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Cal Football

Fall Camp Kicks Off on Beautiful Day in Berkeley

August 2, 2019

The Bears returned to the field on a beautiful sunny day at Memorial Stadium with 29 new faces including transfers and preferred walk-ons along with the debut of the 2019 recruiting class.

Today also saw the return of several players held out during part or all of spring ball, including starting center Mike Saffell, who’s taking over for 3-year starter Addison Ooms.

Saffell also made a big impression in the broadcast booth in the spring game, offering insightful and humorous commentary during the session. He was in midseason form in his first media appearance of the fall, as well.

“I think that’s more for the mom’s,” said Saffell with a smile. “When the cameras turn on, you’ve got to turn it on. But when you’re on the field, you can’t be a jokestar as much. You have to be more intense and be a leader.

“It’s my 16th season of football. i’ve had pads on since I was seven years old. Maybe that’s not advised anymore but that’s what my dad had me doing.

“It was weird last year having some time off but a great time to reflect on how much this game means to me and how valuable this time is that I have. It could be short. Football’s not going to last forever.”

Saffell’s making the transition from offensive guard, where he played in 13 games, including eight starts before falling to a lower body injury midseason last year. Though he’s relatively new to the position, Saffell’s taken practice reps over two seasons to get acclimated to eventually take over the role of the QB of the offensive line.

Now he’ll need to trust in his rehab as he eases his way back into the starting lineup.

“In terms of trusting myself and in my own skills, it will come. But as a leader, it will always be there,” noted Saffell.

The new arrivals feature an incoming recruiting class of 22 players as well as two key transfers in former UCLA QB Devon Modster, who enrolled in January and participated in spring ball as well Michigan wide receiver transfer Kekoa Crawford.

The two primary starting QB candidates -redshirt sophs Chase Garbers and Modster, were sharp in 11-on-11 drills throughout the session, though Garbers was intercepted by self-proclaimed “Taker” Evan Weaver mid-practice.

The offense featured a lot of utilization of the backfield’s receiving skills and also featured redshirt frosh tight end McCallen Castles flexing out in the passing game. The athletic 6’5 tight end is sure to cause a lot of mismatches in pass coverage with his length and athleticism at the position.

Crawford, who will be counted on to make a strong contribution to the receiving corps, came in with a bit of a reputation for unsure hands and he failed to come up with two fairly catchable balls in the first session, though he looked good on several others. Tight end Collin Moore looked stout as Cal’s primary inline tight end.

Running back Chris Brown showed a lot of burst and no rust after his spring game injury, including on a couple swing passes out of the backfield. The true soph will be counted on as Cal’s primary back this season, with a liberal sprinkling of strong and shifty junior running backs Marcel Dancy and Deshawn Collins, who both looked quick and sharp. True frosh DeCarlos Brooks impressed during the summer and could compete for snaps and the always-productive senior Alex Netherda is likely to see some playing time, as well.

The freshmen didn’t have a chance to get into the mix to any great extent to show what they can do, though head coach Justin Wilcox noted several are ahead of schedule.

Wilcox noted that those held out from spring while recovering from injuries are doing well and in good condition, though they won’t be rushed into practicing fulltime.

“They’re in great condition without actually practicing and playing,” said Wilcox. “It’s always a balance between practing and playing. We have to be smart about how we practice them.”

Wilcox noted that defensive tackles Siu Fuimaono and Aaron Maldonado are both excused for the first week for personal reasons and that he expects them to be back, though no timeframe right now.

Senior safety Ashtyn Davis returns as one of five defensive backfield starters (along with corner Camryn Bynum and Elijah Hicks, as well as fellow safety Jaylinn Hawkins and nickel back Traveon Beck) for the Bears and perhaps their likely highest-rated draft prospect with his combination of speed, coverage skills and big-hitting style of play. The DB unit is ranked as one of the top returning units in the country in 2019, though defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander is always quick to remind his talented charges that resting on their laurels will get them nowhere.

“He just says whatever we did last year doesn’t mean anything this year,” said Davis. “Whatever we accomplished last year doesn’t guarantee success this year. The reason we were successful last year is because we worked hard and didn’t get a lot of respect going in and we kind of want to have that same mindset going forward.”

Senior punter Steven Coutts is sure to be a big part of the Bears’ 2019 season and returns as one of the top punters in the nation.

Coutts noted that new starting longsnapper Slater Zellars was firing rockets on his snaps and has been impressed by his velocity and accuracy so far. He was soon headed to the juggs machine to simulate the velocity he’ll be expecting from the nation’s top prep longsnapper as a senior.

As for his preparation for this season, Coutts notes: “Just taking care of my body and making sure I’m prepared mentally this season.”

He notes that Australian Rules Football prepared him uniquely for the variety of kicks he’s expected to execute as well as for accuracy, which is at a premium in the Aussue Rules game.

The Bears will take to the field again tomorrow morning at 10:30 in a practice open to the public. All practices throught the 20th are expected to be open as of now.

The team will begin preparation the following week for their opening game at home vs. FCS powerhouse UC Davis, who went 10-3 under new head coach Dan Hawkins last year. Former Campolindo walk-on frosh receivers Ryan Regan and Lucas Allen, who were young prep players at the time will be reunited with senior Davis safety Tiger Garcia, who’s in the mix to start in his fifth season at UCD. Kickoff will be at 3:30 on August 31 at Memorial Stadium.

Discussion from...

Fall Camp Kicks Off on Beautiful Day in Berkeley

5,605 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by Bobodeluxe
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Offensive line!
Run the ball down their throats!

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OK, guys. Anyone who can catch a football, raise your hand.
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