Ever since the meltdown of 2007, “leadership” has been one of the watchwords of Cal’s program. It was obvious that a lack of player leadership contributed to the team’s downfall that season, and it became a focal point going into last year.
The Bears found those leaders in 2008, with players like Zack Follett, Worrell Williams and Alex Mack assuming those roles. And by all accounts, some players had already started to distinguish themselves as leaders this summer — quarterback Kevin Riley, wide receiver Jeremy Ross, offensive tackle Mike Tepper, defensive end Tyson Alualu, linebacker Mike Mohamed and cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, in particular.
Another leader was born Sunday night.
Safety Marcus Ezeff, typically soft-spoken and reserved publicly, ripped into his team at the end of practice following an undisclosed incident in which a player or players exhibited “immaturity” off the field. Ezeff would only say that it was “just guys trying to have some fun. Camp can be a grind. It’s just guys being guys. Sometimes you just want to find ways to be a kid. It was nothing bad.”
Nonetheless, during post-practice stretching, coach Jeff Tedford talked sternly and generally about showing maturity and behaving properly. When he was done, Ezeff passionately implored his teammates to do the right thing, telling them “we’re trying to win a Pac-10 championship. it’s time to grow up and step up.”
“I felt like Coach Tedford was talking to me,” Ezeff said. “He was talking to the seniors. He’s still looking for leaders.”
Ezeff said he talked a lot this summer with Follett, a close friend who now is in the Detroit Lions camp. Follett shared some wisdom on leadership.
“You have to follow before you lead,” Ezeff said. “I’ve followed some great leaders here.”
Tedford wouldn’t comment on the situation, saying only that it was a “team thing.”
After practicing in only helmets the first two days, the Bears wore shells (helmets and shoulder pads) tonight. That resulted in some fiercer hitting and more football-like situations. The team will wear full pads for the first time Tuesday.
“It’s just more realistic,” Tedford said. “It will be even more realistic when we actually put the full gear on. Things start to pick up a little.”
The hardest hit of the day came when safety Brett Johnson leveled running back Peter Guerts in the backfield for a loss.
The hard hitting resulted in a few dings. Tight end Spencer Ladner and wide receiver Verran Tucker limped off the field near the end of practice. Tedford wasn’t sure of the severity immediately after practice.
Wide receiver Nyan Boateng missed practice because of a death of a family member. He flew back home to New York but was expected to be back tonight and return to the field Monday. Punter Bryan Anger also missed practice because of a summer school study group.
Back to Tucker, after showing some potential last season, he may have an uphill climb to get as many reps as he did last season. Tucker only did conditioning work during spring practice to focus on academics. And while Tedford is pleased with how Tucker is coming along academically, the lack of action may hurt him on the depth chart. Not only did Tucker miss those opportunities that would have come in the spring, he now has more competition with the emergence of Marvin Jones and Alex Lagemann and the return of Michael Calvin from an ACL surgery.
“He’s in the mix, but he’s behind those other guys,” Tedford said.
Those “other guys” are Jones, Boateng, Lagemann, Calvin and Jeremy Ross.