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Cal football fall camp 2014: August 10th practice report

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In which the defense completely and utterly dominates practice.

"Dominate third down!" - actual Marc Tommerdahl quote.
"Dominate third down!" - actual Marc Tommerdahl quote.

After two consecutive days of full contact, the Bears trotted out in just shells on Sunday, perhaps leaving their offense back in the locker room with their thigh pads.

Okay, that's a bit of a joke, but the fact that the defense won the day certainly wasn't.

Let's get into it.

7-on-7

The formal practice always begins with special teams in some way or another, then positional stuff, some WR/DB, OL/DL stuff, then 7-on-7. I'm opening up with a soft narrative about what happened here because it's important to note how things changed Sunday once a pass rush was introduced.

  • Before we get into what this section is really about, the higher level of defensive back play was noticeable early on, as Quentin Tartabull, AJ Greathouse, and Trey Cheek all had passes defensed during the WR/DB one-on-ones. For those of you who are unfamiliar, you must understand that this drill is very much made in favor of the offense, seeing as the quarterback and receiver both know what route will be run, and there is no pass rush to affect accuracy, making it very difficult for DBs to win. This was a sign of things to come on Sunday, apparently.
  • Jared Goff took first reps, and is pretty much money during this segment. By our count, he was 7 of 9 with touchdowns to Harper -- who split the safeties and scored easily -- Davis, and Harris during his time there. CalBears.com has the touchdowns going to Harper, Treggs, and Cameron Stevens, but you get the idea. He did well.
  • Backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer threw the ball sharply in the early going, but as soon as I noted it, the dreaded Nam Le Curse apparently struck him, because he immediately overthrew the running back in the flat during routes on air, then followed it up with a largely mistake-filled afternoon. There's still some work to do for the freshman when he's trying to throw into the deeper ranges -- just like on Saturday, a go route of his held up too long, allowing for Cedric Dozier to leap back and bat it down. He went 2 of 5 for no scores during the first third down period, per Eugene.

3rd-down drills

This is usually when the team appears in 11-on-11 fashion for the first time during practice -- they'll set the ball X number of yards away and attempt to convert, usually with each quarterback taking four reps. This was also when the tone started to shift a bit.

  • There was a lot more package blitzing done today, with Coach Kaufman sending extra pressure pretty regularly from a good number of angles, so it wasn't just one guy getting after it. Since it was the first time the quarterbacks faced heat during camp, this is undoubtedly part of what caused the offense to stall a bit.
  • The other factor involved absence -- at least when it came to Goff's time under center. Steven Moore was held out again, with Brian Farley operating in his stead, and if today was any indication, we're going to be in real trouble if he misses extended time during the year. Michael Barton and Jalen Jefferson set the tone early by finding their way into the backfield against Goff in this period, ruining several of his reps because the sophomore had a linebacker in his face. Jefferson had a sack, specifically, part of what would be a huge day on his part.
  • Rubenzer's 3rd down attempts weren't remarkably better, as he was picked off by Trey Cheek on kind of a floating pass among his four tries.

A second 7-on-7

  • For the first time all camp long, this was where we saw Austin Hinder in action, and Chase Forrest followed soon after. The Mater Dei alum did see success in connecting with Erik Brown a couple of times, but once the 1s unit got back in, he began to fade a bit, first by throwing directly into Devante Downs' hands for a tipped ball that Griffin Piatt eventually came down with. For those of you keeping track, that leaves the count at two interceptions on the day...and then he threw another right after, to Allensworth in the slot.
  • My guess is that if anything happens to Goff, especially in the second half of the year, Austin Hinder will still be the backup, but they're backing off from playing him much now because they know he's not starter material and want to see what the freshmen can give. Nobody wants to burn a redshirt if they don't have to.

The final 11s period

No drive chart today, although only Goff and Rubenzer were behind center for these last 40 or so plays.

  • The fourth and final interception of the afternoon came at the hands of Jalen Jefferson, who stepped in front of a Goff pass for Lasco and would have been off to the races in a real game. Not even the Bear Raid Commander was immune on Sunday, although it must be said that this was his first mistake in the team setting. He would return later on another drive and toss a beautiful back shoulder ball to Trevor Davis in one-on-one coverage. Pretty sure he's gonna take that matchup against almost anybody.
  • I must say that despite not leading a scoring drive, Luke Rubenzer stepped up and out of trouble in a very Johnny Manzielian type of way in the 11-on-11 sessions. One of the things you hope for from him in future years is that he learns to look for the pass downfield first, though. Eyes up.
  • Jordan Rigsbee did work on second team during this period, and Eugene and I saw Khalfani Muhammad chip in his longest run of camp with a 30 yard scamper, which CalBears.com is reporting as Jeffrey Coprich's.
  • Here's where we all do agree though: Scarlett, Jonathan Johnson, and Todd Barr all got sacks during this period. Both Johnson and Barr's came off of the left side, although my notes don't say who was blocking.
  • Generally, not a sharp day for the offense. No scores, no touchdowns, nothing. We'll see if they get a little more crisp going forward, or if Rubenzer has started to really distance himself as the backup. It certainly appears that way, due to rep allocation

Defensive things

  • No real changes to report in the defensive depth chart, I think, but either Coach Burns or Coach Kaufman continues to play around with the cornerback rotation to find his best three -- or at least, to find out where to play his best three. It's pretty clear that as of a week in, Cedric Dozier, Cam Walker and Darius Allensworth look to be those guys. They just haven't settled on where to put them yet. Dozier has moved onto the first string over the last few days, pushing Cameron Walker over to right cornerback instead of the left he has occupied since January, and Darius Allensworth spent most of his time in the slot.
  • Among the second teamers: Trey Cheek shifted over to play right cornerback position, opposite from AJ Greathouse, and Caleb Coleman in the slot.
  • Darius White, if you remember, injured himself on day one, and still hasn't returned.
  • You can tell that Quentin Tartabull doesn't totally know the playbook yet because Coach Burns still has to move him around before the snap sometimes. He's done fairly well considering what he does know, though.
  • Hardy's still being held out of full contact, but he did look much stronger at the point of attack when I saw him in OL/DL drills.
  • Here's a handy table of all the big plays we were able to jot down, collected from the entire day. I've been attending these practices for two years and have never seen the defense take over completely as they have today. Again, I know there's only so much that you can learn when the team plays itself, and I'm not trying to make they case that they'll be brilliant come fall. I just don't see them being nearly as bad as they were last season.

Trey Cheek

Interception + multiple passes defensed

Darius Allensworth

Interception + tackle for loss

Griffin Piatt

Interception

Jalen Jefferson

Interception, sack, multiple pressures

Jonathan Johnson

Sack

Michael Barton

Multiple pressures

Todd Barr

Sack

AJ Greathouse

Multiple passes defensed

Brennan Scarlett

Sack + multiple pressures

Cedric Dozier

Multiple passes defensed


Other

  • Same guys as yesterday -- Avery Sebastian, Darius White, Puka Lopa, and Drake Whitehurst -- are still being brought along slowly. No updates on them, although Avery did make it onto the field for some drills.
  • Drones were spotted at the practice, although they weren't for any specific coaching things, apparently. It's part of some Cal Athletics video footages that they're developing, much to my dismay. I thought we had suddenly gone futuristic and next level.
  • Coach Dykes had said that Vic Enwere needed to run behind his pads some more, which really surprised me considering how often he was making contact. It wasn't until today that I understood what he was referring to -- Enwere saw nobody but AJ Greathouse in the flat, but made a move to kind of avoid him, rather than you know, steamroll right through the opposing cornerback. Granted, they were in half pads and there wasn't contact, but it did show a little of what he needs to work on. He also had at least one drop in the short game, which visibly upset him.
  • Mustafa Jalil came in with a blocked kick during the opening special teams period, in which they were working mostly not on the kicks themselves but some aspects of blocking/rushing. What I found troubling here was that even though Noah Beito and Matt Anderson were lined up from a reasonable 31 yards -- although on the left and right hashes respectively -- the latter shanked badly twice. Not a good sign.
  • Another piece of bad news trickled out at the end of practice, as we found out that Jason Gibson took a medical retirement from his Lisfranc injury. Kyle Boehm remains unaccounted for and we'll try to get some news about him in the next day or two. (I'd ask myself, but I don't attend the post practice pressers because Ryan Gorcey and Grant Marek usually ask everything I'm planning to anyway, making my presence redundant.)
  • Monday's practices are closed, so I and my ridiculously lengthy practice notebooks will be back with you on Wednesday morning.