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August 14, 2010

Bears return to just helmets on Day Seven

BERKELEY-The drifting fog that hung over Memorial Stadium Friday afternoon would set the tone for a laid back work out for the Cal football team. Stretches opened up with Soulja Boy's "Turn My Swag On", reflecting the hard-hitting practice a day prior, and appropriately transitioned into a calming "Where the Streets Have No Name," by U2.

After a physical Thursday practice in full pads and the first double day of camp looming on Saturday, the team sported only helmets in a light practice that gave them a much-needed recharge.

"We've been banging a lot since we've come to camp," said head coach Jeff Tedford, "Today was a lot about what we've been doing, trying to get them fresh and give them a mental day."

The team started off with drills focusing on all aspects of turnovers. Quarterbacks practiced stripping techniques while the receivers worked on wrapping up tackles with a dummy pad. The defense worked everything from close and long-range interceptions to loose ball recoveries and stripping the quarterback.

Tailback Shane Vereen worked out on the stationary bike before working one on one with a coach in the corner of the field, this time doing a light ball-protection drill.

"He's getting closer," said Tedford of his star tailback. "We will go with a progression as far as running him in straight lines and then cutting him."

Tedford later added that he didn't have a firm timetable on Vereen's full recovery.

Both Kevin Riley and Beau Sweeney showed nice touch on their long balls, with receivers Spencer Hagan and Jeremy Ross making a few impressive one-handed catches over the shoulder. While Riley has been throwing the deep ball well throughout camp, his ability to hit his man on the flats while on the run has been less consistent in drills. On Friday he was behind on several of his flat routes.

The offense did a few sets as a unit towards the end of the day. Fullback Eric Stevens caught some passes on the flats and freshman wide receiver Keenan Allen looked particularly good on the bubble screen, something fans should look forward to seeing very shortly.

"One of the things that is obvious is Keenan Allen's range and ability to get to the ball," Tedford said.

To finish off the evening, Tedford split each position unit into two separate groups, forming teams that would race each other in a relay of sprints down field. The only catch: the fastest positions would be running the shortest distances, leaving the men on the line with the long runs. Receivers led off with a ten-yard sprint, and the linemen anchored their teams with a seventy-yard dash.

"I was surprised that we the linemen had to run seventy yards," said offensive lineman Ed Johnston laughing and pointing down to his weary legs. "These braces don't help."

The two teams lined up on separate hash marks. Tedford announced it would be Eastside versus Westside, which resulted in several players proudly erupting in "West-siiiide" chants.

As the fleets of speed players would finish their shorter sprints, they were quick to turn around and encourage their less-mobile teammates. By the time the final group of linemen were closing on the goal line, both end zones had the energy of a Kentucky Derby photo finish.

"It's all about team bonding and having that competition," said tailback Dasarte Yarnway. "Last year there was kind of a division between the offense and defense. This year we are trying to bring everyone together."

The Eastside took the first race, but the Westside went came back from behind to win the second heat before cruising to victory in round three as well. In the end, the Westside had won 2-1.

Closing stretches included two more U2 tracks, ending with "Beautiful Day". It had been a beautiful day for the team in Strawberry Canyon, but what about tomorrow?

"We're looking forward to that double day," said Sean Cattouse. "Trying to have two good practices."

The Bears will suit up in full pads in the morning Saturday before finishing the day with shells in the evening workout.


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