BERKELEY -For the first time this spring session, Cal football practice was open to the public and the media -just in time for the heaviest rain since spring practice began.
Play was uneven though much of the practice, with last year's 2nd and 3rd strong quarterbacks -soph Ross Bowers and junior Chase Forest taking most or all of the reps at QB.
Significant rotating was going on throughout the rainy practice, most likely to keep players healthy in the more risky conditions.
A trio of spring arrivals made some of the biggest impressions in the day's action, with 4 star freshman cornerback Elijah Hicks, jc transfer outside linebacker Alex Funches and defensive lineman Gabe Cherry all impressing with the active play and their penchant for mixing things up in their opportunities to shine. Both Funches and defensive end Zeandae Johnson had sacks in the action and Hicks had an interception along with Washington linebacker transfer Gerran Brown. Safety Derron Brown also continued to play well. There was even a Russell Ude sighting, with the converted outside linebacker making an impression with more activeness than in the past as a stand-up rush end.
"He's done a really good job," said head coach Justin Wilcox of Funches. "Transitioning from defensive end and picking things up. He's got really good pass-rushing skills and is a very coachable guy.
"We're excited about Alex.
Another young player showing flashes is redshirt frosh linebacker Cameron Goode.
"Really excited about Cameron," said Wilcox. "He's a young player and he's learning a lot in a short amount of time. He, like a lot of guys has a lot of room to grow but we're excited about him.
Senior defensive tack Tony Mekari seems to be flourishing in Cal's new defense. The veteran DT received high praise from center Addison Ooms when talking about their head-to-head battles.
"Tony's super fast," said Ooms. "It's incredible how much better that dude's gotten. He's just hard to to go up against.
"I was a little rusty the first few practices, just the little things you have to get back in the groove with. But going against Tony, he kind of forces you to be on your A game.
"He may be big but Tony can move. We both love going against each other."
Ooms was also asked how the strength and conditioning philosophies have changed under new S&C coach Torre Becton.
"For the whole team, it's changed," said Ooms. "We're protecting our bodies way more.
"Lifting in the spring, we're maintaining our strength, rather than trying to implement new programs to create more strength. That just creates more stress on your body, which leads to bad practices.
"The strength staff is super smart. We come in and do correction day, where you come in and do little miniature lifts to correct certain things, like if your posture's off.
"We worked with a lot of speed in the offseason, with an emphasis in getting our heart rate up. Then you come here and think, 'Wow, we didn't do that much conditioning, but I feel fine."
While acknowledging there's still a lot of work to be done, Wilcox was generally satisfied with the slow and steady progress the team has made with their final practice before spring break.
"Really pleased with the first five practices," said Wilcox. "The guys have been really hard-working and the attention to detail is there. They're eager and they're soaking up all the coaching so it's been really energizing to get on the field with them.
"In five practices, we've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go."
To view post practice videos from had coach Justin Wilcox, defensive tackle Tony Mekari and center Addison Ooms, use the embedded viewer below: