For the second straight week, starting left guard Matt Summers-Gavin is being held out of practice. This time, it appears there is a legitimate chance he may not play on Saturday.
Summers-Gavin suffered a sprained shoulder during the Oregon game. Cal coach Jeff Tedford said the team is playing it by ear but that Summers-Gavin is questionable at this point for USC.
If Summers-Gavin can’t go, junior Mark Boskovich would start in his place. Boskovich started 10 games last season.
“He’s gotten a little bit better,” Tedford said of Boskovich. “I think he’s improved, and I think experiendce has a lot to do with that. We feel confident with him in there.”
Boskovich took over at left guard last year after Chris Guarnero suffered a season-ending toe injury. That was part of a injury-ravaged season along the offensive line that saw backups such as Boskovich, Justin Cheadle and Donovan Edwards get significant playing time. Cheadle is now starting at right guard while Edwards is the backup left tackle.
“Last year when we played some guys because of injury, we took our lumps a little bit,” Tedford said. “But now I think that experience will be beneficial. As you get into the season, you’re going to challenge your depth.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory acknowledged tonight that his team’s linebackers are still a work in progress and he continues to move people around to try to find the best combination.
Mychal Kendricks played outside and Mike Mohamed played inside Saturday, and it’s not just because the opponent was Oregon (which is what I was speculating). After moving from the outside to the inside, Gregory said that Kendricks likely will move back to the outside on a more permanent basis. That means Mohamed likely will play more inside. Also, he said Devin Bishop has replaced D.J. Holt as the other inside linebacker spot.
“We’re still trying to find out what they can do best,” Gregory said. “We have to speed them along a little bit. It’s not like spring ball. We have to get going. Hopefully, we’ll continue to grow as a defense during the season and we’ll continue to grow as players. I feel good about them.”
Bishop got his first career start against Oregon and Gregory said he shined in an otherwise poor performance by the defense.
“Devin played his best game since he’s been here,” Gregory said. “He played very well. Hopefully we kind of found a home for him.”
As for Kendricks, Gregory said “We’re still trying to find a home for him and figure out what’s best for him. I think it’s the outside. I think that’s the best thing for him.”
Gregory also took full responsibility for the defensive breakdown against the Ducks.
“It was much more on me than it was on anything,” he said. “We didn’t prepare our guys well enough. I think when we were getting things right, we were good. But we didn’t give the guys enough tools to succeed on gameday as we should. We have to put those guys in position to make plays and we didn’t do that. They did actually what we asked them to do. We just didn’t ask them to do the right thing.”
Gregory said Josh Hill will once again start at cornerback over Darian Hagan this week. Gregory said Hagan isn’t playing with good enough technique and Hill “deserves to start.”
“It’s an ongoing competition,” Gregory said. “I think it’s making Hagan better.”
Gregory said the switch last week was based on Hagan’s performance against Minnesota, when he was beaten for all three Gopher touchdowns. But Gregory also said that performance simply was an extension of how Hagan had been practicing.
“The Minnesota game just kind of exposed him a little bit,” Gregory said. “(Hill) plays with good technique. I think that’s the thing that hurt Darian in the Minnesota game. He wasn’t playing with good technique, and he knows that. He’s getting better at it. Last week was better, two good days of practice this week, so he’s getting better.”
Gregory admitted that the knee tendinitis that bothered Hagan on and off through training camp has set him back a bit, although the knee isn’t much of an issue now.
“We’d like to see him conitinue to improve,” Gregory said. “I think it’s also a credit to Josh that he’s playing well enough to play. The more guys that we can play will make us better.”
Wednesday is Jahvid Best day with the media. After making an appearance from the stadium on “Chronicle Live” and then going on a conference call with out-of-town media, the local press gathered around him tonight to talk about the USC game.
I’ll have the full transcript of his comments on another post, but he said he definitely is motivated to improve on last season’s performance against the Trojans when he gained just 30 yards on 13 carries.
“It definitely gives me a little more motivation to go out there and produce this weekend, just to show that I can produce,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a physical game. We just have to be ready for it.”
USC has its usual dominant defense this season. The Trojans rank fifth nationally in rushing defense (59.5 ypg).