BERKELEY-Coleman Edmond has traveled quite the lengthy road to get to where he is today.
From lightly-recruited New York speedster to Wagner College to the track team at UCLA, through dire financial straits and promises gone un-kept , and finally here, to Strawberry Canyon, four days away from his dream: to play big-time college football.
"I'm just trying to keep learning, every day, learn as much as I can, just every day learn something new," Edmond said after practice on Tuesday. "I'm not as far along as I'd like to be, right now, but I'm just a fighter and a worker, so I just have to keep working every day, harder and harder, and we'll see what happens. It's still kind of surreal, but we'll see what happens when the game gets here.
"I'm still waiting to get in the stadium and see the fans, to hit that first big play, and then, it'll be everything I thought it would be."
Edmond will open the 2010 season as one of the Cal football team's top receivers, right on the heels of a foursome that includes freshman phenom Keenan Allen, senior Jeremy Ross and juniors Marvin Jones and Michael Calvin. In fact, as recently as several days ago, Edmond was set to back up Jones until Calvin recovered from some of the bumps and bruises of fall camp.
"He's healthy," head coach Jeff Tedford said of Calvin. "When that (last) depth chart came out, because Kyle (McRae, associate media relations director) grinds me to get you guys a depth chart, I gave him a depth chart at that point, and that's because Michael was hurt at that point (that Edmond was ahead). He wasn't practicing. Now he's healthy."
But this is only the beginning for Edmond with the Bears. Even he says that, despite his natural athleticism and speed, he still has more to learn.
"I'm not as far along as I'd like to be right now, but I'm learning," Edmond said. "I'm doing a lot of different stuff here, running comebacks and skim routes, just learning how to become a complete wide receiver, instead of just being an athlete on the field. I'm becoming a better football player."
During positional drills on Tuesday morning, Edmond was easily one of the smoothest and sharpest wideouts, flowing around blocking bags and through footwork cones like water.
"I think he's one of those young guys that is gifted," Tedford said of Edmond. "He can catch the ball and he can run really, really well. It's just a matter now of, it's all going to be new to him, just like Keenan: alignment, assignment, the tempo of the game, but he's really done some nice things in camp, so we know he can do it."
Edmond sits now as part of a group of receivers that is, to say the least, greatly improved from last season. With the addition of young speedsters like Allen, Kaelin Clay-who made a nifty spinning catch on his back shoulder during one-on-ones-and Tevin Carter, the group has also honed its ball skills, and will provide plenty of big-play targets for senior starting quarterback Kevin Riley, and will take some pressure off of the veteran signal-caller.
"I'm just running the offense, and not trying to do too much," Riley said. "When a big play opportunity happens, go for it, and if not, check it down, move the chains and continue to drive. And no sacks."
Riley has also formed quite a bit of chemistry with his pass-catchers, something that, in a leadership context, has not gone unnoticed.
"We're pretty cool," Edmond said. "I like Kevin. He's always explaining stuff to me if I need something explained. He's great. I get along with him pretty well."
The wideouts as a group are also a very close unit off the field, a chemistry that is evident in their interactions during the rare down-time between reps.
"We're pretty tight," Edmond said. "There's no dysfunction in there. Everybody gets along, and if anybody has a question, it's not a matter of who's playing or who's not playing, everybody always lends a helping hand, so we're super close."
During practice on Tuesday, Riley was as sharp as ever, buzzing low line drives right into the waiting hands of his receivers during one-on-one drills, overthrowing nary a single pass.
"Kevin is comfortable in the pocket, and he knows what he's looking for," Tedford said. "Where he has really improved are his feet and his throwing fundamentals. He keeps live feet all the time. Part of Kevin's problem before was that it's sequential movement from the feet up, and if his feet weren't live enough, then his arm could be off. So, he's shortened his throwing motion, and that goes together with his feet being quick, his release is much quicker, he's got much more zip on the ball, his ball finishes now, so he's really done a nice job of working on all those things."
Tuesday's practice was also one of the first opportunities to see what the field goal and PAT personnel groupings will be come Saturday's season-opener against UC Davis.
All three placekickers-starting junior Giorgio Tavecchio, freshman Jed Barnett and sophomore Vince D'Amato-were clutch on 20- and 30-yard field goals from both the left and right hashmarks and from center.
From right to left, the special teams line consists of Justin Cheadle, Brian Schwenke, longsnapper Matt Rios, Dominic Galas and Donovan Edwards, who will also serve as the presumptive starter at right tackle with Matt Summers-Gavin still recovering from a knee injury sustained during camp.
"Summers-Gavin practiced this morning and took some reps," Tedford said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow after today's reps and try to keep him going throughout the week. He won't start, but we hope to get him in the game, most likely at right tackle."
Edwards-perhaps the most versatile member of Cal's big uglies-and the rest of the line have been in near-constant flux since the start of fall camp, and that trend looks to continue into the season, something that Tedford sees as an advantage rather than a weakness.
"That's how the season goes," Tedford said. "The season goes that way. There's going to be times that you're going to need to (shuffle). Some guy goes out and some guy needs to be inserted in there to play, and I think that's a good thing. I think different combinations-because you never know what may come up-they need to play different positions from time to time. You can't just let them get so used to one position, then, all of the sudden, here comes game time and we try to move them. You have to create some depth and you have to create some experience in different situations."
As of now, the starting offensive line looks to consist of Mitchell Schwartz entrenched at left tackle, Schwenke at left guard, Chris Guarnero at center, Cheadle at right guard and Edwards at right tackle. The second-string line named by Tedford on Tuesday's updated depth chart is sophomore Tyler Rigsbee at left tackle, Galas at left guard, Mark Brazinski at center, senior Richard Fisher at right guard and Sam DeMartinis at right tackle.
During his weekly press conference, Tedford said that true freshman David Wilkerson will be in the mix for linebacker, but is still waiting on full clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse after being given the go to practice late last week.
"We're hoping he can play on Saturday. He got cleared to practice, and now he needs to get cleared for competition," Tedford said. "That's different. We're hoping to maybe hear something today. He should be in the rotation for Saturday. Obviously, we're in a tough situation, because, if he doesn't get cleared in time, how many reps do we give him through the week? We're acting like he is going to be cleared. Sometimes the Clearinghouse is so cluttered and clogged up because it's so busy at this time of year, it could be any day that we hear."