Monday blues (and gold): Quarterback battle, defense highlight day 9 of Cal football fall camp

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Evan Rambo, a redshirt sophomore safety for Cal football, is the epitome of resilience. After suffering two injuries, including an ACL tear, Rambo is back in the mix with Cal’s secondary — and looking back isn’t an option.

“The worst thing to say is, ‘I got it,’ ” Rambo said. “That’s when you get complacent, and that’s when you get beat.”

Rambo’s presence at camp alone is reflective of what it takes to earn every minute of playing time along with every yard gained, a common theme for the team throughout the summer.

Head coach Justin Wilcox has stressed the importance of being able to “build calluses,” and on day nine of Cal football’s fall camp, the Bears managed to avoid a case of Monday blues and used the day’s work on the field to keep developing tougher skin.

After a day off on Sunday — which included a teamwide bowling outing — the players practiced in half pads, and though it was a shorter practice, Wilcox was pleased with the quality of the training.

“We’re in the second week … of training camp, and this is where teams can separate themselves,” Wilcox said.

Throughout the day, the defense raked in a multitude of interceptions, one apiece from redshirt freshman outside linebacker Ben Moos, junior inside linebacker Evan Weaver and redshirt junior safeties Ashtyn Davis and Trey Turner III.

The secondary — led by defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander — has a running interception competition throughout camp, so both Davis and Turner got to add 1 to their totals. But that clearly isn’t the only competition alive in the secondary’s band of personalities. During Rambo’s interview, redshirt senior tight end Jake Ashton joined the media to ask the hard-hitting question of who had the best facial hair among the defensive backs.

The answer was easy. Alexander, of course. OK, back to football.

The two front-runners in the quarterback competition, redshirt junior Ross Bowers and redshirt sophomore Brandon McIlwain, each displayed vulnerability with two picks on the day. Wilcox, however, praised Bowers for his sharp, timely throws and McIlwain for his ability to move the chains with his feet.

While neither quarterback had their best outings of camp on Monday, there is still a generous amount of time before the season starts for them to fine-tune the notes of their game. Although certain position battles remain confined to particular groups, there’s one thing that fortunately extends beyond the depth chart — team camaraderie.

The team’s offensive line has displayed its camaraderie on the outside, sporting Hawaiian shirts and Crocs throughout the summer and into camp. But redshirt sophomore offensive guard Valentino Daltoso stressed the importance of using this time to strengthen relationships on and off the field.

“A lot of time in camp, you’re with the same guys every single day, so as an O-line group, we might be really tight, but it’s good to hang out with some DBs and some other guys on the team,” Daltoso said.

Nine fall camp days down, five to go, with action resuming tomorrow. Perhaps more Hawaiian shirts and bowling outings are in the works for the near future, too.

Josh Yuen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020.
Christie Aguilar is the sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].