Fall camp day 10: Cal football puts focus back on fundamentals

Cheyenne Tex/Staff

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With the first full-contact scrimmage of camp set to take place Tuesday, Cal football got back to the basics at its fall camp practice Monday. It was similar to a midseason Friday practice in that there was very little contact, with the team just wearing shells, and the offense and defense spent most of the morning on opposite sides of the field.

“We’re trying to teach all of our concepts in a generic sense,” said defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. “Once we get into our first (game) week, then we’ll start tweaking roles. We’ll throw some of the menu out and focus on the calls we’re bringing in that game.”

Offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin spent time simulating offensive plays with defenders, having his receivers work on their timing by running routes in slow motion. On the other side of the field, DeRuyter did the same, having some of his younger defenders put on bright-colored helmet skins to act as receivers. The defense’s depth has shone throughout camp, as players such as Deon White and Ben Hawk Schrider have showcased their versatility.

“When teams start breaking us down, we have a lot of defense, and we line guys up at different spots. I think it can confuse an offense,” DeRuyter said.

Special teams also got some action, as there were periods focused on kickoff simulation, including a drill in which gunners would try to get past blockers to simulate running down the field to tackle a returner.

There was a brief 11-on-11 drill, in which quarterbacks Chase Garbers and Devon Modster were on the same side of the field against the first-team defense while backup quarterbacks battled the second-stringers on the other 35-yard line. The competition to be the lead signal-caller did not see any significant shifts, as both Garbers and Modster did fine finding receivers on drag and out routes, but they struggled to complete any passes of more than a few yards against the stingy defense.

Even though the defense is looking just as sharp as it did last season, the team is well aware that its prior success means nothing for its goals for this fall.

“At the end of the day, our job right now in camp is to improve every day. There’s nothing that an article, a pat on the back or an opinion can do to save us on Saturday. We can’t eat off last year’s plate. Nobody cares what we did last year. There’s a lot of teams out there that are ready to take us out,” said defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander.

Tuesday could quite possibly be the most telling day of camp thus far, as it will be the first glimpse of true 11-on-11 action. The scrimmage will include both full drives and situational football, and tackles will be made to completion, which has not yet been done this fall in live drills.

“We’ve got to manufacture some adversity, because football’s about grit, and we’ve got to learn to fight through that phase where you start to think, ‘Do I really want to be out here?’ ” DeRuyter said.

The offense will be looking for some names to emerge as potential starters, while the defense will be bolstering its depth heading into the season.

“I want to see our guys compete. We want to see who can finish that play,” DeRuyter said.

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