Just a reminder we will be holding our weekly live chat today from 1-2 p.m. I’ve been told that whatever technical problems ailed us last week have been resolved. Hope to see you then!
Archive for September, 2008
Cal may have a very different looking offensive line for Saturday’s game against Colorado State.
Mitchell Schwartz and Chet Teofilo continue to take reps on opposite sides of the line, and the switch seems to be a done deal. Schwartz talked at length after practice Wednesday about the move to left tackle. Although Jeff Tedford hasn’t definitively said the switch is taking place, it appears imminent at this point.
There may be a totally new left side of the line, because left guard Chris Guarnero missed his second straight practice with a sprained toe. Tedford said Guarnero won’t practice all week, but did say he’d be available for the game. But how much he’s able to play, if at all, seems up in the air. As wide receiver Michael Calvin can tell you, sprained toes can be tricky. Calvin just finally seems to be getting back to full health this week after suffering a sprained toe near the end of training camp.
If Guarnero can’t go or is limited to reserve duty, it appears redshirt sophomore Mark Boskovich will take his place. Boskovich, who has been on the fringe of becoming a starter since the end of last season, has taken all of Guarnero’s reps this week.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford gushed about Schwartz after practice tonight.
“He’s as smart as any lineman we’ve ever had here — any player, for that matter,” he said. “He probably could have played for us as a true freshman. We just didn’t need him. He’s a student of the game. He pays attention to fundamentals. He’s competitive. He’s just done a really nice job.”
Free safety Bernard Hicks continues to be bothered by a leg injury that has kept him out of practice all week as well. It looks as though Brett Johnson will be the starter there once again as well.
Good news on tailback Shane Vereen, who was limping around pretty good during the bye week. Vereen practiced in full capacity Wednesday for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle against Maryland and looked pretty explosive. Vereen was hobbled by an ankle sprain for much of camp and the early part of the season, then sprained it again against the Terps.
“He did fine today,” Tedford said. “Yesterday, I saw a slight limp. He just kind of has that gait now. I’m so used to seeing him with that gait. I don’t know if it’s a natural thing. It seems like he’s had a sprained ankle for two months.”
The Bears continue to spend a lot of time working to improve their kick coverage. Tedford still doesn’t know if freshmen David Seawright or Giorgio Tavecchio will handle kickoffs Saturday. Tavecchio actually boomed a few kicks deep Wednesday, but generally Cal kickers still struggle to get the ball past the 10-yard line consistently.
“You don’t know until game time,” Tedford said when asked if he thought the kick coverage was improving during practice. “I’m really hoping that we do. It’s definitely a focus. It all starts with the kic, then it all starts with the coverage, and everyone paying attention to detail and playing hard. I’m anxious to see them on Saturday.”
One other note: Tedford said defensive lineman Cody Jones is trying to rehab his injured ankle instead of undergoing surgery. Surgery would put him out until after spring practice, Tedford said. The Bears are hoping Jones could get healthy near the end of the season and could be used in a pinch. Jones, who saw a lot of playing time last season, has missed all of training camp and the season.
Here’s our story today, looking at how the Bears have handled their first loss of the season.
Also, Colorado St. has a player emerging at wide receiver.
One thing Jeff Tedford pointed out during Tuesday’s press luncheon is that the Rams like to throw the ball down the field. New coach Steve Fairchild spent the past four years as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, including two years with the Rams, who liked to take shots downfield in the passing game.
Tedford said Colorado St runs a lot of passing plays where the receivers will make double moves or run long routes, plays that could take a little bit longer to develop. That may be a chance for the Bears to get to quarterback Billy Farris.
“We’re hoping to apply some pressure,” Cal linebacker Worrell Williams said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get there, or how it’s going to come about, but our front seven is definitely going to try to apply a little bit of pressure. If they tend to go down field, we’re going to try to get after the quarterback a little bit.”
The Rams have allowed seven sacks in three games while Cal has registered six in three games.
“They do like to take shots down the field,” Cal linebacker Anthony Felder said. “They’re not really a dump-off team. It will be a good opporunity for us to get upfield and hopefully get some pressure. I don’t think we’ve had the success we’ve eanted at all this season with our pass rush. This will give us the opportunity to get upfield with a little bit of time.”
There’s a game this Saturday, so Cal went back to holding its weekly press luncheon today. One of the prevailing themes was how hard the team worked during last week’s bye week.
All the players who came by the luncheon said it was more than your usual bye week, where teams tend to take it easier than they would if there was a game on Saturday. In fact, linebacker Worrell Williams said the team worked harder than it has during some game weeks.
What does that mean? Primarily, the Bears did much more hitting than they normally would during a bye week. They wore pads every day and had at least one session each day where the offense lined up against the defense.
There are multiple reasons why the coaching staff decided to go at it pretty hard last week. Obviously, the Bears were coming off a loss, and they probably didn’t want to let it linger into a bye week by losing some intensity. But linebacker Anthony Felder also said the coaches wanted the players to work on their physicality, that they weren’t physical enough in the loss to Maryland.
“I think the emphasis was on physicality,” Felder said. “I don’t think we played as physical as we should have in Maryland. That’s what the emphasis was in the bye week, to make sure we have a physical mentality going into next week.”
Felder said the coaches didn’t explicitly say that was the reason for the stepped-up bye week practices, but it didnt’ have to be said when the team showed up last Tuesday and was told to wear full pads for practice.
“It was a real physical week,” guard Noris Malele said. “We had to get out there and get some banging in. We wanted to get out there and make a statement. Coach wanted us to know we’re going to be a physical team and try to impose that on our opponents.”
Another topic covered Tuesday was the plight of the Pac-10, which has become somewhat of a punching bag nationally over the past couple of weeks after a series of tough losses. USC, at No. 1, is the only conference team left in the national rankings.
Two weekends ago, the Mountain West Conference went 4-0 against the Pac-10. Saturday’s opponent, Colorado State, is another Mountain West team, meaning the Bears have a chance to salvage some measure of respect for the conference.
Not that the Bears are paying attention to that.
“We have a lot of things to worry about besides carrying the torch (for the Pac-10),” Williams said. “We can’t worry about things like that. We have to worry about missed assignments.”
Quarterback Kevin Riley acknowledged the Pac-10 has taken its share of hits recently but still expects the conference season to be a tough one.
“The Pac-10 is going to be competitive, no matter what,” he said. “Teams are going to bounce back. You know that’s going to happen. You know every Pac-10 game, everyone is going to step up and be ready to play. It’s still going to be a tough conference.”
We’ll take a closer look at Colorado State tomorrow, as well as further material from Tuesday.
About to head off to Cal’s weekly press luncheon, but first some primers to start getting ready for Saturday’s game:
–Colorado St. is happy with the performance of new QB Billy Farris.
–The Rams have tempered enthusiasm over their 2-1 start.
–CSU is moving an athletic backup quarterback to wide receiver, and he may get time against Cal.
There was some miscommunication by all parties involved with regard to accessing games on Comcast SportsNet West. For those viewers in the Bay Area, games on CSN West — such as Saturday’s against Colorado State — are available on Channel 99 for those who have standard cable, but only if you have a cable box. If you have standard cable but no box, the game won’t be available. As always, the best thing to do if you are unsure if you can get the game is to call your local Comcast office.
…The Pac-10 announced that the Oct. 4 game against Arizona State will air on ABC and begin at 12:30 p.m. This implies ABC, which gets first choice, felt the Cal-ASU game was the best one remaining that hadn’t already been picked up for television. The choice was between Cal-ASU, Washington-Arizona and Washington State-UCLA.
Usually, Sundays are reserved for short conditioning practices, just a chance for the Bears to get stretched out the day after a game. But since Cal was on a bye this week, the Bears held a more conventional practice tonight, albeit shorter than one during the week.
Cal began putting in its game plan for Colorado State, which beat Houston on Saturday to go to 2-1 on the season. That puts the Rams already far ahead of where they were last year when they hosted Cal. Colorado St. was stuck in the middle of an eight-game losing streak dating back to the previous season at the time, and went on to lose 13 in succession.
There’s a little bit of a sense of renewal after a bye week. Players come back, many of them from going home for the weekend, feeling refreshed and rested. Of course, the Bears also are eager to put the loss to Maryland in their last game in the past.
Cal linebacker Zack Follett said after practice tonight that the Bears haven’t forgotten about the Maryland loss, mainly because of the way they are being coached.
“(A loss) rubs off on the coaches, the way they coach us,” he said. “We’re still feeling the effects. The little things are magnified more. It’s not a bad thing. They’re just one us more. It’s a little harder getting through practice.”
Results of wide receiver Marvin Jones visit to the doctor were encouraging because Jeff Tedford still is characterizing his injury as a sprained knee. The way Jones crumbled to the turf last week after suffering the injury during practice, it wouldn’t have been too surprising if it was more severe. Tedford didn’t have a definitive timeline on how long Jones would be out, other to say he wouldn’t play this Saturday.
It’s not like Jones had got that many reps anyway, but his absence will result in one less receiver fighting for playing time. Cal’s wide receiving corps still is very much a work in progress, and Tedford said tonight that the team will take the same approach with Colorado State as it has during the first three games — many different receivers will get reps.
“Nobody has really separated himself,” Tedford said. “They’re all contributing and they’re all playing hard.”
The Bears ended up racking up a lot of yards in the passing game against Maryland, but much of that came in a hurry-up situation, which isn’t ideal for evaluating performance for an entire game. Tedford said the best thing about the aerial attack against Maryland is it simply got several different young receivers the experience of catching balls in an actual game.
The Bears still are waiting for redshirt freshman Michael Calvin to make the impact everyone expected before the season. Calvin has just six catches for 81 yards, and Tedford admitted he’s essentially been playing at “three-quarters speed” as he continued to recover from a sprained toe. Calvin didn’t practice last week to try to heal up, and Tedford said he felt better today.
The Bears will go back to their usual schedule, taking Monday off and getting back at it on Tuesday.
Tomorrow, the Pac-10 should announce the start time and television coverage for Cal’s game against Arizona State on Oct. 4.
I had a long conversation with left tackle Mike Tepper after practice and it doesn’t appear he will be playing anytime soon.
Tepper, recovering from offseason surgery on his left pectoral muscle as well as a hamstring strain, said the original timeline he gave for himself to come back was too aggressive. Tepper said at the beginning of training camp he expected to be back near the beginning of the season, but doctors had told him it would be a six-month recovery from the time he had the surgery in May. Tepper said he simply thought he was a fast healer and would be back sooner.
“I thought I could speed it up,” Tepper said. “I thought I was a quick healer. It’s taking longer than I wanted it to.”
Tepper said he thought he was a quick healer after coming back from a serious ankle injury in 2005 when he was run over by a car twice while trying to protect a female companion, former Cal volleyball player Camille Leffall.
“They told me I wouldn’t be able to run again. I’d be lucky to walk,” Tepper said. “That was a pretty serious injury. So I thought I was a quick healer.”
Tepper said he realized he was behind schedule midway through training camp when he had fellow offensive lineman Matt Laird walk around him and Tepper tried to grab him. Tepper said he had spent his rehab working on the common technique of keeping his elbows in because that’s what the majority of his duties call for. But there will be times when he has to extend his arms to contend with a defender on his outside.
“As soon as I got outside, it wasn’t good,” Tepper said. “It wasn’t strong enough. In football, we try to keep our elbows in. I can do that really well. But I’ll have to (extend his arms) a couple of times a game. I knew I wasn’t ready.”
Tepper gave no timeline on his return, other to say he’s confident he will play again this season. He had the surgery in May, so a six-month recovery would put his return in November. Tepper will get some bonus time soon because the Bears have two bye weeks during the next month.
I hadn’t followed up with Jeff Tedford in a while on the plights of defensive backs Kamaron Yancy and Gary Doxy. As expected, neither player is on the Bears this season.
Tedford said Yancy finished all the appropriate coursework to get into Cal, but remarkably the final class he took at Pierce Junior College didn’t fulfill his requirement to earn his AA.
“It was kind of messed up,” Tedford said. “He tooka class that fulfilled our requirements, but he forgot to check and see if it fulfilled his AA requirements. He finished it and we expected him to show up. All of the sudden, it didn’t count for his AA.”
As for Doxy, Tedford said he kicked him off the team during training camp. Tedford had said during camp that Doxy had been suspended to concentrate on academics but could return if he got his classwork in order. That never happened.