With the beginning of training camp now just a few days away, let’s lookat some of the intriguing position battles that will take place this fall:
–Quarterback. Duh. We all know this will be the most closely watched competition as fifth-year senior Nate Longshore tries to keep his job away from redshirt sophomore Kevin Riley. Coach Jeff Tedford has said he will wait until the first week of the season to name a starter, possibly even later. There’s a chance he may play both quarterbacks in the first game against MIchigan State to get a better measuring stick on the two guys.
If Tedford names a starter before the first game, I believe it will go down like this: Longshore will be 1A and Riley will be 1B. I just don’t see how Riley will do enough in the practice setting to unseat Longshore. Longshore was outplaying Riley during the first week of spring before he suffered his pectoral injury that shut him down. If that trend continues (and Tedford said Longshore is completely healed), Longshore should still have an edge as the season starts. But if Longshore is ineffective, I don’t think Tedford will be hesitant to pull the plug immediately and replace him with Riley. And again, he may play Riley in the season-opener anyway.
–Left guard/right tackle: Mark Boskovich was pushing Noris Malele at right guard at the end of last season. With the departure of left guard Brian De La Puente, Boskovich figured to be the man with the first shot there. But in one of the surprises of the spring, walk-on Richard Fisher moved past Boskovich to run with the first team. Fisher, a walk-on and vegetarian, no less, is still listed as the backup to Boskovich on the depth chart, but offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said there is going to be a lot of competition on the offensive line in the fall.
Chet Teofilo looks pretty good as the leading candidate to take over at right tackle (Last year’s right tackle, Mike Tepper, has moved to the left side). But Mitchell Schwartz had a very good spring and could push for time there.
–Wide receiver: There are plenty of reps to be had with the departure of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Redshirt freshman Michael Calvin, the star of the scout team last year, is penciled in at one spot. Nyan Boateng and Jeremy Ross should be the other starters when the Bears use three-man sets, which they typically have done in the past. But I don’t think either guy is a done deal. Boateng’s physical ability is unquestioned, but he needs to improve his work habits at practice and is still unproven. Ross played well during the spring before getting injured, but he didn’t come to Cal as a highly ranked prospect so he really is an unknown commodity.
It’s doubtful LaReylle Cunningham will be more than a backup. That means it’s probably up to a member of the touted incoming receiver class to make an impact if one of the projected starters doesn’t pan out. Marvin Jones likely is the top candidate.
One wild card is Drew Glover, a converted defensive back who also played well in the spring before suffering an injury. He could work his way into the conversation if he picks up where he left off.
–Linebacker: We all know Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder will be on the field. But now that Cal is going to be using four linebackers in the 3-4 alignment, who will be joining them? Probably redshirt sophomore Mike Mohamed, who registered 46 tackles and broke up three passes last season despite limited playing time. It probably would be hard to find a player with a better tackles-to-plays ratio.
But we all know about the Bears’ depth at linebacker — one of the reasons they are switching to the 3-4. Junior Eddie Young is also a strong candidate. He has looked like a player since Spring, ’07, just waiting his turn to see the field.
D.J. Holt, another player the coaching staff is very high on, may simply have to wait his turn. Holt is more suited to play the middle and should be a MLB in waiting after Williams and Felder leave following this season.
–Kicker: Jordan Kay is the returning starter, but he could be pushed by walk-on freshman David Seawright. Seawright probably already has kickoff duties locked up, but could also be the field goal kicker as well. Kay got off to a strong start last season but then was inconsistent, making just 7 of 14 field goals from beyond 30 yards.