Cal has released its spring depth chart and there are some notables on it. The most intriguing is in the secondary, where, as of now, Bernard Hicks is slated to replace Thomas DeCoud at free safety. Previous discussions I’ve had with some of the coaches and players made me think that the Bears would keep both Hicks and Marcus Ezeff at rover, and perhaps give Brett Johnson or D.J. Campbell as shot to replace DeCoud. But Cal’s sports information department released this depth chart after consulting coaches, so Hicks is the man at free safety right now.
Hicks doesn’t have the size or speed that DeCoud had, so it will be a noticeable change for the last line of defense. But the bottom line is it gives defensive coordinator Bob Gregory a chance to get Hicks and Ezeff on the field at the same time — they competed all last season for playing time at rover, sharing time while the each battled injuries at certain times.
Chris Conte is listed as the new starting cornerback opposite Syd’Quan Thompson. This doesn’t come as a complete surprise because Conte started three games last year. But Darian Hagan started to come on at practice near the end of last year and could push Conte for that spot.
On offense, Michael Calvin and Jeremy Ross are slated as the starting wide receivers. Even though Calvin hasn’t played a single down in a college game yet, he could become the Bears’ go-to receiver immediately. He came into the program with big press clippings and didn’t disappoint as a member of the scout team last year. Nyan Boateng, the ultra-talented transfer from Florida who sat out last season because of transfer rules then was suspended after running into legal trouble, is listed as a backup.
Nate Longshore continues to be listed as the team’s starting quarterback, but as most of you know, the position is up for grabs. Longshore, Kevin Riley, and even Brock Mansion will each get a chance to make a bit for the spot, starting with spring practice (which is only 11 days away, believe it or not).
The Bears need to replace the left side of their offensive line. Chet Teofilo, who started at left tackle late in the season when Mike Gibson was out with a concussion, is slated to start there. Mark Boskovich, who started sharing first team reps at right guard at practice with Noris Malele near the ned of last season, is penciled in as the starting left guard. But Cal has several talented young linemen and I was told that the complexion of the line could change once spring begins.
Thompson and Shane Vereen are slated to take over for DeSean Jackson as the team’s punt returner, while Vereen, James Montgomery and Jahvid Best are all listed as kick returners.
There are no other real surprises. Alex Mack, Malele and Mike Tepper make up the rest of the offensive line. Cameron Morrah takes over for Craig Stevens at tight end and Will Ta’ufo’ou remains the fullback.
Rulon Davis, Cody Jones, Derrick Hill and Tyson Alualu are listed as the starting defensive linemen while Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder make up the linebacking corps. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the possibility of the team switching to a 3-4 defense, something that worked wonders in the Bears’ win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. That was partially due to the Falcons’ option offense, but the strength of the defense is in the linebackers, and a 3-4 would give Gregory a chance to get more of his best players on the field. Gregory has acknowledged it’s something he’s going to consider more strongly this season. The spring will give him more of a chance to determine just how much he wants to incoporate it into the team’s philosophy.