Wharton being injured, but this year, he'll likely earn a handful of starts. The former San Leandro HS QB looks settled in his role.