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heading into spring practice

With the tremendous buzz these days about Cal football, and some impressive season ticket sales already, I figured that fans are hungry for information, even in the off season. So headed into spring football, I thought I would talk to the different position coaches and take a look at each position and what the coaches hope to see during spring ball. I will update the blog each day headed into spring ball, which begins Monday, March 12.

My first stop was the office of new linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson, who takes over for the retired Bob Foster. You can tell that Thompson, who left San Jose State to take the job at Cal, is very excited to work with the kind of talent he has inherited at linebacker. When a team loses talent like Desmond Bishop, the Pac-10′s leading tackler, and Mickey Pimentel, you would have to expect a rebuilding season. However, that isn’t the case at Cal.

Thompson said that Zack Follett and Greg Van Hoesen will be competing for the Mike linebacker (or middle) position to replace Bishop. Cal fans got used to seeing Follett line up on the edge last season and he was quite successful attacking the quarterback. However, Thompson said that using Follett inside will allow him to be involved in even more plays. “In high school, he was more of an inside guy,” Thompson said. “And his athletic ability is going to be an asset to him. We already have seen what he can do coming from off the edge. Inside, he is going to be involved.”

Follett wasn’t a starter for most of 2006 but he finished as the team’s fifth leading tackler with 62 and was second in tackles for loss with 12.5. He had 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. “For the number of snaps he played, compared to the number of plays he made, his rating was extremely high.”

Thompson said that he looks for Follett, and all his players, to get better in terms of consistency. “For all the guys, they need to find out how to stay at that high level,” Thompson said.

“I’m very excited about Zack. He’s a playmaker who has a nose for the football. He’s got a good bend. My that I mean he is so athletic, the way he can change direction and the way he moves his hips.”

Follett’s chief competition will be Van Hoesen, who had 23 tackles in a backup role last season. “It was a tall order for him to play behind Bishop,” Thompson said. “But his attitude makes him special. He has a great work ethic. He has seen a lot of snaps during his career and he is very smart. He makes great decisions and he does a good job with his eyes. He does a great job of taking care of his responsibilities. He continues to work on the little things and he has evolved into a leader.

There is no question that we are very strong (at Mike). I would be very, very confident if either of them starts at the position.

A step behind those two is sophomore Matt Russi, who had some lower back issues in 2006. Thompson said he is an extremely hard-working player who has a knack for being around the football. He decribes Russi as a shorter, thicker player who is very smart.

TOMORROW: Outside linebackers

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back from vacation

well, it was two weeks off and it seemed like a month.

I walked into the office today and found out that Cal senior cornerback Tim Mixon withdrew his application for a sixth year in order to pursue any professional opportunity that might come his way. Tim is such a great kid, I wish him well, but I would have liked to have seen him playing cornerback next season. If he had played one less game before getting injured a couple of years ago, I’m sure he would have seen this thing through to the end. However, he barely missed the criteria and wasn’t optimistic about his chance of getting another season from the NCAA.

While I was gone, Jim Michalczik was moved to offensive coordinator. This is perfect and well deserved. Coach Michalczik is a head coach in waiting and the move advances his career in that regard while keeping him on the scene. It’s only a matter of time before somebody plucks him away.