The last day of practice before the start of the season came with a bizarre twist Thursday. It appears the battle to handle kickoff duties is now a three-way race after the Bears welcomed walk-on Giorgio Taveccio to the team.
Cal knew it had Taveccio coming to Berkeley but wasn’t able to bring him to training camp because there were no spots available (A team can only have so many players in camp). He joined the team Wednesday and kicked the past two days. As unique as it may seem, it appears Taveccio has a chance to win the kickoff job in time for Saturday’s opener despite only being with the team a few days.
“I’d say he’s in the mix,” Cal special teams coach Pete Alamar said. “He had a nice day today. We’ll sit down and talk about it. He showed well.”
Both Alamar and coach Jeff Tedford said there’s a chance Taveccio will kick against Michigan State. Taveccio kicked the ball deeper than both Jordan Kay and David Seawright on Thursday.
Alamar said he discovered Taveccio at Cal’s kicking camp last summer. He said Taveccio was under the radar because he’s a top soccer player and didn’t attend many of the kicking camps and combines.
“If you’re not a guy who’s on the kicking camp circuit, you don’t necessarily get noticed,” Alamar said. “You’re not as high-profile. Giorgio is an elite level soccer player, so he wasn’t going to all the camps and combines. You look at his tape his senior year, he’s every bit as good as the guys you see.”
Meanwhile, there was good news and bad news for Cal on the injury front. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (sprained shoulder) practiced in full capacity and is ready to go for the opener. But wide receiver Michael Calvin (sprained toe) missed another practice. Tedford said Calvin’s availability will be a gametime decision, but he hasn’t practiced all week and it doesn’t appear likely he will play.
That’s obviously a big blow to the Bears with all of the uncertainty surrounding their receivers. Even though he has yet to play in a college game, he’s as close as Cal has to a sure thing, simply based on his talent and how he’s performed in practice since he’s been with the Bears.
Tedford said Marvin Jones and Nyan Boateng would pick up Calvin’s reps if he can’t go.
Not surprisingly, Tedford also said left tackle Mike Tepper wouldn’t play Saturday. Tepper still has yet to do much in practice as he continues his recovery from pectoral muscle surgery and a hamstring pull.
Another notable development on defense: Brett Johnson took the first team reps Thursday at free safety instead of Bernard Hicks. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said no decision has been made who will start, but added that he expects both players to get about the same reps in the game. Still, it’s a significant bit of news because Hicks seemed to be a lock to play free safety through the spring and much