Two important bits of news from today's two-a-day fall practice. One is a starting position taking full-form in Brennan Scarlett leading the charge to be the starting OLB.
"He's moving really well. He's pass rushing really well off the edge, he's dropping back [into zone coverage], he's covering. "
"[Linebackers Scarlett and McCain] are long-armed guys who can run and [are] athletic, so we're in good shape there."
Outside of the WR battle, the LB battles are the ones I've been watching the most since camp began, and Scarlett getting a chance at the position is pretty exciting. He was a massive DE who has now converted to an even massive rush-backer and could be the genesis for our pass rush going forward. You could make a case he was the top recruit from our heralded 2011 class, and it seems like he'll get a chance to show what he can do.
This gives Cal four quality OLB talents in Scarlett, McCain, Dan Camporeale, and Cecil Whiteside to move around the rotation. Add in a versatile LB like Dave Wilkerson who played outside but was slated for inside this year, and Cal has one of the better two-deeps the Bears have ever possessed.
This probably means that Khairi Fortt (who is very talented and would project to start if he was healthy) is either (a) fighting for an ILB position (which would make sense since he was an MLB at Penn State, (b) will be a dynamo linebacker that gets subbed all over the field, or (c) is probably not healing quickly enough and the staff is leaning to blueshirting him.
The next bit involves the young frosh wideouts, with Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper the names to watch.
(This is from the weekend, but they're still worth looking at now that we know about how well these two are doing.)
I've been high on Treggs from the beginning. Bryce's recruiting tape was immediately distinctive, and it's clear that he was going to be the favorite coming into practice to play as a freshman. His technique and his work ethic are just too hard to deny. If he's our third wide receiver, I'll sleep easy.
As for Harper, I'm happy to see him in position to also get early playing time. Chris has got talent and can play a specific position (slot receiver) that really lends itself well to cracking the rotation early. Additionally, he's good friends with Treggs and you can see their work ethic rubbing off on one another.
Although there's plenty of value regarding Darius Powe's size, Cedric Dozier's athleticism and Kenny Lawler's upside, the things that stand out about Treggs and Harper is their outstanding technique and route-running, which translate well to getting on the field early. They are very impressive freshmen.
There was talk about Powe, but he might need to cut down just a little bit to be ready fitness-wise for a full college season. There's still plenty of time in fall camp for things to change. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a charge to find a spot as a frosh. He's strong enough to haul in some fade routes or go up for footballs in sort one-on-one coverage.
Another new face to watch? The next group of H-backs/tight ends.
"Maximo is really a very good athlete," Tedford said. "He really fits in that position really well. He's very smart. I'm really pleased at the way he has absorbed the offense, so that's been great. Same with Harrison. He's absorbed it really well, mentally. He's a very tough kid. He's taken a lot of reps. He's a guy who's going to be in the rotation this year."
Wilfley has been impressive particularly because he took two years off from organized football to attend to his Mormon mission.
"He's getting better every day," Tedford said. "He had some rust on him a little bit early catching the ball, but he's doing a good job."
Harrison Wilfley is probably battling for that third TE spot with Wark, and it's nice to see kudos for the late JuCo guy. Maximo Espitia is the more intriguing name, because behind Eric Stevens there's really no one at fullback. Having an H-back type player that can do perform multiple offensive tasks is such a bonus(a la Ryan Hewitt at Furd, or probably most famously Stanley Havilli at USC). It complements the rest of the pieces, and if Maximo (what an awesome name) is ready, he could be another added boon.
Finally, we're pretty sure that our post-spring secondary will stay the same, but who's going to be the nickelback? No one knows for sure. I'd venture if no one else stands out at safety and Josh Hill ends up as the de facto starter, I'd think Tyre Ellison and Joel Willis are the favorites since they have the versatility to play either corner or safety. Other names are also being mentioned in this Bear Insider article, so the job seems to be wide open.
Here's the full Tedford presser for your viewing enjoyment. Sunglasses back off! It was a happy day.
Paid content ($): Gorcey at Rivals has Day Nine content on defense, plus highlights of the wide receivers from week one. Greenspan at Scout has a feature on Dave Wilkerson.