By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 at 10:09 pm in Training camp.
It’s amazing how much information you get when you actually have to depend on other people to give it to you.
Tuesday’s second and final scrimmage of training camp was closed to the media. Reporters were let into the stadium just as practice was winding down. I got inside just in time to see David Seawright clank a 52-yard field goal attempt off the crossbar. Apparently, that was the only missed field goal of the day between him and Jordan Kay combined.
Those of you who were waiting for some grand revelations to come out of the scrimmage are going to be disappointed. The only real news is that coach Jeff Tedford said tight end Anthony Miller and linebacker Mychal Kendricks are going to play as true freshman. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory later said the same thing about nose tackle Kendrick Payne.
There will be others. Wide receiver Marvin Jones is a sure thing to play this season as a freshman. Tedford was coy when asked about Jones after the scrimmage. That’s probably because the coaching staff still hasn’t sorted out the depth chart at receiver, and Tedford would rather wait until those decisions have been made to comment on one player.
“Let’s put it this way,” Tedford said. “He has the best chance out of the freshman to play right now at the receiver position.”
Tedford was smiling when he said it. His smile had a “Duh” look to it.
Other true freshman who might play right away are cornerback Marc Anthony, defensive linemen Trevor Guyton and Aaron Tipoti and Seawright.
Tedford said the coaching staff will have meetings Wednesday to sort out the depth chart. Game planning for Michigan State won’t actually begin until Thursday. Wednesday morning’s practice will be a “mock game,” in which the team will go over organizational things. Tedford said “we’ll kind of know what’s going on” by Thursday’s practice.
Whether that applies to the quarterback spot remains to be seen. Tedford dropped another hint that he may pick a starter sooner than expected when he was asked how close he was to picking the first team QB. “We’re getting close,” he said. Does close mean Thursday? Who knows? A follow-up question asked what his timeline was for naming a starter. He chuckled and said “I don’t know. I’m not going to back myself into that corner.”
Tedford didn’t say much about the quarterbacks’ play Tuesday. The only real detail he provided was that neither Nate Longshore or Kevin Riley threw an interception. The only interception of the day came on a pass from Brock Mansion. It was picked off by defensive back Bryant Nnabufie, who continued his strong camp by recovering a fumble as well.
Tedford said Jahvid Best provided the offensive highlights with a couple of big plays. Tedford said Best didn’t get many touches.
“Just being smart,” he said. “He took a lot of reps through the early part of camp. We feel like he’s ready to go. There wasn’t a lot of need for him to get banged up today.”
Running back Shane Vereen, still slightly hobbled because of a sprained ankle, had a 30-yard touchdown run.
Other defensive highlights besides Nnabufie’s plays were a sack by Zack Follett, who returned after missing a few days with a groin injury, and a batted pass by defensive end Keith Browner.
One other somewhat newsworthy nugget is that Tedford said he doesn’t expect left tackle Mike Tepper to “play a significant role” in the season-opener against Michigan State. Tepper has yet to practice this fall as he recovers from pectoral muscle surgery and a hamstring pull. Tedford said he feels comfortable with Chet Teofilo at left tackle and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.
Tedford also said cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (sprained shoulder) “is getting better every day” and should be back on the field soon.
Linebacker Eddie Young missed the scrimmage after suffering a groin pull on Monday. Gregory said if the season started today, Young would be the fourth linebacker along with Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder. But he said Devin Bishop is also in the mix.
When asked about the competition between Chris Conte and Darian Hagan for the cornerback spot opposite Thompson, Gregory said “We’re going to need all those guys. We’re going to need Syd, we’re going to need Chris, we’re going to need Hagan, and we’ll probably need one more to emerge.”
Conte participated in the scrimmage after sitting out Monday with an ankle sprain.
Even though Cal is deep at linebacker, Gregory said it’s simply impossible to keep Kendricks off the field. He also pointed out the Bears need more linebackers now that they are employing the 3-4 defense.
“It would be hard not to redshirt Mychal Kendricks,” Gregory said. “He’s done a real good job and is making plays. We’re going to need him. Even though we have some good linebackers, we probably don’t have as much depth there since we’ve made this switch.”
Nose tackle Derrick Hill returned from an ankle sprain to play in the scrimmage, but that spot still is up in the air because Mika Kane has been out with an ankle sprain of his own, and Tedford said he didn’t know when he would return. That has allowed Payne to get plenty of reps at practice.
“I think we have to play all of those guys,” Gregory said. “If we can get a few snaps out of all of them, it’s going to keep them fresh. I’m not sure if one guy as emerged as ‘The Guy’. They’re all going to play this year.”
One other note: The scrimmage was a dress rehearsal for the Bears, so they wore their new uniforms. They look pretty sharp.