The Golden Bears opened their 4th week of 2015 spring football with an abbreviated full-pads practice Monday afternoon. Practice got underway an hour earlier than planned, due in part to a power outage at the stadium, but also:
Practice started at 330 instead of 430 today, probably on account of the weather (rain expected in the early evening)— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) April 6, 2015
Each practice segment was shorter than normal, and the workout wrapped up a few minutes after 5pm. The shorter length was likely to give the team a relatively less intense session, following a physical full-pads scrimmage this past Saturday. And while it didn't rain, the wind was a factor -- a swirling breeze, somewhat reminiscent of old Candlestick Park, made things tricky for quarterbacks and kickers to find their range all afternoon.
In fact, Jared Goff and the 1st team offense had a lighter day, taking fewer reps than usual; Chase Forrest (2s) and Ross Bowers (3s) saw additional snaps in exchange. Here are some of the highlights -- starting with 1-on-1s, then the 3rd down (full team) period, then 7-on-7s, and finally the later 11-on-11 (full team) period to end practice:
- 1-on-1s: Goff only threw from the 20-yard line (red zone), and completed TDs to Trevor Davis and Maurice Harris. Luke Rubenzer broke up a Goff pass intended for Ray Hudson. Forrest threw a red zone TD to Matt Rockett, but missed several passes high while throwing into the wind. Bowers completed a long TD pass to Chad Hansen.
- 3rd downs: Goff and the 1s went 3-of-3 on 3rd down conversions, including two huge plays -- Bryce Treggs had a ~40-yard catch & run, and Ray Hudson followed a couple plays later with a ~60-yard catch & run. Forrest and the 2s went 3-of-4 on 3rd downs, including a long reception by Hansen. The D's single stop during the series was a sequence of three short rushes that ended up a yard shy of the sticks.
- 7-on-7s: Goff took only mental reps during this period, as planned. This allowed Forrest and Bowers to get extra work [which can only help their development]. Forrest threw the only INT of the day, but promptly atoned with a TD pass:
Forrest bounces back quickly the next few plays, caps off his turn with a TD pass to Hudson. Forrest is slightly high on his throws today...— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) April 6, 2015
Bowers finishes his turn with no TDs, but not because of any lack of effort - Laird was stopped twice a yard shy of the goal line. STs next!— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) April 6, 2015
- Full 11s: The offense continued to make big plays, while the D stiffened up in the red zone. Keep in mind though, WRs like Treggs, Davis, Lawler, Anderson were often going up against walk-on DBs, or guys who might not crack the two-deep in the fall. Vic Enwere [who's been running hard all spring] and Darius White were the standouts in 11s.
Goff marches the 1s down the field, including a big 25yd run by Enwere. D holds and forces a FG attempt (good) by Anderson...— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) April 7, 2015
Forrest & the 2s finish their drive with a long (40yd) TD catch by Lawler. Bowers & 3s get in the endzone also (Wells TD catch for 25).— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) April 7, 2015
Lawler's [45-yard] TD catch was of the YAC variety -- he took a quick hitch and ran through the secondary the rest of the way to paydirt. White was otherwise right with Lawler on every other pass play -- as close to blanket coverage as you can get.
* * *
During the post-practice media session, Head Coach Sonny Dykes praised the following players for their progress in recent days: DB Darius White, LB Hamilton Anoa'i, OL Vinnie Johnson, and OL brothers Matt & Aaron Cochran.
Unlike today's abbreviated practice, the Coach Dykes Q&A went a bit longer than usual -- nearly 8 full minutes. He addressed several overall topics, and I'll discuss them below:
1. Jared Goff
Coach was asked about Goff's overall command of the offense, plus the recent addition of more pre-snap reads, and more importantly -- the option to audible [potentially in lieu of check-with-mes]. Jared had mentioned this after the scrimmage on Saturday [see video below]. Sonny reiterated today that the "game has slowed down for him... we're comfortable and trust him to make the right decisions..."
Consider that it's now three years in the system, and with an NFL future on the horizon, this can only be a good thing for Goff. I've also noticed that Tony Franklin has really opened up the playbook -- while the same "base plays" are still there, they're being complemented by newer looks, shifts, play-action, and run-pass options. In turn, Jared seems to have full grasp of these new wrinkles -- although there's still room for improvement over the summer. If the offense progresses along the same trend, we should expect to see the Bear Raid at "full operational capacity" this fall.
@CalRivals Calling one play at a time is for simpletons and cowards. My offense runs three plays at once. Try to stop that.— Not Tony Franklin (@nottonyfranklin) April 6, 2015
Coach praised Darius White's improved play over the past several practices: "he's playing more confident... he's seeing things faster... and trusting his technique..." White was solid in coverage today, and it looks more and more that he's the frontrunner for the strong-side CB spot going into summer and fall. The other 3 [or 4, if you include Nickel] slots are still up for grabs; although Darius Allensworth is making a push. DB depth is awfully thin at the moment, so let's hope the incoming DB class [paging Antoine Albert & Malik Psalms] can provide much-needed reinforcements.
Darius White is having himself a day. #Cal— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) April 7, 2015
Dykes on Darius White: "The last 3 practices, he's made significant improvements. He's playing like we need him to play. We need him." #Cal— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) April 7, 2015
3. Offensive Line
Vinnie Johnson once again ran with the 1st team at LT, with Brian Farley at RT. Dom Granado (LT) and Aaron Cochran (RT) repped with the 2nd team O-line. Sonny noted that both Matt and Aaron Cochran have been playing better during the last few practices. But he singled out Johnson for his athleticism and versatility: "we knew he was athletic... he just needs to get a little bit stronger..."
Coach Dykes also complimented new OL Coach Brandon Jones' detailed teaching and competitive mentality: "Brandon's been good for them [the O-line group]... He brings toughness and competitiveness... His group has been playing with a lot more attitude and confidence..." Indeed, despite the lack of depth, the O-line's play has been a bright spot this spring. Compared to this time last year, there have been fewer false starts, sacks and missed assignments [a.k.a. "whiffs"]. Early returns point to Jones' hire being an overall positive.
4. RB Depth
RB Khalfani Muhammad hasn't practiced much with the team, due to track commitments. Coach expects him to be in the mix come fall, but the three young backs -- Enwere, Watson & Powell -- have all been making moves. Big Vic in particular looks to have a firm lead for the #2 RB spot. He's actually had more carries than Daniel Lasco in recent weeks; this is probably by design though, to keep Lasco fresh and to let the young guys develop.
Congrats to our very own Khalfani Muhammad, who won the 100-meters in 10.44, moving him into a tie for 6th for Cal's all-time performers!— Sonny Dykes (@CALCoachDykes) April 5, 2015
DL Noah Westerfield, who impressed during Saturday's scrimmage, was held out due to an eye infection. WR Matt Rockett returned to practice today after sitting out over a week due to a hamstring tweak. LB Jalen Jefferson appears to be recovered from his hamstring injury (suffered right before spring football started), and is gradually taking more live reps.