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Cal Football

Bears Kick Off Spring Ball at Memorial

February 24, 2021
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The Bears kicked off spring football this morning in Memorial Stadium. The plan to have 15 total practices with workouts each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday over the next three-and-a-half weeks, finishing on Saturday, March 20. Due to COVID-19 limitations, practices are closed to fans and media.

“It’s always a great day when you’re able to get back on the field with your players,” said Wilcox. “There’s obvious energy from everyone- players, coaches and support staff.”

Though the team is allowed to take the field without anyone held out due to reasons beyond injuries. they still have some hurdles to navigate.

“There are some restrictions,” noted Wilcox. “We essentially divide the field into two fields and we have some number limitations on how many people can be on one field at one time. But we’re able to have the entire team in Memorial, just with two ’separate fields.’ That’s how we’re operating today.”

Cal's 2021 spring roster is expected to include 28 student-athletes who made at least one start during a 2020 season shortened to four games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with those 28 accounting for 74 of the possible 88 starts a year ago. The returning starters are balanced between the team's offense and defense with 15 offensive players who made 38 starts last year and 13 defensive players who made 36 starts a year ago returning.

The roster also includes 10 "super seniors" that are back for an additional season of eligibility granted by the NCAA as part of a blanket eligibility waiver for all 2020 fall student-athletes, as well as nine newcomers that enrolled at Cal in the fall of 2021 that are part of a 21-player 2021 recruiting class that ranked as high as No. 20 nationally according to ESPN.

The program finds itself in a unique position with a loaded roster in spring ball -a time where numbers are often low between the departure of as many as 25 seniors plus injury holdouts in some seasons but with a large contingent of covid exception carryovers and early enrollees, their numbers are at a record high for spring ball.

“We have a few guys that are kind of day to day,” said Wilcox. “I think we have 104 on the team right now and we’re practicing with 99 today, which is also a first. There’s never been a time in my coaching career or playing career where there’s been that many guys at a football practice. 

“We had a number of guys who are returning for another senior year, kind of a bonus covid season. And we have early enrollees (8) so we have really good numbers. We have to be really efficient but it’s great in terms of how many guys are able to get in work. We’re able to do a lot of “team” and a lot of “crossover” so it was productive.”

The offseason saw some recent turnover, with S&C coach Torre Becton departing for a similar role at Texas, OLB coach Tim DeRuyter moving to Oregon to take over as defensive coordinator, tight end coach Marques Tuiasosopo’s departure to Rice as offensive coordinator and last week’s departure of DB coach Marcel Yates to Oregon to coach DB’s there, as well.

“We have few new faces,” said Wilcox. “(S&C) Coach Brian Johnson- I think you’ve had a chance to talk to. He’s fantastic. Keith Hayward who’s joined us and then Geep Chryst in the last less than a week.”

“I’ve known Geep for a few years. I’ve known of him for a long time. He’s a highly-respected coach. His ability and his track record I think speak for themselves, but he’s a fantastic person, incredibly smart, great with communication.

“(OC) Bill Musgrave had also worked with Geep at the (Denver) Broncos. There were a lot of great ties there and there were a lot of great candidates at that position and a few different ways we could’ve gone. We were really fortunate that he was eager to be a part of our program. I think that speaks to about what’s going on here and the players and the type of people we have around the program. We’re fortunate he’s here and is able to hit the ground running because the verbiage of the offense is very familiar to him.”

The first three openings were filled, with only Yates’ replacement yet to be announced, though it’s expected fairly soon.

“We do have an opening,” said Wilcox. “We’ve had a ton of interest with some really great candidates. What we don’t want to do is just hire somebody just to get them here for the first, second or third practice. We want to make sure we get the right person for our program, someone who really fits the profile of what we’re looking for in all ways. 

“In the meantime, myself and Ryan Conry, who’s a graduate assistant for us, are in working with those guys. It’s really enjoyable to be able to spend time in meetings and on the field with them. I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to having the new DB coach in here.”

As for position changes, Erick Nisich will stay on the defensive side at DL after a stint at OL. TE Gavin Reinwald was mentioned as a candidate to get some work at fullback or H-back this season as well as other potential tight ends seeing time there, though the position seems destined to be de-emphasized this season. And safety Trey Paster will get some work at inside linebacker. With his weight up to 225 and his big-hitting style, he seems to have the size to have a potential impact there, as well.

As for the staff’s goal for spring ball 2021:

“Our whole mission in life right now is to improve,” said Wilcox. “It may sound like a catch-all but it’s true. Myself, every coach, every support staff member, hopefully everyone who’s attached to Cal football in some way, shape or form, we need improvement. For me, development on the field, how we support the players, the entire program needs to improve. In order to meet our goals, that’s what it’s going to take.”

Other stories:

Dylan Jemtegaard: Why I Chose Cal

Geep Chryst Named Tight Ends Coach

Discussion from...

Bears Kick Off Spring Ball at Memorial

3,103 Views | 10 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Big C
Fyght4Cal
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Who's replacing Nicky Mitchell at the video position?
Patience is a virtue, but I’m not into virtue signaling these days.
calumnus
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A series of 15 practices that begin now and end on March 20 is technically Winter ball.
MoragaBear
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Staff
Spring semester = Spring ball
calumnus
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MoragaBear said:

Spring semester = Spring ball


Yes, it is the conventional term in any case because most other programs around the country have to wait a month or two until actual Spring.
golden sloth
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Why did they want to have spring ball so early in the year? It seems like if they waited until later, more of the restrictions on practice would have been lifted.

I realize you cant anticipate and plan around the local ahj, but it also seems like waiting a month wouldn't hurt anything. With the vaccines being rolled out, I expect the situation will only get better from here on out, and not relapse.
MoragaBear
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Staff
They didn't want the disruption that could've come with players being off campus and coming back and potentially getting quarantined or a more restrictive situation coming about later and having less time to be able to make up missed practices. They'd like to complete the whole spring ball session before spring break.
75bear
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MoragaBear said:

They didn't want the disruption that could've come with players being off campus and coming back and potentially getting quarantined or a more restrictive situation coming about later and having less time to be able to make up missed practices. They'd like to complete the whole spring ball session before spring break.

That makes sense.
AunBear89
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75bear said:

MoragaBear said:

They didn't want the disruption that could've come with players being off campus and coming back and potentially getting quarantined or a more restrictive situation coming about later and having less time to be able to make up missed practices. They'd like to complete the whole spring ball session before spring break.

That makes sense.


Yet someone here will find a reason to complain about it and present it as further evidence that Wilcox/Knowlton/Cal sucks.

You know who you are...
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." -- Benjamin Disraeli, popularized by Mark Twain
calumnus
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MoragaBear said:

They didn't want the disruption that could've come with players being off campus and coming back and potentially getting quarantined or a more restrictive situation coming about later and having less time to be able to make up missed practices. They'd like to complete the whole spring ball session before spring break.


One of our advantages is flexibility around Spring and Fall practice (which is usually in the Summer) because our Winters are not too cold and our Summers are not too hot. We can time them with the players and coaches schedules in mind in stead of the weather.
Big C
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75bear said:

MoragaBear said:

They didn't want the disruption that could've come with players being off campus and coming back and potentially getting quarantined or a more restrictive situation coming about later and having less time to be able to make up missed practices. They'd like to complete the whole spring ball session before spring break.

That makes sense.

Yes. I had also been thinking that they would want to have it as late as possible (less restrictions, less virus hopefully), but when I hear the rationale for having it earlier, I get it. Later in the spring can still be used as an "escape hatch", should they need to halt things now, for whatever reason.

With COVID numbers down and still falling and the vaccine really ramping up, I'm optimistic for a return to normal! Or at least much more normal!
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