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Spring Practice Day 14: Getting Ready for Grand Finale

March 19, 2021

The Cal football team staged its penultimate spring practice Friday. All that is left after 14 workouts is Saturday’s annual spring game. Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon, who met with the media on a Zoom call Friday, gave a preview of what will happen Saturday.

“There is going to be a pretty good variety,” Sirmon said. “I think Justin (Wilcox)  is going to move the ball around on the field a little bit. We are expecting some red zone opportunities….There are going to be some challenging situations on defense. There is going to be a little bit of 7-on-7 and I also think there will be some special teams components…..We expect to get significant 60, 70, 80 snaps on defense.”

Sirmon was asked what he had wanted the defense to accomplish in the spring, and how close it came.

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“There are several things. The first thing that comes to mind is the acclimation of the new coaches of getting everybody on board,” Sirmon said. “Keith (Heyward) has been here the duration but getting coach Tre (Watson) mid-spring. To get him with the guys, and get him with the program was something that we wanted to get accomplished.

“The inside linebacker position, there is not any significant experience coming back there, so we needed to get as many reps for those guys as possible. I have seen a lot of development, tremendous strides there. It is still going to be a competitive situation going into the fall.

And then in the safety positions and the nickel position, who is going to rise up among the less experienced guys?”

Regarding the lack of experience at inside linebacker, Sirmon said there were no plans to return Kuony Deng back to inside backer from the outside.

In a separate segment, Sirmon went into more detail about the defensive backs and also addressed the lack of healthy bodies on the defensive line.

“I think we continued to build depth in the secondary,” he said. “Ray Woodie coming in, Craig Woodson, Daniel Scott, Elijah (Hicks) Miles Williams, those are the guys at the safety position we are getting more and more comfortable with. And then the corners, Chiggy (Chigozie Anusiem), Josh Drayden, Collin Gamble and then some of the younger guys coming in. Those have been good situations to be developed.”

The defensive line was missing some components this spring.

“Guys are on the mend,” he said. “AB (Andrew Browning) has done a great job with the guys that have been available for spring. There will be some guys returning to us, that will be a great thing. We have been recruiting our tails off, we will get there when the health of everybody returns.

“I am seeing guys bigger and stronger. Stanley (McKenzie) it’s great to see him out there. Ricky Correia. Two big, big guys that I know are going to play a lot of snaps for us. Even some of the older guys, John Henry (JH Tevis) continues to get better. He has turned into a very technical player. I think AB has done a really nice job with him. Everybody has improved in the spring and that is the most important thing we see on defense.”

Tight end Collin Moore also was on a Zoom call, and he sang the praises of new tight ends coach Geep Chryst, who has extensive experience coaching in the NFL.

“Coach Chryst has been amazing for us. Just being able to pick his brain about the NFL and the tight end position has been huge for us,” Moore said. “I like to come out to practice a little bit early and just ask him questions about football and questions about life. I think he brings a lot of wisdom to the tight end group. He has so much knowledge I think it’s huge for us.

“He is really hands-on with the younger guys. Coming into this offense it is really daunting how much you have to learn. Having an NFL guy to explain it is really helpful.”

Moore, of course, came to Cal as a quarterback and said he soon realized he needed to switch positions if he wanted to see the field in college. In his first practice, he saw his arm was not the equal of Ross Bowers’ or Chase Garbers’.  

But he feels he can throw better than the other tight ends, even after surgery.

“The jokes happen daily ‘When are we going to put in the tight end double pass?’ “ he said. “But I try to remind people that I don’t think my arm is what it once was….If coach (Bill) Musgrave is listening. If we are going to do it, I’m your man.”

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