Typically, the kickers and longsnappers are the first ones on the field at practice. That was true Monday for the first day of training camp, but they were joined shortly after by wide receiver Nyan Boateng.
That’s a great sign for the Bears. Cal is desperate to replace the departed production at wide receiver, and Boateng may be the most talented receiver on the roster. But he also has been shouldering a pretty heavy dose of baggage around with him.
Boateng was catching passes from a team manager 45 minutes before practice for the 2008 season began. Commitment like that will help shed a perception that Boateng perhaps wasn’t the hardest worker at practice.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he’s noticed a change in Boateng this offseason.
“Nyan seems to be more hungry,” Tedford said. “He seems to have fit in really well with the team now. I think he came here with the idea that he was from Florida and he was something different than these guys. He’s kind of found his place here and been accepted and feels like he can just focus on what he needs to do and doesn’t have to put on a show to prove what he’s about. He just knows he needs to fit in by working hard witih everybody else.”
The rest of the team gradually trickled on to the field to join Boateng and the Bears commenced the 2008 season with a practice that was mostly drill-oriented, not surprising for a first day. Here are a few highlights:
I mentioned in my post earlier tonight that projected starting left tackle Mike Tepper is out as he recovers from surgery on his left pectoral muscle and a pulled hamstring. In what could be perceived as the first unit Monday — and I say perceived because it’s way too early to draw any grand conclusions — Chet Teofilo played in Tepper’s place. Teofilo is considered the favorite to win the starting right tackle job that was vacated by Tepper’s switch from the right side to left. With Teofilo playing left side, redshirt freshman Mitchell Schwartz played right tackle. Schwartz had a pretty good spring and Tepper’s absence should help him make a further case that he should be in the mix for playing time.
The rest of Monday’s first team offensive line was Richard Fisher at left guard, Alex Mack at center and Noris Malele at right guard.
Nate Longshore took first team reps at quarterback and Tracy Slocum was the first team running back. Kevin Riley and Jahvid Best were the second team quarterback and running back, respectively. Best looked just like he did in the spring — like his hip isn’t bothering him anymore. He was his usual explosvie self, making a trademark blur of himself as he dashed through the defense.
Defensively, MIka Kane was the first team nose guard with Derrick Hill on the second team. Eddie Young was the fourth first team linebacker in the new 3-4 alignment.
The grand competition between Longshore and Riley got off to a quiet start, mostly because the first practice consisted mainly of individual drills. There were some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations, but neither quarterback stood out during that brief time. Longshore did have one pretty good read on a play-fake rollout, checking off and inside receiver and completing a pass on the sideline. Generally, both quarterbacks had some good moments and bad moments.
Incoming freshman wide receiver Marvin Jones stood out, demonstrating good hands and making a couple of terrific catches.