Today was Cal’s last practice before beginning the 2011 season. The Bears will hold a walk-through tomorrow at Candlestick Park before getting things going Saturday.
There seem to be more unknowns entering a season than in recent years, especially on offense. Cal is pretty experienced on defense, but even so there are questions on that side of the ball. Can Trevor Guyton or Ernest Owusu be the next Tyson Alualu or Cameron Jordan? Can Dave Wilkerson deliver at outside linebacker? Will D.J. Campbell fill the void left by Chris Conte?
But there are obviously some bigger questions at quarterback, beginning with the quarterback. Nobody will really know what kind of quarterback Zach Maynard is until the Bears start playing games. And how much will the offense change with his dual-threat ability? We know it will change some, but how dramatic a difference will it be? And, of course, can Isi Sofele carry the load as an every-down back and come close to the level of other Cal tailbacks in recent years? How about Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson as his backup?
Cal coach Jeff Tedford was asked after practice today if he had a good sense of what kind of team he really has.
“I have a sense that our kids are ready to play,” he said. “They’re anxious to play. Obviously, you try to simulate games as much as possible, but games are just games. There’s going to be some new guys playing.”
Tedford admitted there is a little more unknown heading into this season compared with years past.
“A little bit,” he said. “We have a new quarterback, the tailback is playing for the first time, some other backs are playing for the first time. But they’ve practiced hard. We’ve tried to simulate games as much as possible. All we need to do is take what we practiced and transfer it into the game.”
In talking about Kaelin Clay and Maurice Harris and their return from injuries, wide receiver depth became a topic today. Tedford and the coaching staff have been impressed with walk-on receiver Bryce McGovern, who will dress and may get some reps as a true freshman.
“He has excellent hands,” Tedford said. “He’s a good route runner. He’s a very dependable guy — tough in the run game. He blocks.”
With tight end Spencer Ladner still out for awhile, expect Spencer Hagan to see substantial playing time backing up Anthony Miller. Hagan has made a nice transition from wide receiver. Even though he is still light for a tight end at 225 pounds, Tedford said he’s confident at the job Hagan can do at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s done a nice job,” Tedford said. “He’s very smart and understands detail. Sometimes if your fundamentals and technique are really sound, you can get away with being a little bit light. And he is very sound fundamentally.”