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Cal Football Fall Practice: Fast Track Memorial Stadium

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The stadium looks all but done and ready to go. The pictures have it set and built and almost completed. All we're waiting for now is Opening Day, just over two weeks away.

Previous fall practice stories: Kodiak's camp preview | 8/15 | 8/14 | 8/13 | 8/10 & 8/11 | 8/9 | 8/8 | 8/7 | 8/6 | 8/5 | 8/4

But it still didn't feel totally real. It still felt like something was missing from the equation. It felt like we needed actual Bears on the field to make this Bear Territory again.

Ah, now it feels real!

First let's talk about Memorial Stadium, which is looking like it's going to be a flying field. Who wants some track meet, high-scoring affairs? This field probably offers the perfect venue for them.

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For those wondering about the turf.

Matrix® Turf, exclusively manufactured by Hellas Sports Construction, is being installed this month and is among the final renovations being done to California Memorial Stadium. The innovative artificial turf system will support the Golden Bears as they host Nevada in their season-opener on Saturday, September 1. In addition to football, various other teams on a year-round basis may utilize the synthetic turf.

"[Hellas is] set to install the best-in-class Matrix® Turf system, which will serve as an exceptional football field for Cal and the visiting teams to Memorial Stadium," commented Reed J. Seaton, President of Hellas Sports Construction.

Underneath the new artificial turf surface, Hellas also prepared the sub-base, drainage and installed their exclusive CUSHDRAIN™ to enhance the playability and extend the lifespan of the field.

This is pretty exciting after spending a year slogging through AT&T, which is a nice setting but a tough football field. All year we were seeing running backs slip, wide receivers having trouble cutting, punters and kickers struggle with their footing, etc. Considering how important timing and precision are in the Tedford offense, you had to figure that threw off some of the execution a bit (and it wasn't just us; every opponent, even USC, had their fair share of struggles dealing with the AT&T field).

It has to be real exciting for the players to get back on a state-of-the-art field and feel like they're walking on air. If Cal's players are in great condition and prove to be one step ahead of the competition, we could see a return to the big play offense that terrorized the conference from 2004 to 2008. With athletes like Bigelow, Sofele, Anderson, Allen, Rodgers, Harris and Treggs, there could be a lot of promising moments.

A fast track also figures to be very appetizing in recruiting. Can you imagine the best skill players around the country testing out that new field when they come on their visits?

There's always a drawback of course, and that probably comes with regards to how our more athletic opponents fare. Particularly, I wonder how we'll fare against spread-run teams like Oregon or Washington (or even Nevada the first game of the season), teams that prominently feature athletes in space. Will we struggle to keep up with the De'Anthony Thomas's of the world? Will athletic defenses like USC also be able to blitz faster and quicker and overwhelm our offensive line with more ease?

It's hard to say. But I can't wait to see it live. The first comments by the players were very telling.

"I feel like Usain Bolt out here," Sofele smiled. "Faster. I feel fast out here. Our wide receivers, everybody else, all the backfield guys, we're looking faster out here. It just feels good. It just feels good to be back."

"I like this turf," cornerback Steve Williams said after planting and cutting on the surface. "It's nice and soft. My cleats get a nice grip. I didn't have a problem adjusting to it. I think we have one of the best turfs now in the Pac-12."

Other notes.

One of the new features is the addition of state-of-the art video and ribbon boards around stadium. Most prominent will be two video boards hung from the historic north and south scoreboard structures. Each will provide about 90 percent more video area than the single Bear Vision board in the old stadium.

There was complaining about the red stripe on the initial tweet above, but the boards are just being color balanced before the season starts so there's less of a chance that things malfunction.

For those curious at what the boards look like in action, click the image below or click here. (thanks to oursdor of Bear Insider for putting this together).


I'd guess there would be some video ads on both the digital boards (annoying), but also scoreboard updates (if Cal football deems it prudent) and far-better quality video replays. Some good stuff, some bad stuff, but all necessary to stay up and at it in the competitive world of Pac-12 football.

This is what Twitter is meant for. It's not as much meant for contacting recruits and telling them to come to your school. (DON'T DO IT). Give Jason some love Bears fans!

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