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March 16, 2012
PODCAST: Bears hit the field for spring football
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Listen to the Bear Republic Podcast HERE.
SAN FRANCISCO -- As the California football team begins spring practice in Berkeley, a former Bear joins us on the Bear Republic Podcast this week in defensive end Trevor Guyton.
Guyton joins us for the entire podcast at The Republic in San Francisco, and speaks on spring football, his preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine, Cal's recent pro day, recruiting and even speaks his peace on the Lupoi Fiasco. Guyton handicaps the chances of some of the Bears' young defenders making an impact, specifically Brennan Scarlett and Mustafa Jalil, and gives his take on the potential No. 2 tailback in Daniel Lasco towards the end of the show, so stay tuned all the way through.
Guyton also opens up about his memories of the 2011 season at AT&T Park and his four years in the blue and gold. We also get into the Bears' recent loss in the NCAA Tournament, and what Cal needs to do recruiting-wise going forward into next season.
BERKELEY -- As the Bears' first practice of the spring wound down, the gloomy skies and rain finally parted. Senior quarterback Zach Maynard's hands were stained red from the water-logged pigskin, but still performed well in his first outing since the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas, according to head coach Jeff Tedford.
"You could really tell that Zach today was the veteran," Tedford said. "He ran the offense great. No hiccups. It was night and day from last spring, on the first day. With guys who are experienced, with him and [Allan] Bridgford, those guys have a really good handle on what's going on, so everything -- mechanically -- went really well, in sloppy conditions. I'm not going to get too worried about a ball on the ground here or there, because of the conditions, but I thought he did a real nice job mechanically, running the offense. The knowledge of the offense, of the huddle, we were able to do some no-huddle stuff today and things like that where we no way could have done that the first day, last year."
Maynard threw to a motley crew of receivers, depleted by the departures of seniors Marvin Jones, Michael Calvin and Coleman Edmond, but still felt more at-ease than he has in the past.
"I'm way more comfortable," Maynard said. "Going through last spring, there was a huge learning curve for me coming into the season. I played through a whole season, which is another huge learning curve, getting to see live bullets. Coming back to practice against the great defense that we have, those guys have great technique, throw great coverages our way. Today was a lot easier for me, I would say, than last spring.
"I have to get better, mentally. Protections, concepts, really dissecting the defense, I just have to focus more on the mental game. The physical is there; you just have to apply it."
With junior star Keenan Allen on the shelf due to ankle surgery, another member of Maynard's clan has stepped up as the No. 1 receiver: the sticky-handed redshirt freshman Maurice Harris.
"It was kind of all-of-the-sudden, I guess, because he just recently got hurt, so instantly, I knew I had to step up," Harris said. "First day, I felt like I did OK, but I've still got a lot to work on. I'm going to have to step up, regardless, because we don't have too many guys. I've got to step up."
Allen was slated to see few reps during spring just because of his experience.
"I think we all know what Keenan can do," Tedford said. "Even if Keenan was out here in the spring, he wouldn't have done a lot of live drills. It would have just been a lot of fundamental work and stuff like that. Keenan is such a quick study and he's so smart, has such a great feel for the game, but, he can still improve, so he's missing some of that right now, but when he gets back in the summer, he's a quick study and he'll be fine when he gets back there."
Even though Maynard didn't have his security blanket in Allen, he still raved about the performance of his young cousin.
"Maurice is a rangy receiver, a big guy, so it's easy to throw to him," Maynard said. "Just throwing in that area, he somehow comes up with it. He did great today. He's got a lot to learn, still pushing through it, but it's going to be a good spring ball for him."
Both Maynard and Harris bestowed praise upon the newest member of the quarterback stable in true freshman Zach Kline, who saw his first full action in the helmets-only session early Thursday evening.
"Zach Kline has a huge arm," Maynard said. "He's a good kid. He has a lot to learn, though. We're all learning now. Tedford's offense is like trying to learn social theory, like [Karl] Marx and [Emile] Durkheim. He's going to be cool. He got here in the spring, got into spring camp, so he'll get a lot of experience."
Harris has caught passes from Kline during winter conditioning and 7-on-7 work during the offseason, and praised the youngster's big arm.
"He throws pretty hard," Harris said. "He has a strong arm. One of the strongest I've seen, for him to be so young. I'm looking forward to him stepping up and doing some big things for us. He's still young, and he's got a lot to learn, but I feel like he's going to be a good player in the future."
With so few experienced receivers in camp, evaluating the stable of quarterbacks can get a bit interesting.
"As long as they're making the right reads and they're throwing accurate balls and things like that, what happens at the end of it, it's about the process, and it's about where you're going with the football and those types of things, how they're running the offense and so on and so forth," said Tedford, who said that he has enough receivers to get through spring ball. "If we can stay healthy with the guys we have, we can. Typically, through spring ball, depending on what happens, you have to manufacture ways to practice. You can't run those guys ragged."
There are also depth issues at tight end, with just Jacob Wark, Spencer Hagan, walk-on Stephen Anderson and Richard Rodgers -- who did not see action on special teams as the emergency punter with the absence of Bryan Anger because the Bears did not punt on Thursday -- being the only tight ends currently on the roster.
"One of the big things through the spring is getting our tight ends involved," Tedford said. "As long as they stay healthy, we should be fine. That's always the challenge in spring ball."
In front of Maynard, Kline, Bridgford, Kyle Boehm and Austin Hinder is an offensive line which not only lost four-year starting left tackle Mitchell Schwartz and senior guard Justin Cheadle, but are also one man down at center, with last year's starter Dominic Galas limited by shoulder surgery.
"A few guys played center," Tedford said. "[Brian] Schwenke played center, [Chris] Adcock played center and [Mark] Brazinski. Dom snapped during 7-on-7 drills, so he's getting practice snapping the ball. He just can't get into the contact drills."
Tedford said that in the fall, Galas would still be the starting snapper. Matt Summers-Gavin is entrenched at right tackle, but left tackle is up for auditions.
"[Bill] Tyndall, [Tyler] Rigsbee, those guys, to get Rigsbee in and to get Tyndall going at tackle is one of the big focuses," Tedford said."
Getting timing down with the various centers was a bit of a challenge, Maynard said.
"It's a little rough right now, but we're working out these first couple days, getting the gist of it," Maynard said. "We had a few bad snaps here and there, recovery speed, as well, but as long as there's communication with the centers and I -- and the other quarterbacks, too -- we're just going to work with the guys, get in the meeting room a little bit more, and talk to them."
At tailback, sophomore Brendan Bigelow looked more confident heading into his first spring practice session after a true freshman season in which he rushed six times for 25 yards, caught one pass for 11 yards and returned 23 kicks for 475 yards.
"Today, he carried the ball a couple times inside," Tedford said. "But, again, people are pulling off. It's going to be a big spring for him, running between the tackles and getting back in the swing of football -- the physical part of football. I think he trusts his knee now, and so I don't think that's an issue. Now, it's just a matter of getting back into physical football. He's confident because of his knee. Any time you've gone two years with two ACL surgeries, you haven't played football in two years so there's always a tentativeness when you're running to the corner, and then it's also being in the system for a year. The mental part of the game, he'll be more confident, and then, physically, he will definitely be more confident."
With fullback Eric Stevens still on the shelf until fall, fullback has seen a rotating cast of characters.
"We have a little bit of everybody playing fullback right now," Tedford said. "There's really no No. 1 right now. We've got to look at everybody playing fullback. We've moved Kameron Krebs to fullback, who was a linebacker. He's very physical, can run, he's athletic, so it's a good fit for him, too. I think it's not just for spring ball, but I think it's good overall for the program. He's got the ability to be able to compete there."
On the other side of the ball, the Bears have some big holes to fill. With Guyton and Ernest Owusu gone, true sophomore Mustafa Jalil and junior Deandre Coleman took over at defensive end.
"We're in helmets, so they're playing at a tempo that you have to make sure that everybody's on the same page with tempo, but hustle was good and there are some good guys up there," Tedford said. "Kendrick Payne and Deandre and Moose and those guys, and Gabe [King] is in there, so it's a good group."
Defensive tackle Aaron Tipoti was in red after offseason surgery.
Also gone are Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks and fellow inside linebacker D.J. Holt, but if there is an area of tremendous depth besides the defensive line, linebacker would be it. After playing outside linebacker in 10 games and recording 17 tackles, seven sacks and nine tackles for loss as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista product David Wilkerson has slid to the inside, along with redshirt sophomore Nick Forbes, who sat out the 2011 season because of an ankle injury.
"Forbes, Wilkerson's playing inside some now, Jason Gibson's in there, Robert Mullins is in there and [Nathan] Broussard is in there, so there are some young guys, but they're talented guys," Tedford said. "Forbes, I think, probably tested out the best in the weight room of almost anybody else on the team, so he's ready to play. That's what this is all about: to get those young guys up to speed, get them to learn, get them to make mistakes, learn from their mistakes and they'll just continue to get better through spring ball."
The Bears will practice in helmets on Friday before Saturday's session, which will be open to the media in its entirety.
Cal moved its first practice to Thursday after field conditions prompted the postponement of Tuesday's practice to a later date.
"There was a lot of standing water that puddled up everywhere, so we were able to get the water off today so it was safe," Tedford said. "Even though it was a little bit sloppy, it wasn't like you were practicing in puddles."