The second installment of spring practice was a lively one, as the defense hooted and hollered its way to a handful of takeaways during team drills.
Cal’s defense forced a few fumbles and picked off a few passes during crossover, when the offense goes head-to-head with the defense. In general, Nate Longshore had a better day than Kevin Riley at quarterback, although Riley made a late comeback with some nice plays during the end of practice.
Longshore got on a roll for a while during 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, threading the needle with a couple of crisp passes and throwing the ball down the field as well. He seemed to have a little extra bounce in his step Wednesday, as was evident on one pass over the middle that he fired into fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou. It even drew a reaction from some of the assembled media and Cal athletic staff on hand in the stands.
During one-on-one drills, when receivers take turns going head-to-head with a defensive back, Longshore aired one out for wide receiver Drew Glover, who made a nice diving catch. The only drawback was Glover and Longshore attempted some kind of chest-bump or high-five celebration afterward, and missed each other completely.
During the same drills, Riley was picked off by Chris Conte and Syd’Quan Thompson on back-to-back passes.
(Yes, Thompson was back at practice after a brief suspension. Thompson had missed the spring opener on Monday for breaking a team rule, according to coach Jeff Tedford. Tedford said he Thompson would return when he deemed him ready, and it obviously didn’t take long for that to happen.
Riley struggled for part of practice but came on during crossover late in the session. On one play, he eluded the rush, stepped up and made a nice touch pass on the run to fullback Brian Holley up the left sideline. It was reminiscent of his touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the Armed Forces Bowl, just not as deep.
Longshore also was intercepted by Zack Follett late in practice.
The defense continues to employ almost exclusively the 3-4 system. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said not to read too much into it, that the spring is time to try new things. Still, the Bears defensive coaches are spending a lot of time during practice teaching, and it appears evident Cal will, at the very least, use a three-man front more than it has in the past.
Gregory used Brett Johnson and D.J. Campbell as first team safeties Wednesday instead of Bernard Hicks and Marcus Ezeff, but he said there was no special meaning to it. He simply wants to rotate players around and try different combinations.
Jahvid Best did a little more than Monday, earning a few reps during team drills (He did just individual drills on Monday). But he is still wearing a red jersey, meaning he is to avoid all contact. Tedford said the plan is still to have him avoid contact all spring.
Meanwhile, fellow running back Shane Vereen took much more reps than he did Monday, as he apparently is recovering from his hamstring injury.
A few other notes from Wednesday:
–Wide receiver Nyan Boateng made a terrific catch during one-on-one drills, still managing to haul in a pass after slipping on the turf and lying flat on his back.
–Converted tight end Tad Smith made a one-hand catch on a pass from Riley during crossover.
–Defensive end Scott Smith practiced after missing Monday because of a flight problem. Smith was returning from his hometown of Honolulu from spring break and couldn’t make it back in time for Monday’s practice.