When the Cal football team opens fall practice on Saturday, they’ll do so in the friendly confines of Witter Field rather than the campus of Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.
New head coach Jeff Tedford made the decision to start the season with on-campus practices for the first time since 1994 as one of his first moves with the team. He cited conflicts with summer school classes for many of the players as the main reason for the return to Berkeley.
“We don’t want to have players missing for practices if we can help it, and the trips up and back to Turlock were unnecessary,” Tedford said. “With most of the players taking summer school classes, it just makes sense to keep practices on campus.”
The move is a popular one among Tedford’s players, who faced searing heat and little to do outside of practice in past falls.
“I’m ecstatic we’re not going to Turlock,” senior safety Nnamdi Asomugha said. “It beat us up a lot going into the season. It put us in an uncomfortable situation being up there. It’s a time I don’t really want to remember.”
Senior linebacker John Klotsche admitted that fall practice isn’t his favorite time of year, but said practicing in Berkeley should make it more tolerable.
“We’ve got new coaches, and we’re starting a new camp,” he said. “Everyone’s excited. It’s hard to get excited about doing (two practices a day), but at least now we’re in a familiar place.”
Berkeley is usually about 20 degrees cooler than Turlock at this time of year, something both players and coaches will enjoy. The lower temperature also greatly reduces the risk of dehydration and fatigue, a serious concern in the football world after the high-profile death of Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer last summer, as well as two college players suffering similar deaths during training camp.
The Bears will practice twice every day at Witter Field from Saturday until Aug. 22, with the exception of a single practice on Aug. 18. The team’s first scrimmage will be held on Aug. 17 at 4:45 p.m.
Notes: Senior quarterback Kyle Boller put on 25 pounds of muscle since last season, putting him at about 220 pounds. “I’ve always wanted to be the prototypical QB, 6-foot-4, 225 pounds,” he said. “I finally started eating right and hitting the weights hard, and it’s paid off.”... Tedford singled out Asomugha and Boller as team leaders for the upcoming season. “They’re two guys who have put in the work and understand the sacrifices they have to make for the good of the team. I hope the younger players watch them very closely.”... Tailback Joe Igber changed his number for the fourth time in his Cal career. He will wear No. 20 for his senior season. Cornerback James Bethea and Jon Geisel have also switched numbers... Junior Mark Wilson has moved from right tackle to left tackle, replacing departed Langston Walker, who was drafted by the Oakland Raiders... Senior fullback Ryan Stanger will not play this season due to an abdominal injury, leaving the position wide open heading into fall practice. Tedford said he will use an H-back instead in some situations.