READ MORE: Day Nine Live Thread
BERKELEY -- Following an unsettling end to Monday’s scrimmage, the California football team returned to the field on Tuesday with a renewed energy, particularly on offense, as the two finalists for the starting quarterback gig -- Zach Kline and Jared Goff -- traded blows all afternoon.
“That was probably the best practice we’ve had this year, maybe since I’ve been here,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “It was an impressive practice, really, across the board.”
[SCRIMMAGE: Offense Uneven in First Test]
Following a jarring hit by safety Avery Sebastian on running back Jeffrey Coprich which sent the junior defender to the hospital, Dykes said that he and his staff “challenged our players,” to come out on Tuesday and bounce back.
“We talked about it in our staff meeting, about [how] we thought it was going to be difficult coming off of what happened yesterday, coming off of a scrimmage, to get these guys to come out and practice, and they were ready,” Dykes said. “They answered the call today in a big way.”
[READ MORE: Sebastian Recovering]
Quarterback Zach Kline came out hot, with a very crisp drive on his first 11-on-11 series, completing four straight balls of 5-7 yards and marching the offense down the field.
Freshman signal-caller Jared Goff responded in kind, finding a rhythm on his first 11s shadow drive, without a single incompletion. When Goff took the helm for his second 11-on-11 series, he continued to have a strong day, and even rushed for a good 15-yard gain. It was in seven-on-seven work, though, where Goff really sparkled, save for a 35-yard breakup on a throw to Bryce Treggs in double coverage. Just after that miscue, Goff hit a quick out to Darius Powe for a touchdown.
“I thought they were good. I thought both of them were good,” said Dykes. “I thought it was the sharpest they’ve been, and you would expect that, because they got more reps, and I think what we do offensively, reps are so critical, and every single rep that they can get, they were improving, and that’s what you expect to see.”
While Goff took most of the first-team reps on Tuesday, Dykes said that Kline will get the lion’s share on Wednesday, as the two continue to slug it out in what is still a two-man race, with Austin Hinder still on the outside looking in.
“Austin’s going to get his reps and his opportunity, but we’ll always evaluate them, but that’s what it looks like right now,” Dykes said.
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Both Treggs and Chris Harper returned to action after missing Monday’s scrimmage due to academic obligations, and having the top two receivers back on the field had a significant impact on the pace and feel of the offense.
“They’re really special players,” Kline said. “The good thing is, we have a lot of depth. We have really good depth, and so even when they are out, you still have guys that can make plays. [James] Grisom is making plays out there, [Patrick] Worstell and obviously the inside guys, with [Jackson] Bouza and [Richard] Rodgers and [Bryce] McGovern. Those guys are going to make plays all the time. Those are your most reliable guys. Those guys are the glue of this offense, and then Bryce and Harper, those guys take it over the edge to where it’s hopefully something you can’t contain. The areas where you really miss those guys is that they have so much speed, so on streaks and stuff like that where they can use their speed, it’s huge. You need those guys in there.”
Harper had a highlight-reel grab in the first set of 11-on-11s, reeling in a one-handed catch on the right sideline by Goff for a 20-yard gain.
Bouza, in particular, had a strong day on Tuesday, and has had arguably one of the best camps out of the inside receivers. He took an inside screen for a touchdown from Kline in seven-on-seven work, and caught a quick timing route for six yards from Goff in 11-on-11s. Not to be outdone was McGovern, who took a slant right for a 10+ yard gain in 11s.
Notably absent from team work was Maurice Harris, who was still primarily catching balls with one hand as he struggles with a sore finger.
“He’ll get X-rayed again Thursday, and we’ll make a decision at some point. [It’s] probably just a slight fracture that needs to heal up,” Dykes said. “He’ll get X-rayed again, and that’s usually a week-and-a-half injury, so it’s been about a week and a half, so we anticipate him getting back out there pretty quickly.”
After an up-and-down scrimmage, tailback Brendan Bigelow bounced back on Tuesday, as he continues to work on catching the ball out of the backfield.
“Bigelow, that’s something Brendan needs to work on,” Dykes said. “He needs to continue to improve his skills out of the backfield and get a little more comfortable doing that. The good thing is, he was better today than he was yesterday, and we expect him to keep getting better.”
On one play in particular, Bigelow showed that improvement, taking a dumpoff pass underneath from Goff for a gain of 10 yards to get to midfield.
Two tailbacks showed up in big ways on Tuesday: Daniel Lasco and Jonah Hodges. Lasco broke off an 85-yard TD run on Monday, and was strong again on Tuesday, taking a handoff to the right side from Goff for nine yards before being taken down by Jason Gibson and Nathan Broussard. Later in 11-on-11s, he took a run around the left edge for a five-yard touchdown, thanks to a big block by Lucas Gingold and Ted Agu to run untouched into the end zone.
Dykes said that Lasco is ahead of Bigelow in his ability to catch balls out of the backfield.
“Yeah, probably. I think they’ve both got strengths and weaknesses, and I think Lasco is a good receiver, coming out of the backfield,” Dykes said.
Hodges showed no fear going over the middle and got some good runs in late in practice. On Monday, he carried the ball four times and gained 21 yards.
“Jonah’s one of those guys that, every time you call his number, he seems to make plays for you, and Coprich has kind of been the same way,” Dykes said. “Both of those guys are quick, they’re elusive and they’re both improving as receivers, coming out of the backfield. In our offense, that’s so critical.”
-- Receiver Kenny Lawler was not at practice on Tuesday.
-- Walk-on offensive lineman Carson O'Connell was at practice without pads, for his first day of camp.
-- Tailback Mitchel Bartolo practiced in pads for the first time, and was particularly adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. When he came onto the field, running backs coach Pierre Ingram exclaimed, "Uh oh, here's my money maker!"
-- Offensive tackle Bill Tyndall saw action with the second team at right tackle, as the Bears continue to bring him along slowly after offseason ankle surgery.
-- Harper again got about four snaps in the wildcat, with mixed results, but two nice runs around the outside.
-- For the second day in a row, rugby head coach Jack Clark was in attendance.
-- Coprich caught a touchdown pass from Kline in 11-on-11s, easily outpacing linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr.
-- Kenny Portera found a seam in coverage in seven-on-seven, hauling in a 40-yard TD pass from Kline.