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Football: Thursday night update

Thursday wasn’t the best day to get information out of spring practice. First, practice ended a half hour early, meaning some of us with meticulously planned schedules may have not been there for all of the media access portion at the end of practice (thankfully, I still saw most of it). Then coach Jeff Tedford somehow escaped as practice broke up and didn’t do his usual availability with the assembled press corps.

I can tell you that it looks as though defensive end DeAndre Coleman is back practicing again after spending the past couple of weeks using practice as a study hall (under the orders of Tedford; cornerback Darian Hagan is still studying during practice). Fellow defensive end Trevor Guyton sat out practice Thursday, but without talking to Tedford, I don’t know the nature of his injury. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz continues to sit out with tightness in his back.

The highlight of the action I did see at the end of practice was a terrific catch by running back Shane Vereen on a short touchdown pass from Beau Sweeney. Vereen was manhandled by linebacker Jarred Price as he ran his route – Price may have set a record for most pass interference infractions on one play – and Vereen still somehow managed to haul the pass in despite having Price apparently attempting to give him a bear hug.

I talked to redshirt freshman cornerback Steve Williams after practice. Williams was highly recruited out of Skyline High School in Dallas and has a good chance to get significant playing time this season. With Syd’Quan Thompson gone and the other corner spot basically unoccupied, competition is wide open.

“I feel pretty good,” Williams said. “All of us are just battling. It’s been fun. I feel like I have a chance to play. Right now, it’s looking pretty solid.”

Defensive backs coach Al Simmons called Williams “the fastest corner I’ve ever coached.” Simmons is entering his 25th year of coaching, with stints in both college and the NFL.

“He’s doing really well,” Simmons said. “He’s really coming along. He’s getting better all the time, getting smarter, getting a better feel for the offensive guys, understanding the formations and plays. And he’s working hard. He’s having fun. It’s not a grind for him. He’s been a joy.”

Simmons said he still is counting on Hagan to factor significantly into the competition at corner, even though he’s missing valuable time this spring. Simmons said Hagan has shown an increased maturity since the end of last season.

“You have to be concerned because of the situation he’s in, but he’s still showing some maturity because he’s handling it well,” Simmons said. “He’s been really a positive person every day.”

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Kevin

    Very excited to see Steve Williams on the field this year – I think he can have a similar impact in the next four years that Syd’Quan did for us. While we’ll obviously miss ST and his experience, I feel like we’ve got pretty solid depth in the defensive backfield, especially if Hagan can return to form. Go Bears!

  • Davidson

    Hagan needs to get his act together!! He has a lot of talent.

    Steve Williams…wow, I heard he has speed and good ball skills, but if he’s exceptionally fast…then that’s good!

    Ideally, those are our two starting corners.

    Cattouse is a lock for Safety.

    I’m hoping Moncrease can learn the mental game to complement his obvious physical traits and step up to be the other Safety.

  • bayareabear

    What about Conte? I think he and Cattouse will make the best safety combo…

  • robert

    Thanks for the report J.O.

    If you are able I would love to hear about how Conte is doing at safety. Also, is it possible to get any comments from the new DC about his impressions of the talent he sees? Anyone stand out to him?

    Thanks!

  • uh oh.

    Any more kickoffs into the boxes? Snaps to the goalpost to save gassers?

    I just don’t understand why Tedford doesn’t host an All Campus kickoff challenge.
    There’s got to be someone who can just unload the ball over and over again. How many undergrads are there? Let Tavecchio et al battle for field goals. It’s disgusting to me to leave kickoffs short game after game, year after year.
    How large is out student body?
    I just don’t understand.

  • Davidson

    Everything about Conte’s physical attributes and time in game just screams “average average average” … Just not a fan.

    Moncrease’s speed and build is exceptional for a Safety. Watching his reel from Laney College, I was very excited to see him lay bone-crushing hit after hit after hit. On tape, his speed on the field was very evident.

    However, watching him on special teams last year…he simply was not on the same page. He would oftentimes be the first guy down, and then completely whiff on his guy. Othertimes, he would be completely out of position.

    He did have 1 monster hit that ended that one Oregon duck’s college career when he blew up his knee and caused a fumble on the first play of the game. I’ve never see a replay, because I was at the game, but all I remember was seeing a duck to a flip in the air. I can only imagine the hit…(although it would be nicer if he did it w/o injuring the other player).

    So, having said that…I would much rather have the upside of Moncrease at that position than Conte’s rather pedestrian play…

  • jpf

    I really wish there wasn’t so much bashing on Hagan and how he needs to “grow up.” I’m sorry, but taking care of your academics and setting your priorities correctly is pretty damn manly to me!

    The guy is using his practice time to make sure his coursework is in order and while it may be on Tedford’s orders he is still getting it done as he needs to. The positive comments from coaching staff lead me to believe that he is doing what he can to take care of his coursework at Berkeley (and let’s not forget how freakin’ hard the courses are there–and only more so now). The guy is working his butt off AND he is still expected to carry the weight of being a starter. So get off the dude’s back and support his striving toward a degree! That’s what I call manning up.

    As for Conte, I have to agree that he doesn’t quite have the frame you’d like to see in a top-tier safety, but I wouldn’t call him pedestrian by any means. I think he is a better fit as a nickel back given the talent that is present at Cal. But the D staff clearly like his play since they try and get him wherever they can. I think a lot of the missed plays last year in which he was involved can be attributed to the D’s failure top to bottom. It was a systemic issue not an individual effort problem (see 2008 as evidence of the individual capabilities of these guys).

    Go Bears! (on and off the field)!!

  • milo

    Totally agree Jpf…let the kids take care of school. I can’t remember who it was last year who missed practice 2x a week due to class conflict but he went to class to complete his major requirements so he could graduate. No way you harp on a kid doing the right thing. I’m just grateful Tedford has instilled priorities and character.

    I’m very happy with Tedford and the complete package he brings to Cal. Kudos for the Academic Game Plan. Graduations rates are as good (or better) then most private school. The Bears are winning at a .670 clip and being competitive. Some of these kids come from a tough background but Tedford, Gould and the staff really have them prepared to do well in school and on the field.

    Winning isn’t easy but to do so at Cal with the pressure from the academic community, takes a special guy.

    Go Bears!

  • robert

    Davidson, Ezeff and Johnson had pretty good measureables last year, but they stunk. We later learned that Ezeff started in spite of the fact that he never practiced. I’m not sure about Conte either, but that position needs the build and the mind to play back there. The total package seems like Keenan Allen!

  • charlie

    Conte started as a true freshman at CB so questioning his skills as a senior is interesting. As for Conte not having the measureables to be a Safety – he’s 6’3 220 lbs. (making him the biggest Safety on the roster) and given he has started at CB, has at minimum, average to good cover skills for a Safety.

    I don’t know Hagan; but if he was mature he wouldn’t need to be forced by the coach to study (I don’t think it’s a class he is taking, but rather forced study-hall).

    With Williams progress it isn’t looking good for Hagan to start…CB is about consistency – a quality that transcends (and shows) in other aspects of a student athlete life – i.e. staying eligible to play ball by doing one’s homework.

  • Jan K Oski

    Milo – Ezeff was that man and we all know what it did to his game time abilities in a porous 2ndary last year. Thanks for tearing of that scar! Now, let’s hope the same doesn’t happen for Hagan and this year’s 2ndary…

    These kids are on campus due to their football scholarships, while other kids have to work for financial reasons to stay in school. At some point in life, I guarantee everyone needs to balance several demanding responsibilities. Of course, not everyone is capable to balance them, and some are more important to one’s future than others, but Hagan gets a failing grade for not being able to do it. Why must we sugar coat things? We all know what Iverson thinks about practice, but do you actually believe the same thing?

    Go BEARS!