Remember football season? No one blames if you don’t; many fans likely aren’t eager to relive Cal’s first losing season under Jeff Tedford. But believe it or not, the Bears are two days away from wrapping up fall camp, ready and willing to rebound in their one season away from Memorial Stadium.
The coaching staff won’t start game-planning and sorting out the official depth chart until Wednesday or so; here’s a run down of how the team will probably look, along with a few extra tidbits from fall camp.
Maynard Easing into QB1
Junior Zach Maynard locked down the starting quarterback spot after just 15 spring practice sessions, which may have as much do with his competition as his own abilities. Maynard, who transferred from Buffalo after coach Turner Gill left for Kansas, is arguably the most mobile player that Tedford has lined under center, but he also hasn’t played a football game in over a year. In addition, he’ll have to adjust to playing in the Pac-12 after spending a full season in the MAC.
Tedford says that over the last two weeks, Maynard has appeared increasingly comfortable controlling the offense.
“He’s very accurate throwing the ball,” Tedford said. “He throws all the balls really well. He can throw the deep ball, he can throw the comebacks on a line, he’s got touch for the intermediate stuff, so he’s got all the balls.”
What could help him is the presence of half-brother Keenan Allen, who grew up with Maynard and played high school ball with him. Allen is a potential superstar at wideout, and could team with senior Marvin Jones to form one of the top receiving duos in the conference.
Senior Brock Mansion and junior Allan Bridgford backed up Maynard through camp. Tedford said he hasn’t decided who will take the No. 2 spot, but the latter is probably a smart bet.
Sofele Leading Tailbacks
As expected, Isi Sofele will enter the season as Cal’s No. 1 running back after playing behind Shane Vereen a year ago. Although he only racked up 338 yards on 69 carries, the 5-foot-8 junior returns as the Bears’ most experienced rusher.
“I feel pretty confident going in there,” Sofele said. “I feel like I’ve prepared myself my whole life for this moment … I feel like I have a lot to prove.”
Sofele isn’t at the same level as predecessors Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best, but position coach Ron Gould will likely find a way to utilize his talents well. Junior Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson appears to have the No. 2 spot locked down, which gives Cal a sturdy complement to its diminutive lead back.
Blasquez Reshapes Workouts
There was a low-key change in the staff this past offseason: Mike Blasquez, who has worked as a Cal strength and conditioning coach for the past eight years, began working primarily with the football team.
Blasquez replaced John Krasinski, who spent nine seasons with the program, and has received rave reviews from nearly every player. Many praise his ability to promote a team environment — players have been sporting his “Team Matters” mantra on shirts — and improving the players’ mindsets during workouts. Even NFL draftees such as defensive end Cameron Jordan sang his praises when they worked with him last spring.
Before coming to Cal, Blasquez worked at prep football powerhouse De La Salle in Concord, Calif., where he helped them to 138 of their national-record 151 consecutive wins from 1992-2004.
“He really is a fantastic coach,” said junior right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, who attended St. Ignatius in San Francisco. “I’m not surprised they didn’t lose any games with him running them.”
Steve Williams didn’t have to think twice before naming his most anticipated matchup this season.
“Robert Woods. USC.”
The sophomore cornerback’s pick isn’t all that surprising. A year ago, USC took a wrecking ball to the Bears with a 48-14 win in Los Angeles. Robert Woods was a big reason why.
If you don’t remember, that was the game in which Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley tied his school’s single-game record with five touchdown passes — and he did it in the first half. Woods, then a true freshman, was on the receiving end of two of those scores, burning the Cal secondary for 116 yards.
Williams is a full-time starter this year after starting three games in 2010, and he’ll have his shot at redemption on Oct. 13 with the game broadcast on ESPN.
Note: In the event that the San Francisco Giants make the NLCS without home field advantage, the Bears will have to move the USC game away from AT&T Park. Considering that the Giants barely scratched out one win against the Houston Astros this past weekend, Cal fans probably won’t have to change their travel plans.