By Jay Heater
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
BERKELEY - Cal football coach Jeff Tedford casually dropped a line that induced the small gathering of reporters to stop and gaze up from their notebooks.
"And, you know, David Gray is a sub 4.5 guy," Tedford said.
Gray, the super-sized wide receiver who has spent his first three seasons at Cal as sort of a knick-knack on the Memorial Stadium shelf, hasn't looked the part of a speedy, deep threat. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he has looked more like a guy who should consider playing tight end.
Cal fans might remember that it was Gray, fresh out of McClymonds High School, who lined up at tight end on the very first play Tedford designed from scrimmage at Cal, then raced downfield on a halfback pass to catch a 71-yard touchdown heave from Terrell Williams during a 70-22 blowout of Baylor in 2002.
His statistics since -- 10 catches for 85 yards.
So when Tedford talked about speed, reporters must have thought he meant in the line for the team buffet.
Tedford knows that neither the fans nor reporters are sold on the idea of Gray as an impact player who is being expected to produce big for the Bears this season. However, Tedford says he knows the reasons Gray has looked more lumbering than fleet.
Shoulder surgery ... hip surgery ... wrist surgery ... fractured foot.
The only pattern Gray has consistently run since he arrived at Cal is a down and out to the training room. It's been so bad that he came into spring practice with the goal of simply getting through the workouts without breaking anything.
"He is doing great," said Cal wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau. "He's practicing hard every day. He's made 11 practices in a row. And the potential is there, no question."
If Tedford can harness Gray's raw talent, he could find himself with an offensive weapon that is hard to defend.
"Physically, he is one of the most dominate wide receivers I've seen," said Bears wide receiver Sam DeSa, who, like Gray, is expected to become one of the team's go-to players in the fall. "He literally can throw defensive backs on the ground."
Both Gray and DeSa need to make positive impacts this spring because All-American junior college wide receiver Lavell Hawkins and incoming freshman DeSean Jackson, Cal's top recruit, are joining the team in the summer.
That's OK with Gray, who appears to be more comfortable and confident than he has been since coming to Cal.
"Our whole group (of wide receivers) has come a long ways," Gray said. "But I know I have to step up. This is all about growing and learning. And I feel I am better physically now. I am conditioning myself better ... eating better."
Is Gray worried about the competition getting tougher when Hawkins and Jackson join the team? "I don't concern myself with any of that," Gray said "I know that (the coaches) are going to get the best guys out there. But if I train hard, I will be all right.
"If I get going, I'm not one of those little guys with little feet. You are going to see a lot of things from me."
Tedford is ready to see Gray emerge. "He is a big, physical guy who has the speed to run past defensive backs," Tedford said. "And his work ethic is better. Is he ready now? I sure hope so."
Notes: Cal held its second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday and perhaps the most impressive players were starting tailback Marshawn Lynch and backup tailback Justin Forsett, the sophomore who is taking second-team snaps. ... Redshirt freshman linebacker Worrell Williams continues to be one of the Bears' most impressive defensive players. He had a very active scrimmage, making hits all over the field. ... Cal junior cornerback Daymeion Hughes had two interceptions during the scrimmage.