Rightfully dubbed as one of America’s favorite pastimes, collegiate and professional football brings fans on a wild ride that truly never ends, even in the offseason. And this lovely May weekend, deep into the rest and rejuvenation period, shaped up to be a particularly big one for the Cal football program.
As eight former players felt the accomplishment of childhood dreams, joining NFL rosters, about 3,000 Cal football fans flocked to Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a fun-filled spring showcase celebration. The highly anticipated affair featured continuous player and alumni interviews, while a mixture of position group drills and a 65-play 7-on-7 scrimmage occupied the field behind them. The Bears welcomed an array of energized fans, notable alumni and desired recruits inside the lair.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been able to do something like this and to get this many people here, have the excitement from the fans, we had a ton of alumni here. The energy here today was incredible,” said head coach Justin Wilcox. “That’s part of what makes college football so great is the passion in the fan base.”
Saturday’s on-field action assumed a somewhat elementary format, as the controlled scrimmage featured consistent rotations, giving many players opportunity for reps. As expected, the quintessential quarterback question took center stage.
Redshirt senior quarterback Jack Plummer and redshirt freshman quarterback Kai Millner shared the simple majority of snaps, with Plummer starting behind the first-team offensive line facing off primarily against second-team defense, and Millner behind the second-team offensive line against first-team defense.
A favorite for the starting nod since his arrival on campus this spring, Plummer dazzled in his blue and gold debut. A soaring 24-yard pass found redshirt freshman wide receiver Mavin Anderson, who elevated over redshirt freshman defensive back Fatu Iosefa to kickstart Plummer’s reliable stint early on. The Purdue transfer finished the afternoon on 6-8 passing for 59 yards and one touchdown.
Although there is unsurprisingly still no official starting quarterback answer, Wilcox and fans alike were excited to see Plummer’s smooth transition.
“I thought Jack started out strong, very in control and it has been impressive to watch how quick he has picked up the system,” Wilcox said. “We can see his accuracy throwing down the field, throwing intermediate routes and even the quick game. He’s just done a nice job.”
Meanwhile, Plummer’s competitive counterpart vying for the QB1 title, Millner, did not find the same accuracy and efficiency early on. A rough start marked by several overthrown or incomplete passes and an interception was certainly not what the young prospect envisioned, but nevertheless, he battled to find a rhythm. Closing the showcase on 6-15 passing for 54 yards, Wilcox was still complimentary of Millner’s ability to fight through a slow start and remain encouraged.
While fans will likely have to wait until Fall for an official quarterback decision, plenty of other position battles and the efficiency of the Bears’ revamped defense took the spotlight this spring.
Junior defensive end Ethan Saunders took the lead for the defense Saturday, recording four tackles and a sack. His stellar performance comes as no surprise, as the Inglewood, CA local has been a disruptive power throughout the spring, garnering excitement and attention for this upcoming season.
Further showcasing the toughness of the blue and gold’s defense, junior safety Miles Williams recorded four tackles, a sack and an interception. Notably, defensive back Iosefa impressed spectators with five tackles and two sacks.
On special teams, junior kicker Dario Longhetto demonstrated his power and reliability as he went 3-3 for field goals from 24, 44 and 49 yards.
Overall, Cal football gave fans a lot to look forward to in this upcoming season after a successful spring showcase.