By Gerald Nicdao
There was a bit of a surprise for the Cal football team when it started its spring practice Monday. On the sidelines, wearing a red "untouchable" jersey and doing his own workouts, was sophomore tailback Jahvid Best. Best-who injured his hip in the Bears' loss to USC last November-will not participate in team drills this spring, but will participate in personal workouts and individual drills, coach Jeff Tedford said. "I was just basically told to come out here and push it as hard as I can and see how my hip responds to it," Best said. "After doing it today, I found it pretty good. The only thing I think is that I'm a little bit out of shape from not doing too much for a long time." Best-who finished the 2007 season with 221 rushing yards-has been rehabbing for some time now, but he said Monday that he just began running recently. He is over, however, the fear of re-injuring himself on the field. "I'm past the point of being scared to cut or scared to run fast," Best said. "I'm just trying to go out there and act normal."
Tailback James Montgomery's departure from Cal is still surprising to some on the team. "It shocked me a lot," Best said. "I didn't see it coming. It was kind of all of a sudden. I wished it didn't happen, but that's his prerogative." Montgomery was slated to be the Bears' No. 1 running back heading into the spring after the graduation of senior Justin Forsett.
Tedford said Montgomery showed no signs of his intention to leave the program, but that he did miss a few practices late last season. "He was late to a couple of 6:30 a.m. workouts and he was in the doghouse a little bit," he said. "Things weren't going well for him." Tedford did call Montgomery's action premature and wished that he would have stayed for the duration of spring camp. "You hate to see that though," he said. "You wish he would have given himself the chance to go through the spring and see where he would have ended up."
With Montgomery gone and Best sidelined, sophomore Tracy Slocum and freshman Covaughn DeBoskie took most of the reps on the first day of practice. Redshirt freshman Shane Vereen saw limited action Monday because of a hamstring injury. "Right now Slocum is getting a lot of the reps," Tedford said. "Hopefully Shane gets back and takes some of the load, because with only two backs, guys end up getting worn out." DeBoskie-who graduated from high school early to join the team-had a rude introduction to the program. During one of the scrimmages, senior defensive end Rulon Davis hit DeBoskie hard and took his helmet off. "I would imagine that their eyes are about that big, just trying to get used to the speed of the game," Tedford said about the four freshmen who joined the team early. "Covaughn got his feet wet a little bit."
Defensive back Syd'Quan Thompson was absent from the Bears' first practice of the spring because of a violation of team rules. Tedford said that Thompson will be suspended indefinitely and that there is no timetable for his return.