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January 1, 2005

California squad ready to represent

MIAMI - The California team arrived in Miami on Friday afternoon and was scheduled to practice Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.

After the cross country flight and pouring down rain the California coaches decided that it was in the team's best interest to take the rest of the day off and rest.

After watching Florida practice all week many were convinced that there was no way the California team would be able to win the game on Sunday night, but then everyone got their first peek at the Cal squad.

The California team and the Florida team have approached practice in two totally different ways this week. The Florida squad has taken a laid back, relaxed type of approach to things this week, while the California team runs an up-beat, fast paced practice with a focus on a high number of repetitions.

The Florida offense has practiced a number of running plays and deep passes while the California offense ran a high ratio of short, quick passes.

Leading the offensive charge for the California team is Mission Viejo pro-style quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is top ranked quarterback in the country and is ranked as the No. six overall player in the nation by Rivals.com.

"It is such an honor to be playing in this game," Sanchez said. "This game is about the best of the best in the top two football states in the nation. I feel honored to be mentioned with all of these great players from California and Florida. I have been so impressed by all of my teammates all week long; they have worked really hard and are all tremendously talented. I know how talented that Florida team is as well, I know they are going to come out and give it all they have tomorrow night too, it should be a great game."

Not only does Sanchez look like a quarterback that is a junior in college already, but talk to the kid for any amount of time and you would think that he has just by talking to him as well. Sanchez is a tremendous student of the game and true team leader and without a doubt quarterbacks Sanchez and Derek Shaw is the biggest advantage in this game for the California team.

Maybe it's the gene's that makes Sanchez so good, maybe it's something in the water, who knows? But if you ask Sanchez the reason why he is where he is at, you have to look no farther than legendary Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson.

"Coach Johnson is an excellent teacher of the game," Sanchez said. "He is a guy that knows and teaches you a lot about the concepts of the game and the 'X's and the O's of the game.' He is not just all about the numbers and things like that; he really covers all of the bases and touches on everything to make his players and his team better. There is no doubt that I would not be here without the leadership of Coach Johnson."

A lot of recruits take the opportunity like the CaliFlorida Bowl to get in the ear of some of their all-star teammates and talk about the school they are committed to. No surprise that Sanchez has taken a different approach to things this week.

"I have just enjoyed hanging out with all of these guys all week, no matter what school they are going to," Sanchez said. "The comrade here has just been great. I was kind of worried coming out here that you would have a lot of ego's to deal with, but that hasn't been the case at all. Everyone has really come together this week and practiced as a team. I like every one of these guys and I wish all of them the best of luck and I will continue to follow their careers."

CALI DB'S NOT SHABBY EITHER
The state of Florida has always been the top state in the country for producing top flight defensive backs. There is no question that the Florida defensive backs have looked nothing short of incredible all week long, but after one look at the set of defensive backs from California it's hard to give either side the nod in this battle. The Florida defensive backs are quicker and more agile, but the California defensive backs are bigger and more physical. Player's like Gardner McKay, Robert Peele and Aaron Ware all stood out on Saturday, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy like Will Harris any where.

"I feel like overall we are pretty prepared for the game tomorrow," Harris said. "We know they have a lot of big, talented receivers on their team and we know it is going to be a tough task, but I think we are ready for the challenge. We're going to run some zone and some man and hopefully we'll be able to cause some match-up problems for those guys."

One might ask if the long flight and missed practice on Friday could affect the California team's performance on the field Sunday.

"I don't think it will affect the way we play tomorrow night," Harris said. "We are still a little tired and all from the long flight, but I think it was pretty good not to practice yesterday. We were all pretty drained and probably wouldn't have been mentally focused so it probably would have only caused us to be more tired. Tonight we are going to the Miami Heat game and then we are just going to relax up until the game."

QUICK, FAST AND IN A HURRY
During this morning's practice wide receiver DeSean Jackson was injured on two different occasions, twisting an ankle the first time and re-aggravating it the second time. The injury appeared to be very minor and he is expected to be full go for tomorrow night's game.

In a quick conversation with one of the California defensive back's said that Los Angeles (Ca.) Jefferson wide receiver Austin Usher had been discussing with some of his teammates throughout the week that he was all but committed to Cal and planned to give the Bears his commitment in the neat future.

After talking with several California teammates of Long Beach (Ca.) Poly wide receiver DeSean Jackson they feel that he is strongly leaning to the USC Trojans. It was hard to dig much information out of them as to why and they asked to remain anonymous, but stated that he has given that indication throughout the week when the subject of recruiting was raised.

Eureka, Ca., inside linebacker Rey Maualuga took a shot during today's practice that caused a severe nosebleed. Twice during practice Maualuga had to take a break to tend to the injury, but being the warrior that he is, go the kinks worked out as fast as possible in order to return to the practice filed. He completed practice and will not likely be a factor in his play for the game Sunday night.


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