BERKELEY, Calif. – If everything had gone according to plan, California would be preparing to move into the newly renovated Memorial Stadium next week. They would practice there next Wednesday, leaving Witter Rugby Field behind.
But as anyone who has dealt with contractors knows, deadlines are rarely set in stone, let alone on a project with a budget of more than $300-million.
The new timetable, head coach Jeff Tedford said, would have Cal returning home next Thursday.
“We’re hoping to be in there on the morning of the 16th for a practice, but that is a moving target,” he said. “And that won’t be permanently. They are still working on stuff down on the field.”
Right now the field is game-ready between the 20-yard lines, but the end zones are not accessible. Even the north tunnel remains unpaved.
It won’t be until August 24th that Cal can practice in its own stadium on a regular basis, Tedford projected.
“It’s all the other things that go along with the stadium that people really don’t realize, like there has to be a water system in there, all the walls have to be padded,” he said.
The upgrades have been at the center of Tedford’s vision for the program since he first arrived on campus, but he has yet to step on the field.
“I have no idea what it is like down there yet,” he said. “Once they get it all ready, I’ll go down and check it out.”
Testing the Trenches
With the NCAA-mandated acclimatization period completed, Cal practiced in full pads for the first time Wednesday, giving coaches a chance to really challenge offensive and defensive linemen.
“We got a chance to bang a little bit,” Tedford said. “We’re able to go low more. When we just have shells on we’re not able to block below the waist. A lot of the run game is predicated on reaching and getting people on the ground. It’s kind of hard to do when everybody is trying to stay up, so it really allows us to work the legs.”
Much of the focus will be on redshirt sophomore Geoffrey Gibson, who is working as the first-unit right guard with projected starter Dominic Galas (pectoral) sidelined. Early reviews are mixed.
“It’s still early, but he has still got a long way to go,” Tedford said. “He is trying hard. He needs to keep competing and learn how to finish plays.”
Redshirt sophomore Chris Adcock is also in the mix, but Tedford said it will make several more days of evaluation before a change might happen.
Tedford spent time after practice working on throwing mechanics with redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Boehm, then met with freshman wide receiver Chris Harper after concluding his daily press availability.
Tedford said he relishes such one-on-one opportunities, “especially when you see something come together.
“You see he (Boehm) is having a problem, the ball was sailing on him, and there was a fundamental thing we could fix right there. It’s nice when you can see immediate results, and now he has got something to work on with it.”
Redshirt junior defensive lineman Keni Kaufusi (knee) missed a third consecutive practice and is unlikely to return anytime soon, Tedford said. … Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Puka Lopa left practice early with severe cramps. … Coaches are pushing freshman wide receiver Darius Powe to lose eight to 10 pounds. Tedford said Powe, who currently weighs 217 pounds, is “moving fine, but he’ll move even better if we can cut his weight a little bit.”
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.