Don’t forget. Our live chat with linebacker Mychal Kendricks is today from 2-3 p.m. Hope to see everyone there.
WHAT WE KNOW: The Bears don’t have an upperclassmen like Tyson Alualu or Cameron Jordan. Cal brought in one of the top defensive line classes in the country this year, but it likely will be at least a little while before those folks made a big impact. In the meantime, the Bears appear to still have good depth along the defensive front, but no first round NFL draft picks like Alualu and Jordan. Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu should be solid at defensive end, and while Guyton flashed an occassional dominant moment last season, neither player — at least so far in his career — has become the threat that makes offensive coordinators alter their gameplans. That being said, Cal could have a fierce rotation on the outside with DeAndre Coleman and Gabe King backing up. Both could ultimately become better players than the guys they are currently behind. The Bears have some depth returning at nose tackle in Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti, but each could be pushed by incoming freshman Viliami Moala. Coach Jeff Tedford said at Monday’s Bay Area Media Day that Moala is physically ready to play right away. Training camp will tell us if he is mentally and emotionally ready as well.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: How much better can Guyton and Owusu get? Both were part-time starters last season, but enter camp as the definitive front-runners on the first team. Guyton especially demonstrated last season that there is potential and possibly more production to come. While Alualu had an excellent career, he really turned himself into a top-level NFL prospect during his senior year. Could one of Cal’s defensive ends this season do the same? On the other hand, could players like Coleman and King play well enough in camp to overtake one of them? And how about highly touted incoming freshmen Todd Barr and Brennan Scarlett? The Bears have several young players that figure to do big things during their careers. Are they good enough right away to make a mark during this training camp?
IN SUMMATION: If the young players prove they can play at this level immediately, this could be a wicked group in terms of depth. The top four at defensive end are formidable, and the incoming freshman could really provide for an impressive rotation. Moala could add to the depth at nose tackle. The storylines to watch are whether Guyton and Owusu are ready to take that next step and separate themselves, and how much the incoming freshman assert themselves right away.
- My notebook today off Bay Area media day: Jeff Tedford still expects his new running backs to contribute.
Here’s the link to participate in Thursday’s live chat with linebacker Mychal Kendricks, 2-3 p.m.
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area is airing “Bay Area College Football Blitz” this Sunday at Noon. It is a half-hour program offf Monday’s Bay Area media day. It will feature segments on all three local teams. Cal fans can expect interviews with Jeff Tedford and Mychal Kendricks.
The show will air several other times:
Aug. 7: 5 p.m., 10 p.m.
Aug. 10: 4 p.m.
Aug. 11: 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 13: 9 p.m.
Aug. 14: 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 15: 3 p.m.
Aug. 17: 9:30 p.m.
It’s also airing on Comcast SportsNet California at the following times:
August 12: 10:30 p.m.
August 13: 6:30 p.m.
August 14: 8:30 a.m.
August 16: 6 p.m.
August 21: 12 p.m.
A sampling of what was overheard today at Bay Area College Football Media Day:
COACH JEFF TEDFORD
On Zach Maynard entering camp as the No. 1 quarterback:
“As we go into camp, it’s still going to be competitive because he still has to perform. Bridgford and Brock are right there on his heels. I think he’s even going to be even better going through the fall. We’ve only seen him through the spring. He did a nice job.
“He has the physical ability. He’s competitive. It’s a matter of getting a good feel for the offense and I think he’ll do that as we go through camp.”
Inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks will join us for a live chat this Thursday, Aug. 4, from 2-3 p.m. I’ll provide the link soon. Hope you all can join us.
Today was the annual Bay Area College Football Media Day at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. The head coaches and selected players from the three FBS Bay Area teams were there. Cal was represented by coach Jeff Tedford, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
I’ll have much more later, but first a few nuggets:
- Tedford said Witter Rugby Field is ready to go for camp after the fiasco this spring. He did say the field turf had to be redone twice and flooded over at one point after a heavy rain. It’s still undergoing some testing but is ready for the Bears on Saturday.
- Laney College transfer C.J. Anderson recently finished up his schoolwork and is in at Cal and will be on the field Saturday.
- Freshman running back Brendan Bigelow is expected to be ready to practice after recovering from his knee injuries, but Tedford said they will likely limit his reps early on.
- Tight end Spencer Ladner and wide receiver Ross Bostock still aren’t fully recovered from knee injuries and won’t be available at the start of camp.
- After sitting out spring practice and attending a junior college to work on academics, defensive back Josh Hill is back. Tedford said Hill has “matured and grown more than anyone on our football team.”
- Tedford said the Bears likely will be unveiling a white helmet with blue lettering at some point this season.
WHAT WE KNOW: That Isi Sofele is going to carry the ball. Jeff Tedford has made it clear that Sofele is the team’s No. 1 running back. Does that mean he can’t be challenged for the starting job? Not at all. The problem is Tedford has been so dissatisfied with the rest of his corps of tailbacks that he hasn’t really publicly entertained that possiblity. Tedford was surprisingly candid in expressing his disappointment with his tailback group during the spring, other than Sofele. Some may see that as a motivational ploy, but I think it’s sincere. Part of that likely is because of the other returning running backs inability to stay healthy. Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Dasarte Yarnway and Trajuan Briggs are all coming off of injuries last season.
When camp starts next Saturday, all of their returning running backs will be on the field and healthy. That may make Tedford allow for more competition. DeBoskie-Johnson has reportedly worked hard this summer to shed weight and get into good shape.
Tedford has made it clear he is going to take a long look at the incoming running backs, especially freshman Brendan Bigelow. After recovering from two knee surgeries, Bigelow is expected to be on the field for the first day of practice. Fellow freshman Daniel Lasco and JC transfer C.J. Anderson will also get a look. And what about walk-on Mike Manuel, who opened some eyes at the beginning of the spring before falling off late (partly due to injury)?
Clearly, there are a lot of tailbacks in camp, and all of them could legitimately compete for playing time.
The Bears are a known commodity at fullback with Eric Stevens and Will Kapp returning.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: How healthy is Bigelow? Even with his knee injuries, Bigelow was one of the most sought-after running backs in the country. He’s been compared to Jahvid Best, and we know that Best was able to play as a true freshman. If Bigelow is at full strength and Tedford is still down on the other running backs, he could make a quick ascent up the depth chart.
The other unknown is where the returning running backs stand with their health, and with their head coach. Can DeBoskie-Johnson prove to Tedford and running backs coach Ron Gould that he is a legitimate candidate to start? Is Yarnway or Briggs perceived as an every-down back at this point in his career?
Anderson is another intriguing study. Since he comes from the JC ranks, one might think he should contribute right away. But Anderson also could have been brought in simply to provide depth since the health of three returning running backs was unknown (don’t forget Anderson was a late commitment in the recruiting season).
IN SUMMATION: With the quarterback competition settled at the end of spring, tailback now becomes the most intriguing position battle of the fall. Even if Sofele is considered the starter at the beginning of camp, it’s clear he will share the load with a backup (not only because Sofele is smaller in stature but because that is Tedford and Gould’s usual preference). Bigelow arguably is the most interesting player in camp, except maybe for new quarterback Zach Maynard. If you believe Tedford, the Bears need him (or another newcomer) to contribute right away. But Cal also has to be careful with Bigelow because of his knee. He missed his entire senior season because of it. Of the returners, DeBoskie-Johnson has the best shot at playing time. Yarnway is recovering from a torn ACL and missed the spring and Briggs is only a redshirt freshman.