The most pivotal thing Cal running back Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson did this summer to get into playing shape was avoid the pig.
"I love pig," DeBoskie-Johnson said. "But I didn't have a piece of bacon all summer."
DeBoskie-Johnson was substantially overweight during spring practice as he recovered from a knee injury suffered late last season. He shed about 25 pounds over the summer and checked into training camp at a sculpted 204 pounds. As a result, the explosiveness he possessed during his first few years at Cal is back, and the junior has all but locked down the No. 2 spot behind starter Isi Sofele.
DeBoskie-Johnson didn't play during Wednesday's first scrimmage of camp, another sign that he has secured a spot in the playing rotation. The scrimmage was mostly for Cal's coaching staff to evaluate players competing for spots on the depth chart.
"It was real hard changing my diet," DeBoskie-Johnson said. "It used to be that I could eat anything, and then I really had to switch. If I wanted to show my potential this year, I had to lose 20-something pounds. They wanted me running how I used to run. In order to do that, I had to lose the weight."
DeBoskie-Johnson weighed 185 pounds before his knee injury, and the combination of his increased size and reclaimed explosiveness could turn him into a valuable asset, especially in the red zone.
DeBoskie-Johnson played sparingly the past two seasons, both of which he entered no higher than third on the depth chart. He made his biggest impression this camp during a practice last week when he busted through an attempted tackle of linebacker Mychal Kendricks for a touchdown during a red zone drill.
"Covaughn has had a real nice camp," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Covaughn came back in shape ready to go. He ran right through Kendricks. That's been the thing about Covaughn, making sure he's physical enough."
The coaching staff is trying to determine whether several true freshmen should contribute this season. Candidates are linebackers Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside, defensive linemen Viliama Moala, Mustafa Jalil and Brennan Scarlett, cornerbacks Stefan McClure, Kameron Jackson and Joel Willis, safety Avery Walls, wide receiver Maurice Harris and tailbacks Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco.
"We tried to let everybody play today to get their feet wet a little bit," Tedford said. "We tried to really get a look at the younger guys."