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Football: Saturday night update

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.

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.

  • calfan1

    India won the world cup cricket after 28 years today.
    Giants won the world series.

    The Bears are next.

  • dball

    Two observations from this report-out: Unlike last year where LB and OL assignments (ie who is playing what specific position) were slow to solidify, it sounds like things are taking shape much earlier this year. I have to think that this will benefit us in the long run, as guys can focus and specialize on one position, and learn everything they need to know about executing at that position. Last year, it felt like we were still rotating our OL assignments up until or through the first game.

  • Tango

    Was at Laney, too. Thought Trajuan looked pretty good. Big and tough to tackle. Crossing my fingers that 2012 will field a healthy tandem of Briggs and Bigelow, with a thunderous blow of relief coming from a healthy Yarnway. Less optimistic about 2011 to be honest

  • rotfogel

    eek! Those QBs scare the hell out of me! Well, I’m still hoping Maynard can come thru. I’ve seen all the Mansion I need/want to see. Shoot, can I try out? Seriously I play ball in the backyard and can consistently hit a 5 yard out. Consistently!

  • milo

    Wow, Mansion is the leader. It’s only been how many days/practices and there’s fall, right? (please)

    So the task for spring is to make the cut of 3. From there you can move up. Can’t do that from the 2nd group.

    I think Tedford has to baptize these guys with some real and significant game time. That’s the only real evaluation. Or maybe Cal needs a “real” final scrimmage, not just an organized practice.

    Keep the current QB evaluation system but rotate in the other two guys, on schedule and planned. Name the starter but get the other two guys 2-3 real quarters in the first 3 games, just to see reality. Play to win but also iron out skills for conference play.

    Put a premium on being able to get receivers the ball. Game management means little if you can’t move the ball in the first place.

    Hey so, which of these QBs is the livest wire, the smartest or brightest guy?

  • milo

    I meant a real “final spring GAME”, not ““real” final scrimmage”.

    I have reservations about Pete Carroll but he might have been right about competition and live hitting in practice. Many can do the drills/skills but how many can do the drills/skills while getting hit.

  • noduck

    “There is a lot of stuff going on,” Tedford said.

    ————–

    lol. no kidding. tedford is not selling any tickets with his quotes.

    i am so tired of tedford and his cal teams i am forcing myself to come back here for updates. perhaps it’s the world champion giants, but even in past years when odds were low i’ve had good interest. i’ve ditched my tickets. i think i’ll go to the opener and then call it a season.

  • David

    “game management” matters a ton and poor game management is one of the main reasons the offense did so poorly under Mansion last year. How many illegal procedure calls took the ball out of our running backs’ hands last year?! It seemed like every time a drive would get going, we got moved back 5 yards. You never saw an illegal procedure penalty called against Stanford with Andrew Luck, not even after 2 complete formation changes and 74,540 other ridiculous shifts. He would recognize the error and correct it.
    Of course, with what looks to be a weaker stable of backs out there in 2011 there will be more pressure in terms of throwing effective passes as opposed to just managing the offense…

  • howard

    cal gets a top 10 high school qb every year and results are dreck. something is remiss. they have too much talent all over to be this bad.

  • CardinalRules07

    Andrew Luck.