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September 22, 2011

Cal readies to travel north



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Read up on Cal's special teams troubles HERE.

BERKELEY -- California head coach Jeff Tedford was tight-lipped on most topics after practice on Thursday, particularly when it came to the troublesome shotgun snaps that have been a point of emphasis this week as the Bears prepare to travel to Washington.

"Good. What do you want me to say? Good," Tedford said. "We did a bunch of shotgun snaps this week, they were good. Not quite perfect yet, but you'd like for every one to be right there, every time, but some are off to the side a little bit. For the most part, they're no different than any other shotgun snap team thing. Every now and then there's one that's off-center."

As to any changes in the two-deep going into Saturday's Pac-12 opener?

"It's the same," Tedford said. "No changes."

No changes, that is, until there are. Given that young outside linebackers Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside played for much of last Saturday's contest against Presbyterian, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is planning on increasing their time, but still said that Ryan Davis and Dan Camporeale are the starters.

"Well, our package is pretty expansive, so when you talk about the difference between our base and our sub groups, we're trying to eliminate more of the mental things for them, where they can kind of focus on one thing," Pendergast said. "We want them to grow into being first, second and third down players -- not that they can't do that now, but I'm trying to get them to master the harder part of the package first, and I think as the season progresses forward, you'll see those guys playing more and more."

The only other changes will be the absence of redshirt freshman safety Michael Coley, who will be replaced with Alex Logan as the backup safety, while Josh Hill will be the starting nickel back.

However, Pendergast said, true freshman Stefan McClure could see time in nickel packages.

"We will play Stefan McClure in there some, as well," Pendergast said. "We like a lot of things that Stef's doing, so I want to try to find ways to get him on the field. I think he's a good football player."

Other true freshmen who will see increased playing time this weekend will be defensive linemen Viliami Moala and Mustafa Jalil.

"Very much pleased with his development and he's been earning more reps, week by week, so he's coming along really well," defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi said of Moala. "He really worked on some stance adjustments this week, and really just focused on striking on the man he's in line to and kind of working a lot of effort toward technique, instead of just being a big, strong body in the gap. He's trying to take his game to the next level, with now, really, honing down on his technique."

As for Jalil, the true freshman has overtaken redshirt freshman defensive end Gabe King, who Lupoi says continues to make progress, while giving a small insight into why the big man out of North Carolina has yet to see much playing time.

"He's been progressing, as well, week by week. That's the best thing about that our guys know, up front, it's an extremely competitive environment," Lupoi said. "It's their goal to get on the field every week. As they show improvement both in the technical aspects, as well as knowing their playbook, they'll have the ability to gain more reps on game day. It will be to-be-determined, but I'm excited about Gabe's future here and this year, and by no means is it shut down that he won't be playing this season. He's on our travel squad and competing and trying to get on the field."

That mentality has permeated all of Lupoi's charges, particularly with so many youngsters vying for playing time behind Aaron Tipoti, Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu.

"Our guys know that if there's any one day that you come to work here and you take a day off or sleep through a workout, you'll get passed up literally that day," Lupoi said. "Guys are starving here to compete and get on the field. That's the environment that we promote here, where you don't have the luxury of even thinking about not coming with the right attitude to practice, because you'll get passed up that day."

Tedford said that Tipoti - who missed time last week due to injury - will play on Saturday, but Lupoi said that how much he plays will be a game-time determination.

Another game-time decision will be redshirt freshman outside linebacker David Wilkerson, who has been battling through ankle issues.

"He should play, but it just depends on what they give us," Pendergast said, when asked if Wilkerson would start. "It all depends on the packages, but I'm anticipating that he'll play. Wilk's been plagued by an ankle a little bit, so hopefully we'll get him back to full speed this week. That group of guys kind of rotates, when you talk about Ryan Davis, Camp, Wilkerson, Whiteside and McCain, those are really our guys that we're rolling in."

Notebook -- Tedford said that true freshman Avery Sebastian -- held out of last week's game due to injury - will play on Saturday, while recruiting classmate Maurice Harris will also dress for the game.

-- The decisions on whether or not to redshirt certain freshmen have already been made, but there are some - like Harris - who are still on the bubble and bear further observation.

"The list that is probably shorter is the guys who are still on the bubble. There are certain guys that we continue to have working with us in our offensive and defensive schemes. Maurice Harris is one. He hasn't played yet, but he's with us every day, doing stuff, he's one of them," Tedford said. "Darren Ervin is another one that's kind of, now that he's back, we'll see how everything plays out over the year. There's guys like that, that haven't played yet, but are continuing to practice our stuff and not scout team stuff."

-- Ervin returned to practice on Tuesday after missing several weeks with a deep quad tear, but will not travel this week.

-- Special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk said that senior placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio is in no danger of losing his job, and that Brendan Bigelow and Coleman Edmond will be the primary kick returners for the foreseeable future.


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