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October 3, 2011

Cal closes practice on Monday

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BERKELEY -- Under blue skies Monday morning, the California football team practiced under a veil of secrecy. Normally the Bears allow media into Witter Rugby Field for the first 20 minutes of practice, but today, head coach Jeff Tedford said, "We just wanted to have a closed practice."

"We felt like there was a need to. If I told you, then why would we need to?" Tedford said.

When asked if Cal was perhaps testing out some new gear -- like the long-rumored white helmets -- Tedford was coy, smirking, "Don't know."

Watchful eyes or no, the Bears got ready for the damp conditions that await them in Eugene, Ore., by practicing with not only the usual crowd noise, but wet footballs, as well.

"It didn't rain this morning. It was clear blue this morning, but we actually put wet balls down, things like that, get some wet ball mechanics," Tedford said.

The Cal head coach also said that redshirt freshman defensive back Michael Coley was recovered from his injured foot, and that both he and true freshman cornerback Stefan McClure would see time on defense on Thursday.

Adding McClure to the mix is a likely concession to the speed of the Oregon offense, and to the fact that the Bears' pass defense has been sub-par so far this season.

"I think to have him play this week will keep our depth and keep fresh and things like that, it's a big part of it," Tedford said. "Now with the cast off his hand finally, he'll see some more action this week."

While there will be some youth on the defensive side of the ball unaccustomed to the hostile environs of Autzen Stadium, Tedford has all the faith in the world that junior quarterback Zach Maynard is well-equipped to handle the prodigious decibels.

"I think everyone handled -- for the most part -- handled the noise pretty well at Colorado and at Washington," Tedford said. "Now, I know Autzen is a step above that as far as the noise level is concerned, but if it was your first game on the road and you were going to Autzen, then you'd probably be a little anxious about how your quarterback was going to handle it, and everyone else, but we've been practicing with it, and we've played in it a couple times. Not to say it's not going to be an issue, because it is, for everyone. There's just no way around it. All you can do is practice for it and try to manage it the best you can, and I've been pleased with the last couple road games, with the noise, at how we've been able to handle it."

The Bears offense will have to be on its game, grinding out long drives and keeping the up-tempo Ducks attack off the field, because, as Tedford said, "They're so explosive."

"Controlling the football and moving the chains and things like that are things that you have to do to be successful as a whole, as a team, so offensively, to be successful, you have to move the chains, make first downs, not turn the football over and in turn -- what goes hand-in-hand with that -- is that the offense is on the field and their offense isn't," Tedford said. "It's part of the whole thing. We have to be successful offensively, and if we're successful offensively, then their offense isn't on the field as much."

Servicing that ambition will be junior tailback C.J. Anderson, who could help churn out tough yards and help Cal improve its sixth-in-the-conference 44.1 percent success rate on third downs. That, though, will ultimately be decided by running backs coach and run game coordinator Ron Gould.

"It's coach Gould. He kind of goes by what's being called, how the backs feel, what's happening, but C.J.'s had a good week of practice," Tedford said. "I'm pleasantly pleased with how he's [done] with not having spring football here, and just coming in fall camp. I'm pleasantly pleased with what he knows and understands and the things that he's doing, because it's a lot to know. He's really done a nice job in a short amount of time, just since camp."

That being said, Tedford remarked that Anderson is still largely in the learning stage at this point.

"I think a little bit, but I think the system, he has under control," Tedford said. "From week to week, if things change, if different looks occur or whatever, then he needs to be coached up on it, obviously, because you get different fronts and different issues of certain things, so we need to coach him up on that, but he's a very fast study. He's a very good learner."

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