Notes from spring practice: Stadium will be game ready

Maynard recorded seven sacks this Saturday against USC.
Sean Goebel/File
Maynard recorded seven sacks this Saturday against USC.

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With games at AT&T park a distant nightmare, Memorial Stadium is on pace to be ready for the 2012 football season.

While the stadium will not be completely operational for Cal’s Sept. 1 home opener against Nevada, it will be able to host a football game.

As of now, the seismic improvements and renovations are essentially complete, and the next five months will entail putting on the finishing touches.

“It’s not quite usable yet and we’ll likely have some rough edges, but it would take an act of God to prevent us from staging a football game here,” said project mananger Bob Milano Jr.

2011 season ticket holders and donors above the $1200 threshold have already begun choosing seats for the 2012 season, one that features seven home games — including Stanford, Oregon and Washington. Student tickets will go on sale on April 13.

The football team itself has begun its preparations for the upcoming season, and will practice in full pads this afternoon. The team’s annual spring game is scheduled for April 21 at Edwards Stadium.

Quarterback Zach Maynard had been initially absent from the spring practices as he was tending to some academic issues, but returned to the gridiron this week and appears to have picked up right where he left off last fall. The junior is continuing to make strides in his understanding of the offense and his decision-making.

“It’s night and day (with him) from last spring,” said coach Jeff Tedford. “Last spring he was scratching his head about what was going to happen. Now he has great control of what’s going on, he’s got great command, great presence, great composure and you can tell he has a year of experience under his belt.”

Barring any serious injuries or further academic complications, Maynard will likely retain his starting spot in the fall.

However, freshman Zach Kline continues to receive all kinds of high praise. The things being said about Kline in terms of the potential impact he could have are comparable to what was said of Marshawn Lynch when he started practicing with the team. Kline’s arm strength appears every bit as good as advertised, but its hard to imagine Tedford going with a freshman quarterback over a senior with a full year of starting experience.

Who the quarterback will be throwing to is far less certain. However, with Keenan Allen sidelined for the spring as he recovers from ankle surgery, the younger wideouts have had a shot to showcase their talents — and have not disappointed.

Redshirt freshman Maurice Harris — Allen and Maynard’s cousin — has lived up to his pedigree, and looks like a likely candidate to start in the fall. Tedford claims that Harris has the best hands on the team.

Redshirt freshman and cornerback turned wide receiver Joel Willis has also been impressive, consistently beating defensive backs with his ridiculous speed — which might be the fastest on the team.

It would definitely be the fastest if not for running back Brendan Bigelow, who is finally up to full strength after two ACL tears in his right knee in high school. Bigelow showed some flashes of brilliance last fall, but never really looked comfortable planting and cutting off his right foot. That is no longer the case, and Bigelow is starting to show why he got so many Jahvid Best comparisons coming out of high school. Bigelow should see significant playing time this fall, and could even challenge for the starting back spot.

“And if anybody want to race me, you know where I’m at,” he said after a recent practice at Witter Rugby Field.

However, Bigelow’s return to form and an already crowded backfield has prompted senior Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson to transfer. The Tucson, Ariz., native will graduate later this spring, and will look to play one more year of football a la Russell Wilson.