Already bypassed by sophomore Kendrick Payne in the spring, senior nose tackle Derrick Hill needed this training camp to make a case to earn back his starting job.
But just like so many other times during his Cal career, an injury has set him back.
Hill has missed the past week with a case of gout. Originally, Cal's training staff figured it was his balky knee acting up again. But when Hill's foot began to swell on Friday, it was determined he had gout.
Hill tore up his knee in 2006. He's battled it ever since and has also missed time with a couple of other ailments during his career.
"It's been very frustrating, especially this year," said Hill, who has started 17 games over the past two seasons. "I had a healthy summer and spring. Something like this just brings you to a screeching halt."
Hill expects to return to the practice field any day now. But the time away hasn't helped his chances to hold off Payne, who had a terrific spring and emerged as the starter.
Coach Jeff Tedford acknowledged that Payne is the starter as of now but that the position is still competitive. He said Hill and sophomore Aaron Tipoti are still pushing Payne.
Even if Payne holds on to his starting job, Hill should be in the regular playing rotation when healthy.
"When he's healthy, he's a dominating player," Tedford said. "Of course, we want to make sure we get him back right. We have to be smart with him."
Hill said he considered
"The coaches have who they want to put out there, and you just have to go with it," Hill said. "You go out there and compete and try your best. Ideally, I'd like to be playing, getting better and competing with those guys."
Vereen had practiced in a limited capacity in each of the two previous days, but Saturday provided the first opportunity for him to simulate getting hit the way he would in a game.
"It felt good to get out there and play some football," Vereen said. "It's been awhile. Everything seemed to come to me pretty quick. Of course, there are some things I need to work on. I definitely think it's important that I get knocked around a little bit."