With a new season approaching, the Cal football team kicked off fall camp on Saturday at a brand-new location. Having traveled all around the Bay Area for spring practices, the Bears finally got to work at their practice facility at Witter Rugby Field.
Though it’s hard to take away anything from the first day of practice — the opening session was helmets-only — coach Jeff Tedford was very pleased with the team’s overall fitness heading into fall.
“All the guys came to camp in really good shape,” Tedford said. “I thought they worked really well. A lot of them look great. They had a really good summer.”
Tedford highlighted nose tackle Aaron Tipoti, offensive lineman Geoffrey Gibson and running back Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson as players who have gotten into good shape during the offseason. He noted that Deboskie-Johnson checked into camp at a trimmed-down 211 pounds after being overweight throughout the spring.
“He should be able to perform better given that his weight’s down, Tedford said. “I think that put stress on his knee and ankles (during spring) … He looks better now.”
Bigelow bouncing back
Freshman running back Brendan Bigelow had good reason to be excited on Saturday afternoon. Not only did the Fresno, Calif. native eagerly field questions from reporters at Witter, but — more importantly — he was finally on a football field for the first time in a year and a half.
A heralded four-star recruit, Bigelow underwent a pair of ACL surgeries in high school and had to miss his entire senior season. Sporting a right knee brace in practice, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound back said he now feels “completely healthy”. Bigelow, who looks to be in the mix at running back behind Isi Sofele, practiced “a lot of change of direction” during camp drills — adding that he actually “feels faster” now than he did pre-injury.
The coaches noticed, too.
“He looked good, looked really good,” Tedford said of Bigelow. “He didn’t do a lot of team stuff, but in drill work we’ve been watching him really close and he looked very smooth.”
Saturday featured a first look at some other incoming freshman.
Wideout Maurice Harris participated in drills and certainly looks the part of a big receiving target at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. Nose tackle Viliami Moala is an absolutely imposing figure at about 6-foot-2, 350 pounds — and that’s after having dropped 20 pounds. Tedford’s early assessment was straightforward: “He’s a just a thick person.”
Meanwhile, Tedford said that defensive lineman Brennan Scarlett “stood out as a guy who looks like he’s physically ready to play.”
— Mitchell Schwartz dressed for camp, but took things lightly due to a nagging hamstring. Tyler Rigsbee took first team snaps at left tackle in Schwartz’s place during drills.
— Tight end Spencer Ladner was in street clothes as he recovers from a knee injury. The redshirt junior is expected back in about a week. Fellow tight end Jarrett Sparks was not present on Saturday; he is currently academically ineligible and not with the team.
— Redshirt freshman receiver Kaelin Clay “tweaked his knee a tad” during practice, Tedford said. The extent of that injury is unknown and will be examined.
— Freshman defensive back Jordan Morgan will be grayshirting this semester.
— Sophomore linebacker Nick Forbes did not practice on Saturday; he is recovering from summer ankle surgery.