Notebook: Learning To Practice

With injuries becoming a factor, California head coach Sonny Dykes stresses importance of practicing in a safe but productive way.

BERKELEY, Calif. – The best man will play. That's the simplest way to summarize California running backs coach Pierre Ingram's philosophy.

That was certainly true at Louisiana Tech, as an eclectic mix of transfers and freshmen saw significant action. A walk-on even rushed for 650 yards one season.

Ingram's approach was back on display Monday night at Memorial Stadium, as the running backs bounced back from a poor showing last week with their best practice so far this spring.

"We got called out a little bit earlier in the week," Ingram said. "The last practice, the guys were kind of lackadaisical with their performance. They took it to heart and went out there and performed. I was excited early on and I think they saw my excitement and fed off it."

Redshirt sophomore Darren Ervin was the only available scholarship back, with redshirt freshman Jeffrey Coprich excused to attend a class that conflicted with the later than usual start time. Ingram is already without Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco as they recover from offseason surgeries.

A pair of walk-ons, however, picked up the slack in impressive fashion.

Lucus Gingold, a redshirt junior from Clovis (Calif.), and Jonah Hodges, a redshirt freshman from Santa Cruz (Calif.), each broke off long runs during the team period, demonstrating the heart and effort that Ingram has already come to expect from the depleted group.

"They love coming out here everyday," Ingram said. "They have a smile on their face, and work hard to be the best player they can."

But working to process a new offense and approach to practice has left the running backs playing tentative and tired at times.

"It wears you down on the front end," Ingram said.

"The small things and the details they have to pay attention to, without those becoming routine, it takes a while for them to get it."

They are not the only ones struggling with the transition, as head coach Sonny Dykes said the entire team isn't practicing in the right way yet, creating unnecessary risk of injuries.

"We've got to do a better job of getting our point across to our players as coaches," Dykes said. "We've got to stay off the ground, we've got to keep each other healthy, and we've got to get a lot of work done."

For his part, Ingram believes the running backs are getting closer to meeting those aims.

"Going into it with closed eyes, you don't really have an understanding of what to expect," he said. "I think they get it now."

Not So Safety
When breaking down the composition of the 2013 recruiting class, Dykes identified safety as the one position that was not addressed in satisfactory faction. Now those depth issues have been exacerbated because of injuries.

Redshirt senior Alex Logan will miss one-to-two weeks with a left knee injury he suffered last Wednesday.

"It looks like he is probably going to be out for a while," Dykes said.

Then redshirt junior Michael Lowe suffered an apparent injury Monday, leaving redshirt freshman Damariay Drew to see reps next to returning starter Avery Sebastian. Dykes could not offer any details regarding Lowe's condition immediately after practice.

Quick Hits
Redshirt freshman Matt Cochran received first-team reps at center for the first time. "It is going to be a competitive spot," said Dykes, between Cochran and redshirt senior Mark Brazinski.

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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