Off-campus practice a mixed bag

Photo: The Cal football team has been forced to move some spring practices to Oakland's Laney College due to construction at Memorial Stadium and Witter Field.
Tim Maloney/File
The Cal football team has been forced to move some spring practices to Oakland's Laney College due to construction at Memorial Stadium and Witter Field.

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The Cal football team is set at receiver, with standouts Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen returning. Who will be throwing to them is a different matter.

Six different quarterbacks got snaps during an 11-on-11 drill at the end of Saturday's practice at Laney College in Oakland. Head coach Jeff Tedford was not particularly impressed.

"Not very good," he said of their performances.

Only one current Cal quarterback saw more than garbage time last year for the Bears. That player, senior Brock Mansion, overthrew several passes on Saturday afternoon but did complete a 10-yard pass to Jones off a three-step drop.

"It's a noticeable difference when he's in as opposed to everybody else," Tedford said.

Even Mansion, though, was affected by the Bears' aggressive defensive unit during the drill. The quarterbacks often had little time to get their throws off. Zach Maynard was chased down by linebacker Lucas King. Beau Sweeney was sacked at least twice.

Even the passes that were completed were problematic. Mansion found receiver Coleman Edmond on a slant route, but the pass was behind him. Allan Bridgford completed a five-yarder to Jones, but it was too high for him to gain any yards after the catch.

Tedford said that he will narrow the quarterback battle down to three players for the next practice, allowing those three more reps.

Defense is Name of the Game

Saturday was the first practice with full pads, and the defense definitely took advantage of it during the 11-on-11 drill But when the play died it was often the offensive player who had to pull himself back up while the defense celebrated.

Behind King's two sacks and fumble recovery, the defensive unit registered eight sacks, forcing the offense to backpedal a combined 51 yards over the span of the two team sessions.

The disparity between the two sides of the ball could not have been more apparent.

"No question that the defense is ahead of the offense right now," Tedford said. "There's a lot more experience on the defensive side of the ball, so there's a lot of learning going on for the offense.

"It's a lot easier for the defense to get off and play fast when there's a lot more paralysis by analysis by the offensive guys."

Running on Empty

It wasn't just the quarterbacks who faltered against the defensive pressure

The defense also hounded the tailbacks, who struggled to find seams. Isi Sofele seemed to have more success than his counterparts, though junior transfer Mike Manuel flashed some speed.

Junior Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson produced the most notable play, breaking through for about an eight-yard gain. More often than not, however, the ball carriers managed no gain, frequently being tied up in the backfield.

With the departure of Shane Vereen, Sofele is Tedford's clear No. 1 option. Who will be number two is up in the air. For now, Manuel has made quite an impression on his head coach so far.

"If we had to play tomorrow and Mike knew what he was doing, he'd probably be the back-up tailback," Tedford said. "So far I haven't seen him make a lot of mental mistakes. He's a tough guy, and he's a good runner and he catches the ball well."

Manuel, a 5-foot-8, 190-pound transfer from Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif., echoed his coach's sentiments, and said he is trying to pick up Cal's system as quickly as possible.

"They've been throwing a lot at me, so I got to catch up with that," Manuel said. "When they throw you out there, you got to know what you're doing."

Manuel's main competition in spring ball will likely come from DeBoskie-Johnson, who Tedford said needs to lose around 10 pounds because he's a "step slow" after bulking up in the offseason.

Tags: JEFF TEDFORD, BROCK MANSION, ISI SOFELE, LUCAS KING, CAL FOOTBALL






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