Drake bumped, Bryce Treggs danced, and coaches yelled. Familiar sights and sounds filled the first day of Cal football training camp as the team ran through a series of noncontact drills over a two-and-a-half-hour period Monday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Nobody dressed in full pads, and as a result, the action was pretty light. For brief periods of time, offense matched up directly with defense, and occasionally, a defender inadvertently tackled a skill position player. Per NCAA mandates, full contact practice isn’t allowed until the end of the week, and so head coach Sonny Dykes and his cadre of assistants organized a practice full of drills sans tackling.
My eyes were predominantly drawn toward the receiver drills held in the north end zone. For the most part, the receivers operated in completely open space, running routes against the air in front of them. It allowed Trevor Davis, in his first year of eligibility for the Bears after transferring from Hawaii, to showcase a heretofore unseen degree of size, speed and crisp route-running. Davis’ cuts were sharp and crisp; even when tasked with the challenge of eluding a defender, the junior found no problems shaking free of the coverage.
Of course, there needs to be a quarterback throwing to the receiver, and oftentimes the man throwing to Davis was Luke Rubenzer. Starter Jared Goff received his fair share of the reps — and Dykes went out of his way to praise Goff’s work on Monday — but a big surprise was the quantity of reps granted to Rubenzer. The freshman quarterback, generously listed at 6 feet tall, lit up his high school competition but was nowhere near as highly touted a recruit as any of Cal’s recent recruits at the position. Judging from the attention Dykes gave Rubenzer, though, it seemed he might be in consideration for the backup position.
“Yeah, him and Chase (Forrest, another freshman quarterback) will both be in the running (for the backup position),” Dykes said. “If they keep playing like that, it’s going to be tough to count them out.”
In terms of onfield news, though, there wasn’t much else going on. Mustafa Jalil and Chris Adcock dressing and running around was somewhat surprising, but Dykes had already divulged at media days that, effectively, the entire team entered training camp in full health. The most noteworthy aspects of the day came after most of the players had left the field, and Dykes stood in front of a Cal banner, holding forth about the state of the Bears’ roster.
“Couple things first, I’ll address some roster stuff, a couple of roster moves,” Dykes said.
And what followed was a laundry list of updates both familiar and not to those following Cal. Debatably the most noteworthy of these updates was the yearlong suspension of Maximo Espitia for a “violation of team rules” — Dykes was mum on details. Espitia, recruited originally as a tight end, earned a starting linebacker position out of spring camp after Dykes converted him to the defense.
Rumors of a potential Espitia suspension circulated before the start of camp when he was mysteriously left off of the first fall depth chart, but the length of the suspension was a surprise. There’s now an opening at the outside linebacker position; likely candidates for Espitia’s replacement include Michael Barton, Devante Downs and Arthur Wainwright.
Dykes also confirmed Damariay Drew remained suspended indefinitely after a felony assault charge, although Drew has not been convicted. Dykes mentioned a couple of other players of note who will not be playing for the Bears over the coming year — offensive lineman Christian Okafor, who was granted a medical hardship, and wide receiver James Grisom, who left the program for undisclosed reasons, although Dykes made sure to note that Grisom left the program on good terms.