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September 27, 2011

Cal turns up tempo during bye week



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BERKELEY -- When is a bye week not a bye week? When the next game is on the road against the No. 9 team in the country on a Thursday.

On Tuesday, California got back to work following its 31-23 loss to Washington, and stepped up the tempo in preparation for the Ducks' high-octane offense.

"Coaches have started [game planning]," said head coach Jeff Tedford "Today's practice was not [a game-plan practice]. We did a lot of tempo stuff today, but not specifically. A little bit, here and there, but mainly tomorrow and the next day. [It was] fast-paced."

Tedford said that the fact that the next game will be on a Thursday has somewhat accelerated what the team does to prepare, and essentially eliminates the kind of activities that normally occur during a bye week.

"Because everything's moved up, it's not a real bye week," Tedford said. "Typically on bye weeks, you go out recruiting on Friday and Saturday, and so we're having to cram a lot of things in here, because, really, Sunday is more like a Tuesday practice, Monday's like a Wednesday and so on and so forth, so it's really not a bye week, so to speak, because the game's so early."

Of primary concern for the Bears this week will be shoring up the defense. Though Cal held Oregon to just 15 points on 317 yards in last year's narrow loss, the Bears have surrendered 314.2 yards per contest this year. Taking away the 48 yards Cal gave up to FCS opponent Presbyterian, the Bears have allowed 403 yards per game against the Huskies, Colorado and Fresno State.

The bulk of those yards have come through the air, as the Cal secondary has been torched for 916 yards against FBS opponents (305.3 per game). Against Washington, the Bears allowed sophomore quarterback Keith Price to accumulate 292 yards passing. The Buffaloes Tyler Hansen piled up 474 yards through the air in Boulder, Colo.

"Both, both," Tedford said, when asked if schematic and personnel changes would be in order. "I think we need to get Stefan McClure on the field a little bit more and we'll make an effort to do that."

McClure would come in as a nickel back and as a cornerback, and could wind up starting if the situation is right.

"It depends, but he's going to get some time," Tedford said. "He can play either corner or he can play nickel."

Other players who will continue to see increased time will be freshman linebackers Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain. The pair combined for six tackles, half a tackle for loss and one forced fumble on Saturday, and, though they made their fair share of freshman mistakes in over-pursuing at times, their ability to serve as dynamic playmakers is hard to ignore.

"Whiteside, McCain and [David] Wilkerson, those guys, as well [will play more]," Tedford said. "I think the only thing that they probably haven't seen is the speed at which it happens, and so that's why it's really important this week that they get the look in. As close as you can simulate it as possible, it's really hard when you're not that team, but we're really trying to. Last year, I think we did a really good job of simulating that, and we're going to continue to do that this week and next week."

David Wilkerson -- who came into the season as a starting outside linebacker -- has been slowed by a gimpy ankle, and recorded just one tackle against the Huskies. Tedford said that having an extra few days will help to get him healthy, as well as outside linebacker Ryan Davis -- who suffered an upper-arm contusion -- and other injured players.

Tailback Dasarte Yarnway was laid up on Tuesday with a leg issue.

"It should help," Tedford said. "They're going to have Friday and Saturday off, so hopefully that gets them fresh and ready to go. The bye week is used to work real hard, clean up some things and then also, get refreshed mentally and physically. The physical refreshing part is giving them two days off, and the mental part is the same. Giving them two days off to be able to decompress a little bit and go home if they want to go home, and then be back here for a good, hard day on Sunday."

Tedford also addressed some of the lingering concerns from Saturday, including the unsuccessful goal-line runs by tailback Isi Sofele at the end of the final drive, which some have said would have succeeded were the more-physical C.J. Anderson toting the rock.

"That was an off-tackle play," Tedford said. "It got turned inside, but it's an off-tackle play where he's got a good feel for stretching it. We've just got to block. At the point of attack, we had a DB on a tight end and he got rid of the tight end and pushed back inside and was standing in the hole, so it's just a matter of blocking. The ones earlier, C.J. ran, but certain plays, Isi can run."

While the line was suspect at times on run blocking, Tedford was pleased with how the front five protected quarterback Zach Maynard.

"The last game, we had great pass protection, so there was no reason to move," Tedford said. "He had a great pocket the whole game. The one time he scrambled out, he hit Keenan with a beautiful ball that probably should have been a touchdown, and Keenan dropped it. But, besides that, he had a really nice pass protection. There's no reason to scramble just to scramble when you have good pass protection."

After trumpeting Maynard's escapability dimension throughout the offseason, there has been little in the way of designed runs, it would seem, over the past several games. Against the Bulldogs, Maynard rushed six times for 52 yards, though the two sacks for -17 yards are included in that total. Maynard was sacked twice against Colorado, and had -17 yards on the ground for the day. He ran just twice against the Blue Hose for a gain of 14, and against Washington, gained 12 yards on six carries, losing 17 for a total of -5.

"He had a few [designed runs] the other day, but he pitched the ball on the option, he ran the ball one time and he gave it," Tedford said. "There were plays in there that were designed to do that, but those plays are typically option type plays, so if his read says to give it or pitch it or whatever, Isi's run down the sideline on the left side was an option play. Isi's run down the right side was an option play. Those are all things, depending on what you're getting."


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