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August 22, 2010

End of (Double) Days

BERKELEY-A couple dozen fans, coaches' wives and members of the media sat and watched in the stands of Memorial Stadium as the team finished practice Saturday afternoon, but yet, Strawberry Canyon was echoing from the fanfare. During 11-on-11s, sounds of a sold-out house were being blasted at the players on the field.

Double days are officially over here at the Cal football team's fall camp. A light practice Sunday and a scrimmage Monday are pretty much all that's left for the Bears before they begin work on the UC Davis Aggies.

"We're getting a lot of work that's been done," said head coach Jeff Tedford after practice. "Some guys are finally getting back healthy, but they've worked very hard through camp, very hard. They've run well, they've hit hard they've been physical, the energy is great and everything's been good."

There weren't many highlights Saturday afternoon. Freshman receiver Keenan Allen gained 15 yards on a screen pass. Towards the end of the day, quarterback Beau Sweeney tried hitting tight end Jacob Wark, but the freshman couldn't hang on, knocking the ball in the air and eventually to linebacker Steven Fanua for a turnover.

Junior fullback Will Kapp remains injured, giving Eric Stevens a chance to stand out during camp. Tedford talked about Stevens' play thus far into camp after practice.

"He's done very well He's taken most the reps there at fullback when Will was hurt in the beginning," said Tedford. "It's great for Eric because that's what he needs, experience, and so he's got that through camp."

Stevens, the younger brother of former Cal tight end Craig Stevens, listed the pieces of advice his older brother has given him and described what it means to be a second generation Golden Bear.

"Just keep on going, don't ever stop, don't ever give up, just be relentless, just stay focused," said Stevens. "He was a pretty established player here, so there's kind of an expectation coming in. But it makes me worker harder."

Stevens doesn't really have a secret to his fall camp success, he just tries to do what his coaches have asked from him.

"I just have to stay focused and make sure I'm assignment perfect and really work on my blocking, getting low and striking my hands."

According to Tedford, he doesn't have a clue who will start when Kapp returns healthy, adding that the two would most likely be splitting time.

"I'd imagine they would probably be switch off," said Tedford. "(Eric) was definitely in the mix. They were the top two fullbacks coming into camp."

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was also the subject of praise from Tedford. Kendricks, who has played all over the place since arriving at Cal, looks to have finally found a permanent spot at linebacker.

"He does well in any position; he's a very good football player," said Tedford. "But he does a great job there - it puts him in a position to rush the passer, puts him in a position to cover - he's got great speed and he's physical. I think it's pretty well suited for him.

Starting tailback Shane Vereen took some reps and some hits Saturday afternoon for the first time since returning from a balky hamstring. When asked if he was worried about his star tailback in his first day of contact, Tedford laughed before denying any doubt in Vereen's return.

"He just had a hamstring pull, it's not like he had a broken clavicle or anything like that," the head coach chuckled. "He can take a hit. I mean he can't live in a glass bubble, he's a tailback, he's got to be able to run."

According to Tedford, starting positions for corners, safety, defensive lines and outside linebackers aren't spoken for. The battle for outside backers will come down to Kendricks, senior Keith Browner, freshman David Wilkerson and senior Jarred Price. Wilkerson and Nick Forbes continue to be high on Tedford's fall camp performance list.

"I think some of the young guys are getting better," Tedford said. "Nick Forbes is getting better as he learns it and Wilkerson is getting better as he learns it.

"The learning curve is the biggest for them and so the more reps they get, the more they understand what we're trying to get done, the better they are. They're good players, they just need to know what to do."

Notebook

• I was a junior in high school in 2003 when third-ranked USC came into Berkeley and lost 34-31 in triple-overtime to Tedford's third Cal team. It had to be one of if not the best game at Memorial I had ever attended and I was very happy to see it playing last night on Comcast Sports Bay Area.

Aaron Rodgers, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, J.J. Arrington, Geoff McArthur, Mike Williams and Lendale White were just a few of the players involved in this epic game. Luckily Cal fans will get another chance to see it Sunday at 4:00 PM on Comcast Sports. Realy, a must see/re-watch.


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