March 12, 2010
BERKELEY - Cal conducted an energetic workout on a cool afternoon at Memorial Stadium on Thursday to kick off the team's 15 spring football practices that will continue through April 22. The workout began with a bright sign shining down on the a group stretch and wrapped up nearly two-and-a-half hours later with a series of conditioning drills in the twilight after the sun had set on the San Francisco Bay moments earlier.
"It's great to be out here with the guys," said head coach Jeff Tedford when he addressed the media following practice. "They've worked very hard in conditioning all winter, and it's always great to get out here on the field with them. Today's practice was fine. It looked like the guys had a lot of energy."
The workout was Cal's first official team practice since the end of the 2009 season, which ended with the Bears dropping their final two games at Washington in their regular-season finale and to Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to finish with an 8-5 overall record.
"I try not to think about those last two losses because that only puts me in a bad mood," said Tedford as he drew laughter from most of the media in attendance.
Conversely, Tedford and his players seemed to be in very good moods on Thursday.
"Everyone is pumped up, everybody is ready to go," said TB Shane Vereen, projected to be the team's starting tailback after Jahvid Best declared for the 2010 NFL Draft. "The anticipation has been growing and it's good to get out here as a team and let it loose a little bit. I liked the energy that we came out here and played with today. I liked how fast everyone was playing. It was great. It's going to be an exciting year."
Both Vereen and LB Mike Mohamed, who led the Pac-10 in tackles and earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009, talked about the team's goals for the season. "My main goal is just to win as a team and have a successful season," said Vereen. "We had a pretty tough season last year and I think everyone is really motivated this season to step it up and basically show the nation how good of a team we can be."
"We were ready to go today, everyone was really excited," added Mohamed. "If we could have worn the pads we would have. Everyone's really excited and we're just ready to kick this thing off, get better and improve off of last year."
Mohamed also touched on the expanded leadership role he is expected to play in 2010.
"I'm the most experienced guy coming back, so I do have to step up and be a lot more vocal," said Mohamed. "In the past I feel like I led by example, but now I need to be a little more vocal in order to lead these guys by telling them things they can do."
Vereen reflected on how the team can try to improve from the 2009 campaign.
"There are a number of guys that look back at the film last year and feel disappointment and see the missed opportunities," said Vereen. "I think that helps motivate us during spring ball and our summer workouts so we can be a better team next year. We've very hungry, I can't wait."
In between the opening stretch and the conditioning drills, the Bears went through a series of position exercises early in the practice before following that with the offense and defense working against scout squads in a couple of team periods. Cal also went through some one-on-one work with the quarterbacks and wide receivers, a seven-on-seven group session and punt coverage work before ending the day with the team's offense and defense going against each other for approximately 15 minutes.
The three quarterbacks that Tedford declared would be battling for the starting job under center in 2010 each worked out with a combination of the first, second and third-team offenses. Kevin Riley has a 17-6 career record as a starter and is the incumbent, while Beau Sweeney and Brock Mansion will also compete for the job. Most of the players were rotated in and out of different lineups throughout the team work put in on Wednesday. The players were back on the field as a full unit for the first time in 77 days since the December 23 loss to Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Cal will open its final season with the current configuration of Memorial Stadium in 2010 with the first of seven home games versus UC Davis on Saturday, Sept. 4. Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington will also visit Memorial Stadium this season.
Cal football fans can renew their football season tickets for the 2010 campaign by calling the Athletic Ticket Office at (800) GO BEARS or visiting CalBears.com.