Although the incomparable Berkelium97 has been keeping us well-updated with links to all the pertinent practice reports in his Golden Nuggets (8/7, 8/9, 8/11), let's take a closer look at some of the highlights from the first week of camp:
1) All incoming freshmen did summer bridge and are qualified for camp.
Thoughts: It has to be a good thing that the freshmen were able to be at Cal for an entire month to get more acclimated to the school, even if they didn't have time to workout with their teammates. With such a highly touted class, it's really nice to hear that there are no eligibility issues like with Cecil Whiteside last year. Although part of me initially wondered why the Cal academic advisors weren't more on top these issues, some digging revealed that the problem was caused by the NCAA Clearinghouse; they have so much ambiguity and grey areas built into their rules package that you don't know for certain if players will qualify until you submit your paperwork.
2) JC Transfer RB CJ Anderson finished his summer classes and qualified to report for camp.
Thoughts: A crowded backfield competition just got more crowded. But because it was and still is unknown whether Deboskie-Johnson, Yarnway, and Briggs would be fully recovered from injury, it was a good move to bring in Anderson. I really wish that he would have been eligible for spring ball. (cue NCAA Clearinghouse rant, part deux) Although the coaching staff say that they expect him to contribute immediately, it'll be an uphill climb to learn the playbook and to take snaps away from players who are more familiar with Tedford's offense.
3) Per Okanes, the media will only be allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice. The first three practices, however, will be entirely open to the media.
Thoughts: Because the first 20 minutes of practice are just drills and warm-ups, that means that no one is going to see actual plays until the season opener. In terms of covering the team, that's tough. But as a fan, I'm completely okay with it. This is a pivotal year - we don't know exactly what Coach Tedford is doing with the offense and I'd like to keep opposing teams in the dark as long as possible. I'm sure there will be grumbling about his paranoia, or how this somehow means he's not reaching out to the fans and alumni. You know what? I'd rather that we have a team that wins.
4) Mitchell Schwartz has not practiced while nursing a sore hamstring.
Thoughts: Schwartz is arguably the guy who we can least afford to have hurt. Although the backups at tackle got a lot of time during spring, it was with mixed results. I'm glad that they're being cautious with him. With Schwartz's experience, missing some time in camp probably won't be too big a deal. Considering that he's been the iron man of the Oline (38 consecutive starts), we'll keep our fingers crossed that he'll be good to go. Worry closet: with Schwartz out, DeMartinis retiring, and Tyler Rigsbee's injury(leg contusion), we're down to our third-string tackle, Bill Tyndall...and this is just the first week of camp.
5) Schwartz is staying at left tackle and MSG will play right tackle.
Thoughts: In Coach M we trust? We're going to count on an injury-prone and inconsistent (although talented) player in a new position to protect the quarterback's blindside. Plans in the spring were to put Schwartz on the backside and MSG on the playside. However, it sounds like plans have changed. This does have the advantage of keeping Schwartz/Schwenke together on the left side. Instead of having several guys learning new positions, only MSG needs to learn new assignments and footwork. It's possible that Schwartz's injury has forced this change out of necessity.
5) Sean Cattouse missed some time due to a sore hamstring, but was able to return to practice.
Thoughts: This was initially a little more concerning because Cattouse has switched to Conte's position and may be charge of lining up the secondary. He was often out of position last year by being overly aggressive, so the more snaps he can get in camp the better. Fortunately, it doesn't appear to have been serious.
6) Kaelin Clay had meniscus surgery and will be out approximately 3 weeks.
Thoughts: This is unfortunate because Clay had a great spring and was in position to challenge for the #3 WR slot. He was going to be the designated speedster who could stretch the defense and open things up for the other guys. By missing all of fall camp, Clay may take a while to work himself back into the rotation.
7) TE Jarrett Sparks is academically ineligible and will greyshirt.
Thoughts: This is a significant loss for an already-depleted position. Although Ladner comes back in a week, it's unknown whether he'll be at full strength. That leaves just Anthony Miller as the only player with any real experience. We'll have to rely on youngsters Jacob Wark, Richard Rogers, and converted WR Spencer Hagan. If no one steps up as a consistent performer, we might be forced to abandon certain formations which require multiple tight ends.
8) Starting fullback Eric Stevens went down with a possibly serious knee injury.
Thoughts: Big loss here if this turns out to be a ligament instead of a sprain. Although we rotated Stevens, Kapp, and Tyndall at the fullback position last year, Stevens emerged as the most physical and athletic of the three. Besides steadily improving his blocking throughout the year, he also displayed good hands out of the backfield as well as decent speed.
*Update* Stevens tore his ACL and is out for the season. Best wishes to him for a full and speedy recovery.
Thoughts: As exciting as it is to keep hearing about the new guys, we have to remember that even the most talented true frosh usually have a rude welcome to conference play. These guys haven't seen Oregon's zone read, 'furd's complex array of motions and formations, or SC's mis-direction game. When I think about youth + inexperience + an aggressive scheme, I see the potential for a lot of big plays...both for and against. Still, it's sure nice to hear that there's plenty of talent to coach up.
10) It appears that Fan Appreciation Day will be held on August 27th, 12:15pm, at Underhill Field.
Thoughts: CGB Pre-season party?