Freshman receiver Kanawai Noa hails from the islands - Honolulu, Hawaii (Punahou HS). He recorded 146 catches for 3195 yards and 34 TDs during his storied prep career [see Nam's scouting report on Noa's HS tape - LINK]. Fellow freshman Evan Rambo - safety/ballhawk - is a Southern California native (Verbum Dei HS), and played both quarterback and defensive back in high school. Check out Avi's commitment story (including HS highlight video) on Rambo here - LINK.
Coach Sonny Dykes has confirmed that both true freshmen will be playing this year, at a minimum on special teams. If they can build on their strong fall camp, don't be surprised if Noa and Rambo crack the rotation at outside receiver and safety. Here is the complete transcript of my post-practice conversation with Kanawai and Evan:
- On their first fall camp:
ER: "I think it's going well. It's a learning experience - making sure we're in the right spot, working on our footwork, learning our assignments and responsibilities. It's a lot different than high school, and a lot more mental. It's an adjustment period right now, but it's good."
KN: "I definitely agree. It's a good experience for us. It's tough coming in from high school, but it's all part of the college experience and everything is going alright."
Kanawai Noa just might be the most impressive freshman WR thru the first 4 days - just made a 1-handed TD catch in the back of the end zone.— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) August 11, 2015
- On their transition to Cal over the summer & thru camp:
KN: "I think the transition went pretty well. We took summer bridge, so we had a chance to experience college life early that way. It's been a smooth - slow but sure - transition. Everyone's getting more acclimated as we go on, but it's been good."
ER: "I think summer bridge was good; it really helped us get used to the academics here. It was five weeks of work, but it helped us get prepared to balance football and school. It was a lot of reading, 50 pages a night."
KN: "Yeah a lot of reading, and an essay a week - but it's part of our job! It's a different experience - waking up early for morning workouts, then going to class, then getting a snack in before practice, then doing homework, and straight to bed."
ER: "Everything is just about time management. Making sure you're staying on top of your reading, meeting with your academic advisor and teachers before practices, going to classes - every minute counts. But that's why we're here."
Time to make a name for myself, got something to prove and earn my spot.— Evan RamboTM (@BoKnows96) August 6, 2015
- On being ready from the first day of camp, and making plays early and often:
KN: "I think a lot of it was just being excited to play some football after a full offseason of not being on the field. What helped us was trying to stay consistent, getting better and better each day, and not taking any steps backwards. It's a good grind."
ER: "Once we got out here [for fall camp], we were ready to play football. Everybody was excited, everyone wanted to get to the ball and make plays. I think just being able to go out there - me, Kanawai, Trey, Carlos, Brandon, all of us young guys - we're out here just trying to make plays. What helped our transition was feeling that we had the physical tools to run with the guys that are already here. We're working on the mental part, making sure that we know our assignments and responsibilities."
- On getting mentored by older teammates:
KN: "In our receiver group, the older guys are super encouraging. They help us in a lot of ways. We have to know a lot of plays, but they encourage us. When we make a mistake, they help us out - they don't push us aside. It's a good thing, I think it's [mentorship & encouragement] going to help our program in the long run."
ER: "The whole defense, I really feel is one unit. Even with us new guys coming in trying to find our roles, the older guys really embraced us and helped us with everything. I think it's really good - like Griffin [Piatt], he really helped me with my assignments and made sure I know where to be. The older guys really help us, and they try to make sure the program is in good hands."
Evan Rambo had 1 interception during his senior season in high school. Three days into his first ever college practices? He has four.— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) August 10, 2015
- On being part of the team "family" after going thru summer bridge and fall camp:
KN: "It took a little time at first, but right when we got on the football field I felt at home - this is my second family for the next four years. It was a pretty smooth transition, getting to know everybody. Right now, the way the defense is playing is helping out the offense; and the way the offense is playing too. Each day we're making each other better."
ER: "I think the whole team as a unit, I really feel everyone has each other's back. Defense might bark at the offense, offense might bark at the defense, during practice. But when we step on the field for the first game, we've all got each other's back. We thought as a group coming in - especially us freshmen during summer practices - that we have a unit here. We began from the first day, all trying to stay together and making sure we were cohesive. We all want to make each other better, and make sure we're out there as one unit."
- On overall goals for the season:
ER: "I just want to help the team. I want our secondary to help lead the defense, and help us improve from last year. I think if our secondary improves, our overall team will improve - because our offense is really good, they're elite."
KN: "Another team goal for us is to finish games this year. Last year we came just short of winning several games. This year the emphasis is finishing strong, finishing the 4th quarter. We're very optimistic this year and looking forward to seeing what's to come."
ER: "The goal is to improve each day, that's the main thing. Every day we're trying to stack good days on top of good days…"