Let's take a closer look at recent developments:
1) Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson has established himself as the #2 tailback.
Thoughts: It's a huge turnaround for a guy who was injured last year, and wasn't in football shape this past spring. Kudos to Deboskie-Johnson (and Coach Blasquez) for putting on the hard hat and getting himself back to where he needed to be. Debo might not be a blazer, but his slashing style of running moves the chains. For those Cal fans who have been wishing for a more powerful tailback, there were reports from the scrimmage last Wednesday that Covaughn bowled over pre-season honors candidate Mychal Kendricks and carried him into the endzone for a touchdown. It'll be interesting to see if it's Yarnway, Bigelow, or Anderson who earn reps as the #3 guy.
2) In post-practice interviews, Coach Tedford has mentioned that ball security is the #1 issue for his young tailbacks.
Thoughts: Not exactly a life-changing revelation. However, I wonder if this indicates a return to Tedford's policy from early in his tenure of "you put it on the ground, I put you on the bench." He even used to bench Marshawn for fumbling early in his career. In more recent years, he's gone away from that - perhaps because we've been so dependent on having a star tailback carry the offense. I used to like his strict policy on fumbling because it sent a clear message and played no favorites. Considering the depth and competition at tailback, if there was ever a year to do that again, this would be the one.
3) There are reports that Mitchell Schwartz is back practicing in full capacity.
Thoughts: Part of me wants to celebrate. The old Cal fan part is still afraid that Schwartz is going to spontaneously combust or get a paper-cut that becomes infected with antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus.
4) Will Kapp didn't practice on Tuesday and was put in a walking boot with an ankle sprain.
Thoughts: Uh oh. Although the sprain is not believed to be serious, we're down to our #3 FB(John Tyndall) and his backups (soph Nico Dumont, JC transfer David Ankin) are inexperienced. I'm reminded of 2009 where our running game really struggled after starting FB Brian Holley was injured. I wonder if Coach Tedford will be forced to adopt more single-back, spread formations simply because of our available personnel. On the other hand, Kapp had a 25-yard reception followed by a 60 yard catch and run during Wednesday's scrimmage, so reports of his demise may be premature.
5) Cal Football has a new nutrition coordinator, Ted Edwards, who works closely with strength and conditioning coach, Mike Blasquez.
Thoughts: I loved reading the recent story in the SF Chronicle about how Edwards and Coach Blasquez have been working with "Tiny" Moala. There seems to be a lot of forward thinking and utilization of modern training methods. It's a breath of fresh air from the cliched "no pain, no gain" type of training. I think it's brilliant that they're more focused on developing Moala's flexibility because he's already naturally so strong. With better nutrition and smarter training, I'm really looking forward to seeing how guys have developed.
6) Stefan McClure had to have surgery on his thumb ligament and will play with a cast.
Thoughts: Apparently, there is now a proud tradition of talented freshman cornerbacks (Syd, Williams) forced to make their debuts while wearing a cast. This probably means that McClure is out of the mix at returner for the time being. Let's just hope that the cast doesn't contribute to a game-changing miscue.
Thoughts: I like it. Jones and Allen are both sure-handed. Jones is deceptively strong, and Allen has otherwordly moves. With Clay out, Edmond is the next fastest of the wideouts. Although there are plenty of young players with serious ball skills, I'm quite okay with bringing them along slowly. The veterans have practiced more ball security and are (hopefully) more likely to make good decisions about where/when to fair catch.
8) Allen Bridgford has separated himself as the #2 quarterback.
Thoughts: Outstanding news. There are reports that he worked really hard from spring through summer to shorten his throwing motion and quicken his release. Ideally, we develop a Ia and Ib situation at quarterback. It's a rough haul through the conference schedule, and we've seen firsthand how a season can be quickly de-railed if your starter goes down.
9) Brendan Bigelow may blueshirt. Anderson, Yarnway, and Manuel all acquitted themselves well in the recent scrimmage.
Thoughts: As tantalizing as it is to try out your shiny, new toy immediately, I'm glad the coaching staff is being cautious here. Even if the knees are physically ready to go, it can take time before a player regains confidence and is able to play. With Sofele and Deboskie-Johnson established as a solid 1-2 rotation, I'd rather save Bigelow's year than spend it on a handful of snaps (if that) per game.
10) Maurice Harris tweaked a knee in Wednesday's scrimmage. It looked bad, but turned out to only be a bruised bone.
Thoughts: It would have been a tough break for a youngster who was reportedly catching everything. He was pushing Edmond and Clay for the 4-5 spots in the WR rotation. He should be back in a few days. Clay might also return in a week or two.
Thoughts: With Tipoti still out due to lingering concussion symptoms, Moala is playing his way towards meaningful snaps. It speaks a lot for his development that Keni Kaufusi has been moved to end after playing at nose tackle during the spring. Considering how high the coaches are on Deandre Coleman and Gabe King, it's impressive for Jalil to be turning some heads.
12) Coach Tedford took the team to AT&T specifically to work on the infield/grass transition and to practice running into the padded walls.
Thoughts: This reminds me of the early Tedford years when it seemed like he paid attention to every little detail; getting acclimated to different surfaces, wet ball drills, stadium noise, even altitude. I like that he seems to be back in his comfort with regards to being very hands on with the team.
13) Wednesday's scrimmage featured a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Joel Willis and a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by Mike Manuel.
Thoughts: My first reaction was "Whoa boy. We still have coverage issues." But without context, this concern might be premature. Maybe these were drills specifically designed to work on returns. Maybe there's still lots of mix and matching with young players on special teams and they haven't solidified their positions or roles yet. And after thinking it over, my final reaction is "Whoa...I'm worried that we still have coverage issues."