Catching up

A few notes and thoughts from Tuesday and Wednesday:

–Cal coach Jeff Tedford gave his players a reward for their hard work this camp by cancelling evening practice Monday. The Bears were scheduled to have a double-day, but they practiced only in the morning. Instead, the team went to the movies and saw “Rush Hour 3.”

–Running back James Montgomery and left tackle Mike Gibson returned from injuries on Tuesday night. Freshman running back Jahvid Best had a minor case of back spasms and was held out of some action Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Free safety Thomas DeCoud is recovered from a twinge in his hamstring.

–The Bears will hold their first of two intrasquad scrimmages Thursday, and they appear ready. The final installment of 11-on-11s near the end of Wednesday’s morning practice got a little chippy, with a few incidents of offensive and defensive players barking at each other and getting a little rough.

–Cal opened Wednesday’s practice with some work on the two-minute offense, and quarterback Nate Longshore hit tight end Craig Stevens with a long touchdown pass. Later, backup defensive end John Allen sacked backup quarterback Kyle Reed.

–This may be the best freshman class in Jeff Tedford’s time at Cal. There is quality all over the field, including a handful of guys who could be potential stars. I’ve mentioned Best a few times, but watch out for wide receiver Michael Calvin. He’s big and may have the best hands of any receiver on the team. He’ll surely redshirt this season because of the Bears’ depth at receiver, but Calvin certainly will be a player to watch down the road. He made a terrific leaping catch down the left sideline Wednesday morning, prompting a high-five from Tedford.

–Many of the starting spots are coming into focus, so Thursday’s scrimmage may be more important for determining the second team. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said the scrimmage will help determine such things as the backup defensive tackles and second unit cornerbacks.

–It looks as though there are six defensive lineman vying for four starting spots: Cody Jones, Tad Smith and Rulon Davis on the outside and Matt Malele, Tyson Alualu and Mike Kane on the interior.

–Of course, the biggest competition has been for the No. 2 quarterback spot between redshirt sophomore Kyle Reed and redshirt freshman Kevin Riley. They appear pretty even at this point, and it seems Reed may have the edge just because he’s been in the program a year longer.


Media day-UCLA

No, I haven’t forgot about my team-by-team updates from Pac-10 media day. UCLA obviously had to answer a lot of questions about expectations. The Bruins have 10 starters back on both sides of the ball, and had a lot of momentum going near the end of last season before getting thumped by Florida State in the Emerald Bowl.

It’s interesting how everyone has UCLA ranked in the top 15 or top 20. Let’s not forget the Bruins were only 7-6 last season. Their three-game win streak near the end of the season, which included their upset of USC, is likely what has prognosticators penciling them in for second or third place in the Pac-10.

“That was a great win for us and does a lot for our program,” UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis said of the USC victory. “They were supposedly on their way to the national championship. It does a lot for your confidence. We know we are able to beat some of the best teams in the country. But it doesn’t mean we are going to get arrogant or complacent or anything like that.”

UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, who may be looking for work after the season if the Bruins don’t produce, said the thing that encourages his most about the upcoming season is the experience the team has at quarterback. Ben Olson returns as starter, and Pat Cowan, his backup, started eight games last season after Olson went down with a knee injury.

“We really emphasize giving our quarterbacks a lot of information to handle, and we’re very fortunate that we feel we can do that given that Ben Olson is a returning starter and Pat Cowan is a returning starter in a backup position,” Dorrell said. “Both have extensive playing experience and can handle game planning and the process of what it takes. I feel these guys are ready for that type of challenge.”



The Bears worked out in the morning on Monday. There was nothing particularly noteworthy, although defensive end Tad Smith had his second strong practice in a row. Freshman Jahvid Best also stood out once again. On one play during 11-on-11s, he took a short pass over the middle from Nate Longshore and raced to the outside for a long gain.

Typically, the Bears run sprints after practice. They did again Monday, but this time the entire Cal coaching staff did them first. “It hurt,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.

Speaking of Longshore, his experiment with blue hair didn’t last long. He dyed it black a couple of days ago, in preparation for Sunday’s team photo day.

Sophomore Matt Laird ran with the first unit on the offensive line, primarily because Chet Teofilo spent the morning undergoing surgery for a dislocated thumb. Teofilo has been running with the first unit because Mike Gibson is still limited with a hamstring injury. Tedford said the offensive line is pretty much set, if everyone is healthy: LT – Gibson, LG – Brian De La Puente, C – Alex Mack, RG – Norris Malele, RT – Mike Tepper. Tedford said Tepper is having an excellent camp and is “coming into his own.”


Sunday’s practice

It was a bad day for the offense and good one for the defense. The offense was plagued by fumbled snaps and botched exchanges, while the defense got a good dose of pressure on the quarterbacks throughout 11-on-11s.

Defensive end Tad Smith had a particularly impressive day. On back-to-back plays, he forced quarterback Nate Longshore into a hurry, then broke through the line quickly and jarred the ball loose from Longshore. Smith generally was in the backfield a lot when he was in there. He’s currently running with the first unit on the defensive line along with Cody Jones, Matt Malele and Tyson Alualu.

Linebacker Anthony Felder had a good practice, including a hard hit on running back Justin Forsett as he broke past the line up the middle.

Linebacker Zack Follett had the easiest of fumble recoveries, when Longshore and center Alex Mack couldn’t get together on the snap and the ball popped into the air and right into Follett’s waiting arms.

Fans might be interested to know that DeSean Jackson played the role of kick returner during special teams practice. The drill was for the kick coverage team, but it reinforces the idea that coach Jeff Tedford is going to take a look at Jackson as a kickoff returner this season.

Tedford called the race for the No. 2 quarterback job between Kyle Reed and Kevin Riley is still close. The team is holding a scrimmage Thursday, and Tedford said he will probably name the backup after that.

Tedford clearly was unhappy with the performance of the offense Sunday. “It was a very sloppy day for the offense. Missed assignments is what it is.”

On the injury front, Tedford said backup running back James Montgomery should return to practice in the next couple of days. Montgomery suffered a concussion Friday. There still is no word on when defensive lineman Derrick Hill will be ready. He hasn’t practiced yet because of back spasms.

Incoming freshman D.J. Holt hasn’t reported to camp yet because of academic requirements, according to Tedford. He’s expected to be ready by the end of camp or the beginning of the fall semester.


Injury update-Saturday

Redshirt freshman running back James Montgomery sat out practice after sustaining a concussion late in practice Friday. Starting free safety Thomas DeCoud practiced in only limited fashion as he nurses a twinge in his hamstring. Defensive tackle Derrick Hill continues to miss time because of back spasms.Offensive lineman Mike Gibson has missed the past few days because of a hamstring injury.


Friday’s practice

You got the feeling the players were geared up for Friday’s practice because it was their first in full pads. The Bears did lots of 11-on-11, and pretty much everyone is getting equal reps at this point. Coach Jeff Tedford said full pads is the best way to evaluate his players because it reflects the most realistic situations they will be in.

Here are some observations and thoughts:

–Neither Kyle Reed or Kevin Riley has emerged as the better candidate for the No. 2 quarterback position. Reed throws a good ball but seems to hold on to it too long sometimes. Freshman Brock Mansion will have to wait his turn but looks like he is going to be a star at Cal someday.

–Jahvid Best continues to impress at running back. News out of camp today was that walk-on tailback Bryan Schutte has quit the team, improving the chances of Best playing as a true freshman. Tedford said both Best and fellow freshman Shane Vereen could play this season. Best was a highly recruited prospect, but there was some lingering questions because he came from a smaller school in Salesian. It’s only five days of camp, but he definitely looks like the real deal.

–Starting free safety Thomas DeCoud came down with a twinge in his hamstring. Tedford didn’t know how serious it was after practice.

–During 11-on-11s, running back Justin Forsett took a screen pass from quarterback Nate Lonshore and raced up the field for a long gain before Brandon Hampton ran him down. Hampton is very much a candidate to start at cornerback.

–A USA Today photographer was on hand for a photoshoot with DeSean Jackson. A reporter was in town earlier in the week for a story that is believed to be published next week.

–Quarterbacks had their share of mistakes. Longshore tried to force a pass to Robert Jordan over the middle, and it was easily picked off by Brett Johnson. Reed forced a pass into double-coverage, trying to find tight end Cameron Morrah, and it was almost intercepted by Gary Doxy. And Mansion came close to having a pass picked off by linebacker Anthony Felder.

Cal has its first double-day session of camp on Saturday. The Bears will go in full pads again for the evening session, again on Sunday and Monday, with Monday another double-day.


Thursday practice

The Bears practiced in helmets and shoulder pads again Thursday. Some of the highlights:

–Redshirt freshman Darian Hagan, one of a handful of candidates competing for a starting spot at cornerback, forced a fumble after Sean Young made a catch for a short gain during on seven-on-sevens. Linebacker Shea McIntyre recovered.

–Wide receiver Drew Glover made a highlight reel diving catch on a pass up the right sideline by freshman quarterback Brock Mansion. It drew oohs and aahs from his teammates, even as defensive backs coach R. Todd Littlejohn jokingly tried to make an argument that Glover was out of bounds.

–After pre-practice warm-ups, coach Jeff Tedford blew the whistle to signal the official start of practice. He wasn’t happy with the team’s enthusiasm, so he made his players return to where they came from and converge again. The players seemed a little more vocal on the second try.

–It’s early, but freshman running back Jahvid Best looks like he belongs. He hits the hole hard and with great burst.

–The Bears practice in full pads for the first time Friday. It should provide some good stuff to report.


Wednesday practice

I wasn’t at practice today but our capable columnist, Eric Gilmore, filled in. You can expect a column on DeSean Jackson in Thursday’s paper.

Some notes that were passed on to me:

Defensive tackle Derrick Hill still hasn’t practiced because of back spasms. X-rays were negative, but coach Jeff Tedford still didn’t seem too happy about the situation.
“It’s coming into camp in poor shape,” he said, who didn’t seem to mind if his comments wound up in the papers. “That’s what happens when you come into camp in poor shape.”

The Bears worked out in shells for the first time. They did a lot of 11-on-11. Freshman running back Jahvid Best looked good, and although Tedford warned you really can’t make a judgement on someone until he is in full pads, he clearly has been impressed so far by the speedy tailback.
“So far, he’s been just great,” Tedford said.

Tedford also said he was aware that Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker has been suspended indefinitely by coach Phillip Fulmer. It’s unknown if Coker will be reinstated by the time the Bears and Vols hook up for the season-opener on Sept. 1. ESPN.com is reporting Coker was suspended for a substance abuse violation.
Tedford said he only tells his players about situations such as these to remind them not to make the same mistakes.
“It’s not so much about them, but us continuing to make good decisions so we don’t put ourselves in these situations,” he said.


Second day of practice

The highlight of Tuesday’s practice were sprints at the end of the session. Freshman Sam DeMartinis and Justin Cheadle showed they are a pair of athletic offensive lineman by still running fairly hard at the end of it. But the standout overall was freshman defensive tackle Cameron Jordan, who had his teammates buzzing by flying up and down the field despite his 6-4, 260 frame.

The best moment during seven-on-sevens came when a pass by Kyle Reed that was intended for Sean Young was tipped up in the air by safety Thomas DeCoud and intercepted by Syd’Quan Thompson.

Young had a good first two days of camp, but with the Bears’ marquee set of receivers, it may not matter how well a guy like that plays.

Several players are missing some practice time as summer class wrap up. Coach Jeff Tedford said the whole team should be wrapped up with classes by Thursday.

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Derrick Hill missed his second straight practice because of back spasms. Tedford said the team will know more about the severity of his condition as soon as today.