Notebook: Competition for Starting Spots Continues Across Field

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Correction Appended

Wednesday marked the Cal football team's first practice preparing for Maryland. Kevin Riley was the clear-cut starter under center, but most areas of the depth chart that were up in the air prior to Tuesday's day off stayed there.

Competitions at kickoff and fullback are still open. Coach Jeff Tedford said that the team is going to evaluate the kickers for a couple more days by putting them through more game situations. Fullbacks Brian Holley, Will Kapp and John Tyndall could rotate during games or according to game plans, although Tedford said that Holley will most likely start the season opener against the Terrapins.

"They all have a real good feel for the game," Tedford said of the fullbacks. "They're all tough guys who give great effort."

As of right now, the receivers are still in a rotation as well. Tedford and receivers coach Kevin Daft have both said that they feel confident about the entire group, and Daft said that, while the Bears played a rotation of six or seven receivers last year because the team was short on experience and looking for somebody to emerge as a go-to option, this season they might play six or seven because there's so much experience.

"Very pleased with the progress," Daft said. "If you'd told me we'd be at this point at the end of last season, I'd take it 10 times out of 10 because I feel like they've all gotten so much better."

Marvin Jones and Verran Tucker were the two wideouts running with the starters at the beginning of Wednesday's session. Jones had arguably the best camp of any receiver. He didn't miss a practice and emerged as probably the team's most consistent receiver over the past few weeks, becoming a favorite target of Riley's.

"(Jones is) a guy that's always seen as an older guy who can play and not really bat an eye if he's going to play in front of 75,000 people," Daft said. "He's definitely come on really well and he's a reliable guy who's matured a lot this past year."

Tucker, meanwhile, missed all of spring ball with an injury (and came into fall camp late in 2008 after transferring from junior college) but has shown flashes of being a legitimate deep threat. Last season, his average of 17.2 yards per catch led the team.

"He has a lot of potential," Daft said. "I don't know if he even really knows what his potential is."

Tucker started camp running mostly with the second- and third-team offenses. The second half was when he started to make a move up the depth chart. Tedford attributed the late charge mainly to Tucker's becoming more comfortable with the offense, which suggests that Tucker -- having now spent a few weeks getting reacquainted with the system -- could be a dangerous option through the air.

"Last year he'd just got here, he wasn't in very good shape, didn't know the offense," Tedford said. "So now he's got a lot of confidence, he can play fast and he played real well through camp."

Nyan Boateng, Alex Lagemann, Jeremy Ross and Charles Satchell, as of now, will all see playing time. So will speedy freshman Isi Sofele, who made the switch from tailback in high school and is adapting well to his new position.

One other true freshman in line for playing time this season is Brian Schwenke. Schwenke impressed Tedford with the way he's been able to pick up the offense during camp, and Tedford said that the 6-foot-3, 260-pound offensive lineman will stay in the depth for right now while the coaches monitor his development.

Having Schwenke in the mix only further deepens an offensive line that, again, can rotate players if need be. Although the starters are set for right now -- Chris Guarnero at center; Justin Cheadle and Matt Summers-Gavin at right and left guards, respectively; Mitchell Schwartz and Mike Tepper and right and left tackle, respectively -- Tedford said that there are several "swing guys" who can play different positions in the event of an injury or shake-up. Chet Teofilo, who was pushing Cheadle at right guard, can play guard or tackle. Donovan Edwards can play all three positions on the O-line. Dominic Galas and Richard Fisher back Guarnero up at center.

With the same type of shuffling going on at linebacker -- those positions haven't been finalized for the opener, either -- the Bears seem confident that with depth at every position, they can go a long way down the depth chart without encountering fall-off.

It's something that Holley attributes to a team-first mentality that he says has increased over his time at Cal.

"I definitely think that in recent years we became more of a team, more team-oriented," Holley said. "We don't have a lot of guys who are all about themselves. And whenever that happens you're able to work together -- you're able to work as a team. If you have a bunch of individuals out there it's not going to work. I've definitely seen growth in that area."

As for splitting downs?

"We're all going to eat," he said.

Tags: KEVIN RILEY, JEFF TEDFORD, BRIAN HOLLEY, ISI SOFELE, CAL FOOTBALL

Correction: Friday, August 28, 2009
An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Donovan Edwards.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]



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