Cal began its spring practice sessions on Wednesday, starting up earlier than usual with a bigger cast of characters than usual.
Head coach Justin Wilcox said Wednesday he had 104 players scheduled to participate in spring ball, with all but five of them ready to go on the first day. The larger number is a result of the inclusion of eight freshmen who graduated from high school early and entered Cal in January as well as 10 players who were seniors in 2020 but were granted an extra season because of COVD-19 issues.
"There's never been a time in my coaching or playing career when there have been that many guys in spring football practice," Wilcox said in the video above.
Tevin Paul, a starting outside linebacker for Cal in both 2018 and 2019, is not one of the 104, though. He opted out of the 2020 season because of virus concerns, and has decided not to play football for Cal in 2021. He could conceivably transfer to another school as a grad transfer, but Paul has not communicated that desire to Wilcox.
"He's decided it's time for him to move on," Wilcox said, "and we wish him nothing but the best and look forward to Tevin coming back and watching games as an alum."
Among the significant position moves Cal has made is putting Trey Paster at inside linebacker this spring after he played safety or the hybrid star position in 2020 as a true freshman.
Even with the large number of players at practice, Cal has to observe some rules related to COVID-19. The Bears essentially divide Memorial Stadium into two fields, to have one group at one end and another group at the other.
But Wilcox is just happy to get going. Spring practice did not begin until March 4 last year and started on March 18 in 2018. However, it started at about the same time in 2019, when the Bears got going on Feb. 25.
The uncertainty of 2021 is a major reason Wilcox wanted to start early this year.
"There are risks involved in all of it," said Wilcox, expanding on that notion in the video here:
With all the uncertainties of the immediate future, Cal wanted to get some work in before any potential stoppages or quarantines popped up.
"We're not guaranteed tomorrow," Wilcox said. "We don't know how all this is going to go."
He does know that Cal completed only four of its scheduled 15 practices last year before COVID-19 shut down spring ball when the Bears were trying to install a new offense.
The final day of spring practice this year is March 20, the day before spring break begins. As a result, there will be no gap in the middle of spring ball as there is in some years when the practices straddle the spring break.
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