DANVILLE, Calif.-The Cal football team conducted Sunday workout twenty miles east of campus Sunday, at Monte Vista High School in Danville, where head coach Jeff Tedford resides. But Tedford hadn't just booked the venue for the sole purpose of skipping tunnel traffic.
"We got out of it what we needed to get out of it, to practice in the heat," Tedford said after Sunday's practice. "You need to learn how to practice in all conditions and we hadn't had any heat yet. So if it wasn't going to come to use we needed to find some."
And even though it was sunny in Berkley on Sunday afternoon, the high of 59 had nothing on the toasty 84-degree afternoon at Monte Vista. Still, Tedford continued to talk about the experience of hitting the road as a team.
"When you travel, you get out, you hear people-what they say, what their attitudes are-and you have got to make sure that no matter where you go, what you do, you keep the focus," he said.
The Bears' front seven thrived in many areas throughout Day 10 of camp. Senior linebacker Mike Mohamed got a sack on starting QB Kevin Riley early during 11-on-11s, and Austin Clark was able to disrupt the backfield and deflect a pass into the air. Freshman defensive lineman Gabe King made a powerful swipe at quarterback Beau Sweeney, knocking the ball loose in the pocket.
"They're doing a phenomenal job," said Mohamed of the defensive line. "Just about every play, they're keeping the O-linemen off of me. They're working their tails off and it's been great playing with them. Any time you don't have to deal with a 300-plus pounder, it definitely makes your job a lot easier."
The men up front looked particularly impressive against the offense's run game. Defensive lineman Aaron Tipoti and senior safety Chris Conte each dropped tailback Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson for a loss in 11-on-11s. Tedford, for one, expressed his extreme pleasure with the number of options he has on the defensive line.
Two veteran anchors of that line-seniors Cameron Jordan (bruised shoulder) and Derrick Hill (swollen knee)-were missing practice with injuries, and that's giving the younger players a crack at the rotation.
"[Defensive Line] Coach Tosh Lupoi definitely puts a lot of pressure on the freshmen to step up, even if they may be redshirting," explained sophomore Kendrick Payne. "Especially with the injuries that we're having right now. Coach Clancy Pendergast was telling us earlier: 'Everybody prepare like you're a starter,' so that puts a lot of pressure on every single member of the defense to step up and play like they are starting."
Payne has already seen drastic changes to the way the defense schemes its attack under Pendergast.
"Really one thing that coach focuses us on is strike and penetration," Payne said. "Now that we have this new defense, we're knocking people off the ball. When you cause disruption and chaos, it's hard for the offense to get going. I'm hoping to cause that same chaos for other teams in the future."
The defensive line isn't the only place that the youth will get a chance to shine. Between injuries and the depth of talent in a variety of positions, Tedford expects the youth on his roster to see plenty of action in 2010.
"We will play more young guys this year than we ever have," said Tedford calmly before listing off specific positions. "Linebackers, receiver, tight end. David Wilkerson will play, Nick Forbes most likely will play, Jacob Wark will definitely play."
"Everybody is working hard, everybody is trying to win that starting spot," Mohamed said of the linebackers underneath him. "There's been a few injuries, so that's given some of the younger guys some reps with the twos and they are taking it well, working it hard too."
But Mohamed is far from complacent with the group. Despite the defense's ability to penetrate the backfield at times and to stop the run, the offense was able to have a productive day picking apart the secondary on midrange and deep passes.
"We're not ready for the game yet," said a determined Mohamed. "We're still trying to improve and we're definitely doing a good job, but we could still get a lot better. Basically, it's just assignment defense, holding your gap, knowing where your help is, everybody is just doing their own particular job within the defense."
Mohamed puts just as much pressure on himself as he does on the rest of his defense, and has his own personal set of goals for his senior season.
"First of all, just be a good leader of the team and the defense in particular, being the senior, being the most experienced guy," Mohamed said. "Also working on my strikes, pad level and recognition."
The drive for perfection and constant display of intensity are qualities that Mohamed is passing on the younger players around him. Payne and the rest of the defensive line admire that intensity and the two groups have a special bond that carries the defense through any challenge, be in the practice or on game day.
"Since I've been here, I've loved our linebackers and their intensity," praised Payne. "Especially Mike Mohamed and Mychal Kendricks, they always bring that intensity. If we're down we're always feeding off of them and if they're down they're feeding off of us. That bond in the front seven is what you need to cause chaos."
Notebook • Starting tailback Shane Vereen ran the track and hit the exercise bike during practice. For the first time all week, Vereen did some sprints and is getting closer to displaying full speed.
"Shane is getting closer," explained Tedford. "He ran today and he was on a controlled weight bearing treadmill."
Tedford later said Vereen should be back in shape for practice by the middle of this coming week.
• Freshman wide receiver Kaelin Clay continued to have a monster fall with an impressive day on Sunday.
Clay showed soft hands in drills throughout the day, making a great move on fellow freshman Michael Coley to get open deep downfield. Towards the end of practice in 11-on-11s, Clay caught a short pass and was knocked off his feet immediately. He somehow managed to put a hand on the ground and regain his balance before turning it up-field quickly for a touchdown.
• Sweeney at times has been impressive on his feet. He is one of the smoothest at throwing on the run, shows good footwork and mobility in the pocket. He displayed a great burst as he pulled a sneak to the outside and sprinted into the end zone in 11-on-11s Sunday. He also hit freshman Keenan Allen for a touchdown.