Cal Football: How Ready are the Bears to Begin an Actual Training Camp?

Jeff Faraudo

Pac-12 presidents are expected to vote Thursday on whether to proceed with a fall football season. Their preferred target date to open the season remains Oct. 31, but debate continues on whether teams would have sufficient time to safely ramp up before beginning four weeks of training camp.

The timetable above would require teams to begin full-blown practice within one week of Pac-12 approval. Given the limitations athletes have faced so far, is that enough?

Cal quarterback Chase Garbers gives a loud-and-clear response.

“With the voluntary workouts, a majority of our team has been going to those, so physically I think we could be prepared to start a fall camp very soon,” he said last week.

*** More from Garbers on the prospect of finally holding a training camp: 

The voluntary workouts Garbers referred to have been extremely limited in nature: cohorts of 12 players or fewer, no coaching involvement and no indoor weight-training. And, obviously, no actual football.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, local health officials have permitted teams to conduct somewhat more extensive pre-camp workouts, including limited participation by coaches. That hasn't happened yet at Cal.

Still, outside linebacker Cameron Goode says players have been anticipating getting a short-notice alert on the start of practice, and are eagerly awaiting word.

“We’ve all been staying ready for whenever it’s going to happen,” he said. “I can’t just sit around and be too lazy so I’ve been working a lot.”

Of course, when Cal could actually begin practice hinges ultimately on getting the go-ahead from local health officials, in both Alameda County and the city of Berkeley.

So far, those authorities have remained cautious with re-opening plans. But Alameda County has not blocked the Oakland A’s from playing home games, and Cal would not begin full practices until it’s able to implement the new rapid-response daily antigen testing that is scheduled to arrive on Sept. 30.

The expectation is that if Alameda County provides Cal with a path forward, Berkeley will follow that lead.

A month of training camp will include significant aspects of football players have not been able to simulate during voluntary workouts.

“Physically, having that full month of fall camp is pretty big. Just going back to hitting people and getting used to the flow of actually playing football,” Garbers said. “Especially on offense, getting that rhythm down with your skill players. Just getting those live reps.”

Cal had four spring workouts in March before the COVID-19 shutdown and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave quickly began installing his scheme.

“Coach Musgrave and the offensive side of the ball have done a great job with the Zoom meetings. He’s been in contact with all of us, even when we were all back at home,” Garbers said. “The preparation we did in those Zoom meetings is really going to carry on when we do play (the) season.

“I truly feel if we had to go play tomorrow, offensively we’d be ready to go play.”

The mental preparation is only half the equation, Garbers acknowledges.

“This is a brand-new offense that we’re in. All we’ve been limited to is mental reps at this point. Just getting as many lives reps in as you can, with certain plays, certain personnel, certain packages that you’d use in a game,” he said.

“So it just comes down to live reps at that point. A normal fall camp, like three to four weeks, would be suitable.”

*** Goode's thoughts on Cal's readiness to begin training camp: 

Goode, who has added nearly 10 pounds without sacrificing speed or quickness, expects to play this season at about 240.

He believes a fall camp of three to four weeks would safely prepare the Bears for a season.

“You can’t rush into it,” he said. “We can get to practice whenever it’s safe. Let’s get out there, get to it.”

And despite losing two starters with lineman Luc Bequette’s transfer to Boston College and cornerback Camryn Bynum decision to prepare for the NFL draft, Goode is convinced the Bears have plenty of talent to field a stout defense.

“I know we’ve got the pieces to make something happen,” he said.

The Bears are coming off an 8-5 season in which they won their final three games, including a victory over Stanford in the Big Game and a win over Illinois in the Redbox Bowl.

Garbers is optimistic Cal can maintain that momentum, even after a delay to the season’s start.

“I expect us to be ready to roll the ball out and be ready to play whoever we have to play,” he said. “After that month (of practice), we’re going to be pretty solid, especially on the mental side.

“We’ve been mentally locked in for quite some time now. Now it just comes down to getting those live reps and physically being ready.”

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Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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