Cal football closes fall camp, turns to season opener

Cheyenne Tex/Staff

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Game day is nigh, the stakes are high, and the last few days of camp have flown by.

With only 10 days left until the Bears’ season opener, Cal is tying up loose ends. The focus, though, is on the future, and many are still waiting to see what this season has in store for the program.

After a closed practice the day before, Monday saw Cal take to the field wearing just shells, as the coaches wanted a light, technical practice in preparation for the scrimmage. The team worked on traditional individual position drills, as well as kickoffs and onside kick recoveries, before moving to some 11-on-11 work. One of the standouts was sophomore wide receiver Nikko Remigio, who was often seen in pre-snap motions because of his unique blend of physicality and agility.

“There’s a lot of things he can do that a defense has to be aware of,” said offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin of Remigio’s unique ability to carry the ball, return punts and make catches anywhere on the field.

While uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball has turned many games on the schedule into question marks, Cal enters this season as a dark horse. Other teams — Cal included — have yet to see the gameday potential of an entourage of talent-laden newcomers. True freshman wide receiver Makai Polk has already proven himself to be a legitimate threat, holding his own against Cal’s bigger cornerbacks, such as redshirt freshman Chigozie Anusiem, and getting plenty of reps in with the first and second teams.

“I feel like we’re a little hungrier than everybody else, being that we have a little chip on our shoulder,” Polk said of the Bears offense. “People don’t really look at Cal as the top dog anymore, but we’re coming, so I feel like we have a little bit more gumption.”

Several other receivers made their marks during Tuesday’s scrimmage, which featured work from the second and third units after a few drives led by likely starting quarterback Chase Garbers. One such player was redshirt junior Kekoa Crawford, a transfer from Michigan who caught a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Spencer Brasch on a fourth down. Redshirt freshman tight end McCallan Castles also flashed his catching ability, grabbing a deep touchdown from Brasch despite dropping a perfectly thrown ball in the endzone from Garbers earlier in the day.

The running game was sparked by sophomore Christopher Brown Jr., who had a pair of touchdowns during the scrimmage’s goal line drills. Brown would peak later that day, though, breaking loose on an outside run for nearly 70 yards from inside the offense’s own 5-yard line.

“He can run it, he can catch the ball, and he can protect,” said head coach Justin Wilcox, who sees Brown Jr. as a potential three-down back. “We’re really eager to go see him do it on Saturdays.”

On the other side of the ball, Ben Hawk Schrider, outside linebacker and senior transfer from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has also found a home. Agile, built and experienced, Schrider seems to be a perfect addition to one of the strongest defenses in the country. Hailing from Berkeley, Schrider got plenty of quality reps in Tuesday’s scrimmage and is acclimating well to the program and team.

“When we step on the field, we want to be the best out there,” Schrider said.. “I think the defense is very far ahead and knows the schemes very well, so, you know, as a newcomer, that puts a little pressure on me to make sure I’m getting plays right.”

With 2019 fall camp officially in the books, all eyes will turn toward UC Davis, who will visit California Memorial Stadium for the season opener Aug. 31. It’s a safe bet to say the players are ready for kickoff in front of the blue and gold faithful.

“Guys get tired of hitting the same colored jerseys all the time,” said defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. “They’re ready to see who we really are this year.”

Shailin Singh covers football. Contact him at [email protected].