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Cal football fall practice report: Michael Barton becoming leader, Malik McMorris loves playing fullback

As the team runs some special teams drills, the kickers and punters hold their own

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After a longer practice out at De La Salle this morning, the team came back for some pretty limited work in just helmets, running formations sans contact and doing some special teams practice. In all, it lasted a little bit over an hour, and there wasn't too much exciting. The offense ran almost exclusively with Goff and Forrest on drives, although Bowers got one set. Otherwise, every formation was with 11 v. 11. It was actually interesting to watch the special teams-11s mix, because there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the order - they just moved back and forth every few plays. Maybe this is the norm, but interesting to me as a newer practice observer.

Just since there weren't any major happenings, this is going to be more of a bullet-point rundown than deep thoughts. So here goes...

Some random observations, in no particular order:

  • Daniel Lasco was back in action a bit today, and looking good per usual.
  • Vic Enwere has cemented himself as the #2 running back, and was getting a good amount of snaps with the first team.
  • They held Stephen Moore out to give him some rest, and Aaron Cochran took almost all of the reps with the 1st and 2nd team at left tackle. After practice, Coach Dykes said that they were resting Stephen but Aaron has really stepped up given the opportunities.
  • Speaking of, I noticed Cochran after practice, and not only is he the tallest lineman on the team, he also has a pretty good crop top, so dude plus hair is definitely the tallest.
  • Dominic Granado at C with Jordan Rigsbee at RG again, didn't see any bad snaps or anything either
  • Harry Adolphus was the first guy on kickoffs, with Matt Anderson #2. Both of them kicked it to about the goal line, and also did a good job with securing the angles on the kickoffs
  • Adolphus and Cole Leininger seem to be battling for the #1 punter job. #16 was the first guy out there, but only for one play before it switched over to Adolphus. Harry had a couple booming punts, with really good hang time and a smooth spiral
  • Matt Anderson was 3-for-3 on field goals, including a couple 44-yarders. Coach mentioned afterward that they are pretty happy with how that's going, which is encouraging considering that they were talking about it being such a concern earlier on in camp
  • DeVante Wilson has locked down the 2nd spot at 1st team DE, opposite side of Kyle Kragen
  • Kanawai Noa had some reps with the 2nd team, and also lined up as PR
  • Brandon Singleton got some time at both KR and PR
  • They had Antoine Albert and Lonny Powell as the 2nd-team kick returners. The whole Powell experiment could be interesting, he's a pretty fast dude and could truck some folks on the way back
  • 2nd team D: Barr, Manley, Mekari, Johnson, Vanderbilt, Grace, Albert, Coleman, Rubenzer, and either Anoa'i or Tongilava. There was some mixing and matching, so hard to tell exactly on the last 2
  • Unfortunately, there weren't any highlight plays, so not much to mark down there. I did get to listen to the quick press conference after with Coach Dykes, and interviewed Michael Barton and Malik McMorris. Here are some highlights from the interviews:

Coach Dykes:

This was my first chance to sit in at the post-practice interview session (thanks to Kyle at Cal Athletics for letting that happen), and thanks had a few good tidbits:

  • There was a little talk at the beginning about Malik McMorris. Dykes liked what they saw on tape, when he was in high school. He's also surprisingly athletic, had some championships in shotput and other things as well. Dykes mentioned that he has good feet and good hands, and even caught a touchdown during the morning session. They are going to work on some conditioning and getting weight down as we get further along.
  • There will be some scrimmage stuff on Saturday, and it'll be an open practice
  • Dykes mentioned that having two secondary coaches has really helped guys develop ahead of schedule, which is paying dividends
  • Jared Goff is more comfortable with everything he does, and he's going to do more calls from the line. They did some practices recently where he just called all the plays on his own for a drive and it went smoothly
  • They are trying to get 5 or 6 guys back in the safety rotation. It looks like Stefan McClure is really coming along
  • I noticed that Luke Rubenzer was running with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd team, and asked Dykes if that was just to get him more experience. He said yes, and noted that if he doesn't pull through and stay up there on the depth chart then they'll move him back to offense. But for now he's looking good to contribute in the secondary
  • Somebody asked him which team and players he's most impressed by. He mentioned that Oregon's WRs are really great at blocking, and that's a huge part of the position, so he went with them

Malik McMorris:

First off, Malik is just a really nice dude. He has an interesting background: had some crazy stats and awards in high school, including once being named Sports Illustrated's high school athlete of the month, selected to the Semper Fi bowl, and even had some high finishes in shotput competitions. His senior year stats are also pretty ridiculous. Per his Cal Bears profile:

► Racked up 40 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks (-21 yards), one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries that he returned 20 yards and one touchdown, three passes defended, seven quarterback hurries, and one blocked field goal as a senior
► Added 30 rushes for 139 yards and four touchdowns as well as three receptions for 39 yards receiving as a senior

Still, he was under-recruited, largely because of his height (listed as 5'11" but realistically an inch or 2 shorter). He was a 2-way player in high school, so he's actually familiar with the fullback position and has acclimated well. He was kind enough to talk to me for a minute - here are a few notes from the interview:

  • He noted how the attitude of defensive line and fullback are really similar, playing with a lot of aggression. He especially likes being able to run full-speed into guys, and seems excited to play some fullback
  • They ran a similar blocking scheme at his high school, so it's been a pretty good transition
  • He likes the simplicity of fullback, because you can just focus on one guy and go right at it
  • Some of his former teammates are here: Addison Ooms, Chase Forrest, and Matt Rockett. They were able to give him advice and help him get acclimated, especially because Addison and Matt are both walk ons. He's been having a great time so far
  • He got here in late June, but because he wasn't enrolled in school or in camp he wasn't able to do S&C, so he was just lifting at the RSF a lot. Now that he's transitioned to doing official S&C, it's starting to turn a corner. His technique has especially improved
  • When I asked him about what the conversation was like between him and coaches, to decide on moving to fullback: he mentioned that when he arrived he realized it would be tough to get into the d-line rotation. He actually had fullback in the back of his mind, and then Franklin brought him in and suggested it. Malik said that "he kind of took the words out of my mind."

Michael Barton:

We all know about this guy, and the whole linebacking crew. They're poised for one hell of a year, and Michael is one of the leaders. When we talked, he exuded a lot of confidence about the year and was really happy with the way the camp has gone so far. Here are a few highlights:

  • Barton went to De la Salle, where they've been doing practices. He said that "it's like every time I step on the field, I remember something from high school."
  • His main goal now, as an upperclassman, is to lead by example
  • It's really great to have worked together with all of the other linebackers for so many years, they feel like a really solid group and one of the tighter units on the team." We want to show that we are the best unit on defense"
  • It's also very useful to be working with the same.defensive coordinator 2 years in a row
  • He said that this is the most competitive camp he's been in. "We don't want any drop-off between the 1s and 2s," and the competition is bringing everybody's levels up
And as I've published this, practice #10 is already underway. Only a couple more weeks till the season - so Go Bears!