As Cal football took the field for its ninth training camp practice Wednesday, the day began with the routine set of jumping jacks and in unison, more than 100 players counted off from one to 10.
But in the blink of an eye, the players went from working as one sole unit to stretching their legs in a random, sporadic order. This practice showed that high highs can shift to lower lows for the Bears, and they need to get a hold on consistency.
“(There was a) lot of good work overall but just still so much room to grow and so much work we have yet to get done,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox.
During the team blitz drill, the quarterbacks did relatively well, but the defense also left a lot of room for them to scramble and extend plays.
Redshirt sophomore Ross Bowers took the first round of the team blitz drill and on the first play got sacked. On his second play, he got off a throw to sophomore wide receiver Demetris Robertson, who broke a few tackles after the catch and took off in his usual shifty fashion. With his third play, Bowers handed the ball of to a fresh face at running back in freshman Biaggio Ali Walsh.
Typically, senior back Tre Watson would own the first handoff of the day, but Watson was absent for the first few minutes of practice due to academic obligations.
Group live tackle seemed to be where the players had the most fun as they got physical and hard-hitting with one another. The drill was hectic, with coaches running everywhere paired with inaudible chants as coach after coach tried to get his word in. The drill resembled what you would see on Discovery Channel when the lions are fighting one another to gain the title of alpha.
“You gotta be able to run the ball efficiently, effectively and you gotta be able to stop the run on defense,” Wilcox said.
During the red zone “skelly” drill, the quarterbacks didn’t look bad, but it is easy to look good where there is no defensive line gunning for your head. Redshirt junior Chase Forrest had a solid go-around, highlighted by a touchdown pass to Robertson, and two of Bowers’ three passes went incomplete, although they were the faults of receivers freshman Jeremiah Hawkins and redshirt senior Jordan Veasy.
Freshman Chase Garbers had a tough outing, only throwing two incomplete passes that were way off target showing his true freshman colors. Juniors Trey Turner (safety) and Cameron Saffle (outside linebacker) had two opportunities to pull in interceptions, but couldn’t come up with the catch.
In the team’s third down drill, Forrest had a horrendous start with back-to-back incomplete passes but shaped up in his second go around, completing two short passes to redshirt freshman running back Zion Echols and used his legs for a big gain.
Garbers looked better on the next cycle, taking the first snap himself and gaining a solid amount of yards while Bowers followed with a disappointing drive which featured an incomplete pass, a pass to the ground and a sack.
The defense had solid pressure and coverage during this drill, but was fooled by the hard count three times, twice by Bowers and once by Forrest.
Following a few more team drills, all eyes were on redshirt senior placekicker Matt Anderson as he set up for about a 55-yard field goal. The kick was good, and would’ve likely been good at 60 yards and the practice ended on a high note.
“He’s an excellent player,” Wilcox said. “Not only is he a skilled kicker but just his presence on our team, he’s a really important guy for us and he goes about his business the right way.”
The Bears have a long way to go come their season opener September 2, and fall camp will continue through August 19 before regular practices commence.
Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].