NCF Nation: Michael Calvin

California spring notes

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
8:29
PM ET
BERKELEY, Calif. -- California has something sort of old and something sort of new this spring on both sides of the ball.

On defense, Clancy Pendergast is back for his second season coordinating the Bears defense. On offense, Jim Michalczik is back in town after spending a couple of years with the Oakland Raiders. Pendergast turned in a successful first campaign, with his more aggressive version of a 3-4 scheme ending up ranked third in the Pac-10 in scoring and first in total defense. And from 2002-2008, Michalczik might have been the best offensive line coach in the conference.

Here are some notes from chats with both coordinators as well as head coach Jeff Tedford.

  • Other than a blowout loss to Stanford, the Bears defense turned in its best work in November, most notably holding Oregon to just one offensive touchdown in a 15-13 Ducks win. Pendergast didn't think that was a coincidence: "I think our guys trusted the system, trusted each other. Had better eyes. All those things." As for year two, the longtime NFL coach, probably has a better grasp on some of the quirky offenses he'll face in the conference. "Anytime you go into a second year, you're going to be more comfortable," he said.
  • Pendergast on former defensive end Cameron Jordan, who is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick on April 28: "He'll be solid, consistent player at next level who can do a lot of different things."
  • [+] EnlargeCal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast
    Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIRECal's Clancy Pendergast expects to be more comfortable coaching against Pac-12 offenses in his second season.

  • Pendergast is clearly high on the incoming freshmen. He repeatedly mentions them -- first and last names -- when talking about his potential depth chart. When asked if he expects a handful to play, he said, "No question." Names he -- and later Tedford -- mention: defensive tackle Todd Barr, defensive tackle Viliami Moala, defensive end Brennan Scarlett, and cornerbacks Stefan McClure, Joel Willis and Kameron Jackson.
  • The top three defensive ends are Trevor Guyton, Deandre Coleman and Ernest Owusu. At nose tackle, both Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne are out with shoulder injuries. Guyton has had a good spring, while Tedford said, Coleman "should be much better this year."
  • The inside 'backers are Mychal Kendricks, who put up huge numbers last fall playing outside, and D.J. Holt, also a returning starter. As for Kendricks move inside, Pendergast said, "He's probably a better fit as a stack inside linebacker than an outside linebacker."
  • There will be two new starters at outside linebacker. At present, Ryan Davis and David Wilkerson (strongside) are with the ones, with Chris McCain, Cecil Whiteside and Lucas King providing depth.
  • In the secondary, Marc Anthony and Steve Williams are the corners. The depth appears unsettled -- see Pendergast and Tedford both listing three freshmen who are not on campus yet as being in the mix. Pendergast seemed most pleased with Anthony, whom he said was playing physically and with a lot of confidence. At safety, there's Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell, with Adrian Lee, C.J. Moncrease, Alex Logan and Michael Coley earning note. It's hard to say if true freshman Avery Walls, who's participating in spring practices, will get into the mix.
  • On offense, Michalczik is mostly focused on the offensive line. Tedford will call plays this fall and is working with the quarterbacks as well, while receivers coach Eric Kiesau is the passing game coordinator and running backs coach Ron Gould is the running game coordinator. So there will be plenty of input on offense.
  • Michalczik wouldn't commit too much on the offensive line: "We've got some young guys and we've got some time," he said. Left tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Dominic Galas are likely starters, but both are sitting out with injuries. Matt Summers-Gavin has bounced from guard to right tackle. Brian Schwenke and Justin Cheadle are the No. 1 guards at present. Youngsters to watch include Chris Adcock and Mark Brazinski at center, as well as Alejandro Crosthwaite, Bill Tyndall and Tyler Rigsbee.
  • Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen are set at receiver, but the No. 3, 4 and 5 options are not. Michael Calvin -- yes, him again -- Coleman Edmond and Kaelin Clay earned note from Tedford, who said of Clay, "He's been very good, very fast, brings big-play potential."
  • Tedford isn't very happy at running back behind Isi Sofele. His highest praise goes to walk-on Mike Manuel, who was impressive in the scrimmage Saturday. Injuries are a big issue at the position, but it seems as though Tedford isn't happy with the group, which includes a number of touted recruits. "As of right now, it looks like to me we are going to have to rely on younger guys who are coming in," he said.
  • Quarterbacks? It's still wide open, but it shows how serious Zach Maynard's candidacy is that Tedford said he doesn't expect to announce a starter until well into fall camp, specifically because he wants to give Maynard, who transferred from Buffalo last year, as much time as possible to digest the offense. Said Tedford, "He does have some athleticism. He can make plays with his legs. He throws the ball accurately. He can throw all the balls on the field. He's a lefty. He can throw the deep ball. He's got zip on the ball. His main thing is just going to be the mental part of understanding our offense and understanding what we're looking for."
  • As for Brock Mansion, who started the final four games after Kevin Riley went down, Tedford said, "You can tell that Brock is better because of the experience he had last year. He's more comfortable. And he's even learned some things physically. You can see the maturity there a little bit. Still not where we need to be."
  • As for Allan Bridgford, the question might be athleticism. Said Tedford, "Smart guy. Can throw the ball. He can throw all the balls on the field. Escape dimension? Haven't seen that yet. That's a concern, but he's not a led-foot by any means."
  • One problem for the Bears this spring is injuries. There are a lot of them, which makes it more difficult to give the QBs full-tilt, looks. "That's a challenge, to get QB's enought reps without beating up the whole team," Tedford said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. Dear Arizona -- Get the ball to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas: What does a dominating running game do for a team? Well, it wasn't just that Stanford had 286 yards rushing last weekend in its win over Arizona, it was that it ran 72 total plays vs. 57 for the Wildcats. What could a team do with 15 more plays? A lot. But if you only have 57, more than six of them should involve tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Mike Thomas.

2. Nate Longshore needs to grab hold of Cal's quarterback spot: California would love to run right at Arizona like Stanford did, but the Bears are down two starting offensive linemen and struggled just two weeks ago to get the running game going at home against Arizona State (79 yards on the ground). While it will help to get speedy Jahvid Best back, he's not going to give Cal 25 carries coming back from a dislocated elbow. That means Nate Longshore, making his second consecutive start, will need to make plays in the passing game. It doesn't help that receiver Michael Calvin was lost for the year this week to a knee injury. But Longshore should be plenty motivated to erase the three-interception performance he had in Tucson in 2006, an upset defeat that cost the Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1958.

3. How much does Washington still care?: The Huskies' players don't live in caves. They know that their fan base is hollering for coach Tyrone Willingham's coaching noggin'. They also can look at the guy under center and know he's no longer their leader, Jake Locker, who's done for the year with a thumb injury. While last season's bitter defeat at Oregon State should serve as motivation to play hard in front of the home fans, it will be interesting to see if the Huskies fight all four quarters if things start to get out of hand. And what if the Beavers jump on them early? Will a white flag come out?

4. Beavers stop the pass, own the field: Washington senior guard Casey Bulyca, who rivals center Juan Garcia as the Huskies most physical player, underwent knee surgery Tuesday and is done for the year. The line has been mostly mediocre this year, in any event. The Huskies don't really have a starting tailback, with Willie Griffin, Brandon Johnson and Terrance Dailey shuffling in and out. Locker, the best run threat, is, again, out. The Huskies average 2.9 yards per rush, and Oregon State's run defense has improved dramatically since yielding 239 yards at Penn State. This means it's up to UW quarterback Ronnie Fouch and his young receivers to make plays. But the Beavers likely will welcome the pass because safety Al Afalava and cornerbacks Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis are back to full speed after nursing injuries previous weeks.

5. USC will not be at full speed at Washington State: USC is banged up and it might make sense for coach Pete Carroll to lean toward caution with players who are borderline-ready to play at Washington State. Running back Joe McKnight (toe) won't make the trip. Neither will defensive end Everson Griffen and offensive lineman Butch Lewis (both are sick). Offensive guards Jeff Byers (knee) and Zack Heberer (toe), linebackers Brian Cushing (shoulder) and Kaluka Maiava (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles (groin) also missed significant practice time this week.

6. Don't hold the ball, Kevin Lopina: A team (hopefully) never expects to lose, but Washington State's prime directive is to get quarterback Kevin Lopina safely through USC's visit. Lopina is making his first start since going down with a back injury on Sept. 20 against Portland State, and the Cougars have a bye next week for him to further get his health, rhythm and timing back. The Trojans put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, often with just a four-man rush. Lopina needs to get the ball away in a hurry. That means three-step drops, roll outs, a two count and throw -- heave the ball into the stands if necessary. Just don't give up the sack, the INT or get hurt. The Cougars Nos. 2 and 3 quarterbacks are done for the season, and the guys next in line are a walk-on and a true freshman, so they really need Lopina to keep taking snaps.

7. Can Stanford run up the middle on UCLA?: Stanford has become the Pac-10's most physical running team. Running back Toby Gerhart is a 230-pound guy who's not afraid of contact, and the Cardinal line, led by center Alex Fletcher, has been the conference's best unit to this point of the season. But UCLA has perhaps the conference's best defensive tackle tandem in Brian Price and Brigham Harwell. Can Fletcher and his guards move these guys out of the way? The going should be far tougher up the middle, though the Bruins haven't been dominant against the run this year by any means, ranking eighth in the Pac-10 with 171 yards given up per game.

8. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft needs to put four quarters together: Stanford is going to gang up on the run and try to force Craft to win the game. For much of the season, the Cardinal secondary looked vulnerable, but last weekend it did a masterful job containing Arizona's top targets, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas, and didn't allow quarterback Willie Tuitama to throw a touchdown pass. Stanford also brings a lot of blitzes (see 19 sacks on the season). Craft has had fits and starts of success, and he seems to go in and out of rhythm throughout a game. He was sacked six times by Oregon and he threw a lot of ill-advised passes that were dropped by Ducks defenders. If the Bruins are going to defend their home turf, Craft needs to make plays consistently.

9. The solution for Arizona -- Stop the run: Arizona has lost twice this season. In both games, a power back ran all over the Wildcats undersized defense. But Cal doesn't have a Rodney Ferguson (New Mexico, 158 yards) or a Toby Gerhart (116 yards), who both tip the scales at 230 pounds. If the Wildcats force the Bears to throw into a secondary that is the defense's strength that will help in multiple ways. Not only will it ease the pressure on the defensive front, it also will stop the clock more often and allow the potent Arizona offen
se to get more plays.

10. Can any Pac-10 teams win on the road?: Pac-10 teams are 6-20 on the road this year -- 2-8 in nonconference play and 4-12 in conference. While Washington and Washington State have proved hospitable for obvious reasons -- stinking -- the rest of the Pac-10 has treated guests with disdain. Stanford and California are both looking to move up in the conference pecking order, but in order to do that they will have to prove they can win on the road someplace other than Washington or Washington State.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

These links are trying to establish a running game.

  • Arizona wants to keep the number of people on the sideline manageable, which means some guys don't suit up. QB Willie Tuitama is searching for the perfect game. Toledo has some good receivers who should challenge the Wildcats CBs.
  • Arizona State is leaning on its freshman class, with nine in the playing rotation (out of a class of 20). Injured TB Keegan Herring (hamstring) and WR Michael Jones (Achilles) are improved, with Herring being the more questionable for the Stanford game.
  • California notes from Thursday's practice, with an injury update calling WR Michael Calvin and P Bryan Anger healthy and OT Mike Tepper not. Calvin should help the WRs, who mostly struggled against Michigan State.  Another step forward for building the California training facility.
  • Oregon faces a team with no hope, and it only cost $235,000 to lure the Utah State Aggies to their demise. CB Walter Thurmond III will wear the No. 29 jersey in tribute to former Ducks DB Todd Doxey, who drowned this summer. A look at potential QB combinations for both teams.
  • Rachel Bachman takes a look at Penn State legend -- and presently divisive figure -- Joe Paterno. With two starting Penn State D-linemen suspended, the Beavers O-line has a chance to shine.
  • Stanford's already struggling secondary is down a top reserve for its visit to Arizona State.
  • UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn't thrilled with the effort in practice. And that's not good because there are injury holes to fill, including at running back. The freshmen are helping on defense. WR Nelson Rosario sprained his knee at practice Thursday.
  • USC's WRs have always been talented, but now they seem to be performing. True freshman OL Tyron Smith and redshirt freshman RB Broderick Green are trying to get into the mix. Speaking of Green, I wish I saw this hit on Rey Maualuga. Trojans are thinking about Buckeyes.
  • Washington -- and beleaguered coach Tyrone Willingham -- are looking for a turning point that doesn't turn sour. How much will the Huskies gain from week one to week two? Willingham talks about how the Huskies might attack BYU. Remembering 1984, when BYU won a "national championship" and a clearly superior Washington team didn't.
  • Washington State will play California without its best D-lineman, A'i Ahmu, for a half. Ahmu is suspended after missing a court date over minor in possession charges. Injuries are preventing OL continuity.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

And so it begins. Pause for a moment and imagine yourself 14 weeks hence. Are you smiling? Love the optimism!

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 Much like many of the players, these links are day-to-day.

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