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October 26, 2011

Hand trouble unlikely to slow Kendricks



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BERKELEY -- California linebacker Mychal Kendricks didn't practice much last week. Not that you could tell by his performance against Utah.

The senior inside backer tallied just three tackles, but he tallied a big interception return for 32 yards with the Utes driving deep into Bears territory late in the first half.

Kendricks was held out of practice on Wednesday due to an unspecified hand injury, but while that may hinder him getting his hands on any passes on Saturday, it certainly won't get in the way of any big hits.

"He's a leader," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "He's athletic, he's physical, he's a good tackler, he's got good instincts, he can cover side-to-side, he can cover a lot of ground with his speed. He's a physical guy."

The heavy hitter ranks third in the Pac-12 in tackles with 55, averaging 7.9 stops per game, and is tied with redshirt freshman David Wilkerson for 15th in the conference in tackles for loss with five.

So, even if he doesn't practice much this week, chances are he won't miss the opportunity to get on the same field as his younger brother in UCLA's Eric Kendricks, a 6-foot-1, 213-pound linebacker who, like his big bro, wears No. 30, and is tied for 29th in the conference in tackles per game, making 38 total stops.

"I think he's just going to go into the game and pay disciplined with what he's got to do to execute his assignments," Tedford said. "He's not really playing against his brother; his brother's on the other side of the ball, so it'd be different probably if his brother was a running back or something."

Wednesday's practice marked the second full day back for cornerback Marc Anthony, who will reclaim his starting spot on Saturday from true freshman Stefan McClure.

Anthony went down during Cal's 43-15 loss to Oregon with a twice-separated shoulder, first destabilizing the joint early in the first quarter and then injuring it further midway through the second stanza.

"The first one wasn't pretty bad, but when it happened the second time, it hurt a lot worse than the first one," Anthony said on Wednesday. "I still wanted to come back in."

In Anthony's stead, McClure has started two games, helping to shut down one of the conference's more dynamic deep threats in USC's Robert Woods. Not for a moment, though, was Anthony afraid of losing his job to the talented first-year.

"I'm not really a selfish guy like that. I know whatever it takes to help the team, I'm all for it," Anthony said. "Stef came into a pressing situation at Oregon and although he gave up a couple plays, I think he played very well. Then, he came back the next week against USC and helped shut down Robert Woods, then he came out the week after to help us get a win on defense with an interception. I think his play speaks for itself."

In his first few days back, Anthony has played well, according to Tedford, showing no rust from his time off.

"He's looked good. He's good to go," Tedford said. "He's been running. Even though he's had a shoulder, he's been running, so there hasn't been anything wrong with his legs."

Anthony is well enough that he took hits during Tuesday's full-pads session.

"Practice is going well. I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things," Anthony said. "Taking a couple weeks off is tough, being out and watching everybody play. It's just fun to get back out there and get back out with the guys."

On the other side of the ball, junior quarterback Zach Maynard has taken the lessons learned from his strong performance against Utah and carried them through practice this week, focusing on his footwork and keeping his upper and lower halves in sync.

"Right. It's all about angles, really, throwing the ball. If you're off on one thing, the ball could go a way that you don't want it to go," Maynard said. "I was just making sure my feet were good. I've been practicing my feet all week, my off-hand. I tend to over-stride sometimes to put a lot of force into the ball, but I'm just staying calm and staying poised and getting the ball to my receivers."

In Tedford's eyes, Maynard has begun to see the game slow down a bit, seven games into his first season as a Pac-12 signal-caller.

"I think, as the season wears on, each week, you go through the cycle. Each week's a new defense, a new defensive scheme, different wrinkles in game plans, and so on and so forth. I thought the game slowed down for him a little bit last week," Tedford said.

For Maynard, the biggest part of his progression has been diligence in the meeting room and studying his offense.

"I think it slows down because of how much you prepare and how much you know of the team or the opponent you're playing against and how comfortable you are against that defense," Maynard said. "You can play every week, but if you're not really prepared for it, you won't know what's going on and you can't hide. You're going to get in trouble and throw off balls and stuff."

While he takes a lot from the positive steps he made last week, there were some throws that could very well have wound up as interceptions against the Utes that fell incomplete.

"There were a couple of those the last game where I was like (tugs at collar), but that happened for a reason, though. We just kept going, had a good drive and scored the ball," Maynard said. "I feel more prepared. I feel more comfortable, taking my time on my steps. My feet aren't as quick. I'm just taking my time and focusing on releasing the ball properly."

When Maynard refers to his feet not being as "quick," he is pointing toward the fact that they're not quiet as jittery as they had been during the season. When it comes to rolling left and pulling the ball down to run, though, he feels that he's improving.

"It's vital. It's stuff I like to do, and I like to run when I can, make them play 10-man football, get out on the edge a couple times," Maynard said. "I like throwing on the run, too, because it gives more spacing for the receivers to get open, they can break any way they want to, really, and when I take the ball, I just try to get my head down and get what I can.

"I feel I'm more confident at this point in the season. I was just getting my feet back, getting my feet wet, early on in the season. We did pretty well, starting off, then we had a little downfall and this last game, I got my feet back under me. Last game, I was more comfortable. I feel better about the rest of the season."

While the pressure of facing the Ducks and the Trojans seemed to get the better of Maynard, playing in the historic Rose Bowl this Saturday won't affect him.

"I don't care, really," Maynard said. "I just want to win ballgames. Everything else doesn't matter. I don't care if I throw for 30 yards and we have 300 yards rushing; as long as we win the ballgame."

Practice Notes
Tailback Brendan Bigelow continues to work without his knee brace, and looked particularly quick and smooth in early drills today. Bigelow showed good speed, explosion and ran with good, low pad level.

Starting tailback Isi Sofele was back after spending a day in the red jersey, and participated in drills, albeit gingerly.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Chris Adcock was in yellow today.

Defensive back Alex Logan made a nice one-handed interception during positional drills, over the back of another DB playing the part of wide receiver.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jackson Bouza showed the soft hands he displayed before going down with an injury in fall camp, making several smooth grabs.

"He's fine. He's one of the guys in the depth, but we're not trying to build depth right now. We're trying to win games," Tedford said.



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