Fall camp blew in with the evening fog in Strawberry Canyon as the Bears took to the field officially for the first time since spring practice ended in April and for Cal fans, this day couldn't come soon enough.
Two of the most-anticipated freshman didn't disappoint with early entrant Zach Kline continuiing the promising development shown in spring practice and Bryce Treggs, who electrified the small crowd with speed, moves and hands reminiscent of, dare I say it, DeSean Jackson, who also wore #1 during is days in Berkeley.
On one play in particular, Treggs put a move on safety Michael Coley, who's back and healthy, leaving Coley in the dust after biting on a fake before Treggs hauled in a pass from Bridgford.
It seems from spring practice and today's fall camp opener that returning starter Zach Maynard and junior Allan Bridgford appear destined to be QB's 1 and 1A. But Kline is giving redshirt frosh and soph quarterbacks Austin Hinder and Kyle Boehm a run for their money to be in the rotation.
Kline seems to have added some muscle in the offseason, which should serve him well. Combined with his arm strength and accuracy, not to mention his competitive fire, Kline has future star written all over him. And in what's to likely become a common scene this season, Kline stayed late to throw with Treggs and several other of his frosh teammates.
Maynard came in with significantly more confidence than he displayed on the field last year, which even carried over to his postgame address to the media, where he confidently greeted the media and and spoke animatedly about this year's prospects.
Maynard threw well on the field today and ran with authority -something I think we'll see more of this year with viable backup options if Maynard gets dinged up.
Bridgford threw well, as well, showing his trademark accuracy on many occasions. He just seems to put the ball right where it should be, anticipating breaks and tracking the defense. Now up to a fit 225, Bridgford's physique is much more suited to the rigors of collegiate football than in his earlier years at Cal.
At receiver, besides Treggs, redshirt frosh Maurice Harris looks like a real weapon. Big and strong, with amazingly long arms, most defenders will be helpless trying to defend jump balls or anything high against the sure-handed Harris.
Another good bet besides Treggs to play right away as a true frosh is 6-3/212 Darius Powe, who already possesses a pro body.
Powe displayed good hands and an ability to find the seam well and much like Harris, has long arms and the ability to go up for balls the defense can't reach.
Other frosh receivers Chris Harper, Kenny Lawler and Cedric Dozier also showed flashes of their athleticism, as well.
Redshirt frosh Joel Willis, who moved to receiver last spring, was back at cornerback today, playing tight defense on several plays. The move makes sense, with the corner position significantly thinner than at receiver, with walkons Stephen Anderson, Bryce McGovern and Jackson Bouza also being viable options.
The offensive line shuttled players in with different combinations throughout practice.
Tackle Freddie Tagaloa is massive and very fit considering his 6-9/340 size. Fellow OT Christian Okafor was out with some type of injury and didn't participate while center Matt Cochran showed the positive effects of a summer in the high performance center, looking distinctly trimmer and more muscular.
Tight end Richard Rodgers looks poised to make a major mark this season and Cal head coach Jeff Tedford continues to talk him up. Fellow tight end Spencer Hagen bulked up to 235 and continues to look more and more a tight end rather than skinny converted wide receiver. Tedford noted that Rodgers and 1 and 2, with Jacob Wark as the #3 TE.
Tedford praised running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, noting that Anderson's much quicker and more fit than he was much of last season. He noted that soph speedster Brenden Bigelow is looking good and in a couple plays, Bigelow showed his old trademark burst. Redshirt frosh Daniel Lasco also ran quickly on a couple carries and looks to be healthy after a bumpy spring.
At fullback, 6-2/242 senior Eric Stevens was a welcome sight after missing last season with a torn acl. Stevens has great fullback size and ran well when he caught a nice pass down the left sideline. A healthy Stevens could really provide a nice boost to the offense with his bruising blocking and solid pass-catching ability.
Frosh Junior Espitia also looks to be an athletic, viable option at fullback and h-back, though his ability to play as a true frosh may hinge on his special teams prowess and his ability to beat out converted linebacker Cameron Krebs, who drew praise from Tedford for his work at fullback since his move.
-Penn State linebacker transfer Khairi Fortt is scheduled to arrive tomorrow but will need medical clearance before seeing the field. Tedford noted that they'll take him along as slowly as necessary as his knee continutes to heal.
-Soph cornerback Stefon McClure was dressed but didn't participate in practice. Tedford noted that they'll take him along slowly in camp, as well, though his knee has been healing closely.
-Tedford had high praise for freshman punter Cole Leininger's booming leg, calling him a special athlete. Leininger will compete with JC transfer Steffan Mos for starting punter.
More to come on the defense...
And now for the defense...
In practices without pads, it's always easier to assess the offense since there's no hitting or contact of much note. With that caveat:
Some DL impressions:
-NT Vei Moala has notably slimmed down and looked quicker on the field.
-New starting DE Mustafa Jalil was all over the field, running down plays and pumping up the defense. He hasn't been mentioned so far as a potential leader but even as a soph, it sure looks like he's ready to step into the role.
-The other new starting DE, Deandre Coleman, looked as fit as I've seen him, as well. With his helmet off, he looks like an NFL end in the prime of his career.
-DT Aaron Tipoti was very active, as well, and looks poised to have a strong senior season.
-Linebackers were not too involved in the plays yesterday but great to see new frosh backers Michael Barton (#8) and Hardy Nickerson, Jr (#47) along with JC transfer Antione Davis (#24), not to mention the return of Cecil Whiteside and Brennan Scarlett, who was in a gold jersey but seemed to be playing at full speed.
-At defensive back, as noted earlier, Joel Willis was back at cornerback -a move that makes sense because of the surplus of young receivers added to the roster. Willis looked smooth in coverage. Soph Cameron Jackson was his normal ball-hawking self, with two ints, including a pick-6.
Among those at practice were former Bear greats Hardy Nickerson and Brian Treggs, both beaming much of practice while watching their sons play. Also in attendance were the parents of Matt Cochran, as well as "little" (6-7/340) brother, Aaron, a Bear target on the offensive line.