Feb. 28, 2013
With spring ball officially underway in Berkeley, CalBears.com had a chance to sit down with one of the veteran returners to the Cal football team in 2013 - Vincenzo D'Amato
. The senior kicker discussed what he plans to work on during spring ball and how he's enjoying working with the new coaching staff.
CalBears.com: How does it feel to be back on the field practicing?
Vincenzo D'Amato: It feels good. There was a month break over Christmas, but after that, we were on the field on our own. It's nice to have some structure now with the coaches. Practices are a lot faster now, from what I can see. The offenses and defenses are definitely moving at a quicker pace. For us [special teams], it pretty much stays the same. It's similar for us.
CB: How have practices changed under the direction of Coach Dykes?
VD: I can tell the offense and defense are moving a lot faster. The enthusiasm for special teams is more energetic. We get our work in during the body of practice. Then we stay after practice and get evaluated, so that's different from before. We used to come out about 30 minutes before. It's a very long time for us now, but we're used to that. It's nice because football games are long, and often times what matters the most for us is the fourth quarter. So if we're out there kicking when everyone's done three hours later, that's usually when the fourth quarter is. So it's more realistic.
CB: What are you going to be working on personally during spring ball?
VD: I need to focus a little bit more. It's easy to lose focus when you have a month break and then you come back and you have to relearn how to get into game mode and game situations. It's even hard in the spring because there are no games you're working towards. I'll be working on my focus and my technique a lot. I need to focus and realize that there are pressure situations ahead. They're going to be evaluating us kickers.
CB: How do these practices differ from the fall?
VD: They're important, especially this time, because we have a brand new coaching staff. They're looking at you for the first time. Everybody has a clean slate. You're really trying to show off what you've got to the coaches. You might not win or lose a spot here, but it's important to show what you've got early on. When you're struggling later, they'll know you can do better.
CB: How do you like working with Coach Tommerdahl
VD: I like him a lot. He's very personable. He likes to get things done. Kicking is such a mental position, but the outcome is obvious to everybody in the stadium. If you make a field goal, great, but if you miss it, everybody knows. If a quarterback misses a receiver, maybe it was the receiver who over ran him. With kicking, you're either good or you're bad. Coach Tommerdahl understands that and the special teams unit as a whole very well. He's very enthusiastic about what he does.
CB: What do you think of practices being open to the public?
VD: I like it, but it's different because it's Berkeley. Spring games in Oklahoma will draw 70,000 fans. I think that with Coach Dykes opening it up, more and more fans will come. It builds a connection between the players and the fans. Also, the fans really know what the players are doing during practice. They don't just come to games on Saturday and say, `oh, well this is all there is.' They can see that the players are putting work into the season, even early on in the spring.
CB: With the new coaching staff here now and with players graduating following last season, do you feel like you're one of the veteran leaders not just amongst the players but in the entire program?
VD: Yeah, I think so. I'm very close to a lot of the guys, and I think this is a close team. The new coaches have made this team even tighter. It's interesting how you develop different relationships with different people and how leaderships arise amongst the different positions. I think I'd consider myself one of the leaders. There's pressure in being a leader; you're held to a high standard, but I think I'm ready for that.
CB: Does it feel weird how from this point on, everything you do will be the last time you do it since you're going to be a senior in the fall?
VD: I felt it shortly after last season. The other day I was thinking about I finished my last 6 a.m. spring workout at the collegiate level. It was a strange, bittersweet feeling. Talking to the other coaches about it, they all told me to enjoy every second of this year. It's weird to think that this is the last year. As a freshman, I envisioned a much quicker process - do this, graduate, get a life, move on. It's been so fast and now it's my last year and you start thinking, what's going to happen next? What does the future hold for me? It's important for me to focus on what's happening now and enjoy every second.
CB: What are your initial thoughts on Matt Anderson?
VD: He's very smart and he's a good kicker. He's got quite a leg. He's going to do well here. There could be another kicker that comes up too. That's the beauty of kicking, there's constant competition. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see who arises. If you have competition, it helps show who is the best.
CB: What are your goals for spring ball and where do you want the team to be by the end of spring ball?
VD: Personally, I want to make every kick, but that's a little unrealistic. I want to get better, get closer to my teammates and be a good leader for the younger guys. Like Coach Dykes says, we're starting to get better, but it's a long process. As long as we grow every day and every practice, at the end of the spring, with this new system, I think it will be a good start if we put all these things together. I'd like to see our team get closer with more team activities and get ready for the fall.