Monday, April 9, 2012
Cal notes: Youngsters stepping up
By ESPN.com staff
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Stopped by California spring practices over the weekend. Here are some notes after meeting with coach Jeff Tedford, his coordinators, several players and watching a practice.
- QB competition? Most likely it's only for the No. 3 spot. Zach Maynard and Allan Bridgford are solid at Nos. 1 & 2. Touted true freshman Zach Kline, who some speculated might push Maynard, is battling Kyle Boehm and Austin Hinder for the third spot.
- The Bears, who run a 3-4, might have the best and deepest D-line in the conference, despite losing two starters from 2011. Deandre Coleman and Mustafa Jalil are the ends, while Kendrick Payne and Viliami Moala are battling at noseguard. Aaron Tipoti is playing both end and nose guard. Todd Barr, Keni Kaufusi and Gabe King provide depth. The standout this spring has been the 6-foot-5, 311-pound Coleman. Said Tedford: "He may be one of the best that we've ever had. He is playing great right now." This is a group that passes the ole sight test.
- The defense is well ahead of the offense so far, and coordinator Clancy Pendergast said there is a discernible difference this spring. Despite being fairly young, the Bears are three years into Pendergast's system. The understanding of concepts is clearly better.
- The most competition on defense is at linebacker, particularly inside where Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt must be replaced. Veterans Robert Mullins and J.P. Hurrell presently are holding down the spots with the first team, but David Wilkerson wasn't moved from outside linebacker to sit, and Nick Forbes should push Mullins at the "will" spot. Jalen Jefferson and Jason Gibson, both redshirt freshmen, also are in the mix.
- At outside linebacker, Chris McCain, an outstanding prospect who needs to add some beef to his frame, will man one spot. Dan Camporeale holds down the opposite side while Brennan Scarlett sits out the spring due to injury. Cecil Whiteside, Steven Fanua and Lucas King provide depth.
- Fair to say that Pendergast likes Josh Hill's move to free safety: "He's probably the best football player we have on the defense and he gets a small amount of recognition. He's a coach on the field. He knows every position. He knows what I am thinking. He knows what the offense is thinking."
- Alex Logan is No. 1 at strong safety. Said Pendergast: "There hasn't been a guy I've been harder on the last couple of years than him. He's really taken his game to a new level." Still, competition at safety will go into the fall with Avery Sebastian (who changed his last name from Walls) and the injured Michael Lowe (who changed his last name from Coley) in the mix.
- The CBs are Marc Anthony on the left -- said Pendergast, "Marc's an NFL-type guy" -- and Steve Williams on the right. Williams will be challenged by Stefan McClure, who is out with a knee injury, in the fall.
- You want to know the best way to make Maynard better? Find a guy who delivers an accurate shotgun snap every play. If that happens, then Maynard can focus on what the defense is doing and where his receivers are, not whether he'll be jumping or diving for an errant ball. Poor shotgun snaps were a big problem in 2011 and remain so this spring.
- Here's how the offensive line went during Saturday's practice: LT Tyler Rigsbee, LG Jordan Rigsbee (yes, Tyler's younger bro), C Brian Schwenke, RG Geoffrey Gibson and RT Matt Summers-Gavin. Dominic Galas, the starting center in 2011, is sitting out with a shoulder injury. If Schwenke, a starting guard in 2011, proves he can handle center, then Galas could be moved to guard. Bill Tyndall is still in the mix at left tackle. Tedford is really high on Jordan Rigsbee, and Gibson has stepped up his game this spring.
- Here is a name to file away: Richard Rodgers. The sophomore tight end has been one of the big movers this spring. Everybody brings his name up. Said Tedford, "He will be one of the best tight ends in the conference."
- Receiver questions don't figure to be answered this spring. No player has stepped up as a true No. 2, or really even a No. 3, behind Keenan Allen, who's sitting out after ankle surgery. Said Tedford, "There is no question we are going to have to have about three freshmen play." Best bets? Bryce Treggs and Darius Powe will be given every opportunity to get on the field from day one.
- As good as the D-line is, running back may be the Bears best position. Isi Sofele eclipsed 1,300 yards rushing in 2011, and he's getting challenged, even though top backup C.J. Anderson broke his thumb over the weekend and is out the rest of spring. Brendan Bigelow has the sort of speed that will get him on the field in some capacity, but the breakthrough guy might be Daniel Lasco. Said Tedford: "Lasco is a beast. He's got it all. Size, speed, power." He's being held back a bit by a hamstring issue, though. Oh, and Darren Ervin is pretty good, too.