The Bears had their first full-pad practice of the spring today, an open session at Laney College that was attended by a couple hundred, including several local coaches who took part in the Cal Coaches Clinic. What they saw was a team that predictably had a defense ahead of the offense.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford said as much afterward — that is typical in spring, especially early on. You get the feeling Tedford is not exactly doing cartwheels over the play of his quarterbacks or running backs after three practices this spring.
Semi-incumbent Brock Mansion overall looked pretty sharp Saturday, but you couldn’t say that about anyone else. Mansion took the first reps while the others rotated behind him.
In the same breath, Tedford said “not very good” when asked about the performance of his quarterbacks while also saying he will cut the quarterback competition to the final three next week.
“There is a lot of stuff going on,” Tedford said. “We have young guys — guys who have not been under center. There’s only one guy on our team who has been under center (Mansion). It’s a noticeable difference when he’s in opposed to everyone else.”
Tedford said “not yet” when asked if he knew who the top three quarterbacks were. It’s a tough evaluation for someone like me to make because today was the first day I’ve really seen enough to have a big enough sample size to make a judgment. And other than Mansion, nobody separated himself.
Based on today, I’d have to say it’s a strong possibility that Beau Sweeney might be out. Obviously, other than Mansion, he has the most superiority on the team at the position. But he missed a lot of throws today and was already on a downard arc at the end of last season. He simply didn’t appear to throw a whole lot of good balls.
Of course, Tedford has said there is other criteria besides throwing the ball — management the huddle, grasping the offense, etc. But his comment today tells us that nobody else besides Mansion is really standing out when they are under center.
If Sweeney is the odd man out, that would leave Zach Maynard and Allan Bridgford as the other two finalists. Tedford has already said that Austin Hinder isn’t a realistic candidate because of his inexperience. Truth be told, to me Hinder looks like he has as much potential as any quarterback on the roster. He’s a fluid athlete who seems to have a grasp on things. He may not be in the mix right now but he appears to have a bright future.
While Mansion had some nice moment Saturday, neither Bridgford or Maynard really did. Bridgford lost two fumbles, one on an attempted handoff exchange and another when he was stripped by linebacker Lucas King. This was the first time I’ve had a chance to see Maynard at any length and he seemed competent but didn’t do anything that really made you sit up and take notice.
Tedford is clearly not happy with the performance of his running backs other than projected starter Isi Sofele and walk-on Mike Manuel. He said Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson is overweight and needs to lose about 10 pounds.
“Right now, there’s a difference between (Sofele) and the next few guys,” Tedford said. “Besides Isi, there’s not a back that can play at our level. The back that has shown up more than anybody is Mike Manuel. He does some really nice things. If we had to play tomorrow and Mike knew what he was doing, he’d probably be the backup tailback.
“(Manuel) has only been here for a few practices and so far I haven’t seen him make a lot of mental mistakes. He’s a tough guy, he’s a good runner and he catches the ball well. He’s a guy who really stood out.”
Manuel is a preferred walk-on who transferred from Golden West College in Southern California.
DeBoskie-Johnson said one of the reasons he put on extra weight — he weighs around 225 pounds right now — is because he’s a little behind in his conditioning while recovering from the knee injury that sidelined him late last season. Tedford admitted DeBoskie-Johnson is still “nursing his knee.”
More notes from today’s session:
- Tedford said redshirt freshman linebacker Dave Wilkerson is staying on the outside. Wilkerson was projected to play inside when he first got to Cal last year but started taking reps on the outside because the Bears were thin there. Then he got hurt. Tedford now says Wilkerson is more suited for the outside. “He can be a real force coming off the edge,” Tedford said. “He’s hard to block coming off the edge.”
- Because of guys like Wilkerson, Mychal Kendricks may move to the inside for good. Kendricks has played both inside and outside at Cal, and had a breakout season on the outside last year. But moving Kendricks to the inside may help the Bears get their four best linebackers on the field because the team is deep on the outside. Along with Wilkerson, young players like Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain have a lot of potential there.
- Punter Bryan Anger missed practice because of a class field trip. Jed Barnett boomed some punts in his place.
- Incoming freshman Darren Ervin twisted his ankle and finished practice on crutches.
- The first offensive line consisted of Tyler Rigsbee at left tackle, Matt Summers-’Gavin at left guard, Mark Brazinski at center, Brian Schwenke at right guard and Sam DeMartinis at right tackle. Summers-Gavin also played a lot of right tackle with the 2s. Justin Cheadle was the second right guard, but looked good during one-on-one drills. Don’t forget that left tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Dominic Galas aren’t practicing with contact this spring.
- Wide recevier Michael Calvin made a terrific catch during one 11-on-11 session. He got turned around on an underthrown pass but still held on to it down the sideline.
- Wide receiver Kaelin Clay beat Alex Logan down the sideline for a long gain. Mansion made a perfect pass to hit Clay in stride.
- Mansion and Clay hooked up for another connection later in team drills, with Clay making a nice grab before stepping out of bounds on a nicely thrown timing pattern.
- In nickel situations, redshirt freshman Michael Coley was the extra defensive back.
- Cheadle and defensive end Gabe King got into a shoving match after one play, but nothing out of the ordinary.