Jake Curtis, Chronicle Staff Writer
Brandon Hampton is still listed as a safety on Cal's roster, but when the Bears host Tennessee in their season-opener Sept. 1, there's a good chance he'll be a starting cornerback. Hampton is playing as the first-team cornerback on the side opposite returning starter Syd'Quan Thompson, and despite competition with a few others at the position, Hampton states confidently he will remain on top of the depth chart for the rest of preseason camp. Hampton started every game last season at strong safety, but in the spring, he was asked to move to corner because the Bears needed a replacement for departed Daymeion Hughes, the 2006 Pac-10 defensive player of the year.
"I don't feel like I'm replacing Hughes," Hampton said. "It's just a standard I need to live up to. But I definitely feel I have some shoes to fill." Thomas DeCoud and Bernard Hicks shared the free safety spot last year, and Hicks was moved to strong safety in the offseason and is the starter there this year. DeCoud's activity has been limited this week because of a slight hamstring problem, but his job is not believed to be in jeopardy. Hampton is used to making changes. He arrived at Cal as a walk-on running back before being moved to defense and says the change from safety to corner was not a difficult adjustment. Padded landing: Friday was Cal's first preseason practice in full pads, which meant the team did some serious hitting for the first time. "It means it's a little bit more like football," coach Jeff Tedford said.
The staff took an extended look at the incoming freshmen to get an early idea of who might be able to help this season. Either Jahvid Best or Shane Vereen is expected to get playing time as a true freshman at running back, and it's possible both will play. Tedford described Best, a 2007 state champion in the 100 meters at Salesian High-Richmond, as "unbelievably fast." Best and Vereen got even more work Friday because redshirt freshman James Montgomery, the backup to starter Justin Forsett, sustained a concussion Friday and may miss another practice or two. Also, walk-on tailback Bryan Schutte, who played in eight games last season, decided this week to quit football and concentrate on his academics.
Briefly: Nyan Boateng, a transfer wide receiver from Florida, is not practicing because he has been suspended. He was arrested last month in Florida on charges of burglary and assault. He would have had to sit out games as a transfer but he could have practiced. ... Freshman offensive lineman Matt Summers-Gavin, who attended St. Ignatius High-San Francisco, has not practiced yet because he sustained a concussion from an off-the-field fall.