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October 2, 2011
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BERKELEY -- The California football team returned to practice on Sunday after two days off following the bye week, and hit the ground running as the Bears prepare to face off against No. 9 Oregon on Thursday night in Eugene.
Some players - like tailback Isi Sofele -- went home for a spell, while others - like starting quarterback Zach Maynard -- caught up on academic work.
While Maynard spent the two days at study, his brother - the nation's leader in receiving yards -- Keenan Allen -- got a chance to sleep in and do a bit of conditioning.
Through it all, though, head coach Jeff Tedford -- who took in five-star athlete Shaq Thompson's game on Saturday - said his players retained much of the game preparation the team got accomplished before the break.
"It wasn't really days off for me, but the kids came back refreshed and energized, so that's the main thing," Tedford said. "I was really pleased with the retention. It wasn't that long off, really. It's no different than when you play a game and you come back on a Monday or something like that, so it wasn't that long, but it was good. I thought the kids came back really refreshed and lively and bouncing around, so I think that helped."
While the days off allowed some of the wounded warriors - like redshirt freshman David Wilkerson -- to heal up a bit from nagging injuries, others were not so lucky. Back-up tailback Dasarte Yarnway had season-ending knee surgery for the second straight season, and was in a red jersey on crutches following Sunday's session, along with tight end Spencer Ladner, who has yet to play a down following two offseason knee surgeries.
While Wilkerson has seen his snaps limited due to ankle troubles, two of his recruiting classmates -- Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain -- have helped to pick up the slack at outside linebacker, combining for 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. When dealing with a Ducks offense predicated on speed, the two youngsters could prove crucial in helping to stop an offense that has averaged 299.5 yards per game on the ground.
"As many young guys as we have playing right now, it's very encouraging," Tedford said of his young linebackers. "A couple of those guys had spring ball -- Cecil and McCain had spring ball -- so that always helps, and then the summer program. Going into the summer program, not being in Summer Bridge because they were here through the spring, really helps them, because they were able to practice in the summer, as well."
Because of the Thursday night game, the team's preparation has been accelerated, which has thrown a wrench into how many players will be available to practice throughout the week.
"Well, there maybe a couple guys who miss practice tomorrow, because since Monday is a Wednesday, it should hold true with Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, but it doesn't, really," Tedford said. "There are some classes on Monday morning that's one time a week or what have you, and so they're going to miss practice and go to class. Class takes priority.
"Today is a Tuesday and tomorrow is a Wednesday, then Tuesday is a Thursday, and so on and so forth. We just have to move everything up. Really, when they say a 'bye week,' it wasn't really a bye week, because, typically, you'd be coming back right now, if it was a Saturday, we wouldn't even be doing this, but we had to move everything up, so that's why last week we had to start preparation. Typically, we would wait a little bit for that, we would let the young guys do some things, but we had to move that up a little bit."
Maynard used the down time to make sure his professors know he'll be otherwise occupied later in the week, but didn't watch much football, save for Sunday's Philadelphia Eagles game. He did, however, share that he thinks this year's offense -- anchored by Allen and senior Marvin Jones -- could very well be the X-factor against Oregon, which limited Cal to just 13 points in last year's contest.
"We have a great offense this year," Maynard said. "We've been scoring a lot of points. We need to score a lot of points and execute like we've been doing against these other teams and keep moving forward, create great momentum early on in the game and hush the crowd up early."