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August 13, 2011

Schwartz returns as Bears get a gift from the coaches



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MORE FALL CAMP: First Week Wrap | Bodies by Blasquez

BERKELEY -- 'Twas the eighth day of camp, and all through the canyon, not a player was bleeding, except for Matt Summers-Gavin. The watermelon slices were hung by the entrance with wait watermelon?

Yes, that's right. watermelon. After an early morning practice, the California football team was able to take the rest of the day off on what was supposed to be the first double-day session of fall camp. Instead of a second practice in full pads, the Bears tucked into several chaffing dishes of watermelon slices - some, like Mitchell Schwartz, taking more than his fair share (he is a growing boy, after all) -- before going out to a team viewing of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

"They did great work today," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "They were very physical, very energetic. It was real good. They came out charged, ready to go right from first period. It was an energetic day, very enthusiastic."

At least one player was a little disappointed.

"To be honest with you, I wish we were having another practice," smiled true freshman safety Avery Walls.

Despite being banged up, both Walls and recruiting classmate Mustafa Jalil each expressed some desire to keep going, but they won't be looking a gift horse in the mouth. More time to rest means more time to heal, and, at least on Saturday, it appeared that Cal had done just that.

Schwartz was back in the pink, practicing in full with the offensive line for the first time this camp.

"Schwartz was back, and he was a full-go today," Tedford said.

Redshirt freshman Alejandro Crosthwaite was back on limited duty as he recovers from a stinger suffered several days ago, and wore a yellow jersey.

The most remarkable recovery was that of true freshman outside linebacker Jason Gibson, who returned to full practice in pads despite having been sidelined with a high ankle sprain less than a week ago.

"I didn't notice him, and I don't know how many reps he got today, but he's back, so that's good to see," Tedford said. "I thought high ankle sprains are usually longer. The way he was describing it, I thought it'd be longer."

Junior tight end Spencer Ladner was not in full pads with the rest of the team, but was doing some strength and flexibility work on his injured left knee off to the side whilst wearing a helmet.

"Ladner's a ways off," Tedford said. Ladner tore his meniscus back during spring camp.

Freshman tight end Richard Rodgers showed how quick a learner he is during passing drills with the quarterbacks, catching early balls low and at his hip before heeding tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk's 'high hands, late hands' motto and snatching each of his next catches in up at eye level with late hand movement.

During those drills, redshirt freshman Austin Hinder threw crisp passes with good velocity, though at this point, Tedford said that the competition for the second and third string spots behind starter Zach Maynard is between sophomore Allan Bridgford and senior Brock Mansion.

"I want the best guy prepared to play," Tedford said of the No. 2 slot. "The best guy, prepared to play, who creates quality depth and is efficient there. That's all that has to do with it."

During early skeleton work, Maynard showed an affinity for rolling left and throwing on the run, particularly when his brother Keenan Allen was open.

On the other side of the field, freshman cornerback Stefan McClure -- who has been taking kick return reps, as well - showed some of the best change of direction and smoothest acceleration among the defensive backs.

In the back corner of Witter Rugby Field, defensive tackle Viliami Moala was typically strong, flashing feet that would be considered quick for a considerably less-massive individual than the stout freshman.

Aaron Tipoti is still on the shelf with post-concussion syndrome, opening up some more reps for Moala.

"With those things, you never know," Tedford said. "You check them every day, they have to come in symptom-free, as soon as they're symptom-free for 24 hours, you impact test them, then you give them 24 hours and if there's no symptoms, then they can go. He's not symptom-free yet."

Freshman defender Todd Barr showed off quick, violent hands during striking drills.

Pressed on which unit in particular had impressed him, Tedford preferred not to get too specific.

"It's so wide and there are so many things going on," Tedford said. "Not any particular one. Some are good, some are bad, just different plays. This play's good, that' plays bad. It's all a learning process. There's no one group that stood out."

During passing drills early in practice, freshman wide out Maurice Harris stuck out, making a nifty one-handed grab over his outside shoulder.

"He's a young guy who's picking it up nicely," Tedford said. "He's not perfect, by any means, but he's picking it up nicely, making some nice catches. He has very, very good hands, he's a big receiver, good body control, so he's done a nice job."

Tedford was a bit displeased with the performances of the running backs, who, as Tedford spoke to the media, were doing punitive calisthenics at the hand of coach Ron Gould.

"We need to improve," Tedford said. "Too many balls on the ground today. Defense was popping, separating the backs from the balls a couple times, and we can't have that. Those young backs who are just getting in there, ball security is the No. 1 thing, and that's the thing that happens with every young back. Every young back gets whacked a few times, the ball comes out until they learn how important that is. You see them right now? They're paying the price for that."

There were at least a few bright spots in the backfield, though, including C.J. Anderson.

"CJ made a nice run," Tedford said. "CJ bounced out to the left and ran down the sideline for about 60 yards. Then, the very next play, fumbled the ball, so that cancelled that one out."

Tedford said that Anderson is "slowly," running himself into shape.

The odds-on favorite to take hold of the No. 2 slot behind starter Isi Sofele is junior Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, who has dropped the excess weight that held him down during the spring to emerge as a strong, evasive runner through the first week of fall camp.

"Covaughn has had a real nice camp," Tedford said. "Covaughn came back in shape, ready to go. We had a goal-line play the other day where it was one-on-one with him and Mychal Kendricks, and he ran right through him, got his pads down. That's been the thing about Covaughn, making sure he's physical enough, and he put his pads down and did a great job. I think right now, he'd be the second guy, and then the third guy is still up for grabs."

After a personnel meeting on Sunday, reps at each position will be adjusted, with Sofele likely getting fewer snaps just so the staff can see what the other, younger backs can do.

"We'll try to back off of him a little bit and let the other guys go," Tedford said. "If the one's and two's are entrenched at that point, or if we feel really good about it, then we'll try and get the three, four and five guy a lot more reps to try to identify who's the third, fourth guys are. Covaughn's not entrenched quite yet."

Tedford said that Brendan Bigelow "didn't do much," on Saturday, and that ideally, Sofele would get between 18-20 reps per game in the fall.



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