FALL CAMP NOTEBOOK: Pick Your Poison

FALL CAMP NOTEBOOK: Pick Your Poison

BERKELEY -- Greg Burns talks defensive backfield strength, Allensworth's development, while Jalen Jefferson gets things off to a rousing start with a pick against Jared Goff. PLUS, we break down this morning's special teams session.

READ MORE: Rubenzer, Franklin Talk Burning Redshirt
LIVE THREAD: All The Action from Tuesday

BERKELEY -- The first set of 11-on-11 work in California’s Tuesday practice set the tone for the rest of the day, as steady veteran linebacker Jalen Jefferson came up with a pick-six on starting quarterback Jared Goff. Over the rest of the afternoon, Caleb Coleman, Michael Barton, Cedric Dozier and Darius Allensworth each came down with interceptions, with Allensworth hauling in two in a row against the scout team offense.

Allensworth has proved himself worthy of being one of the top three corners for the Bears, adding nickel back to his resume as defensive backs coach Greg Burns confirmed after practice that Allensworth, Dozier and Cameron Walker will all be a part of the first-team defense, one way or another. A formal depth chart, though, isn’t forthcoming.

“I’m not ready to let them know that, yet,” Burns said. “I want them battling, but the reality is, we’ve got three guys that are qualified enough, even though Walker and Dozier have actually had playing time, whereas Allensworth hasn’t – I don’t think that really matters right now. When it’s nickel, those three are going to be in, in some way, shape or form.”

[DEPTH CHART: Projected End-of-Camp Defense]

Allensworth has proved himself a physical, heady defensive back over the first 15 days of camp, and that’s why he’s gotten the nod both at corner and at nickel.

“Usually the guys that play in there have more savvy, more awareness, can play well in crowded spaces. It’s not too big for him, in regards to their vision, to see multiple things at the same time and react to them,” Burns said. He’s a dual player, right now. That’s the advantage. He has the ability to play corner and play nickel, so it gives us depth at the nickel spot. At the corner spot, he’s got some size to him, as well as a good understanding of the techniques we’re teaching him, and playing man coverage and zone coverage.”

The one thing Allensworth isn’t, is a surprise.

“Not really, because this is kind of what he’s done in the spring, so the expectations were that everyone was going to improve and get better,” Burns said. “I wouldn’t say he’s been a surprise.”

What has surprised Burns has been the speed with which former cornerback Stefan McClure has taken to his new safety position, which Burns said has gone “surprisingly well.”

I didn’t know what to expect,” Burns said. “He claimed he’s kind of played it, but not really played it, and he’s done a great job of just studying the position, and now that he got out there, it doesn’t seem like he wasn’t a safety to begin with.”

McClure has had the better part of two years to learn the intricacies of defense from the sidelines, thanks to two knee injuries.

“There’s a big thing about sitting and visualizing and seeing it, and the next biggest issue is being back on the field and seeing the same picture, and then reacting to it,” Burns said. “That’s what I was a little bit more impressed with, was the fact that, not only did he know it, but his reactions were pretty good.”

“He’s got some playing experience under his belt, and he is a smart person, who, not just at the time when he was a corner, just learned his position,” Burns continued. “He learned everything that was around him, so I’m not surprised in that aspect. I’m a little surprised how fast he’s done it.”

Moving McClure to safety has also had a big impact on his fellow first-team safety, Michael Lowe, said head coach Sonny Dykes.

“I think so. That’s what you want,” Dykes said. “I think that our players know that they have to compete for every job and every position. It doesn’t matter who you are; if somebody performs at a higher level, it’s going to be their job. That’s the message we want our whole team to get.

“Every day, they’ve got to come out and perform at a high level in practice, or somebody else will get their reps, and if somebody else is getting their reps, it means that somebody else is going to play in the games.”

*****

Cornerback Joel Willis has been limited by a lower body injury over the past two days, but Dykes said that it was not a new injury.

“He’s got some good days and some bad days,” Dykes said. “He’s had a hard time staying healthy since we’ve been here, really, and he’s just trying to work through it.”

*****

Scouts for the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars were at practice on Tuesday.

*****

Several first-year players have appeared to have cracked the two-deep, including Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei receiver Matthew Rockett, who made a backhanded, one-handed grab from Luke Rubenzer in one-on-ones, and saw time with the first-team offense as receivers rotated through during scout team work.

“He runs good routes and plays hard, plays physical,” said Dykes. “Any time you throw the ball, he’s caught it, and is in the right place at the right time.”

[DEPTH CHART: Projected End-of-Camp Offense]

On defense, Noah Westerfield has impressed, and has moved in to the second-team rush end spot behind Brennan Scarlett. On Tuesday, he came up with a tackle-for-loss against the scout team offense.

“He’s athletic, he runs well, he’s 240, he’s strong,” Dykes said. “He’s a kid that, when we signed him, he was about 215, 220, and he played basketball every year, so he kept his weight down. We thought he had a good frame, and when he showed up, he was a different guy. He’s been well-coached coming out of high school, he knows what he’s doing. He’s in good condition. His body hasn’t broken down at all during fall camp, and that means he’s been through a good strength and conditioning program. He’s just been consistent.”

*****

For the second straight day, Ray Davison saw time as a first-team linebacker on the weak side, providing good pressure and forcing passes.

“Ray’s had a good camp. To me, Ray really improved in the spring, and he’s had a good camp,” Dykes said. “He’s long, he’s athletic, he can run. He’s still learning how to play the position. He just hasn’t played a lot, but reps are really important for him, getting reps every day – meaningful reps – and getting in there and starting to recognize things and being able to make decisions. There’s a lot that goes into playing the linebacker position, and so he’s got to see all the stuff, whether it comes to fitting up routes or obviously fits in the run game and all the different things linebackers have to do.”

*****

Top plays in the afternoon included a 30-yard touchdown run by Khalfani Muhammad, a rumbling run by Vic Enwere after a big hit from defensive tackle Trevor Kelly and a rifle pass from Rubenzer to Maurice Harris, who found a gap in coverage up the seam during seven-on-seven work. On defense, Jake Kearney -- running with the second team – had a red-zone breakup.

*****

In an open morning session, Cal worked primarily on special teams, with four kickers -- James Langford, Matt Anderson, Noah Beito and Robbie McInerny -- taking reps on both kickoffs and field goals. The competition for the place kicker spot, Dykes said, is still open, though he hopes to have a resolution by the end of the week, with another double-day on Thursday.

“When we’re done on Thursday, we’ll sit down as a staff, talk about it and make a decision probably the first part of next week,” Dykes said.

Is it really that close?

“Yeah, I think, at times, it has been,” Dykes said. “We want to try to put them in game-type situations here in the next couple days and see how they’ll respond, so we’ll have a better sense of who’s kicking with some confidence.”

Langford had the bigger leg this morning, regularly reaching the end zone and showing spot-on directional kicking, but did mishit several balls. Second-team safety Griffin Piatt also stood out in his ability to seal off the edge. In the afternoon session, Piatt saw time as the second-team nickel.

While Chris Harper had several highlight-reel returns on the punt team, Bryce Treggs was more consistent, with good vision and surer hands fielding punts.

*****

For the second straight day, freshman center Addison Ooms mixed it up with the defense, egged on by fellow goon (said with all the love in the world) Jordan Rigsbee. It certainly looks like Ooms is a heck of a find as the backup center, if Matt Cochran has to play at guard. He certainly has Rigsbee's nasty streak.

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