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Cal Football Spring Practice: Changes

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Will Brian Schwenke be the new center for Cal?  via <a href="">Cal Bears Online</a>
Will Brian Schwenke be the new center for Cal? via Cal Bears Online

This is the fun part of spring practice where order breaks down. 11 starters on offense and defense gone plus the top wide receiver out, plus the starting center and tight end injured, plus a few more defenders and offensive players sidelined, and nothing makes sense to anyone anymore.

At least it's all very...

Offensive line

Brian Schwenke is your starting center because there are no centers left. Teddy might just leave him there if he sees what he likes, and start installing some sort of legal fumblerooski alternative offensive scheme.

On Schwenke
"He's doing well. We're messing around with his grip, he has half his glove cut off because his hands are slippery. He's picking everything up fine with his blocking and communicating. He's doing fine he just needs to keep working at it... He played guard in high school, but I think he's always snapped for us, all of our linemen snap just in case you need someone to fill in."

On Schwenke's shotgun snaps
"They're not perfect yet, but it's something we can work on."

Safe to say Galas doesn't have a stranglehold on this spot. With Braz out and Galas injured, Schwenke at center sounds as good as any other option out there. Certainly makes you think Matt Cochran is going to get his shots to land the spot when he gets here this summer.

Our first unit offensive line is a portrait in intriguing. One half of the line is Rigsbees (one in his final year of eligibility, one in his first). Tyler tries to replace Mitchell Schwartz on the blind side, which technically isn't the blind side because Maynard is a lefty. He hasn't played all that much the past three years, which is probably just a testament to how much the coaches trusted Schwartz and Summers-Gavin on the outside. He'll have to remain a mystery to us until the regular season.

It's nice to see youngsters step up and try and fill in the gaps at guard. If Jordan Rigsbee (6'4" 306) and Geoffrey Gibson (6'3" 313) are as physically brutish as their frames would suggest, then put up Schwenke (6'4" 312) at center, back could come the power that this offense has desperately lacked in recent incarnations. Imagine all the crushed linebackers as opposed to all the HOLDINGS.

Defensive line

Change is coming. The most significant move is Aaron Tipoti apparently moving to left end, according to Pendergast.

"Deandre Coleman got a lot of work last year so we're excited about the progress he's made, Mustafa Jalil played a lot and we're going to move Aaron Tipoti to left end. He's been a starter for us, so we feel like these guys are going to be able to step up."

A nose tackle at left end doesn't sound as off as you think. Neither Payne nor Tipoti is a classic nose (they're about DE-size), just a DE playing the middle to hold gaps for the ILBs to attack. So switching Tipoti around a spot makes sense. If he was solid inside playing the physical interior, there's a good chance he should be able to handle the outside too.

This could provide another tantalizing alternative. Coleman is a physically imposing beast, but he always seemed to have problems seeing the field because he didn't quite have the edge speed a 3-4 defensive end needed to generate. Pendergast seems to be scheming to find ways to put him on the field, and putting Tipoti at left end might solve that issue if Cal starts running more 4-3 schemes. You'd have Jalil and Tipoti on the edge while Coleman moves to the 3-tech DT spot, then start getting Moala more run on the inside to tag-team Payne.

A fully realized Moala/Coleman middle makes me think of this.

Mumakil Charge//// Pictures, Images and Photos

(This is me dreaming about defense by the way. Pendergast is probably going to put eleven linebackers on the field and blitz with a non-existent safety.)


Robert Mullins and J.P. Hurrell might still be starting on the inside right now, but Jason Gibson (RS frosh) and Nick Forbes (RS soph) are the ones you keep on hearing being singled out, particularly Gibson. Having four capable inside linebackers (plus potentially Wilkerson if he switches back inside) is a pretty good spot to be considering 90% of the snaps are gone off to the Draft.

Here's a profile on Gibson.

But, in the Bears' controlled scrimmage on Saturday, Gibson made his mark as an inside linebacker, racking up six tackles, two TFLs and even a pass breakup. Even though he did that running with the second-string defense, it was hard not to notice Gibson making plays around the ball all over the field. One could say that Gibson looked natural quarterbacking the defense.

"I feel a lot more comfortable," Gibson said. "I was pretty nervous at first, thought I was going to make a lot of mistakes. But after a while, I just grew into it, and all the defense just started pumping me up and getting me more comfortable. I felt pretty good. It was like high school again."

Not sure why I feel at ease here. But this unit is arguably just as talented as the D-line, if not quite as seasoned. This front seven should be able to work an array of defensive packages next year if they get their game down. The ILBs just need to get up to step.

Quarterbacks (We have those!)

Welcome to what's starting to look like the most open-and-shut position battle of the offseason.

It's no surprise that after the past few paragraphs that the defense is dominating the offense in drills open to the public. They're the better and deeper unit right now, particularly with the injuries to returning starters.

On the bright side, it does give the QBs a chance to work on a steeper learning curve, and it appears they're resilient.

For people who care about quarterbacks, Zach Maynard is working with the first unit, Allan Bridgford the second unit. Hinder, Boehm and Kline are all receiving a relatively small number of snaps. Two-way battle, and Zach seems fairly assured.

It's a good sign that the QBs seem fairly comfortable despite the lack of offensive playmakers. Sounds a lot better than last year's reports, when the triple option sounded like the opportunity cost.

Maynard-Bridgford appears to be a formality as your top two. Not likely to see a third stringer announced until the fall, which means you're just going to have to wait a little bit longer before picking which one of the backups should be starting over the actual starter.

(Kudos to inkbowlglory of Bear Insider for doing all this reporting. If you can track him down, whoever this citizen reporter is, buy him a beer for this yeoman work.)