Spring practice 2011 came to an end this afternoon with the final controlled scrimmage of the spring. Several hundred fans showed up to watch on an absolutely gorgeous day at Contra Costa College.
Of course, it was the quarterbacks that were on everyone’s mind, and as I wrote on a post earlier today, junior Zach Maynard appears to getting a pretty firm grip on the job. He took all the first team reps today, and out of the open scrimmages, he had his best performance.
The most impressive thing about Maynard this spring has been his quick feet. The Bears haven’t had a quarterback that quick with his feet in a long time. That not only gives Maynard a valuable escape dimension, but it allows Cal’s offensive coaches to install designed plays to utilize Maynard’s running talents.
The Bears used a lot of spread option today, but Jeff Tedford continues to say that the offense won’t change that much even if Maynard gets the job. The Bears will simply add on to the base offense to make use of the quarterback’s skills.
But Maynard impressed with more than his feet today. On what was arguably his most impressive play of the day, he made a quick escape out of pressure, rolled to his right and then made a nice pass to an open Marvin Jones. Remember: Maynard is left-handed, making the throw as he rolled right that much more impressive.
Immediately afterward, he zipped a strike down the field for a large gain perfectly to tight end Anthony Miller, who rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown.
“He’s made a ton of progress,” Tedford said of Maynard, who only enrolled at Cal this spring after transferring from Buffalo. “He has a good understanding of what’s going on, he has a good feel, he’s running the huddle well, he’s communicating well, all of those things. We’ve increased his reps over spring so he could get a feel for that and I think that paid off. He’s done a nice job of talking a leadership role in the huddle, which is part of the quarterback’s job.”
Maynard also had a few bad moments, although Tedford said he was more pleased with Maynard’s strong plays than disappointed with his bad ones. Maynard tried to throw a fade to his half-brother Keenan Allen, but Allen was well-covered by C.J. Moncrease, who picked the pass off. Later, Myanrd made a bad read and threw a pass right to linebacker Nick Forbes for another interception.
Tedford said on one of the picks, it was a play the team just installed this morning. On another, he said Maynard was under pressure because someone failed on a blocking assignment.
“I’m thinking more about the other great plays that he made. That’s what sticks out to me,” Tedford said.
You’ll read more about Maynard and the quarterbacks in tomorrow’s paper, but Maynard generally said he feels good about the position that he’s in and things are slowing down for him as he continues to digest the offense.
“It’s slowed down a lot from the first two scrimmages to the last two,” Maynard said. “Our defense runs a lot of blitzes. You have to know how to pick it up and that’s been the hard part.”
Defensively on Saturday, the Bears rested a lot of their regulars. The only first-teamers that played were defensive ends Ernest Owusu and Trevor Guyton, nose tackle Austin Clark and outside linebackers Ryan Davis and Dave Wilkerson. And Clark really isn’t a first-teamer — he has been getting reps because of injuries to Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti. That being said, Tedford said Clark “had an excellent spring.” Also, Wilkerson played with the twos instead of the ones.
Both Tedford and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said they would rather continue to evaluate the younger guys in game-like situations than play players that they already know what they can do.
“That’s where our depth is, on defense,” Tedford said. “Today we had some guys that needed turns in there that haven’t gotten them, so it was nice to see that. We didn’t need to play those other guys that much. We have a lot more experience on defense than we do on offense.”
It doesn’t appear the spring did much to change Tedford’s evaluation of his running backs — that there is Isi Sofele and then everybody else. Walk-on Mike Manuel has slowed down recently but Tedford revealed today that Manuel has been practicing while “banged up.”
“Isi kind of turned it on down the stretch,” Tedford said. “Besides that, it’s still a wide open race and we’re still going to depend on some of the young guys coming in to provide a spark there.”
Sofele had a 65-yard touchdown run today, busting up the middle and and racing to the end zone.
When asked which players either surprised or made a move this spring, Tedford mostly cited the young players on defense — Wilkerson, outside linebacker Chris McCain, Forbes at inside linebacker, safety Avery Walls. Tedford was also happy with the development of offensive tackles Tyler Rigsbee and Bill Tyndall, as well as the performance of wide receiver Michael Calvin, who caught a touchdown pass from Brock Mansion today and scored several times during the scrimmages this spring.
Other notes today:
- During kickoff return drills, the first team returners were Kaelin Clay and Coleman Edmond, who got healthy just in time for spring practice to end.
- Tight end Jacob Wark sprained his ankle during the scrimmage and was in crutches and a walking boot later.
- The sloppiness continued for the offense, although it wasn’t as bad as it has been previously this spring. Still, there were a handful of false starts and botched shotgun snaps. During one possession for the first team, there were back-to-back false starts followed by a play in which Maynard mishandled the shotgun snap from center Mark Brazinski.
- Allan Bridgford, who may now be battling Mansion for the backup spot, made a nice pass on the run for a completion to tight end Spencer Hagan.