Aug. 7, 2009
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BERKELEY - On a clear day in Strawberry Canyon, the California football team entured onto the Memorial Stadium turf Friday for its first practice in preparation for the 2009 season.
The Bears, who were ranked 12th nationally in the coaches' poll released earlier Friday, began the workout at 6:20 p.m. and stayed on the field for about 90 minutes.
"Very spirited, great enthusiasm," head coach Jeff Tedford said, assessing the day's practice. "I'm really happy with the shape they came back in - they're in great condition. They ran well this morning on their fresh legs. You can tell that there is a lot of experience in certain positions that we didn't have last year, such as the receiver position."
In addition to individual drills, Cal went through several series of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 sets. The Bears wore only helmets and won't put on full pads for another few days.
Tedford noted the experience on the team allows the coaches to run practice faster, letting the younger players pick up on the veterans' lead. Cal returns 17 starters, including eight on a defense that ranked among the country's top 25 in several statistical categories in 2008.
"There's no question that with the experience, everything just moves real smooth," Tedford said.
Tailback Jahvid Best, the leading returning rusher in the country after piling up 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, was back on the field for the first time since the Dec. 27 Emerald Bowl win over Miami, Fla. Best underwent surgery on both his foot and elbow in the offseason, which limited his availability in the spring. However, Tedford said that Best look strong during the workout.
"It's like he never left, really," Tedford said. "He looks like Jahvid, so it's nice to see him practice. He'll move around. He'll be a special teams player, as well. We'll put him outside, we'll put him inside, we'll do different things with him."
The next chance for fans to see the team is at Fan Appreciation Day on Saturday, Aug. 29, beginning at 12 noon. Cal opens the season Sept. 5 when the Bears host Maryland at 7 p.m. Both events will be in Memorial Stadium.