The Bears opened training camp tonight on a beautiful evening at Memorial Stadium. One thing that struck me after watching the first practice of the season is just how experienced this team is this season.
It was a pretty efficient practice for the first one, and much of that can be attributed to the fact that Cal has 17 returning starters from last season. Sure, there are plenty of new faces, but the Bears can afford to have the newcomers progress at a deliberate rate.
Of course, all conversations about training camp likely will begin and end with the quarterback situation. As expected, Kevin Riley took the first snaps Friday, Brock Mansion was with the second team and Beau Sweeney with the third unit. The Bears had some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 sessions. The highlight of Riley’s first practice of the season came when he lofted a perfectly thrown bomb down the middle of the field that dropped squarely into the hands of wide receiver Marvin Jones for a 67-yard touchdown pass. Riley also made a nice throw on a similar play, but Jeremy Ross couldn’t handle the pass.
Riley also threw two interceptions. The first came when Darian Hagan out-jumped Jones down the left sideline. The second came when his intended receiver didn’t run the route he was expecting and it sailed right into the waiting hands of Chris Conte.
The defense picked up a third interception when linebacker Robert Mullins picked off a pass by Sweeney during 7-on-7s.
Taking a look at some of the position battles that will take place during camp, Brian Holley took the first reps at fullback, Matt Summers-Gavin was the first team left guard, Tad Smith was the starting tight end while Jones and Nyan Boateng took the No. 1 reps at wide receiver.
Everything else went according to plan: Mike Tepper at left tackle, Chris Guarnero at center, Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle and Jahvid Best at tailback.
On defense, Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu were the first team ends with Derrick Hill in the middle. Mike Mohamed and Mychal Kendrics were the inside linebackers with Eddie Young and Devin Bishop on the outside. Syd’Quan Thompson and Hagan were at the corners with Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson at safety.
There were no special teams sessions Friday.
On offense, Alex Lagemann and Jeremy Ross were the second team wide receivers.
Many times on the first day of camp a story will develop because somebody doesn’t report for various reasons. That didn’t happen Friday as everyone expected to be present was accounted for.
The newcomers didn’t get too many looks Friday, so it’s hard to get a good impression, especially after just one practice. One player who did stick out was Isi Sofele, who demonstrated explosive speed on one-on-ones. Sofele is practicing with the wide receivers but Jeff Tedford said he will also see time at tailback and on special teams.
The Bears practiced in helmets only and will do so again Saturday. They will add shoulder pads for Sunday and Monday’s practices and then hold their first full-pad session on Tuesday.
One other note: Got word late tonight that Best has been named to the watch list for the Walter Camp Award, given annually to the best player in the nation.