Springtime Cal Football is like having that cute girl smile and wave at you from across the room. Right as you get your hopes up and have your best "Whassup, girl?" ready, you realize that she's smiling at the guy behind you.
But, just as hope springs eternal in Strawberry Canyon, Cal fans everywhere keep coming back. Maybe this year will be the year. Maybe this is finally our time.
Unfortunately, the limited reports we received throughout spring ball leaves more concerns than answers at this point. (HT to everyone who went to the practices and posted their observations: verytech, neodarksaver, paleodan, Cugel, and anyone I forgot. The football-starved and deprived among us greatly appreciate it!)
Biggest News: Matt Summers-Gavin is slated to play the frontside tackle and Mitchell Schwartz will play the backside tackle. This either speaks to our lack of depth at tackle, or our over-abundance of guards. It's likely that JuCo transfer Matt Williams will blueshirt this year. It's a good move to allow him to get stronger as well as helping to even out the depth chart. With the departures of Siddoway and Ragland, we could find ourselves without any experienced tackles on the roster after next year. Cal also received good news in the form of a walk-on tackle Brian Farley (6'8) who is just the type of hidden talent Coach M is famous for developing.
Top Performers: Coach Tedford mentioned Tyler Rigsbee and Bill Tyndal as taking advantage of their snaps.
Worry Closet: When it was ones versus ones, there were few holes for the running backs, and the quarterbacks were often forced to run for their lives. Either we've found the answer to our pass rush woes, or our backup linemen are still a work in progress.
Final Thoughts: Fortunately, Coach M is a proven commodity and some of the struggles can be attributed to missing two starters (Galas, Schwartz). It'll be interesting to see how the two-deep shakes out in the fall. So far, it doesn't look like any of the touted younger linemen are set to overtake Cheadle and Schwenke.
Biggest News: Spencer Ladner suffered a torn MCL/meniscus and will be out 3-6 months after having surgery. Jacob Wark also turned an ankle in the final scrimmage.
Top Performers: Spencer Hagan was reportedly catching everything. Although he was briefly hospitalized early in camp due to a big hit, he was able to return to practice.
Worry Closet: When a backup QB is forced to play TE during spring workouts, you know you have depth issues. Considering how much the classic Tedford offense relies on its tightends to block and set the point of attack, we need someone to step up at this position.
Final Thoughts: We're going to have to hope Miller puts it all together in his final year and that Wark is as physical as advertised. Incoming frosh Richard Rogers and converted WR Spencer Hagan are more receiving threats than blockers. I wonder if we'll use a spare lineman (like we did with MSG last year) or use a fullback as an H-back in short yardage situations.
Biggest News: Tevin Carter decides to quit the team. He has not asked for a release to transfer. It's likely that he would have been in the top 5 and vying for playing time this year.
Top Performers: Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones are locks as starters. Michael Calvin and Kaelin Clay have had strong springs and are are next on the depth chart.
Worry Closet: I'm more concerned with the Oline and QB, quite frankly. This position group looks solid and Coach Kiseau knows his stuff.
Final Thoughts: On paper, this could be one of our more talented groups of wide-outs. We just need to be able to get them the ball.
Biggest News: Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and Trajuan Briggs were both able to practice despite previous concerns that their injuries wouldn't be healed in time.
Top Performers: Isi Sofele solidified his spot as the starting tailback. Walk-on Mike Manuel turned some heads early in the spring before getting nicked up.
Worry Closet: So far, it seems that none of the backups has emerged as a consistent #2. Considering Isi's lack of size and the fact that the tailback clubhouse is starting to look like a MASH unit, depth has to be a concern here.
Final Thoughts: The door is wide open for one of the newcomers (Anderson, Bigelow, Lasco) to earn themselves playing time this fall. Whoever learns the pass protection and blitz pick-up schemes first has the inside edge.
Biggest News: After narrowing the snaps to Mansion, Bridgford, and Maynard, it looks like Maynard emerged towards to end as the frontrunner heading into fall camp.
Top Performers: Bridgford impressed many observers with his accuracy. Maynard has a knack for making things happen (good and bad) when the play breaks down and his running ability seems to be as advertised.
Worry Closet: It sounds like Coach Tedford is enamored with the extra dimension that Maynard's legs offer the offense. It's the interceptions that concern me. As OhioBear put it, best-case is Akili Smith. But is the worst-case Ayoob 2.0?
Final Thoughts: There are all manner of conspiracy theories swirling around the Party Yacht vs. the Brigadier General vs. Pass the Maynard. With the limited media access, it's hard to say what's true and what's assumed. I would expect the competition to continue through fall camp and I hope that a clear no-questions asked starter emerges. In all likelihood, we're going to need both guys this year. It's a rarity in the Pac-10/12 for your starting QB to go the distance unscathed. In terms of reasonable expectations, it's also important to remember that new starters in the Pac-10/12, no matter how talented, are more likely to go through growing pains than blow the gates off during their first year.
Biggest News: Reportedly, the Dline spent most of the spring in the offensive backfield. There are even rumors that Coach Tedford had to ask the defense to take it easy on the offense so that they could practice running plays.
Top Performers: Gabe King and Deandre Coleman were mentioned. Walk-on NT Austin Clark did a good job filling in.
Worry Closet: Two of our top Nose Tackles are still recovering from shoulder surgery. (Tipoti, Payne) Considering the abuse this position takes, we're going to hope they fully recover. In Moala, we trust?
Final Thoughts: There's plenty of talent and potential here, but we'll have to see how quickly the young guys get up to speed. I hope that Owusu and Guyton take the next step as seniors so that we'll have a nice mix of experience and youth.
Biggest News: Kendricks has moved inside to take MickeyMo's old spot. Wilkerson is staying outside.
Top Performers: Whiteside, McCain, Wilkerson, and Forbes
Worry Closet: We have an experienced duo in the middle with Holt and Kendricks, but we're going to be very young on the edges. Outside contain and not biting on mis-direction will probably be an issue all year.
Final Thoughts: It's exciting to think that we might finally have some pass rushers to bring pressure off the edge. With Kendricks' speed inside, we might be able to send guys from different angles/positions and actually get there more often than not. With our aggressive (but young) defense, it could be the year of the big play...for both our defense and the opposing offensives.
Biggest News: With Josh Hill sitting out the spring, Cattouse and DJ Campbell appear entrenched as starters at safety along with Williams and Anthony at the corners.
Top Performers: Avery Walls seemed like he was making a big hit or play in each scrimmage. Michael Coley also received some attention.
Worry Closet: We have very little experienced depth at the corner position. Considering the number of spread and pass-happy teams in the league, we're probably going to have to rely on freshmen to play meaningful snaps. There's a long and proud tradition of Cal freshman defensive backs getting lit up like Xmas trees.
Final Thoughts: We really have to hope that this position group stays healthy, particular at the corner position. Depending on whether the touted incoming recruits are as advertised, we might have to get creative with putting extra safeties on the field instead of the traditional nickel or dime backs.
Kicking/Punting: Not a lot of mention, although some reports indicate Tavecchio has improved leg strength.
Returns/Coverage: Clay and Edmonds were the starting kick returners in the final scrimmage. Clay had some nice returns...but concerns regarding the coverage units persist.
Overview: It's not too surprising for the defense to be ahead of the offense at this stage of the year. In most years, particularly with young signal-callers, that would be the norm, rather than the exception. The glass-half-empty says that this likely to be an up and down year. Most teams not named usc in the top-tier of the Pac-10/12 are loaded with veterans whereas we're going to have a lot of youth in the two-deeps. The glass-half-full says that after two back to back stellar recruiting years, this is arguably the most talent we've had throughout the lineup, particularly on defense. Ultimately, it comes down to trust. Do we trust Tedford's track record for producing winning teams? Do we trust the new old coaching staff to get it done? Is anyone else already going crazy waiting for the fall? Go Bears!
And for those of you who just can't get enough Cal football:
Our in-depth spring look at each position group is here:
Oline WR/TE RB QB Dline LB DB ST
Incoming fall recruits here:
Bear Insider has a good summary here and an ongoing practice blog.
Okanes has his final spring reviews here and here.