By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 at 4:26 pm in Training camp.
For the first day of limited media access, there sure was a lot going on today.
First off, I posted previously that tight end Tad Smith is out for the season. He wasn’t at practice so I didn’t get a chance to speak with him. It remains to be seen if he will petition for a sixth year.
But on the day the Bears lost one tight end, they got one back as Spencer Ladner returned in limited capacity with a yellow jersey. During the 20 minutes we were allowed to view practice at the beginning, Ladner went through all the individual drills with the tight ends.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford seemed optimistic that Cal still has enough depth at tight end to make up for the loss of Smith.
“It’s nice getting Spencer back,” he said. “Skylar has really stepped up in this camp, thankfully. You have Anthony (Miller), you have Skylar, you have Spencer, you have (Jarrett) Sparks and you have (Garry) Graffort. All those guys are in the mix, and they’ve all done pretty well.”
–Tedford still hasn’t named a starting quarterback but he did acknowledge Wednesday that redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney isn’t really in the mix.
“I’d say it’s fair to say that Kevin and Brock are leading right now, mainly because of their experience,” he said. “Beau is going to be a really good player. We feel like we can win games with Beau. Right now, those other guys are ahead with game management. Beau is doing a great job. We feel like we’re in really good shape with those three guys.”
Tedford said not to draw any conclusions from the fact that Riley has received the bulk of the first team snaps in practice. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he names Riley the starter by the end of the week.
–There was a distinct shake-up on defense after Tuesday’s scrimmage. Defensive end Cameron Jordan was working with the second team Wednesday. Trevor Guyton had taken his place with the startesr.
I asked defensive coordinator Bob Gregory what to make of the switch, and he was disappointed with Jordan’s effort in the scrimmage. He said the position is still being evaluated, but if the Bears were to play today, he’d start Guyton over Jordan.
“They will be evaluated every day like everyone,” Gregory said. “It could change. Trevor has gotten better. He had a really good scrimmage in terms of playing the run and striking blockers. With Cam, he needs to do those things and he’s certainly capable of doing those things. We need to see more of that out of him.”
Gregory has spent the past two years talking about the need for Jordan to take the game more seriously. Jordan is a fun-loving guy, and Gregory appreciates that side of him. But Gregory believes Jordan could really become a star if he were to channel some of that desire to have fun into improved focus on the field.
“He needs to take practice more seriously,” Gregory said. “Certainly, he’s a very talented guy and a very good kid. He just needs to step up his mental aspect of the game.”
Jordan acknowledged that he didn’t have a very good scrimmage and pledged to use the demotion as motivation.
“I think for a quick second I almost got content running with the ones and that just being my spot,” Jordan said. “It made me realize there’s always competition out there. I need to get back to where I was. I feel re-motivated, to say the least.”
Jordan says he believes he practices hard but needs to demonstrate more maturity and leadership, like his counterpart Tyson Alualu.
Jordan said he was disappointed with his performance in the scrimmage after watching himself on film.
“I was being really, really lazy,” he said. “I won’t do that again.”
It also appears the situation at linebacker is taking on some new wrinkles. Nobody has really emerged at weakside outside linebacker, so Mike Mohamed has moved into that spot for now. D.J. Holt has taken Mohamed’s spot on the inside and Devin Bishop is seeing more inside reps as well.
“I think Mohamed is a really athletic guy who can come off the edge,” Gregory said. “He can play any position. We want to play our best four linebackers. It doesn’t mean Mike is never going to play inside again. We kind of felt like we need to step up our game in that spot a little bit.”
The Bears are also experimenting with defensive end Keith Browner as a rush linebacker. Browner got some reps there during the scrimmage and again Wednesday.
“He’s a big guy who can run,” Gregory said. “There’s certainly a place for him there.”
Gregory said he is going to take a look at this current linebacker combination for a few days and then switch things up some more until he finds the right combination.
“Everybody has strengths in some areas and everybody has weaknesses in some areas,” Gregory said. “We’re just trying to find the guy who has more strengths than weaknesses.”
–A few other notes: Jahvid Best did a little more running on his own today and Tedford said he’s “changing directions and feeling a lot better.” … Wide receiver Alex Lagemann sat out practice with a bruised quadriceps muscle. … The Bears are healthier than they’ve been in a week. Marcus Ezeff, Brett Johnson, Chris Conte, Mychal Kendricks and Nyan Boateng are all back to practicing without limitation. … Tedford said the kicking competition is still “completely up in the air.”