It was time to just play football again. The tasks at hand yesterday for the members of the California football team such as checking into Bowles Hall and having their pictures taken were all wrapped up. The physicals were done and everyone had been fitted for their jerseys and pads. Now, it was time for the Golden Bears to return to action Monday afternoon at Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium for the first practice of training camp.
There were plenty of new faces out there with the freshmen taking their first steps on the field, while some veterans like Nathan Broussard were back in action after missing significant time last season due to injury.
“It felt great to be back on the field,” Broussard said. “My knee is feeling great. We had a good day, and we’re ready for day two. It’s been awhile, so I had to get some jitters out of the way, but it felt good. There was a little rust since I hadn’t played for a year, but it will be gone soon enough.”
Broussard’s first-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman was pleased with what he saw from his defenders for the first day of practice.
“I thought we were ahead of where we were in the spring,” Kaufman said. “We came back with a lot of knowledge that was retained from over the course of the summer. We had good energy and guys were flying around. When we get the pads on we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on with the speed.”
While there are many defenders returning to action in 2014 after missing significant playing time a year ago, Kaufman said he’s most interested to see how defensive lineman Mustafa Jalil looks back in action. Jalil and Scarlett could prove to be a force on the defensive line, while the experience of McClure and Sebastian will be vital for the secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Jared Goff was pleased with how the offense looked on the first day.
“Today’s practice went well,” Goff said. “We got a lot of stuff in and did a lot of good things. We’re a lot further along than we were at this point last year. We’re just trying to eliminate mistakes as quickly as we can. You’re going to make mistakes on the first day or two, but you try to limit them and eventually prevent them from happening again.”
While Goff has many recognizable faces in the receiving corps returning in 2014, the running game could become another potent weapon for the Bears this season. Returners Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad will be leading the way, but incoming freshmen like Tre Watson, Vic Enwere and John Porchivina may also be in the mix.
Watson had a huge smile on his face after practice. The native of Corona, Calif., said he just feels lucky to have the chance to play football at Cal.
“My first thoughts were that I couldn’t believe I have this opportunity to come out here and be a Bear,” Watson said. “I’ve dreamt of this my whole life. It’s truly a blessing to have this opportunity. It was a great day out here. I got to get a feel for the environment. I’m really excited to be here. I’m looking forward to these practice days and getting better every day. I want to get a feel for this offense, adapt to the plays and get a good feeling for it heading into the season.”
Muhammad said he’s excited to have Watson in the backfield with him.
“I remember watching him on film back in high school,” Muhammad said. “I remember thinking how talented he was, and to have him on this team with us is incredible. It’s going to bring great competition amongst the running backs. It will bring out the best in all of us.”
The first day of practice is in the books, and the vibe in Strawberry Canyon is definitely one of good feelings.