BERKELEY, Calif. – When California outside receivers coach Rob Likens need to remind players of what is possible, he inevitably finds his way back to Quinton Patton.
Patton went from a barely recruited junior-college transfer to Biletnikoff Award finalist and elite draft prospect in two years at Louisiana Tech, a transformation that even Likens didn’t see coming.
“If you told me Quinton was going to be drafted in the second round at the beginning of this year, I don’t know if I would have believed you,” Likens said.
That progression makes Patton the perfect exhibit for a young but talented crop of receivers getting used to a new system and everything that comes with it.
“They’re probably sick of me using him as an example,” Likens said. “Pretty soon they’re going to start throwing it back in my face, but we talk about it all the time. Right now they are eating it up and they are listening, which is good.”
Bryce Treggs and redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler seem to have made the quickest transition, to the point that they are now on the field at the same time.
Lawler had been working behind Treggs as the “X” receiver, lined up on the far left side of the formation. But after several strong practices, proving especially effective catching the middle screen and breaking into the open field, Likens moved Lawler to the “Z” position, working on the far right.
Both members of the 2012 recruiting class and Likens like the possibilities the pairing could present, keeping opposing defenses from being able to focus their attention.
“Kenny is just out there balling. It’s good to have somebody on the other side that you know can make plays,” Treggs said. “They have to play both sides honest. That’s going to help us both be productive.”
The biggest adjustment has getting used to the breakneck tempo of the spread offense. It begins in practice by running a new play every 15 seconds. Such a pace left Treggs dragging Friday, even though receivers are now in charge of substituting themselves on and off the field.
Dykes wants to maximize the advantage from keeping the defense off-balance, while Likens “always want(s) to have fresh guys in the game.” Those two objectives sometimes come into direct opposition, as Treggs found out.
“It’s different because there are different commands that we have in our offense, such as repeat – that means run the same play – or attack, which means we are trying to get a fast tempo. If he signals repeat or attack, that means we’re not allowed to substitute, so we’re working on the right time to substitute,” Treggs said.
“As you could see today, I was out there dead because we kept on doing repeat and attack. Hopefully if I get tired now, it will help me on game day.”
Likens identified Treggs as one of the early standouts after less than two weeks of practice, citing his talent and work ethic. Based on the way Likens talks about the sophomore, who caught 21 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown last season, it isn’t difficult to imagine Treggs doing for Cal what Patton did for La Tech.
“One thing that stands out is he comes out here everyday and tries to do everything that you coach him on in the classroom,” Likens said. “He tries to get it done on the field that day.”
Compare that to Likens’ assessment of Patton.
“He came out with his passion and desire to be great and started stringing three, then four, then a week of practice together,” Likens said. “It took him until his senior year when he was starting to string weeks together where he was practicing great. Then the next thing you know he was practicing great everyday. Then it exploded from there.”
If Treggs can keep up his development and carry it over to the fall, his story might be the next one that Likens uses far too often.
In And Out
Running back Daniel Lasco and wide receiver Chris Harper, both recovering from offseason shoulder surgeries, were able to go through individual drills Friday. However, head coach Sonny Dykes said that would be about the extent of their workload.
Defensive linemen Puka Lopa and Viliami Moala, who had been limited by minor ailments, saw increased action. “We’ll see more and more of them as spring training continues” Dykes said.
Linebacker Jason Gibson is nearing a return, but will not go through contact drills. The redshirt sophomore missed last season with a broken foot.
Safety Alex Logan (knee) will miss the remainder of spring practice, but will not need surgery.
More Spring Practice
Practice Notebook: Day 6
Recruit Report: Adarius Pickett
CSDTV: Dykes and Highlights
Recruit Report: D.J. Calhoun
Bridgford to Think Things Over
New QB Order on Day 5
CSDTV: One-on-One with Matt Cochran
Buh Breaks Down Backers
CSDTV: Dykes on Day Four
CSDTV: A Closer Look at the Linebackers
McClure Working His Way Back
NOTEBOOK: Learning to Practice
CSDTV: Under Construction
CSDTV: Dykes on Day 3
RECRUIT REPORT: Lawson Takes in Practice
A Closer Look: Defensive Line
CSDTV: Offensive Line Put Through Its Paces
Notebook: Kragen Stands Out
CSDTV: Hagan Back on Track
Sonny D Post-Practice Comments
IN FOCUS: WR Video, Lawler Ready to Break Out
RECRUIT REPORT: Porchivinia Talks Bear Raid
Notebook: Forbes Looks Natural in the Middle
CSDTV: Cal QBs on Day 2
CSDTV: Running Backs
CSDTV: Offensive Line
Notebook: Tempo Emphasized From Start
Signees Check Out Practice
CSDTV: McClure Outtakes
CSDTV: McClure Ready for Spring
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.