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What did we find out?

By Jonathan Okanes
Sunday, August 24th, 2008 at 10:05 pm in Training camp.

The Bears have spent just a little over one practice preparing for MIchigan State, so game week begins in earnest tomorrow (Cal had today off). Truth be told, it still felt like training camp up until yesterday.

Now that game week is finally here (finally!), it’s time to examine training camp and find out what we learned.

We ran a story in the paper right before training camp started, posing the top five questions that faced the Bears. Let’s look back and determine what answers we received:

1. Who will be the starting quarterback?: Obviously, we now know that Kevin Riley is the Bears’ starter. But we also know that Nate Longshore will play in the season-opener against Michigan State. The lingering question is just how fluid this situation will be. Coach Jeff Tedford has said the competition between the two is extremely close and that the position will continue to be evaluated. Does that mean Riley will be looking over his shoulder? It will be interesting to see how quickly Tedford decides to make a change if Riley were to be ineffective, or if we will see quarterback shuffling all season. My hunch is that Riley will play well and remain the starter.

2. Have the Bears cured whatever ailed them during the second half of last season? It’s easier to have enthusiasm and get along during training camp, when the pressures of a game aren’t lingering and the team hasn’t experienced any losses. We’ll find out about the character and chemistry of this team once adversity hits. Last year at this time, the players were all talking about what great chemistry the team had, and that didn’t prove to pan out. But it does seem like there is more enthusiasm and leadership on the field so far. Center Alex Mack has become much more vocal, and he’s a player that commands respect on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Zack Follett has improved as a leader — on the days he was injured during camp he was very involved standing next to defensive coordinator Bob Gregory trying to aid with instruction or signal plays in from the sideline. Defensive end Rulon Davis has been full of energy and praise for teammates.

3. Do the Bears have any productive receivers?: This is a question yet to be answered. About midway through camp, I was convinced Cal’s receivers would get it done. Michael Calvin and Nyan Boateng had emerged as the hands-down top two pass-catchers. But Boateng fell off during latter stages of camp and won’t start the opener. LaReylle Cunningham had an excellent camp, but it remains to be seen how productive he can be in a game. Sixth-year senior Sean Young is a great story. He has earned a starting role and has always had talent — injuries have just got the better of him over the yeares. If Boateng re-emerges, and true freshman Marvin Jones is as productive in a game as he is in practice, Cal will be all right.

4. Is sophomore Jahvid Best healthy enough to be an every-down back?: Best may not carry the ball 20 times a game, but the Bears hope to get the ball in his hands a lot. That could come running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield, lining up at receiver, returning kicks and returning punts. The Bears have been extremely cautious with Best during camp; especially recently when he’s been held out of several practices. But the team insists there are no lingering complications from his hip injury, and Tedford said Best should practice every day this week in a full capacity.

5. Will the defense improve in the 3-4 alignment?: It sure seems that it will. The schemes allows Cal’s fast, playmaking linebackers to get more involved all over the field, and that works to the Bears’ advantage. And the Bears’ are getting strong play from their defensive linemen — Tyson Alualu and Rulon Davis had tremendous camps.

 

Following up on the top five questions, I also posted here on the blog a list of further questions. Let’s go back and look at those:

–How will Jahvid Best respond to the first practice in pads?: Best doesn’t appear to have suffered any complications from getting hit, although he has been rested a lot during camp. But he’s taken his share of hits and popped up each time, and says he feels fine.

–How will Nyan Boateng practice?: Boateng’s camp got off to an excellent start. But a few dropped passes and moving back down on to the second team appeared to demoralize him a bit. Near the end of camp, his body language looked a little more like it did during the spring, which wasn’t always good. Boateng says he’s motivated that he’s not running with the first team anymore and it’s going to make him work harder. If that turns out to be true, it will be good news for Cal.

–Will Tad Smith continue his impressive development at tight end?: After an eye-opening spring, Smith was solid in the fall. He didn’t make as much of an impact as he did during the spring, but he he still is solidly the No. 2 tight end behind Cameron Morrah. Perhaps Smith was overshadowed a bit by the emergence of Anthony Miller, who is expected to play as a true freshman.

–Was Richard Fisher a flash in the pan?: The walk-on redshirt sophomore impressed in the spring and improbably worked his way up to the first team. He began camp as the starting left guard but couldn’t hold off highly regarded redshirt sophomore Chris Guarnero, who converted from center and moved into the starting lineup. Fisher still can back up at either guard or center, although offensive line coach Jim Michalczik says Guarnero still is the backup center to Alex Mack.

–Who will play nose guard in the new 3-4?: This competition got messy during camp because both Mika Kane and Derrick Hill suffered sprained ankles and missed time. Kane only in the last couple of practices has come back to do just individual drills. Considering Hill’s camp got off to a strong start before he was injured and he returned faster from the injury, he has to be considered the starting nose guard right now.

–junior Tyson Alualu or sophomore Cameron Jordan? Alualu had too good a camp and is too proven a player to yield his position to Jordan, although Jordan may be more physically gifted. Alualu simply is the Bears’ most reliable defensive lineman. Case closed.

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  • Tony Milano

    Hi JC! Great Great Article! Thank You! I wanted to see if it was possible to get an In-Depth point of view from the assistant coaches on the depth chart of their positions that they coach and their 2 cents of their players. Does that make sense? It would be great to hear Coach M’s comments on the redshirt freshmen Offensive Lineman, How’s Chet Teofilo doing? the 2 deep, whose surprising him, etc, etc and the same with every coach! What’s Ron Gould’s take on Peter Guerts, Will Taoufou, John Tyndall, etc, etc. Tosh Lupoi talking about Ernest Owusu, The Browner kid making a push, barely heard a word on Tyson Aluau this camp. Your doing a great job JC! I just wish their where 4 of you to go deeper and farther into the team. I think the assistants can give you can give you another valuable voice to tap into and plus it will give great insight to us all. Cheers JC! Viva Da Bears!

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Sounds like Las Vegas Bowl material to me.

  • milo

    MoreNCsarecoming go suck some Stanfurd or U$C weenie..or where ever the hell you’re from.

  • Steve in Concord

    Yeah, More NC’s–

    Go back home and bake some more of your Troll House cookies.

  • N8Bear

    MoreSNotiscoming:
    have you prepared yourself for the day when we beat SC?

  • Steve in Concord

    Does anybody know the story behind Nate Longshore’s absence at Fan Appreciation Day? There were a couple mentions here that he was missing.

  • Big D

    Moron,
    Didn’t you already say, “Sounds like Las Vegas Bowl material to me.” Damn you are lame.

  • Matt S.

    Thanks JO. I agree that thank God game week is finally here. Top Dog here I come. From all the great info JO has provided all of us, it seems like we’re more solid than some expect. I don’t want to overreach but I think we’re going to surprise a lot of pundits this year. See you all at the game.

  • MaddenDude

    These are going to be the longest 5 days of the summer.

    I totally don’t know what to expect this year. I guess the Michigan State game will be a good way to calibrate the team.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    N8Bear Says:
    August 24th, 2008 at 11:02 pm
    MoreSNotiscoming:
    have you prepared yourself for the day when we beat SC?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Yes I have but since it is a once in a decade long experience it is not like I get a lot of practise.
    Here is why…
    USC FOOTBALL

    11 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
    1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003 & 2004

    67 FIRST ROUND PICKS
    #1 in College Football

    11 NFL HALL OF FAMERS
    #1 in College Football

  • rollonubears

    NCs, you’re forgetting that 2003 was actually 1/2 of one championship, which doesn’t count any more than the Bears winning the Pac10 title in 2006. The championship in 2004 shouldn’t count, either, since Reginold Bushwacker got 300k for his domicile. So when justice prevails, you’ll be looking to celebrate a half a championship since 1978, according to your data. You’d better fight on.

  • moreNCsarecoming

    Good point. Although I still think my alma mater, Mills College, could take Cal any day.

  • bearfan21

    nate was not there players would not say why but i heard from a couple players away from the campus that they think Kevin Riley is hands down the better qb and love the new defense

  • Bro

    Appreciate the infformation and analysis, well done.

    Go Bears!

  • Jan K Oski

    Hey JO, Tony has a great point. In addition, it would be very interesting to hear something from Coach Simmons about the DBs. It looks like that position has some serious depth.

    On that point, it is interesting how Hagan has created yet another competition for the starting DB position. How much impact did Simmons have on Hagan’s improvement? No one saw this coming, and all kudos to Hagan for taking the necessary strides for improving himself.

    Go Bears!

  • Oski-isms

    We’re REQUESTING articles now? Don’t tell a man how to do his job. Why don’t we ask JO to report what Eric Levy had for dinner last night? Jeez.

    Bunch of freeloaders

  • Macdaddytms

    Herbstreit names Cal as 1 of the 5 places GameDay must visit before he quits.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/preview08/news/story?id=3548678

    Maybe if some of you all stop talking and go buy some tickets, you can actually see the Bears in person, and help root them into a position where ESPN might consider showing up. The fact the Cal is lowering ticket prices for Michigan State (and that tickets are still available for Stanford) only displays that most of the noise made by Cal fans in on the internet. Get out there and help your team win

  • Teff EdFord (also from Concord)

    Mills? Christ, you’d at least be bearable if you actually spent 4-6 years wasting papa’s money at U$C…tell me you have a distant cousin or a sister who couldn’t make it in porno’s so she ended up there…or maybe it’s not that you just happened to pick the most well-funded team with the best overall Pac-10 history to root for (after they started winning again)- it’s simply that you like the pretty horse and the fuzzy gold hats.

  • OldBearsFan

    Hey, everyone, about this character called “Moronsarecoming,” he’s obviously retarded. No, seriously. He’s a troll and a mental midget, yes, but anyone who calls freshmen “freshmans” (a couple of days ago) isn’t playing with a full deck. He also made the same wisecrack about the Las Vegas bowl twice. In his narrow-minded, pathetic need for attention, he’s trying to build up his ego by being a royal pain in the ass, doing his best to get our goats. By doing this, he unknowingly proves what a jerk he really is, and he does a much better job than any of us could ever do of making U$C and ‘furd look bad. Think about it: Would you want him or someone like him PROMOTING Cal football? Ignore the idiot! He’s actually doing us all a big favor! Thanks, Moron! And keep up the good work. Trolls forever!!!

  • Stee in Concord

    Macdaddy–

    Thanks for the link to the ESPN/Herbstreit article. It’s a definite must-read. Cal was fairly well represented. Does anyone think we’ll be getting that Gameday visit anytime soon?

  • testicular manslaughter

    the troll is from an island….lesbos i think. she has no life outside of cutting the sleeves off flanel shirts and wishing she had a weiner so she could play ball too.

  • Davidson

    Morencs, wow, when you posted all those stats about Usc, I wanted to post and ask if you’ve actually watched since back then, or at the very least, an alumni. But I didn’t, partly because I thought for sure you went to USC. Why? Because otherwise it would just be too sad, considering how much you talk.

    But now you announced that you went to mills college. Is that for real? Is that like devry? you might be joking, I can’t say for sure. But at least now I won’t find your comments to be annoying anymore, just a little bit sad now

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Davidson Says:
    August 25th, 2008 at 6:12 pm
    Morencs, wow, when you posted all those stats about Usc, I wanted to post and ask if you’ve actually watched since back then, or at the very least, an alumni. But I didn’t, partly because I thought for sure you went to USC. Why? Because otherwise it would just be too sad, considering how much you talk.

    But now you announced that you went to mills college. Is that for real? Is that like devry? you might be joking, I can’t say for sure. But at least now I won’t find your comments to be annoying anymore, just a little bit sad now
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Feel better?

  • Steve in Concord

    Just wondering, troll. How many NC’s has the Mills College football (or women’s lacrosse) team won?

  • Jan K Oski

    For God’s sake, Steve. You guys have been talking more to Amy than JO or anyone else? Give it a rest. Mills College was a smoke screen, and you guys are taking the bait.

  • http://bearswithfangs.com bearswithfangs

    Excellent write-up JO. One of your best yet.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Jan K Oski Says:
    August 26th, 2008 at 12:21 am
    For God’s sake, Steve. You guys have been talking more to Amy than JO or anyone else? Give it a rest. Mills College was a smoke screen, and you guys are taking the bait.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I think you should get back over to John Wilner’s blog. Your posts over there are full of great football insights. I am sure his readers are salivating in anticipation of your next post.

  • furd burner

    JO, you’re gonna have to stop this ’cause you’re getting my hopes up. Logic and history say its going to be a horrible year but maybe, just maybe things will be different. Can you imagine, the Bears in the Rose Bowl and Obama in the White House? Dam, I’ve got to go lie down until this unbridled optimism passes

  • BlueNGold

    When I was a student at Cal we used to refer to Mills College as ‘hungry hill’.

  • CalAlum97

    Ah, these haters just try to tear us down, even saying guys like DJ couldn’t make it in the NFL. Let them choke on their words:

    http://www.vimeo.com/1587378

  • Johnny

    CalAlum97

    The knock on DJ was not whether he could make plays in the NFL. It’s how long can he last there.

  • CalAlum97

    Not true, people questioned his size, strength, height, route-running ability, etc. Hence, saying he likely wouldn’t make it in any meaningful way in the NFL.

  • Steve in Concord

    Johnny and CalAlum97–

    Actually, you’re both right. I think it was a combination of the perceived negatives regarding Jackson that dropped him down into a mid-2nd round draft pick. His speed and pass-catching ability (hands) were givens. There were questions about his route running and his me-first attitude, hence the “MeSean” nickname.

    His height and weight weren’t in question; at least not after he was measured and weighed at the NFL Combine.

    Whether his smallish stature would allow him to fend off larger DB’s at the line of scrimmage and fight for contested passes was much in doubt. His durability when playing the longer NFL schedule and taking hits by larger and stronger pro players was also a question mark.

    So, yes, his ability to make plays (get off line of scrimmage, run proper route, catch contested passes) and long-term durabilty were both questioned. His after-the-catch skills were not. Now shake hands and make up, you two!

    I have posted regarding the size of our new receivers at #7 of Its Game Day Week.

  • Steve in Concord

    Jan–

    Sorry, I got caught up in the troll-baiting frenzy. I just couldn’t help myself.

  • Steve in Concord

    Actually, thats post #8 of Game Week is Here.

  • Johnny

    Come on you guys.

    Since when did a me-first attitude ever stop an NFL team from wanting a talented player?

    The question about his cockiness was an excuse for something else more tangible about his ability to play. DJ is really small. I mean some of us here writing this stuff is probably bigger then him. Remember we’re talking about why he wasn’t picked in the higher rounds. NOT that nobody wanted him. In other words, teams didn’t want to take a chance on him with a huge first round salary contract and then see him get hurt and then waste their money in the process. He gets drafted in a lower round, you pay him less. See how he plays and how durable he is and then you can give him a bigger contract if he turns out ok.

  • CalAlum97

    I’m not angry Steve, I just disagree, and still do. When I say “people” questioned DJ, I wasn’t just refering to the professional draft experts, I was refering to the likes of the troll-meister herself and other Cal-hating bloggers. There were most definitely people out there questioning DJ’s height and weight. They didn’t question his speed or hands, but they reasoned: how can he fight-off/push-off a corner that’s close covering him when he is outweighed by as much as 25 pounds. I disagreed because I knew his speed would take care of this problem, but this is the rationale bloggers and some draft experts alike thought would happen. And I was more than happy to share the video that proved them wrong.

  • Steve in Concord

    CalAlum97-

    You and Johnny seemed to be arguing over whether the meaning of “make it in the NFL” meant making plays or staying healthy enough to play. You are right that lots of “people” said that DeSean couldn’t do either thing. I wouldn’t worry too much about what the trolls and certified Cal-haters say, though. Their “opinions” are put forth strictly to pizz-off the rest of us.

    Regarding DJ’s height and weight: A lot of people questioned it; largely because Cal had him listed as being 6′ 175 lbs and the NFL combined showed he was 5’9″ 169. And he probably had just come off a milkshake binge. The eyes don’t lie.

    I’m glad Davidson went to the Fan Day event and confirmed that our receivers are indeed “huge” . It could have been that the Cal Publicity Dept. was back at work and they were really midgets (oops, Little People) running around in high-heeled football cleats. Just kidding!!

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Tony, great idea, but probably not a realistic one.
    To those inquiring about Longshore at Fan Appreciation Day, what I heard was that he was there for awhile but not the whole time. He also didn’t have his own table.