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September 13, 2011
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BERKELEY -- On Brendan Bigelow's official visit, one of the biggest factors that played into his eventual commitment to California was witnessing the very place he'd be playing as a freshman: AT&T Park.
"Oh man, that was just awesome, because they're playing there next year because they're doing the stadium," Bigelow said at the time. "Shoot, that was good, too! It looked nice. I'd never been in there, so for my first time being in there, it was a new experience for me."
This coming Saturday, Bigelow will return to the China Basin ballpark in full uniform. Pads and everything, as head coach Jeff Tedford said on Tuesday that the Little Deuce Coupe is going to see some game action.
Tedford said that he not only wants to get Bigelow into the game; he's planning on it, if the situation is right.
"We'd like to," Tedford smiled. "We feel like, if we keep him going every week a little bit, then, but physically, it looks like he's made the turn, as far as being able to run full-speed and cut and feel comfortable doing it."
Asked if he would have to play Bigelow fairly soon to know whether or not a redshirt would be an option, Tedford said, simply, "It's a long season."
"We've got a lot of games left," Tedford continued. "You'd like to get him some and get him working into more of a significant role."
The tailback that Bigelow is most often compared to is the dynamic Jahvid Best, who broke onto the scene as a true freshman seeing time on special teams and in specialized packages designed to take advantage of his speed in space.
By his sophomore year in 2008, when the Bears played Miami in the Emerald Nuts Bowl - now the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - at AT&T, Best had become a full-fledged star. He gashed the Hurricanes for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries to cap off a first-team All-Pac-10 season in which he gained 1,580 yards on 194 carries and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground, to go along with 27 catches for 246 yards and a score.
Tedford and his players are excited to return to what will be Cal's temporary home during the re-construction of California Memorial Stadium, and expect there to be a significant home field advantage because of the stadium's grandstand, which puts spectators right on top of the action.
"From what I can remember in the bowl game, it was kind of an electric feeling going on," Tedford said. "The fans, everybody I heard from, has really loved it. I don't know what it looks like from their vantage point, but I know, as far as the electricity and the feel, it felt really good."
Tedford would not go so far to say that Bigelow -- who has improved seemingly every practice since fall camp -- has surpassed current No. 3 Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson. According to the Cal skipper, Bigelow is "not quite" pushing DeBoskie-Johnson for the third spot, but he did not object to the junior being labeled as the third back behind starter Isi Sofele and emergent junior transfer C.J. Anderson.
"It's going to be the flow of the game," Tedford said, when asked how much more playing time Anderson could get in the wake of his performance last week. "That's up to coach [Ron] Gould, and we've talked about him having some more opportunities."
While Bigelow will be one to watch on Saturday, the Bears' other speedster - redshirt freshman Kaelin Clay -- will not play, and did not practice on Tuesday.
"He's still working on academic issues," Tedford said.
Junior defensive tackle Aaron Tipoti -- who was slowed by a concussion during fall camp - will also be sidelined thanks to an unspecified left ankle injury.
"He's doubtful," Tedford said.
Fullback Will Kapp -- who sat out last week's game -- practiced lightly on Tuesday in a yellow jersey.
"Will Kapp should be ready," Tedford said. "He practiced today a little bit and he should be cleared by tomorrow."
In his place will likely be Kendrick Payne and stud freshman Viliami Moala.
"Payne, Payne would play," Tedford said. "Payne's been playing a lot at nose. Tipoti's been playing some end, too, so actually I think he played more end than nose last week."
While Tedford answered a querry about whether Moala would get increased opportunities given the FCS opponent in Presbyterian and the injury to Tipoti, he simply said, "Yep."
Tedford was also quizzed about the apparent absence of pass-rushing outside linebacker Cecil Whiteside from Saturday's win over Colorado. Tedford said that the true freshman played "a little bit, but not much."
"From week to week, depending on what the schemes are and how you're going to utilize guys and things like that," Tedford explained. "It's going to be up and down for different people."
At least at this point, Tedford said there will be no changes to the linebacker depth chart, nor to the secondary, which was ripped on Saturday to the tune of 474 passing yards.
"It did that day," Tedford said, when asked about the secondary's weaknesses being exposed. "But, we're not in that same coverage every play. If we mix it up and things like that, they executed really well. Their quarterback threw the ball great and their receiver ran great routes and the ball was right on the money, so you've got to give them a lot of credit for what they did."
For all the Buffaloes did well, though, there were plenty of times where the defense was purely over-matched, and the coaching staff took the team to task for those moments on Tuesday.
"Believe me, we were all over them today about attention to detail and sense of urgency," Tedford said. "It's not about [Presbyterian] whatsoever. It's about us this week, and it's about us getting better and improving and taking every opportunity to get better at some things that we've been struggling with."
The lack of a pass rush on Saturday remains a concern, and should be something that the Bears polish up this weekend against the Blue Hose.
"There's a couple things. They hurt us early with the screen game. When we were coming after them, they hurt us with some screens, and then they were getting the ball out really quickly, three-step drops, trying to get the ball out quickly," Tedford said. "You could tell that, there are certain things that you do when you are concerned a little bit about your protection -- you utilize the screen game, you get the ball out quickly and you max protect -- and they did all three of those."
That swing-and-miss by the defense as a whole could be exploited by teams with more versatile offenses and better personnel during the conference season, which begins on Sept. 24 against Washington in Seattle.
"We're going to have to be better," Tedford said. "We're going to have to spy the screens better, understand what's going on with the screen game and notice what's going on around us. The quick game, you can't do much about. If they're going to run a three-step drop, we're going to have to get our hands up, we have to have tight coverage, we have to force some hard throws, and then, max protection, it's the same thing. If they're going to max protect everybody, that doesn't give them a lot of people out in the routes, so we've just got to mix it up on defense. Everybody's going to do some different things, if they're respecting your pass rush."
-- Tedford praised the play of senior wide receiver Michael Calvin, who turned in three catches for 42 yards, including a key third-down conversion.
"That third-and-10 I think it was, he caught down the sideline and it was a really nice catch," Tedford said. "He caught it over his back shoulder and that was a huge conversion right there. It's nice to see him step up and get some action."
-- Despite having several drops, senior tight end Anthony Miller also wound up having a solid game, catching two passes for 27 yards and two touchdowns.
"We'd like to have consistent play there and have him. He did drop a couple balls that would have been big plays up the seam, so we've got to get that squared away, but yeah, it's always nice to have everyone involved, where they have to make sure they're honoring the whole offense," Tedford said.
The Bears head coach also said that Miller was not the primary option on several plays, but that junior quarterback Zach Maynard made a good read to check down to Miller on his first TD catch.
"It depends on what the coverages are and where you go with the ball. There are some things where he's considered the primary, but if he's covered, you've got to go somewhere else, so it's all dependent on the coverage," Tedford said. "Actually, Keenan [Allen] was the first look on [Miller's] touchdown catch, his first touchdown catch -- the one he caught in the back of the end zone with one hand. He was the secondary player. Keenan was first and he was secondary. Zach did a nice job of coming off on him. The other one, he was absolutely the primary. That was why he dragged. He was absolutely the primary target on that one."
-- Drops were a major point of emphasis for the receivers on Tuesday, and, according to Tedford, the 10 total drops over the first two games have hurt Maynard's overall efficiency. Through two games, Maynard is 34-for-70 with two picks for 509 yards and six TDs. Add in those 10 drops, and Maynard's completion percentages moves from 48.6 to 62.8.
"Catching the ball would be a start," Tedford laughed when asked what the team can do to increase Maynard's completion percentage. "I think we've had 10 dropped passes in the first two games. We had six last game, so people catching the ball would be nice. That would push his percentage up a little bit. But, we've also missed a couple balls. We've missed a couple posts that we need to work through, and make sure that we're more accurate on a couple things, but that's why we continue to work hard in practice, throwing with receivers and that type of thing, and continue to work through it, and I think his feel for the pocket and for the speed of the game has something to do with that. As comfortable as he gets, he was moving pretty fast last week with a lot of things coming at him, a lot of blitz looks coming at him, so the more you settle in, the more you feel the speed of the game, and I think that makes you more accurate."