By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 9:52 pm in off-season stuff.
The Bears returned to spring practice Tuesday night for the first time since a 12-day layoff for spring break. The time off showed.
After practicing pretty well during the first four sessions, the Bears were rusty Tuesday. Starting quarterback Kevin Riley, who had been playing sharp, threw two interceptions and generally was off. Brock Mansion missed several throws as well. The offensive line got consistently beat by the defensive front.
“Historically, today is the rustiest day of spring,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “People have been on vacation. Some have done more than others. I anticipate Thursday will be a little sharper.”
During the two-minute drilil the Bears typically run during the early stages of practice, center Chris Guarnero had a few bad snaps in the shotgun formation. On one snap that dribbled back to Riley, the quarterback rushed a throw over the middle and it was picked off easily by safety Brett Johnson. Riley also was intercepted by Sean Cattouse during 7-on-7s. He also telegraphed a pass intended for Nyan Boateng that was broken up easily by Syd’Quan Thompson.
Mansion did have one nice play in which he faked a throw against a three-man rush, swtiched direction and scrambled for a touchdown.
Running back Covaughn DeBoskie, getting second-team reps this spring with Jahvid Best out and Shane Vereen running with the first unit, showed his explosiveness on a few carries. DeBoskie is just another reminder of the depth the Bears have at tailback.
Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed practice as he is back in his native Italy for a family function. Tedford said he would be back on Thursday. Cornerback Darian Hagan and wide receiver Verran Tucker had another practice off to concentrate on academics, something both players will do perenially through the spring.
Tedford said at this point in the spring, the coaching staff isn’t as worried about the depth chart as it is simply evaluating talent. Unlike the season, when the first and second units are getting reps are getting the majority of the reps and young players are on scout team, spring practice gives the coaches a chance to evaluate everybody. First team, second team, third team, and even fourth-stringers, if applicable, get reps.
“We try to give everybody an equal opportunity,” Tedford said. “Everybody on the team is practicing. There are a lot of young people that you try to implement in what you are doing. There are a lot of mistakes, but that is what spring is all about. It’s about getting guys in there and getting their feet wet. There is a lot of evaluation that goes on, and you kind of gear it toward Saturday’s scrimmage. That’s when you cut them loose and play football.”
Cal will scrimmage each of the next three Saturdays, with the final one on April 18 wrapping up spring practice. That scrimmage is open to the public.
I talked a little with defensive coordinator Bob Gregory tonight and one thing that struck me is how different this spring is for him compared with last year. Last spring, it was all about implementing the 3-4 defense. Each session was heavy on teaching. Now that the players have played a full season in the new system, spring practice is more about on-field exploits.
“It’s great not having to teach everything,” Gregory said. “We kind of know it now. Now we’re kind of picking and choosing what we do. This spring is totally different. Our players have a comfort level with it now.”
Cal’s next practice is on Thursday.