By Jonathan Okanes
Saturday, March 14th, 2009 at 10:04 pm in off-season stuff.
You’d think with the word “Spring” in “Spring practice,” it would have been nice and sunny today at Memorial Stadium. Not quite. It felt like going to practice before a game in November. One of those brisk days at the Stadium, with the handful of media and invited guests on hand bundled up and trying to stay warm.
But that didn’t stop the Bears from kicking off spring practice, of course. And it didn’t take long to notice something newsworthy right away: Kevin Riley absent. As we waited for the 2.5-hour practice to end, we took turns speculating what the reason could be. Class? Naw, it’s Saturday. Injury? As far as we knew, he was completely healthy. Excused to study? Not on the first day.
As Jeff Tedford approached us after practice, he jokingly said: “Hmm..I wonder what the first question is going to be.”
Turns out there’s no big story. Riley was in his brother’s wedding tonight. He will return in time for practice on Sunday.
The first practice was like most first practices of spring — sloppy. There was one play that didn’t run until after three false starts. Lots of dropped passes by receivers. Some good passes and some bad passes by both Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney.
The two positions I was most interested in seeing who took reps with the first unit were the offensive line and linebacker. Mike Tepper took every first rep at left tackle and Mitchell Schwartz did the same at right tackle. As expected, there was much rotating at guard, where several players are battling for playing time. By the end of practice, Mark Boskovich appeared to be the left guard and Richard Fisher was at right guard. But Matt Summers-Gavin and Justin Cheadle also got looks. Chris Guarnero took every first rep at center.
At linebacker, we knew Mike Mohamed was playing weakside inside and Eddie Young was back at strongside outside. The question was who would play the other two spots between Mychal Kendricks, Devin Bishop and D.J. Holt. Kendricks ended up taking first team reps at the other outside spot while it was Bishop joining Mohamed on the inside.
Brian Holley appeared to be the first team fullback.
With Derrick Hill out for the spring, Kendrick Payne, back from his knee surgery, played nose guard, flanked by Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan.
The secondary was just what you would expect: Syd’Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan at corner with Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson at safeties.
As for receivers, there was a lot of rotating. Nyan Boateng, who had been bothered by a groin problem, practiced and appeared to be moving well. Jeremy Ross, Verran Tucker, Marvin Jones, Alex Lagemann and Charles Satchell all got looks.
As we know, Jahvid Best is out. But he was on hand to stretch with the team, take mental reps and ride the exercise bike on the sideline. Caught up with Best afterward and he said his elbow is now completely healed and he feels like his foot is ahead of schedule. He said he’s already going to start lobbying to come back before the end of spring. Don’t count on Tedford going for that.
Shane Vereen took first reps at running back, Covaughn DeBoskie was second and Langston Jackson and Kevin Lewis took some thirds.
Cal’s second team defensive line appeared to be Trevor Guyton and Keith Browner on the end with either Mike Costanzo or Aaron Tipoti at nose. Holt, Solomona Aigamaua and Robert Mullins got second team reps.
The second team secondary was Bryant Nnabuife and Chris Conte at corner with Sean Cattouse and Jesse Brooks at safety.
Cal’s second team offensive line was hard to deduce because there was so much rotating going on. Justin Prueitt, Sam DeMartinis, Donovan Edwards and Justin Gates all got looks.
Chet Teofilo took one rep — at guard — then slipped on a red jersey and missed the rest of practice. Tedford said Teofilo said he just wanted to test things out and it was planned he would sit out. Realized when I got back that Tedford failed to say the injury, but I presume it’s still the ankle that put him out last season.
Dominic Galas was the second team center. Todd Huber is no longer on the team. Apparently, his knee problems just never improved enough for him to play.
–Quinn Tedford, the coach’s younger son, is now officially a member of the roster at wide receiver. He helped out on scout team last year.
–Tad Smith is the first tight end, followed by Anthony Miller and Spencer Ladner.
–Wide receiver Michael Calvin, who is still recovering from ACL surgery, did some rehab work on the side. The biggest news? His long flowing hair is no more. Kid shaved his head.
–Linebacker Charles Johnson missed the first day to attend to a family matter.
–New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig appears to have hit the ground running. He had no problem chewing a player out after a mistake and was very hands-on discussing things with the quarterbacks after each rep.
–Can’t make too much of the quarterback competition without Riley in the mix. Mansion took first team reps and frankly was on and off. Sweeney took second team reps and appeared to be a little sharper, but also missed some passes.
Comments from Tedford:
On Beau Sweeney: “Beau is very intelligent. He’s a student of the game. He’s a guy that has a lot of ability but really hasn’t taken any reps with our offense, except during fall camp. He’s going to make mistakes, but we feel like he has what it takes to be in the mix.
“Of course, (inexperience) will put him a little behind on Day 1, but he has all the tools to close that gap very quickly.”
Comments from Brock Mansion:
“I’m pretty excited. This is a good opportunity for me. If I can just be consistent and show the coaches that I can move the offense up and down the field, I think I can play on Saturdays. I’m pretty pumped about that.”
Comments from Beau Sweeney:
“I feel really grateful. There aren’t many places you can come in and compete as a redshirt freshman. It’s really all that I could ask for.”
“The biggest thing for me is just coming in and learning a lot. I haven’t been here very long. I’ve only been on scout team. It’s just learning the system and getting comfortable with it. Once I feel comfortable with it, it will just be smooth instead of thinking about things too much.”
“There’s obviously a lot to learn. I just need to get a better feel for it.”