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Spring practice begins

Injured players who are to avoid contact always wear red jersies at practice. As I settled into my bleacher at Memorial Stadium today for the first day of spring practice, I couldn’t help but notice a familiar face wearing a red jersey during drills with the running backs.

It was none other than Jahvid Best, who was supposed to sit out the entire spring as he recovers from his hip injury. Turns out Best is well enough to participate in individual drills, a welcome sight for a team that recently lost fellow tailback James Montgomery, who is transferring.

That was the biggest news on the first day of spring drills. The quarterback competition got off to a quiet start as the Bears focused on the running game during team work. Best isn’t expected to get any reps this spring, but the fact that he is practicing at all can’t help but get Cal fans excited.

“I was just told to come out here and go as hard as I can and see how my hip responds,” Best said after practice. After today, I feel pretty good. The only thing I felt is that I’m a little bit out of shape from not doing too much in a long time. But I felt fine.”

Best may say he’s out of shape, but he looked like the blur he usually is during individual drills. The speed was there, and I saw him cut definitively a few times and it looked like the Best of last season.

“They basically just wanted to see how it responds if I act normal, and then go from there to see how it plays out,” Best said.

Coach Jeff Tedford said there are no plans for him to do anything but individual drills during the spring. But it will give the Bears a great dose of comfort if Best tests everything out physically during the next month and he comes out of it unscathed.

Best said today was the hardest he’s gone on the hip yet, and he felt no restrictions.

Some other significant news Monday was that cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson has been suspended for breaking a team rule. Tedford wouldn’t say how long Thompson would be out, other than to say ”he’ll be out until I deem he can come back.” That has to be a disappointment for Tedford and defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, who has said he expects Thompson to become a team leader this season.

Tedford also spoke more about the departure of Montgomery and provided some insight. Although he said he was surprised Montgomery left the program, he did say “things weren’t going well for him.” He not only was referring to the fact that Montgomery was  coming off knee surgery, but that he had “been in the doghouse a little bit.” Tedford said Montgomery was late to a couple of workouts. ”

Tedford also said he wasn’t aware Montgomery wasn’t happy in Berkeley.

“That was the first I ever heard of that,” he said. “We wish him well. He’s a good kid.”

When it was pointed out that the team probably has the depth to weather Montgomery’s departure, Tedford said: “We have quality depth there. I don’t know if that played into his decision or not. You hate to see that. You wish he would have given himself a chance to go through spring and see where he ended up. I thought it was a little premature.”

As far as the quarterbacks go, Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley took most of the reps while a few were sprinkled in for Brock Mansion. Each quarterback had his share of good throws and bad throws, but again, neither had much of a chance to throw at all Monday. Tedford’s only comment on the quarterbacks was “I was really happy with everybody. I thought they handled the huddle really well and did a nice job.”

As Tedford said would happen, Longshore took the first team reps and Riley ran with the twos.

The Bears did a lot of mixing and matching during team drills so the difference between first and second team was marginal at times. But for one day it appears, not surprisingly, Michael Calvin and Jeremy Ross are the first team wide recievers, with LaReylle Cunningham and Drew Glover on the second team. Cunningham is the team’s most experienced receiver, but is also coming off knee surgery.

Wide receiver Nyan Boateng, the transfer from Florida who was suspended from all team activities last fall as he dealt with some legal problems, got minimal reps.

Running back Shane Vereen also was limited because of a nagging hamstring problem. That meant Tracy Slocum and incoming freshman Covaughn DeBoskie got all the reps.

On defense, the Bears went exclusively with the 3-4 look Monday, but Gregory said not to draw any grand conclusions from that. While admitting again that it’s something the team is looking to do more of, he said spring practice is the time to try new things, so they decided Monday was a good time to just go with it.

“We started with it today because we thought it was a good place to start, but we’ve always had both in the package,” Gregory said. “If you’re going to put new stuff in, then you want to look at it now and not wait.”

Defensive tackle Derrick Hill worked out with the second team as he also recovers from knee surgery. The Bears used Rulon Davis and Tyson Alualu on the ends with Mika Kane in the middle. But again, there was a lot of subbing going on so take position groups with a grain of salt.

Just a reminder: All practices are closed to the public.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Jan K. Oski

    Thanks for the update, J.O. Anytime you might need an assistant, I’m sure of few of us would be willing to be your slave for the day…

    Back to reality, how does Boateng look? There was talk that he’s a speedster, but how does he compare to Best? What about Deboskie and the other newcomers at WR on the same topic? It is hard to see their true speed on those videos against inferior players. You’re a lucky man to see it, first hand.

    That’s very disappointing news about Thompson, but I’m glad Tedford is nipping it in the butt months before the season starts. It will give the slow learners plenty of time to grow up. I don’t recall any disciplinary actions during this time last year, other than Tedford being disappointed with Hill.

    Great update! Keeping feed us!

  • Big D

    Did you get the vibe that Syd’Quan would be out all spring or a few days?

  • STEVE IN CONCORD

    I still don’t see all the depth at the RB position that Tedford says Cal has. The players may be good but there are only four of them at RB (two being currently injured) as opposed to seven at the fullback position. We have lost Forsett and Montgomery at RB while only adding DeBoskie. RB is not a good position to be thin at since injuries do happen. I’m wondering what all the FB’s do in practice sessions since Tedford doesn’t have a lot of use for them in game situations. Also, is Tedford making Boateng slowly work his way out of the doghouse? Based on his talent, I wouldn’t think he would be so far down on the depth chart.

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  • MoreNCsarecoming

    You can never have enough running backs. AT USC our program started with 10 high school All Americans last year and by the time the season was over we needed every single one of them. One hit can end a season for good. It is only my opinion but losing that Montgomery kid will be a loss.

  • Big Dan

    AMY, you really shouldn’t call SC “our program” since you didn’t even go there. Also, great insight. Losing someone can be a loss, huh? How profound.

  • Iamalcindor

    Check out http://bearsnecessity.com/

    hahaha. Hacked by Stanford fans. Berkley – owned in football, basketball (mens/womens) and hacking. What a joke!

  • Mark Sanchez

    http://mbd.scout.com/mb.aspx?S=18#s=18&f=1712&t=2289650

    Another example of Amy talking to herself. What an exciting life she must live.

  • PasadenaBear

    http://mbd.scout.com/mb.aspx?S=18#s=18&f=1712&t=2289650

    Amy stop talking to yourself on message boards. It is getting quite irritating.

  • MemorialSectionHH

    JO – thats good news about Best, I hope he’s able to come back to full health by fall. if you can get some time with cignetti, I’m sure cal fans would like to hear his thoughts on what will be new/different this year. thanks for the great reports thus far. oh yeah, how are the TEs looking? will morrah break out this year?

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    You know, now that I think of it, losing Monty isn’t that big of a deal. Last I checked, Best had more yard than Monty in 2007. Moreover, when you have a backload at RB like Cal has with Best Vereen, Deboskie and Slocum they are well positioned to yet again put forward one of the best running attacks in the country. Speed kills. Go Bears!

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    The only season Cal has even bothered to use 5 backs was in 2004, otherwise Cal usually only uses 3 backs, sometimes 4 and the 4th gets very few carries. Also, that fourth has been Schutte, who I imagine is still on the team and is the 5th back. Again, the quality 1 through 4 is pretty astounding. Good luck Monty riding the pine at Florida.

  • milo2

    Nice report JO. Keep ‘em coming. I think there’s more in development, up-in-the-air this spring and fall then in the past few years. It’ll be great to read your reports and see how things turn out in the Fall. Go Bears!

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  • Jonathan Okanes

    Jan, Boateng didn’t get many reps Monday so it was hard to draw any grand conclusions. But I do remember him from spring practice last year and he looked like an incredible athlete. DeBoskie got a lot of reps Monday and looked pretty good. He’s a big, strong back he moves pretty well. It was interesting to see Drew Glover running with the second team.
    Big, the hunch I got is that Thompson won’t be out for an extended period.
    Steve, four RBs seems like a lot to me, especially when you consider all four of them are considered highly regarded prospects. Regarding the fullbacks, don’t forget the team has used a lot of three wide receiver sets in the past that hasn’t required a fullback to be on the field. Fullbacks are also important in blocking schemes. As far as Boateng is concerned, certainly he needs to work his way up, especially considering he did nothing last year. He’s almost like a true freshman again.
    Memorial, Morrah will get every chance to break out. Skylar Curran ran with the second team Monday and converted defensive lineman Tad Smith also got some reps (although he did have one pass go right through his hands).

  • Will

    J.O.,

    How has Scott Smith looked thus far? Will he get some PT this year?

    How about Savaii Eselu — will he be buried down the depth chart?

    Have you heard JT and Cignetti ever talk about using Jahvid in the slot (like USC used Bush) — as an extra WR to help with our WR inexperience?

  • dball

    I originally thought Best would be a good boost to the WR corps too, he’s the same size as DeSean and Hawkins. But from JO’s report it sounds like the WR corps is pretty stacked. Plus, I think Tedford would be a little reluctant to have Best out there running crossing routes considering his hip surgery :-)

  • Jan K. Oski

    I’m with you, Dball. Best has the most experience at this level at RB, so he needs to be primed and ready at all times for that position. Then, again, how about a 4 receiver set? If Riley is back there, that might complicate things for the any defense. In addition, with the big size of this WR corps, Cignetti might put Best out there, because the WR can keep defenders off him. Time will only tell…
    Go You Bears!

  • Chingon

    Best will tear it up.

  • Juice

    JO:
    I had heard that Nick Demopoulos might have a chance to unseat Jordan Kay for the PK duties. What do you know about him? I heard that he is deadly from 40 yards in, but may not have the strong leg to hit from distance….consistency is vital….maybe PK by committee?! Thanks!

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Best would not want to go over the middle on pass routes. Just ask MeSean about the 2006 game against us.

    “Hello MeSean”
    “It’s #4 – Keith Ellison”

    Best regards

    MoreNCsarecoming

  • http://calbear68@gmail.com david cook

    He’s making me nervous already – ” Longshore took the first team reps.” I know , it’s early but…………

  • Tyler

    Who’s “Keith Ellison”? I think that you mean the amazing, 220+ lb. Trojan DB Kevin Ellison.

  • BoaltBlue

    Tedford needs to realize that a healthy Kevin Riley is a much better than a healthy Nate Longshore at QB. Riley has a better arm and wheels that can move. Tedford would be wise to invest the time to bring Riley along to learn the offense to the level that Tedford believes is necessary to run the offense.

    Longshore, if healthy, would be a good backup. Playing an injured Longshore really hurts our team.

    Heck, even dumbing up our offense and playing Riley at QB at a schoolyard offense level last season would have been probably more effective than what our offense did under an injured Longshore. It was pathetic that our three great receivers were handicapped by our injured QB who just could not deliver the long ball. Examples, Longshore underthrew DJ, RJ, and LH on multiple occasions, yielding interceptions.

    Also, under Tedford’s play calling, DJ — the fastest man on the field and the fastest receiver at the NFL combine — was under utilized. Example, DJ caught 4 passes for 5 yards against OSU. Where was Tedford calling for the ball to be thrown to DJ? Behind the line of scrimage! If DJ would have been given the chance to go deep, he would have delivered for us.

    What a waste of talent and a great opportunity for Cal fans last year. It will always be remembered as the wasted season that could have been.

    Tedford has been wonderful for Cal football in the past, but he made several terrible judgment calls last year. Tedford’s time management also needs significant change and improvement.

    Let’s hope that he gives Riley and Cal fans a fair shake this year.

    Pound the opponents with our run game, light the opponents up with the deep ball under Riley!

    Go Bears.

  • testicularmanslaughter

    Go Bears

  • Davidson

    I was at the OSU game and was 10 rows back from the endzone where Riley ended the game by taking a sack. It took a week for me bring myself to watch the taped copy of the game. When I did, I realized how good Riley did. During the game, we were calling for Longshore to come in and didn’t notice that Riley played an amazing game for his 1st start ever in Div-I football.

    We were calling for Riley throughout the 2nd half of the season and had to suffer through loss after loss. In the second quarter of the Armed Forces Bowl Game, Riley came in and lifted us to an amazing comeback victory. He has the confidence and the skills to be Tedford’s best quarterback to date, which is saying a lot. I will not renew my season tickets if Longshore is the starter. From a pure morale standpoint, you need Riley in there. From all my observations, he looks like a true leader.

    GO BEARS!!!

  • Tyler

    Kevin Riley has the spring and summer to prove he is the starting guy. And I think that he’ll earn it. He started last spring as the a third string QB, behind the prize recruit Kyle Reed. He beat Reed head-on and now Reed’s at SJSU.

    The fact that Tedford has Longshore taking first reps should be expected. You can’t say that Riley has won those reps yet. Longshore has two years of experience on him. But if this spring/summer goes like it did for Riley last year, he should be starting against Michigan State.

  • Anonymous

    Dont discount Brock Mansion

  • Robert

    J.O. who has been lining up on the offensive line?

  • CALiforniALUM

    J.O.

    Earlier this year it was reported that Longshore was working hard to drop some weight in preparation for this year. Tedford also was quoted that Longshore had taken the season poorly from a mental state and was really trying to dedicate himself to being better prepared physically and mentally.

    Is there any word on Nate’s physical and mental state?

  • MoreNCsarecoming
  • Bear

    What’s going on with Vereen? Will he be able to go anytime during spring ball?

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Will, Smith missed the first practice because he was late getting back from Hawaii for spring break. With Cal experimenting with the 3-4 right now, there are less opportunities for linemen. Tedford has mentioned using running backs in the slot on certain plays, but not completely moving any of them to wide receiver.
    Juice, don’t know much about Demopoulos, but spring certainly will be a time for him to make an impression.
    Cali, I think Nate took it hard right after the season, but he seems fine. And he’s looked sharp in practice so far.

  • CAL Fan

    Do you think Solomona Aigamaua will be a good line backer next year? Do you think that if Savai’i Eselu doesn’t do a good job as a TE, would he be a good DE.