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BERKELEY -- After Tuesday's spring practice session, the buzz surrounding the California football team was all about a big hit late in practice by sophomore safety Avery Sebastian. Though media weren't able to see the laying of the wood in question, it was more than audible outside the gates of Witter Rugby Field.
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Word was that Sebastian laid out redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Boehm in a goal-line stand by the No. 2 defense, even though Boehm was wearing a green no-contact jersey.
"He plays at one speed most of the time, which, you know, you hate to take that away, but we just need to make sure we respect the practice tempo that we're in," smiled head coach Jeff Tedford. "He likes to bring it, no doubt."
Sebastian has been one of the quick risers this spring, as he tries to break into the starting safety rotation. His vicious hits - if a bit beyond the prescribed bounds of practice etiquette - have impressed the staff.
"Avery's playing really well," Tedford said. "He's understanding what's going on. Avery's really put in a lot of time in study, so he understands the defense, and physically, he's running, he's a very good tackler. He's a very physical guy. He's doing a really nice job."
Boehm took second reps on Tuesday behind Allan Bridgford, who took the lion's share of first-team snaps with senior quarterback Zach Maynard off, tending to his studies.
"He takes pretty much all of the ones, and then we rotate the other guys," Tedford said. "He had a good day, did some good things and I thought 7-on-7 was really good today. We did a red zone 7-on-7 today, and he looked good."
Red zone installation has been the order of the day for the past several practices, as the Bears try to break in not just a now-healthy Bridgford, but a host of inexperienced receivers, as well.
"It's always tough, any time you shorten the field like that," Tedford said. "It's good to get some quality reps at it, and get everybody going on both sides of the ball."
One of the new faces on the offensive side of the ball is former defensive back Joel Willis, who will be a slot option next season.
"He's doing fine. He's a bit rusty, as far as just understanding routes and things like that, and the fundamentals and techniques, so it's good," Tedford said. "That's why we're practicing, and so he's getting some good reps. He's getting the opportunity to work, but now it's just a matter of honing those skills. He has a lot of ability."
With Keenan Allen on the shelf due to ankle surgery, Willis and other receivers have stepped up, with Maurice Harris and Jackson Bouza continuing to impress.
"It's still pretty wide-open," Tedford said. "Bouza's done a really nice job. Bouza's played really well. I think he's probably the most consistent guy that we've had in the spring, and I see a lot of improvement in Maurice. Maurice is coming on, playing a lot faster. That's the thing with Maurice: he's gifted. He just needs to play fast, all the time. I think, as he continues to get comfortable with things, the more you're not thinking about things, you can just cut it loose, and I think that's where he's starting to get to."
H-back Spencer Hagan practiced on a limited basis on Tuesday after breaking his hand early last week, but as of now, it doesn't look like his hand should require surgery.
"He practiced a little bit today, so we'll see how his hand feels. He may be ready to practice next week. It just depends on how the X-rays look," Tedford said. "As of right now, it's not [surgical], depending on how it heals, but as of right now, it doesn't look like it is."
As for the rest of the hand injuries, Tedford was optimistic, especially considering tailback C.J. Anderson was able to practice in full on Tuesday, despite a dislocated left thumb.
"I think we're OK. Actually, we had good news, that CJ didn't have to have his operated on," Tedford said. "Once they put him under, it was able to relax and they were able to put it back in place. He practiced all practice today. He was fine, caught the ball with the cast on a little bit."
With a dearth of bodies at fullback, Cal has had to make do with several rotating replacements, headed by 6-foot, 225-pound tailback Dasarte Yarnway.
"We've been playing a lot of tailbacks there. Dasarte has played a lot of it, and then Kameron Krebs was in there playing some of it, and so some of the tailbacks have been filling in," Tedford said. "That could be a position for [Yarnway], I think, if he gets the feel of it. It's not so much running with the football. It's feeling your way through and knowing how to insert in the blocking angles and keeping good pad level and good base to block and understand a moving target, things like that. It's not just something you turn on. It's something you need some turns at, so he's getting that in spring."
Asked whether Yarnway -- who came in as a four-star tailback -- would be willing to make the switch to fullback, Tedford said, "I think so."
With the departure of last year's two starters at inside linebacker, redshirt freshman Jason Gibson continues to make a push for significant playing time, after coming in as an outside linebacker.
"He's definitely graining ground, there's no doubt about it," Tedford said. "That job is really wide open, and he's very competitive. He made a lot of plays on Saturday. He runs really well and is a very good tackler. I just think he's going to continue to improve, every reps that he gets."