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Football: Following up on Sweeney

Obviously, nobody is real surprised by Beau Sweeney’s decision to leave Berkeley. Like any competitor, he wants to play. And with four quarterbacks apparently ahead of him in the pecking order right now, the chances of him seeing the field with Cal at any point during his final two years are very remote.

What is a bit stunning is how fall and hard Sweeney fell so fast. Last year at this time, he was the clear No. 2 quarterback behind Kevin Riley after spending most of the 2009 season as the backup. And he was the backup for the first half of last season when things changed. In what Jeff Tedford called a combination of Sweeney struggling in practice and Brock Mansion improving in practice, Mansion over took Sweeney on the depth chart and then ended up starting the final four games of last season after Riley suffered a season-ending injury.

With Riley now gone, the quarterback position was completely up for grabs with no obvious front runner. Even Mansion, the only one with any experience (albeit not much), didn’t seem to have an edge because he didn’t exactly seize the opportunity when he had one last season.

This was a golden opportunity for Sweeney to correct or improve upon what caused him to get  demoted last season and compete legitimately for the starting role. Instead, Sweeney appeared to regress even more. In Cal’s first open scrimmage  of the spring, Sweeney was consistently off the mark, missing open receivers time after time.

With Tedford feeling a sense of urgency to narrow the quarterback competition because of all the signal-callers in spring camp, Sweeney made his decision a lot easier. Tedford had already basically ruled out redshirt freshman Austin Hinder and walk-on Ryan Wertenberger, so really there were four quarterbacks for three spots (Tedford decided that three was the working number for dishing out reps). Based on all the factors — not just that first open scrimmage but the arc of Sweeney’s development and how he had been practicing otherwise — it was clear he would be the odd man out.

Immediately after Tedford decided on Zach Maynard,  Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgford as the finalists, I was asked a lot of I thought Sweeney would transfer. Obviously, many players in this situation would. But I did hesitate to say he definitely would because I know how much Sweeney liked it at Cal. Just based on the few times I’ve interviewed him over the years, I felt like he really felt comfortable at Cal, that it was the best place  for him.

But Sweeney wants to play. He’s worked hard during his college career, and even though it hasn’t worked out at Cal, he obviously wants to get a payoff for that hard work at some point. But I’m sure this was not an easy decision for him.

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.