You have to have thick skin to play football, both figuratively and literally. Tough skin to handle a frenzy of yelling voices, critiques and cuss words flying at you. Tough skin to handle ferocious hit after ferocious hit.
On day six of Cal football’s fall camp, the Bears donned full pads for the first time — and while the defensive line’s physicality remained rather similar to what it was with half pads, other positions such as safeties and receivers got in on the full-contact fun.
“We’ve got to be able to get calluses,” said defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. “We haven’t been out here long enough to develop calluses, and you do that by just reppin’, going out there and banging against each other.”
Nearing the halfway point of camp, the players have expected wear and tear, both from their bodies taking hits on the field and from other demanding facets of camp such as meetings and watching film. DeRuyter doesn’t accept any excuses, though, and still expects high energy and quality reps from his players.
“I thought we had decent energy today, but it was too inconsistent; we were up and down,” DeRuyter said.
Taking a look at the defensive ends, who handled the offensive line rather well — the defense as a whole outshined the offense on day six — players such as redshirt junior Zeandae Johnson, redshirt junior Lone Toailoa and redshirt sophomore Tevin Paul are names to look for.
Johnson was sidelined with an injury in 2017 but is starting to get back into form and is projected to help the Bears this year. He stands out for both his athleticism and his value in the pass rush. A huge credit to Johnson’s progress is defensive line coach Tony Tuioti, who has been well-received by his players in his second year with the program.
“He’s working with me day to day,” Johnson said about Tuioti. “Everything from meetings to time outside to just walk-throughs by ourselves.”
The defensive line as a group, including nose guards redshirt senior Chris Palmer and redshirt freshman Siulagisipai Fuimaono, knows that every stop on the defense starts with them.
“We have to have that edge; we have to set the tone,” Johnson said.
As the Bears continue camp, they will look to grow some thick skin, but they will still try to have a little fun on the field.
“Football can be a grind, but it’s a kids’ game at the end of the day,” Tuioti said. “I would say that football is a kids’ game that often gets complicated by coaches.”
Six fall camp days down, eight to go, with action resuming tomorrow.
Christie Aguilar is the sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].