Early spring pecking order

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 allĀ 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.


Spring has almost sprung

Hi, folks.Ā  Well, I’m back after taking some time off and we find ourselves only two weeks away from the beginning of spring practice. There obviously are going to be a lot of storylines this spring and I will spend some time leading up to it previewing them here.

Before spring begins, Memorial Stadium also will be filled with activity on March 11 when Cal holds its Pro Day. NFL scouts will flock to Berkeley to evaluate the Bears’ pro prospects. Seven former Bears took part in the NFL combine last week and this will be another chance to improve their stock with scouts, should they choose to do so.

It will be interesting to see what DeSean Jackson does. It may not be in his best interest to run the 40-yard dash again after putting up the best time of any wide receiver at the combine (4.35). And his biggest shortcoming, the fact that he weighed in at just 169 pounds, isn’t going to change.

Pro day may be a chance for Lavelle Hawkins to improve on his combine 40 time of 4.56. Hawkins was very impressive during the Senior Bowl in January but his combine wasn’t at the same level.

Pro Day also includes activities for juniors, who can be tested and give themselves a gauge of where they stand heading into their senior season.

In other news, defensive back Robert Peele is no longer on the team. No further information was available. Peele once was a highly regarded recruit who started this past season as a backup defensive back and played on special teams. But he suffered a sprained ankle against Oregon and never played again the rest of the year.

The Bears may need to work on improving their depth in the secondary. Peele’s departure follows Brandon Jones, who also left the team since the end of the season. Jones had a good year on special teams and was one of the best athletes on the team. Certainly, he would have eventually been in the mix for some playing time on defense.

Cal has to replace Thomas DeCoud at free safety and doesn’t have much proven personnel to back up the defensive back positions. Assuming Syd’Quan Thompson and Chris Conte are your starting cornerbacks next season, who are the next in line? Most likely, Darian Hagan. After that is anybody’s guess. Maybe Sean Cattouse, who will be a redshirt freshman this season. Or it could possibly be incoming freshman Marc Anthony.

We’ll take a closer look at who replaces DeCoud and the secondary in general as we get closer to the beginning of spring practice.