March 31, 2011

Spring Report: Day 2

OAKLAND -- It was a crowded day at Laney College today, as the Cal football team took to the field in the midst of 90-degree weather for its second spring practice.

On hand -- among others -- were two-time papa Bear Craig Rigsbee, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, former Cal wide receiver Jeremy Ross, former linebacker Jared Price and future running back C.J. Anderson -- a current Laney student, finishing up some coursework before he joins the team officially in the fall. Anderson's physique definitely stood out, with a broad chest and a thick lower body.

"He was at (Cal) today," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "We talked for a little bit. It's nice to have him out here where he can check some things out and get some mental reps."

Two days in to the Bears' 15-practice camp, Tedford said that there are no new injuries to report thus far, but there have been a few position shifts. Chris McCain will end up playing out on the edge at outside linebacker -- which comes as no surprise -- and wide receiver Spencer Hagan has been moved in to shore up depth at tight end.

"Spencer Hagan, we moved him down to an H-back," Tedford said of the 6-foot-4, 199-pound sophomore. "He can gain some weight. He's rangy, he's very tough and he's smart kid. The depth at tight end, we don't have any numbers there. (Jarrett) Sparks isn't here for spring, so he's filling the void right now, and he's doing a good of it. He's really sticking his face in there and he does a good job."

Also on the tight end front, 6-foot-7, 258-pound Spencer Ladner showed off some improved hands, catching a few tough passes. Late in practice, Ladner caught a nice underneath pass from Allan Bridgford, who showed good vision in finding his tight end, coming out of his break on the right side after faking the handoff to the left.

Freshman Jacob Wark is in camp, as well, taking a break from playing baseball. He looked solid in blocking, though he didn't see any passes during the periods open to the media.

Players who did flash during those open periods included junior quarterback Zach Maynard, who showed a nice deep ball and a very smooth left-handed stroke. Maynard delivered a sharp, 30-yard sideline pass on the run while rolling left to wide receiver Michael Calvin.

Redshirt freshman Trajuan Briggs looked to be completely recovered from several injuries suffered last year. The big running back looked to have tightened up a bit over the winter and showed good footwork in agility drills.

Walk-on tailback Mike Manuel showed very good hands out of the backfield and had some of the quicker feet during early agility drills. Early-enrollee Darren Ervin showed great patience on the run during team periods, and stayed low while toting the rock with great balance.

On the defensive side, linebacker Ryan Davis showed good speed off the edge. Alex Logan had a nice pass break up downfield on the left sideline with some good pressure coming off the edge on the part of freshman linebacker Cecil Whiteside. Freshman backer David Wilkerson looked very strong, having dropped 10 pounds to a lean 234.

"There were a couple of young outside linebackers doing a real nice job," Tedford said. "Wilkerson and Cecil and Chris McCain, those guys can run, so it was really nice to see those guys run. But, until you can actually play football, you can't make a determination."

The offensive line had its ups and downs as Jim Michalczik continues to mix and match different pieces up front. Freshman Chris Adcock is seeing a good amount of time at center with Dominic Galas sidelined with shoulder surgery, and held the middle nicely. There was one botched snap that media members were able to see - a shotgun hike to redshirt freshman QB Austin Hinder. After practice, Hinder spent about 20 minutes with Mark Brazinski and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo refining the shotgun snaps.

When it came to actual reps, Hinder didn't get to cut it loose downfield, but hit all his short passes and was one of the better passers in throwing on the run. On one roll right, Hinder found the speedy Kaelin Clay at the line of scrimmage for a short gain.

"It's the second day, and there's a lot of learning," Tedford said. "It's brand new stuff. We've only been in meetings for a couple days."

The Big Brit -- 6-foot-7, 285-pound junior left tackle Matt Williams -- had an up-and-down day, holding his own for long stretches, but proving susceptible to speed rushers off the edge.

"He's shown some nice stuff, physically," Tedford said. "Him and Bill Tyndal have shown some nice skill at that position. They're athletic, big guys. What you have to do is you have to know what you're doing to be able to play fast. If you're in paralysis-by-analysis, you're thinking about what you're doing. When you know what you're doing, you can cut it loose, and that's what you're looking for. Until they can know what they're doing and cut it loose, you can't really see them playing fast. When we get to some drill work, where they don't have to think about assignments, then you can tell a little more, until we get in pads."

Cal will suit up in full pads for the first time this spring on Saturday.

"You have guys that test great in the weight room, and are strong and can run, but do they have this, when they get out here: Are they tough? Are they physical? Are they smart? Are they competitive?" Tedford said. "All those types of things, you need to execute. You can run and jump and lift a lot of weights and run real fast, but if you can't put it to good use on the field, it won't do you much good."

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