BERKELEY-The biggest news to come out of Wednesday's practice came in the form of true freshman linebacker David Wilkerson.
Wilkerson worked closely with Cal head coach Jeff Tedford during the early part of the morning session, and afterwards, Tedford revealed just why.
"He's set to go," Tedford said. "He'll play on Saturday."
Wilkerson will see action on Saturday against UC Davis as a backup at outside linebacker, primarily as the rush backer position.
Of course, the big storyline going into Saturday's season-opener will be the coming-out party for another true freshman: wide receiver Keenan Allen, who will see the start in his first collegiate game.
"It's very exciting," Allen said. "I'm just excited to see how our offense is going to work, knowing that we've been going up against the defense for a long time, and they kind of caught up against our plays, but now we're going up against a real defense that hasn't seen our plays, so I just want to see how that's going to go."
Allen attributed his ascendance up the depth chart to wide receiver coach Kevin Daft, who he called "the best coach in the nation," as well as to facing defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's multiple schemes.
"They're very good," Allen said. "We've probably seen every defense there is the book, and it's helping us in seeing different looks when we run our routes."
Allen is, of course, excited for his first game action, but is taking all of the attention-and the pressure that goes with it-in stride.
"I try not to listen to it," Allen said with a smile. "I just stay focused on doing what I've got to do to help the team win. I'm going out there with confidence, and I'm just going to play my game."
With all of the North Carolina talent seeing their first gameday, Allen laughed at the suggestion that the families charter a plane.
"Nah, nothing like that," he grinned. "I've just got my mom, my dad and my two brothers coming out, just my immediate family. It's very exciting. I can't wait.
"I think it's good to come in to a group that has such great experience at the college level, and Marv Jones, he's been a help to me ever since I got here. Kevin Riley, I think we've got our timing down real well since I've been out here."
Part of that timing has been the work that Allen put in during the offseason both with his quarterback brother Zach Maynard, and with Marvin Jones during summer passing sessions.
"He taught me the playbook because the coaches couldn't be out here," Allen said. "He just kind of went through it with me, helped me out with the plays, formations, stuff like that."
Allen's fellow North Carolinian Gabe King had a solid practice as a part of the scout team, finding the backfield several times and dropping backup tailback Isi Sofele for a loss. King, as well as offensive linemen Alejandro Crosthwaite, Chris Adcock and Geoffrey Gibson will redshirt this season, as will running back Trajuan Briggs.
While sophomore Matt Summers-Gavin practiced today, he will not be starting on the line come Saturday.
"I think we'll slide him in. I think he's good to go, but he's not starting, though," Tedford said. "He doesn't deserve it. He practiced for three days, and everyone else has practiced for 33 days."
Should his replacements continue playing well, Summers-Gavin could remain in a backup role.
"We'll get him in there," Tedford said. "We'll get him going, and once we get him doing more and practicing a little more, we'll see."
Tedford said that Justin Cheadle will likely start at right guard, and Brian Schwenke at left guard. Schwenke could be backed up by either Dominic Galas or Richard Fisher.
Schwenke's experience last season as a freshman has paid tremendous dividends going into the 2010 season, according to Tedford.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," Tedford said. "Going through camp, he was much more comfortable, knows what he does, and week-to-week, as you gameplan different things, as much as anything, to not get relegated to the scout team where you're not used to the changing of plays from week to week, different defenses from week to week, all that type of thing."
While burning Schwenke's redshirt in that sense was profitable, Tedford said that it has to be done in the right situation.
"As long as he plays some through the season, because if a guy is there in case of injury, he can be inserted into the game," Tedford said of having freshmen play, as opposed to redshirting and playing on the scout team. "We're doing a lot more crossover this year than scouts anyways, so the true freshmen that we know are going to redshirt, that don't have a chance to play this year, they'll be doing the scout work mainly."
At the end of practice, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio made all of his kicks from distances out to 45 yards, from both left and right hashes and from the center. Tavecchio will handle starting duties on both kickoffs and field goals. Tavecchio has consistently added five to 10 yards to his kickoff distances from last season.
"We've looked at Vince (D'Amato), we've looked at (Jed) Barnett, (David) Seawright's had chances in camp, but Giorgio's clearly the most consistent," Tedford said of kickoffs. "He's getting close to the end zone, down inside the five."
Allen, Tevin Carter, Dash Oliver and Terrance Montgomery all saw reps on kickoff return during early-practice special teams drills … Allen, Jeremy Ross and Coleman Edmond also fielded punts … Edmond made a spectacular catch in late-practice team drills, going full-extension mid-stride to haul in a pass over the middle for a big chunk of yardage … Kevin Riley completed several passes underneath to one of his favorite targets-the sure-handed rap star Alex Lagemann … Cornerback Steve Williams showed off great acceleration in positional drills and changed direction with ease and no loss of speed … True freshman tight end Jacob Wark-who has won a spot on the baseball team-was very crisp in his route-running and showed some of the softest hands during one-on-ones with quarterbacks … Sophomore tight end Spencer Ladner made a great leaping, twisting grab on a high pass from Beau Sweeney during one-on-ones.