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August 30, 2011
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BERKELEY -- As the California football team moves ever closer to its season-opening tilt against Fresno State, the Bears have seen some key elements of their offense get even closer to full healthy, in particular wide receivers Kaelin Clay and Maurice Harris.
Both wide outs dressed for Tuesday's full-pads practice, with Clay almost completely recovered from a minor meniscus surgery on the second day of fall camp.
"He was able to do quite a bit," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "He's about 90 percent right now. Hopefully, by game time, he's full speed."
Clay was cleared to take contact, and did take a few hits on Tuesday during practice.
"He did some things today on special teams, did a couple things in scout, so he's fine with that," Tedford said.
As for Harris, the true freshman played catch with cousin Keenan Allen and senior receiver Marvin Jones before practice, showing off particularly sticky hands and a very good arm. Harris is much further along than he was projected to be at this point, health-wise.
"Maurice practiced today, some, and he's probably not as close as Kaelin is, but he's getting there," Tedford said.
For the first time in his career at Cal, senior receiver Michael Calvin came through fall camp completely healthy, and was among the top four wide outs during drills, along with Jones, Allen and Coleman Edmond. Those four, along with Clay and freshman walk-on Bryce McGovern will provide quite a bit of depth at a position.
Both McGovern and Harris were absolute vacuum cleaners on Tuesday during wide receiver position drills, and should provide plenty of depth should it be necessary. In 2010, just two players -- Allen and Jones -- hauled in 96 of the team's 185 catches -- 51.9 percent of all receptions.
"Michael is doing great. He's the reason why we have more depth there. It's not just Keenan and Marv," said Tedford. "You have Michael, Coleman Edmond has done fine, Kaelin [when] he comes back, McGovern's done a nice job, so there's, but Michael has really stepped it up."
Tedford said that Calvin's experience will play a big role on the outside, after posting career-highs of 13 catches and 147 receiving yards in 2010.
"One more year. [He has] one more year of experience with what's going on," Tedford said. "I think he plays a lot more confidence, and he's always been hampered by some little injury bug, that has held him out through practice or whatever, so his experience has been limited because he's had some injuries. This camp, he stayed healthy, didn't miss a practice, didn't miss a play."
Augmenting the receiving game will fall to the top four tight ends, which at the moment consist of starter Anthony Miller, H-back Spencer Hagan, redshirt freshman Jacob Wark and true freshman Richard Rodgers, who served primarily as a wide receiver during his prep career.
"He has great hands. He catches everything," Tedford said. "He's really done a nice job through camp at really absorbing the offense and things like that. He's definitely a guy who's in the top four there in the rotation."
Both Roders and Wark made some nifty catches during the early portion of Tuesday's practice. Wark dropped just one pass, prompting tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk to exclaim, "That's not like you!"
Hagan was typically solid, showing off very soft hands and a smooth stride. During those same drills, Tedford praised true freshman tailback Daniel Lasco, who showed off very smooth hips and good ball awareness along with Kaulin Krebs.
On defense, nose tackle Aaron Tipoti was also a full-go after having sustained a concussion during the later portion of camp.
Behind Tipoti and the other starting defensive linemen -- Ernest Owusu and Trevor Guyton -- there will be quite a bit of depth along the defensive front, including freshmen Viliami Moala and Mustafa Jalil, as well as redshirt freshman Gabe King and sophomore DeAndre Coleman.
"There's a lot of guys there. There's good depth there, with Woos and Trevor playing real well, and you've got quality guys behind them with Gabe and Biggie -- DeAndre -- those guys are quality guys," Tedford said. "Some of the young guys, as well. Nose, we're fairly deep at nose, too, so it really depends on how fresh we can keep them. I think they're all good enough to play, unless somebody gets in the game and just doesn't perform, but the rotation, there will be rotation there and Tosh [Lupoi] watches over that and subs the D-line when he needs to, and he's got a good feel."
Tedford also feels very confident in the depth at linebacker, even though sophomore Nick Forbes is still recovering from offseason surgery. Tedford said that Forbes -- an inside linebacker -- is still "down the line," but other youngsters such as starter David Wilkerson and freshmen Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain are making noise on the outside.
"Same thing [as the defensive line]," Tedford said. "Some of the new guys that are there, how are they going to play? As far as Wilkerson and Whiteside and McCain, and all those guys, it's how are they going to play when the lights go on."
Cal will dress between 74 and 78 players for the TicketCity Battle By the Bay, but one that is unlikely to strap on the pads is true freshman tailback Brendan Bigelow, who, at this point, is a likely redshirt.
The top three running backs at this point are junior starter Isi Sofele and back ups Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson and C.J. Anderson. All three are likely to see snaps on Saturday.
"Are they going to play in this game? Absolutely. Oh yeah," Tedford said. "I think we've already established through the years that not one back takes it all, and Isi's not carrying the ball 40 times a game."
As to how the rotation will work, Tedford deferred to running game coordinator and running backs coach Ron Gould.
"That's up to coach Gould. Coach Gould has a good feel for where their strengths are and how we feel, how the flow of the game is going, how they feel," Tedford said. "I think he has always done a really good job at monitoring that."
Tedford is still awaiting Saturday to see which of the two back ups takes the reins as the true No. 2.
"We want to see how they're doing in the games," Tedford said.
-- Clay proved to have one of the more solid pairs of hands in punt return drills, just behind Jones, who proved to be the best at reeling in kicks from starting punter Bryan Anger and Jed Barnett, who is becoming more and more consistent with his drives.
-- No. 2 quarterback Allan Bridgford appeared to have made a big jump in velocity during quarterback positional drills and was throwing harder that almost all of the other signal-callers. In mobility drills, redshirt freshman Austin Hinder and true freshman Kyle Boehm hard particularly quick feet and were very comfortable throwing on the run.
-- The centers spent additional time before practice working on shotgun snaps, and during positional work, redshirt freshman Chris Adcock showed particularly good explosion.
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