With more than a dozen players held out due to injury and wearing red jerseys, the Bears couldn't work on as many things as they would have liked to, said head coach Jeff Tedford.
"We were short on position players, so we didn't focus on passing and emphasized running," said Tedford. "Our receiving corps is banged up."
While only Jeremy Ross was held among the receivers who usually play on the first unit, the second unit saw Drew Glover used sparingly, with Alex Stroud, Cameron Toler, Sean Young, and Alex Lagemann not seeing action on Saturday. This left the Bears with Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng, LaReylle Cunningham and Ian Albrecht in reasonably good health.
Yet even with the running backs, the Bears found themselves thinner than usual. What was supposed to be one of the Bears' deepest units suffered another blow on Friday when Peter Geurts suffered an injury and donned a yellow jersey on Saturday. Consequently, Tracy Slocum and Covaughn Deboskie saw most of the carries on Saturday, with fullback Brian Holley taking snaps at tailback.
This spring's open practice was unusual in that instead of falling at the end of the 15 sessions, it actually fell in the middle. Whereas last year's spring practice ended up being almost entirely 11-on-11s, culminating with wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins lining up as tailback and working on short-yardage dives, this year's was more typical of the usual spring practice, beginning with lots of drills, followed by 11-on-11 sessions mixed with some other drills as well as some special teams work.
No official stats were kept for Saturday's practice, but Slocum, who's had injury issues the past couple of years, is showing signs that he can fill the role of workhorse back, carrying the ball on six consecutive plays for 30 yards at one point, finishing it up with an 11-yard touchdown run. He's shown that he's comfortable both running between the tackles and around the end, and shows no hesitation when looking for a hole.
The Bears generally don't spend a lot of time during practice working on punting, but Bryan Anger drew the most oohs and ahhs of the afternoon. with several high, hanging punts, including a 54-yarder. By the time the ball came down in Syd'Quan Thompson's hands, by the time he could take one step, Marcus Ezeff jarred the ball loose.
But during a later punting drill, Thompson caught the ball, made a few people miss and took off up the sideline for what would have been a touchdown, if not for a penalty. Both Thompson and Boateng have been returning punts this spring. Although he hasn't been able to show much of it while playing defensive back, Thompson was a terrific open field runner at Grant High School in Sacramento, and his returns this spring have shown that he's still an elusive runner and is able to make short, quick cuts that throw would-be tacklers off balance.
With Nate Longshore's injury preventing him from participating on Saturday, Bear fans had hoped to get a good look at quarterback Kevin Riley. But the Bears didn't pass a whole lot, and while Riley threw a couple of exceptional passes and several good ones, he was also slightly off on a couple. It wasn't a game that went one way or the other towards helping resolve a quarterback competition that won't be resolved for four months.
The pass rushers on the second and third units had a good afternoon as redshirt freshman Ernest Owusu had several sacks, and Solomona Aigamaua each picked up one, and Eddie Young getting good pressure on a couple of passes.
"I saw [Owusu] make a few plays," said Tedford. "A lot of the young guys are doing good work."
Among the other highlights:
- Brock Mansion completed a short in to Jeremy Ross, who broke free through the secondary for a 28-yard run;
- Sean Cattouse fighting off a Nyan Boateng block to stop a Riley to LaReylle Cunningham pass for a short gain;
- Tracy Slocum running a sweep around the right side with Alex Mack, Noris Malele, and Chet Teofilo clearing the way;
- Covaughn Deboskie running out of a Matt Russi tackle attempt on a 3rd-and-7, for a nine- yard gain;
- Quarterback Cory Smits making a nice tackle a gunner on the punt return unit;
- LaReylle Cunningham continuing to catch everything that gets thrown at him, including a leaping grab between Cattouse and Eddie Young on a Brock Mansion pass;
- Riley throwing a rocket of a pass to Michael Calvin who was crossing in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown;
- Jordan Kay making a 38-yard field goal at the very end of practice, sparing the team having to do another set of exercises at the end of practices, earning him the thanks of the team.
Where they are: Offense
While the Bears are continue to make steady progress towards the home opener against Michigan State, it's beginning to look like this is a team that's going to have to win games by relying heavily on execution and reducing mental mistakes and less on offensive firepower. For the first time in many springs, the Bears don't have a skill position player who brings the wattage of an Aaron Rodgers, a Marshawn Lynch, or a DeSean Jackson who were capable of doing something incredible at least once every practice.
Although the Bears have been hampered by having running backs Jahvid Best, Shane Vereen, and Covaughn Deboskie see limited work due to various injuries during the spring, Tracy Slocum has run shown signs that he can be the latest is a string of 1,000-yard runners that the Bears have had under Jeff Tedford. Yet for the first time in a long time, it appears that the Bears will be enter fall camp with the tailback position still in question, and will have to figure out whether they've got a back who's able to bear the heavy load that J.J. Arrington, Lynch, and Justin Forsett have been able to take in past years.
Both Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley have looked good at times during the spring, but neither quarterback has looked consistently better (or worse) than the other. With Longshore likely to miss the rest of spring practice because of a pectoral injury, Riley will get his best chance to make a big impression by working with the first unit offense. He'll now have two weeks to work with Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng, Jeremy Ross, Cameron Morrah and the rest of the receivers who see action with the first unit and show both Tedford and new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti that there's a whole lot more of the Armed Forces Bowl magic waiting to be pulled of a hat.
The wide receiver positions were wide open coming into the spring, but two weeks into practice, Michael Calvin, Jeremy Ross, and Nyan Boateng have the inside track on the top three positions, with Drew Glover and LaReylle Cunningham lurking close behind. Each of the receivers has shown good hands, an ability to use their size to catch short passes in traffic, and while they've shown good speed at times, nobody's yet shown the gamechanging ability that Jackson displayed for three seasons. But what the Bears lose in speed, they make up for in size as well as a commitment to downfield blocking. Last year, the Bears had two receivers in the 160-170 pound range trying to block; Calvin, Ross, Boateng, Glover, and Cunningham as well as Ian Albrecht and Alex Stroud, all weigh more than 200 pounds. Cameron Morrah has established himself at one tight end, with Skyler Curran gettingregular work with the second unit.
Cal's first unit offensive line has been consistent through most of the spring with Mike Tepper now at left tackle, Alex Mack at center, Noris Malele at right guard, and Chet Teofilo at right tackle. The left guard position has seen Richard Fisher, and Mark Boskovich get much of the playing time, with Chris Guarnero seeing some work with the first unit as well. The Bears second unit offensive line, which on Saturday, consisted of Matt Laird, Boskovich, Guarnero, Kevin Bemoll, and Mitchell Schwartz, which is largely inexperienced, has had considerably difficulty with pass blocking, which has been giving the Unit B quarterback a chance to work his elusiveness.
With more than a dozen players wearing red jerseys and being held out of 11-on-11s for various injury-related issues, the Bears did a lot switching up on Saturday.
Most of this took place on the defensive end where the first unit at one point had the three starting lineup, but three different linebackers and an entirely different defensive backfield. The second unit was a hodgepodge which include a couple of players that usually play with the first unit and quite a few players who usually play with the third unit.
With Peter Geurts suffering an injury during late Friday's practice, Brian Holley was pressed into tailback duty with Unit C.
The defensive linemen for Unit A and Unit B have been consistent throughout spring with Rulon Davis, Mika Kane and Tyson Alualu seeing Unit A action, while Cameron Jordan, Ernest Owusu and Derrick Hill seeing most of the Unit B action.
Brock Mansion has been taking most of the snaps as holder.
Initial Unit A & Unit B players are in bold:
Offensive unit A: Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng, LaReylle Cunningham, Cameron Morrah, Mike Tepper, Richard Fisher, Chris Guarnero, Alex Mack, Noris Malele, Chet Teofilo, Kevin Riley, Tracy Slocum, Covaughn Deboskie, Will Ta'ufo'ou
Offensive unit B: Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng, LaReylle Cunningham, Skyler Curren, Matt Laird, Mark Boskovich, Chris Guarnero, Kevin Bemoll, Mitchell Schwartz, Brock Mansion, Covaughn Deboskie, Brian Holley
Offensive unit C: Ian Albrecht, Drew Glover, LaReylle Cunningham, Garry Graffort, Savaii Eselu, Sam DeMartinis, Matt Summers-Gavin, Todd Huber, T.J. Emery, Justin Prueitt, Cory Smits, Brian Holley, John Tyndall
Defensive unit A: Rulon Davis, Mika Kane, Tyson Alualu, Eddie Young, Charles Johnson, Shea McIntyre, Devin Bishop, Tony Felder, Worrell Williams, Zack Follett, Chris Conte, Bernard Hicks, Marcus Ezeff, Syd'Quan Thompson, Darian Hagan, Gary Doxy, Jesse Brooks
Defensive unit B: Solomona Aigamaua, Cameron Jordan, Ernest Owusu, Derrick Hill, Michael Costanzo, Justin Gates, Scott Smith, Keith Browner, Eddie Young, Worrell Williams, Charles Johnson, Devin Bishop, Matt Russi, Shea McIntyre, Brett Johnson, Sean Cattouse, Gary Doxy, Darian Hagan, Jesse Brooks, D.J. Campbell, Charles Amadi
Defensive unit C: Kendrick Payne, Jonathan Karacazoff, Michael Costanzo, Solomona Aigamaua, Ernest Owusu, Derrick Hill, Scott Smith, Eddie Young, Charles Johnson, Devin Bishop, Matt Russi, Shea McIntrye, Chris Conte, Gary Doxy, Jesse Brooks, Darian Hagan
Notes...The one downnote to the Saturday session was when Holley suffered an injury late in practice that left him on the ground for a couple of minutes and he had to be helped off of the field...The team will not practice on Monday but will resume practice on Wednesday.
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