Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pack's Rodgers has first workout as pro

Associated Press
GREEN BAY, Wis. - With Brett Favre taking the minicamp off, the focus was on top draft pick Aaron Rodgers when the former Cal quarterback practiced for the first time Friday as a Green Bay Packer.
Surrounded by media in the Lambeau Field locker room, he said the attention was something he wasn't seeking, despite his status as the 24th player taken in the draft.
"I've never been big about the attention," he said. "It's never been that important to me. Not that I don't enjoy it, but I don't relish it. I don't live for it. I let my playing do the talking."
With the 35-year-old Favre excused from the minicamp by coach Mike Sherman, the 21-year-old Rodgers had ample opportunity to get his arm loose.
"I thought he had a good day for a first time out of the blocks," Sherman said. "Obviously, we have a long way to go, trying to gain the knowledge of our offense."
The coaching staff worked Rodgers in a rotation with backups Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan during team drills. Nall handled all of the reps with the No. 1 offense, though he struggled with a total of five interceptions in the two practices.
O'Sullivan and Rodgers split the remaining reps while working with the backup groups.
Rodgers had no passes intercepted, but overthrew receivers on a number of short to intermediate routes.
He conceded he made "a lot of mistakes."

PACKERS: Strong first impression

4/30/05
Jason Wilde Wisconsin State Journal
GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers could have faked it. Having thrown the ball impressively, held for field goals serviceably and handled the media throng deftly, his first day of work had gone well enough that he could have deemed it a relative success.
Instead, the Green Bay Packers' first-round draft pick and quarterback of the future fessed up and admitted after his first minicamp practice Friday that he didn't have a clue.
"I kind of feel like I had the 'deer-in-the-headlights' look today," said Rodgers, the former California quarterback whom the Packers picked 24th overall in last Saturday's NFL draft. "Like, 'Man, what am I doing?'
"I realize I've got a long way to go. This was my first day. But being a perfectionist and being somebody that wants to be the best every down, every play at practice, it's frustrating."
Nonetheless, while Rodgers only knows a small fraction of the playbook, struggled to spit out the Packers' 12- to 14-word play-calls in the huddle and was erratic early on, his throws were almost all tight spirals and mostly on target.
He used his same Jeff Tedford-taught form of cocking the ball high next to his ear on drop-backs, but he showed good arm strength and an ultra-quick release, although he did hold onto the ball too long a number of times.
"I thought he had a good day for the first time out," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "Obviously he's got a long way to go trying to gain the knowledge of our offense. We didn't do anything special to prepare him. But I thought he stepped in and did a good job."
One surprise area Rodgers stepped into was holding for kicker Ryan Longwell, something that his fellow Cal alum had expressed concern about one day earlier.
"That just made a nervous day even more nervous," Rodgers admitted.
Rodgers got about a minute of practice with Longwell and long-snapper Rob Davis on the side before being summoned for four kicks, three of which Longwell made out of good holds and one of which he missed because Rodgers didn't get it down properly.
"We didn't draft him to be a holder, per se," special teams coordinator John Bonamego said. "But he can do it."
Longwell, who had problems during the first two days of camp with Craig Nall as his holder, was pleasantly surprised by Rodgers, who had held during practices at Cal but never in a game. But Rodgers wasn't good enough to get Longwell, who wears the No. 8 jersey that Rodgers wore for the Golden Bears, to consider giving up his jersey for the rookie, who is wearing No. 12.
"I'm entertaining all offers," said Longwell, who wore No. 4 at Cal, a number that's obviously unavailable. "Maybe he thinks by being a good holder I'll lower the price, but that's not going to be the case."
Back at quarterback, Rodgers had limited snaps during the morning and afternoon full-team practices, but he took all the reps during the extra 11-on-11 session after most of the veterans were excused following the afternoon workout.
Rodgers' best throw of the day came when he arched a perfect ball - with just enough zip on it and just enough air underneath it - between two defenders to streaking undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Vince Butler down the right sideline.
"I don't know if he was going to come in and wow me because I had pretty high expectations for him," quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell said. "But the first impression was very good."
In fact, the only real drawback to Rodgers' first day was the absence of Brett Favre, the quarterback he's expected to one day replace. While he was disappointed that his first audience with his hero and mentor would be delayed until at least June, it wasn't enough to dampen his enthusiasm.
"I wish he was here," Rodgers said. "But Brett has been doing this for a long time, and there's really no reason for him to be here. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and I just can't wait to meet him and get to start working with him."
Rodgers is rooming with ex-Cal teammate Garrett Cross, a tight end the Packers signed as an undrafted rookie, at a local hotel during the minicamp and said he'll be back in Green Bay in mid-May for his continuing education in the offense.
Until then, he'll return to his hometown of Chico, Calif. - he withdrew from school to prepare for the draft - and look forward to the next step in his new career.
"(After) doing the politicking and campaigning and getting yourself out there (before the draft), it's just nice to get back on the field and get back to playing, which is what I do best," Rodgers said. "(I was) making a lot of mistakes. On one hand, that's frustrating, but on the other hand, that's exciting, knowing that even though I had an OK practice I know I can be a lot better."
Notes: Hawkins off to impressive start
It was one play in one minicamp practice, but for a guy who hadn't played real football in more than three years, Green Bay Packers rookie defensive back Mike Hawkins' interception Friday morning was pretty special.
Well, except for the fact that he couldn't recall stepping in front of Craig Nall's errant pass midway through the minicamp practice.
"I really can't explain it because I don't really remember it," said Hawkins, a fifth-round pick who played Arena football in 2004 but hadn't played traditional football since leaving Oklahoma five games into his freshman year of 2002. "But it was great, me getting that ball and running and everybody saying 'Congratulations' and 'Good job.' That's great to hear from guys who have been here.
"But I need a lot more to make this team."
While most of the focus was on first-round pick Aaron Rodgers, Hawkins, who left the afternoon practice with leg cramps, was one of 20 other rookies - 10 draft picks and 10 undrafted free agents - who joined Friday's practices.
Second-round pick Nick Collins and fourth-rounder Marviel Underwood saw extensive time at safety; second-rounder Terrence Murphy and sixth-rounder Craig Bragg got plenty of work at the undermanned receiver position; fifth-rounder Julius Coston (left guard) and seventh-rounder Will Whitticker (right guard) received most of their offensive line reps during the rookies-only session following the afternoon practice; sixth-rounder Mike Montgomery rotated on the defensive line; and fourth-rounder Brady Poppinga (strong-side) and seventh-rounder Kurt Campbell (weak-side) joined the linebacker corps.
Meanwhile, the club formally announced its 10 free-agent signings: Wide receivers Vince Butler (Northwestern Oklahoma State) and Chris Samp (Winona State); tight end Garrett Cross (California); tackle Chris White (Southern Mississippi); punter Bryce Benekos (Texas-El Paso); running back Chaz Williams (Georgia Southern); defensive tackle A.J. Lindsay (Temple); cornerback Leigh Torrance (Stanford); and linebackers Roy Manning (Michigan) and Zac Woodfin (Alabama-Birmingham).

Rodgers earns rave reviews

Rookie quarterback Aaron Rodgers drops back to pass during Friday’s workouts at the Green Bay Packers’ minicamp in the Don Hutson Center. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Rookie QB impresses the Packers on 1st day
By Dylan B. TomlinsonPackersNews.com
It didn’t take rookie quarterback Aaron Rodgers long to impress his new coaches and Green Bay Packers teammates on Friday morning.
Rodgers was standing in the Don Hutson Center during his first practice as a member of the Packers when be began firing pass after pass to receivers during warmup drills. On each throw, Rodgers showed the kind of quick release and arm strength that is usually seen in Green Bay only when Brett Favre is in town.
After several consecutive completions, offensive coordinator Tom Rossley’s eyes got really big and he couldn’t hide a smile.
“He’s better than I thought he would be, and I thought he would be good,” Rossley said. “I’m very excited that we got him.”
After the Packers took Rodgers in the first round of the NFL draft a week ago, there was much anticipation surrounding the rookie quarterback’s first NFL minicamp. Anticipation quickly turned to excitement as Rodgers did his best to live up to expectations.
“His arm strength is better than I anticipated,” Rossley said. “He gets rid of the ball incredibly quickly. I don’t think there’s a pass he can’t make.”
Packers coach Mike Sherman also said Rodgers’ debut was a success.
“I thought he had a good day, for his first day out of the blocks,” Sherman said. “He threw the ball well. Obviously, we have a long way to go to get him the knowledge of our offense. But I thought he stepped in and played well.”
Quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell gave Rodgers a portion of the Packers’ playbook when he was in town on Sunday, but Rodgers said he was a bit overwhelmed by his first real look at the offense.
“I don’t know anything,” Rodgers said, laughing. “I know it’s going to take a little time.”
As sharp as Rodgers looked throwing during drills, he struggled during team drills, which Rossley said was to be expected.
“When we put him into team, his mind was spinning,” Rossley said. “It can be overwhelming to try to step into this offense on your first day of practice.”
Rodgers didn’t throw many passes during team drills, but receiver Donald Driver said he was impressed with what little he saw from Rodgers.
“It was a chance for him to come out and show what he could do,” Driver said. “So far, so good. The guy can play. He showed us that.”
Rodgers seemed to take the whole day — the practice and the attention — in stride. After the stress of the draft, he said, it was a relief just to step on the football field again.
“It’s been a long period of garbage,” Rodgers said. “There was all of the politicking and campaigning (before the draft) and getting yourself out there by doing all the media. It’s nice to get back to just playing, which is what I do best.”
Rodgers said the process has been made easier because of the presence of tight end Garrett Cross, who played with Rodgers at Butte College and the University of California. Cross signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent.
“We’re rooming together now, and we’re probably going to live together during the season,” Rodgers said. “It’s really nice for both of us. We’re like best friends, and we’ve been through a lot together.”
Cross said he knew the Packers were interested in him before the draft, so when he saw Rodgers slide to the Packers in the first round of the draft, he thought he and Rodgers could remain teammates.
“I thought there was a pretty good chance I could join him here,” Cross said. “It makes it a lot easier for both of us. Coming in here with a friend takes a lot of the pressure away.”
Rodgers had an opportunity to throw a pass to Cross during team drills. Unfortunately for both players, it was Rodgers’ worst throw of the day. It flew over Cross’ head.
“That was the one I wish I had back,” Rodgers said. “My head was going a million different directions, but I wanted to hit that pass.”
Rodgers said he hopes to get better acquainted with the offense during the next two days of minicamp.
After camp is over, Rodgers will return home to Chico, Calif., for a few weeks. He’s expected to return around May 20, which should give him at least a week to work with Bevell and Rossley to learn the offense before the Packers’ second minicamp in early June.
At that camp, Rodgers said, he hopes he’ll finally be able to meet Favre.
“I’ve been thinking about that non-stop ever since I was drafted,” Rodgers said. “I can’t wait to meet him, and I can’t wait to learn from him.”
Dylan B. Tomlinson writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton.

Pack's Rodgers Has First Workout As Pro

Friday, April 29, 2005 now part of stylesheet -->
(04-29) 18:32 PDT Green Bay, Wis. (AP) --
With Brett Favre taking the minicamp off, the focus was on top draft pick Aaron Rodgers when the former Cal quarterback practiced for the first time Friday as a Green Bay Packer.
Surrounded by media in the Lambeau Field locker room, he said the attention was something he wasn't seeking, despite his status as the 24th player taken in the draft.
"I've never been big about the attention," he said. "It's never been that important to me. Not that I don't enjoy it, but I don't relish it. I don't live for it. I let my playing do the talking."
With the 35-year-old Favre excused from the minicamp by coach Mike Sherman, the 21-year-old Rodgers had ample opportunity to get his arm loose.
"I thought he had a good day for a first time out of the blocks," Sherman said. "Obviously, we have a long way to go, trying to gain the knowledge of our offense."
The coaching staff worked Rodgers in a rotation with backups Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan during team drills. Nall handled all of the reps with the No. 1 offense, though he struggled with a total of five interceptions in the two practices.
O'Sullivan and Rodgers split the remaining reps while working with the backup groups.
Rodgers had no passes intercepted, but overthrew receivers on a number of short to intermediate routes.
He conceded he made "a lot of mistakes."

No comparison between Rodgers and Campbell

4/30/05 Tom Oates Wisconsin State Journal
GREEN BAY - Both quarterbacks played at California. Both were known for their accuracy in college. Both were picked on the first round of the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers pray that's all Aaron Rodgers and Rich Campbell have in common.
You see, Campbell, Green Bay's first-round pick 24 years ago, was one of the biggest busts in Packers draft history. Worse, it took only a handful of training camp practices for observers to conclude that his unorthodox throwing motion and lack of velocity wouldn't cut it in the NFL.
That's why all eyes were on Rodgers when he made his practice-field debut Friday, six days after the Packers made him their quarterback of the future. No one expected Rodgers to be the next Brett Favre, but people were understandably wary that he might be the next Rich Campbell.
With one day of practice, Rodgers put those fears to rest.
"I thought he did a very nice job," quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell said. "I would say he was the player that was advertised today."
The same can't be said for Campbell after the Packers passed on future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott to make him the sixth pick in the 1981 draft. Campbell's flawed delivery was a cross between a shot-putter and a sidearm pitcher. His arm was so weak he often skipped the ball on deep outs, a pattern generally considered the litmus test for NFL quarterbacks.
Rodgers, the 24th player taken in last week's draft, also arrived with a reputation as a touch passer instead of a flame thrower. However, Rodgers showed Friday that if he flops in the NFL, arm strength won't be the reason.
"The ball comes out quick," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "He's got great zip."
Compare that to what was being said about Campbell back in the day. While the Packers didn't acknowledge Campbell's shortcomings during his rookie season, that changed when Bob Schnelker was named offensive coordinator in 1982. Never one to mince words, Schnelker watched Campbell for only a few days before he uttered two sentences that doomed Campbell's career.
"At this point, he doesn't show the arm strength it takes to be a fine quarterback in this league," Schnelker said. "He just can't zip the ball out there."
Rodgers didn't throw a deep ball during Friday's practices, but the passes he did throw created a strong first impression. He threw particularly well in individual sessions, not quite as well in team drills.
"Whenever you put him into the team part, his mind is spinning and it's hard to see him do anything with any regularity," Rossley said. "But when he was throwing the individual cuts, you could see that he's got ... I wouldn't say great arm strength, but he's got better arm strength probably than I anticipated. The ball comes out quick and he's got live feet. He looks good."
After just one day of practice, no one can predict how quickly Rodgers will grasp the playbook, how he will react under game conditions, how he will deal with the pressure of following a legend like Favre. But you can get a good idea if he has the physical ability - throwing and moving around - to someday be an NFL starter, and Rodgers clearly does.
So while we don't know yet if he's the next Brett Favre, we do know that he's not the next Rich Campbell.

Friday, April 29, 2005

BCS redo is like a gown on a pig

Ray Ratto
Friday, April 29, 2005
Jeff Tedford is probably over his hurt at being considered by the crackpot fringe of NFL Draft junkies as the Guy Who Hosed Aaron Rodgers.
Even if he isn't, he's surely still getting a good hoot over the latest twist in the Great Bowl Championship Series Remake-O-Rama.
You may remember that Tedford and his California Golden Bears got good and hosed last December when the BCS (read: some of his fellow coaches) all but rigged the final voting to ensure that Texas would get the Rose Bowl invitation instead of Cal.
You may also remember that the Cal constituency lost any and all right to bitch about this apparent injustice by laying a great gray egg in the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech, while Texas beat Michigan in the Rose.
Hey, you give up six scores to the fifth best team in the Big 12 when you're trying to prove you're the fourth-best team in the country, you not only have the right but the absolute obligation to remain silent.
All that having been disclaimed, the plain truth remains -- the BCS remains an absurd, borderline dishonest way of dealing with the football postseason conundrum. After meeting yet again this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. (why don't these yahoos ever meet in Buffalo, N.Y.?), the BCS brain trust remains neither brainy nor trustworthy.
What the 20 conference commissioners and other football insiders decided in the Scottsdale meeting was to ... declare its fervent intention to find a replacement poll for the Associated Press poll.
That would be the honest poll.
They still want the coaches' poll, of course, the one fraught with so many conflicts of interest that even baseball Commissioner Bud Selig would take a fistful of Tylenol PM to avoid having to explain them to Congress.
But instead of the playoff system the university presidents won't let them have, or the additional game the university presidents won't let them have, they decided the problem can be solved by finding former coaches, college players, administrators and sportswriters to create a new poll, called (one supposes) the Latest Lame Compromise Poll, to join the coaches poll and the computers to make a new BCS.
Oh, and they also widened the field to include all 11 Division I-A conferences rather than the Big Six. That's in case the Missouri Valley, the Sun Belt or the Big West ever produces a national championship-caliber team and nobody notices.
Oh, and they also wrote a letter to Congress saying they have everything squared away, and thanks for the interest, but bugger off, you old foofs.
Oh, and they acknowledged, through BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Wie- berg, that they might meet again in a few weeks and change the system again if they can't figure out a way to make this one work.
Which, of course, they can't.
It is clear that there won't be a playoff system. We know that because the NCAA is now pushing for a 12th regular-season game. It is also clear that the coaches poll is by its very existence an exercise in Soviet-era democracy, and should be either drastically diminished in importance or discontinued altogether. It is finally clear that a new poll would essentially make television an even bigger player in the national championship picture than it already is.
In short, this is a system that is headed straight for this scenario:
"By vote of the BCS committee -- the ESPN College GameDay crew, plus Dick Enberg, plus Tom Hammonds, plus Brent Musburger, plus six athletic directors, who have to balance their own budgets every year and need all the BCS money they can glom onto, the championship game will again pit either USC, or the SEC champion, or the Big 12 champ, or whatever can be verified to get the largest national TV audience, because that's all we're after anyway and we may as well stop making any pretense about it."
The solution to this perpetual state of evening-gowns-on-pigs is an easy one. One poll, with many voters -- an expanded AP-style roster, plus the TV types, plus whatever computers can adequately help the process. Make a voting system wherein a team such as Auburn, which went undefeated, but was punished for not having come into the year with a grand enough pedigree, is not penalized for fooling everyone. Make a voting system where every person is on the hook for his or her vote, and one in which the TV heads cannot release their vote prematurely, even in fake on-set conversation.
The alternate solution is equally effective. Two polls, one by sportswriters, one by TV and radioids, and let the best tavern fighters win.
Either way, the coaches and athletic directors cannot be involved for the simple reason that they can rig the results to their financial and job security benefit.
But they'll never agree to that, and because they can't have the playoff system they want, they'll just keep meeting -- in Palm Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in New Orleans (and never, ever, ever in Milwaukee or Providence, R.I.), always pretending to try to get it right while never coming close.
Yet, had Cal not taken the pipe so embarrassingly in San Diego, there might have been a greater interest in dramatic and helpful change by and to the BCS. As it is, the system remains profoundly wrong, silly and embarrassing for a sport that has more than enough access to smart people who aren't directly tied to one school or one conference.
Of course, this means that Jeff Tedford doesn't have a vote any more either, but hey, look what good it did him last year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Notebook: Rodgers’ Cal teammate joins team

By Rob DemovskyPackersNews.com
One of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets at the University of California will join him with the Green Bay Packers.
Cal tight end Garrett Cross has agreed to terms on a free-agent contract with the Packers, who on Saturday drafted Cross’ college quarterback with the 24th overall pick in the draft. Last season, Cross was the Bears’ third-leading receiver with 28 catches for 339 yards and five touchdowns.
The Packers on Tuesday did not announce any of their undrafted free agents, but Cross is one of eight signings the Press-Gazette has confirmed through player agents or their colleges.
The latest additions to that list were: Temple defensive tackle A.J. Lindsay, Maine receiver Christian Pereira, Stanford cornerback Leigh Torrence, Georgia Southern quarterback/running back Chaz Williams, Alabama-Birmingham linebacker Zac Woodfin and Cross. They joined UTEP punter Bryce Benekos, Winona State receiver Chris Samp (a Green Bay Preble graduate) and Michigan linebacker Roy Williams, whose signings had been previously reported.
In Cross (6-foot-4, 248 pounds), the Packers get a pass-catching tight end who was seeking a team that runs the West coast offense. His agent, Mike Sullivan, who also represents Rodgers, said Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington tried to sign Cross.
“He’s a very skilled receiver,” Sullivan said. “The thing was he played at about 233 pounds and was so much lighter than all the other tight ends invited to the combine. Garrett knew he had to get stronger, so after the season he added about 12 to 15 pounds of good weight.”
In a roundabout way, Cross was the reason Rodgers ended up playing at Cal. The Cal coaches noticed Rodgers at Butte (Junior) College while watching film of Cross.
• Lindsay (6-2, 323) left Temple after a junior season in which he had 29 tackles and ½ sack.
• Pereira (6-2, 218) caught 58 passes for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns for Maine last season.
• Torrence (6-0, 185), a three-year starter at Stanford, had four interceptions last season.
• Williams (5-10, 215) played quarterback at Georgia Southern in an option offense and is expected to convert to a running back. He rushed for 2,768 career yards. During his pro day at Georgia Southern, he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds and 4.42 seconds.
• Woodfin (6-0, 231) finished second on UAB’s team in tackles last season.
Rodgers’ contract: Negotiations on Rodgers’ contract could become complicated if he and Sullivan believe he should be paid like a prospect drafted near the top of the first round, which was where many projected Rodgers to go before he slipped to the Packers at No. 24.
NFL rookie contracts typically are slotted based on where the player was selected.
“Obviously, I want to have a good image and reputation on the team as being a guy who wants to be here on time,” Rodgers said. “I’ll make sure my agent, who works for me, knows that it’s imperative that I get to camp on time.”
Sullivan said he did not think that would be a problem.
“My history is that I get deals done,” Sullivan said.
Roster move: To make room for linebacker Hannibal Navies, who was re-signed over the weekend, the Packers released linebacker Steve Josue.
Josue spent the final month of the 2004 season on the Packers’ roster and played in four regular-season games plus the playoffs.

Garrett Cross Signs With Green Bay

From the Wisconsin Radio Network:
Rodgers teammate joins him in Green Bayby Bill ScottOne of Aaron Rodgers' top targets in college at the University of California, will be joining him with the Green Bay Packers. According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, tight end Garrett Cross has agreed to terms on a free agent contract with the Packers, after they made Cross's teammate, Aaron Rodgers, the 24th overall pick in the draft last Saturday. Cross was the Bears' third-leading receiver last season, catching 28 balls for 339 yards and five touchdowns.

Update on Spring Practice from Cal Athletic Department

Last Saturday, Cal Football hosted the annual Spring Game before a crowd of more than 3,000 in attendance at Memorial Stadium. Coach Jeff Tedford and the Golden Bears concluded four weeks of practices and workouts with an exciting scrimmage featuring plenty of offense.
Click on image below for Spring Game highlight video& Forward this message to a Friend!Use Windows Media Player to view

On the same day that former Cal star Aaron Rodgers was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, quarterbacks Nate Longshore and Joe Ayoob competed for the starting position. "There is no front runner," according to Coach Tedford. "We'll come into fall and there will be competition." On Saturday,the two signal-callers combined to complete 12-of-15 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns. Longshore, a redshirt-freshman, was 5-for-6 for 106 yards and three scores. He connected with LaReylle Cunningham on a 47-yard pass for one TD, with his other touchdown tosses going to Noah Smith (29 yards) and Robert Jordan (24 yards). Ayoob, the transfer from City College of San Francisco, finished the day 7-for-9 for 192 yards. His lone TD strike was a 70-yarder to Smith on his first attempt of the afternoon.
Smith clearly had his most productive effort in three spring scrimmages with his two receptions covering 99 yards. "I was very pleased with Noah's performance," Tedford said. "He made some plays, which is nice to see. It's nice to see him end spring practice that way, and he can probably take some confidence away from it."
No receiver caught more than two passes during the scrimmage, which was played under cloudy skies and off-and-on rain showers. In addition to Smith, Cunningham had two catches for 48 yards and two scores, Jordan had two for 29 yards and Sam DeSa had a pair for 31 yards. On the ground, tailback Marshawn Lynch continued with his impressive play, rushing seven times for 101 yards, including a 46-yard TD scamper during which he broke a tackle, cut left and, behind a key downfield block from Longshore, raced down the sideline into the end zone. Fellow running back Marcus O'Keith scored three touchdowns in his six carries, finishing with 39 yards, while Justin Forsett had 17 yards on eight rushes and Terrell Williams added 20 yards on six attempts.
Defensively, cornerback Harrison Smith had an interception and a blocked punt, and end Phillip Mbakogu produced a pair of sacks. On special teams, Daymeion Hughes had a 92-yard kickoff return for a score, and Brandon Hampton returned a punt 85 yards for another touchdown. Noah Smith also blocked a punt on special teams that was returned for a score by Eric Snell.
The Bears resume practice for the fall season in early August. Cal opens the 2005 schedule against Sacramento State on Saturday, September 3 in Memorial Stadium.

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Cal Hall of Fame Adds 10 Members

FROM CALBEARS.COM
Inductees to be honored Oct. 14-15.
April 27, 2005
BERKELEY - Consensus first team All-America wide receiver Sean Dawkins, still the school's career and single season record-holder for touchdown receptions, and four-time All-America catcher Gillian Boxx, a member of the gold medal-winning 1996 U.S. Olympic softball team, headline a list of 10 former athletes and administrators who have been selected for induction into the California Athletic Hall of Fame this fall, Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour announced today.
The Class of 2005 also includes U.S. Olympic team captain and All-American gymnast Dr. Sid Freudenstein, football All-American Vard Stockton, the four-time All-America doubles tennis team of Marty Davis and Chris Dunk, men's rugby All-American and renowned football placekicker Mick Luckhurst, two-time All-American golfer Ben Furth, NCAA javelin champion George Roseme and long-time women's athletic director Dr. Luella Lilly.
Stockton is honored posthumously.
Formal induction ceremonies are scheduled for Friday evening, Oct. 14, at the annual Hall of Fame banquet in the Greek Orthodox Church conference center in Oakland. The new inductees will also be honored at halftime of the Golden Bears' football game against Oregon State at California Memorial Stadium the following afternoon, Oct. 15.
With the addition of 10 members, Cal's Athletic Hall of Fame now features 203 individuals and five rowing teams. The school's Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1986, with this year's group representing the 20th class of inductees.
Dawkins, an explosive wide receiver for Cal teams that earned back-to-back appearances in the Copper and Citrus Bowls following the 1990-91 seasons, snared 65 passes for 1,070 yards and a school-record 14 touchdowns to lead the Pac-10 during his senior season in 1992. On Cal's current career charts, he still ranks first in touchdown receptions (31), sixth in receiving yards (2,124), eighth in scoring (186 points) and ninth in receptions (129).
Also named first team All-Pac-10 and Cal's most valuable player in 1992, Dawkins was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played 10 years in the NFL with the Colts (1993-97), New Orleans (1998), Seattle (1999-2000), Jacksonville (2001) and Minnesota (2002), posting 445 catches for 6,291 yards and 25 TDs during his pro career.
Boxx, generally regarded as the finest catcher and one of the best hitters in Golden Bear softball history, was named first team All-America in 1993 and 1995, and garnered second (1992) and third (1994) team recognition in two other seasons. A four-time All-Pac-10 choice and a 1995 finalist for the prestigious national Honda Sports Award, the Bear receiver is Cal's career record-holder in hits (274) and runs scored (156), and the school's single season record-holder in batting average (.466 in 1994), hits (90 in 1995) and runs scored (56 in 1995). Amazingly, she still ranks among the school's career Top 5 in eight categories: first in runs and hits, second in batting average (.369) and walks (105), third in doubles (44), RBI (146) and total bases (372), and fifth in putouts (1,389).
Boxx played on teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament all four years, with the '92 club finishing fifth at the College World Series.
Co-captain of Cal's first NCAA gymnastics championship team in 1968, Freudenstein claimed the NCAA individual title in floor exercise and both the vault and floor exercise events at the Pac-8 championships that season. He also placed second in floor exercise at the 1967 NCAAs and finished third in the vault in the 1966 nationals.
Freudenstein, who serves as chairman of the physics department at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colo., earned a third-place finish at the 1968 Olympic Trials and went on to become captain of the '68 Olympic Team that competed in Mexico City. He also was runner-up in the floor exercise for the U.S. at the 1967 World University Games in Tokyo. At the conclusion of his career as a participant, Freudenstein earned a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Colorado, where he also served as head gymnastics coach for several years.
Stockton, who died in an auto accident in 1975, earned first team All-America, All-Pacific Coast Conference and All-West Coast on Cal's legendary 1937 football team that registered a 10-0-1 record, including a 13-0 win over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Noted for his blocking ability that opened gaping holes for the likes of College Football Hall of Famers Vic Bottari and Sam Chapman, perhaps his most shining moment came in the 1936 Big Game when he stole the ball from Stanford's Jimmy Coffis to set up a touchdown in Cal's 13-0 win over their cross-town rivals. Stockton later served on a submarine for four years in World War II.
The doubles team of Davis and Dunk was beyond compare at Cal. Ranked No. 1 in the nation their senior season of 1980, they helped the Golden Bear tennis team to national Top 10 finishes in the NCAA Tournament four straight years, including a runner-up outdoor showing and a national indoor title in '80. After their Cal careers, the dynamic duo went on to rank among the Top 10 professional doubles teams in the world, as they advanced to the semifinals at the U.S. Open, and the quarterfinals at both Wimbledon and the French Open.
Davis and Dunk were both four-time All-Americans at Cal. Individually, Dunk was named to the 1980 Junior Davis Cup Team, while Davis later served as assistant coach on Cal's 1999 men's tennis team and currently is completing his fifth season as head coach at UC Santa Barbara.
One of the more colorful characters in Cal sports history, Luckhurst was a two-sport standout in rugby and football. In rugby, the Redbourn, England, native was named tournament MVP when he helped Cal to its first collegiate national rugby title by kicking a pair of penalty kicks and dropkick to give the Bears a come-from-behind victory over Air Force in 1980. Also a standout placekicker on the Cal football team, he shared the school record for longest field goal for eight seasons before his 54-yarder (vs. Oregon State, Oct. 18, 1979) was eclipsed by Robbie Keen's 55-yard field goal in 1988. He led Cal's football team in scoring as both a junior (55 points, 9-for-15 in field goals) and senior (14-of-17 field goals). He later enjoyed a distinguished career in the NFL, playing for Atlanta from 1981-87. Luckhurst held the Falcons' career record for field goals with 119 until Morten Andersen surpassed that total in 2000.
Furth, unquestionably one of the most inspirational student-athletes ever to compete in Berkeley, overcame a debilitating back problem to earn college All-America honors as captain of Cal's men's golf team. Also a two-time first team All-America Scholar in 1989-90, he placed third in the Pac-10 Tournament and won both the Falcon Invitational and USF Invitational as a junior in 1989 when he led the Bears with a team-low average of 74.2 strokes per round. Furth also placed among the Top 15 at both the 1987 and 1988 Pac-10 tournaments. After an on-and-off struggle with back pain, he was diagnosed with congenital spinal defect that ended his career in the summer of 1990.
Roseme, who earned All-America honors in both 1949 and 1952 at Cal, won the NCAA championship in the javelin in 1952 with a throw of 228-8.75. He also placed fourth in the javelin at both the 1949 and 1950 NCAA meets.
A pioneer in Cal women's sports, Lilly served as the Bears' women's athletic director from 1976-92. During her 17-year reign, the Bear women won 28 conference championships in eight of 11 sports, plus national crew titles in 1979-80 (varsity 8 and varsity 4) and 1983-84 (novice 8, varsity 4). When USA Today began ranking overall excellence of women's sports programs in the country in 1985, Cal ranked among the nation's top 12 each of the final eight years of Lilly's tenure, including an all-time high of fourth in 1989. In 1999, she was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Collegiate Women's Athletic Administrators. As the school's original women's AD, she established the Cal Women's Hall of Fame in 1977-78--with those inductees now part of the California Athletic Hall of Fame, which Lilly is now a member.
The 2005 California Hall of Fame Inductees:
Name Sports(s) Years
Gillian Boxx Softball 1992-95
Sean Dawkins Football 1990-92
Marty Davis Men's Tennis 1977-80
Chris Dunk Men's Tennis 1977-80
Sid Freudenstein Men's Gymnastics 1965-68
Ben Furth Men's Golf 1987-90
Luella Lilly Women's Athletic Director 1976-92
Mick Luckhurst Men's Rugby/Football 1979-81
George Roseme Men's Track & Field 1949-52
Vard Stockton Football 1935-37

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fate puts former, current Cal quarterbacks in media spotlight

By Van Arnold
Hattiesburg American
I've always been a big fan of karma, coincidences and various quirks of fate.
You know, those confounding little occurrences that pop up in one's life from time to time. They defy conventional explanation. And therein lies their beauty.
We have enough reasoning in our daily lives. Geez, we're force-fed a steady diet of logic from our toddling days right on through senior citizenship.
Sometimes, it's cool just to accept happenstance for what it is.
And such is the case with Rich Campbell and Aaron Rodgers.
Recognize the names? Certainly University of California-Berkeley alumni everywhere know them as former Bear football heroes. Campbell forged his legacy in the late 1970s and early '80s, while Rodgers made quite a name for himself the past three seasons out West.
Today, they have a lot more in common than a sparking Cal football pedigree. In April of 1981 Campbell was selected by the Green Bay Packers as the seventh pick overall in the first round of the National Football League draft. Last Saturday, Rodgers listened to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue call his name as the Packers' first round pick (24th overall) of the 2005 draft.
Campbell and Rodgers are the only quarterbacks taken in the first round by the Packers in the last 25 years. In case any of you are uncertain about the draft history of current Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, keep in mind that he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2nd round of the 1991 draft. He was subsequently traded to Green Bay where he has carved out a Hall of Fame career.
Many loyal readers know Campbell as the Opinion Page Editor of the Hattiesburg American. Campbell met his Cal pigskin brother for the first time last December when the Bears came to Hattiesburg for a regular-season-ending game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
"After watching him play in that game (a 26-16 Cal victory), I could tell he was special, that he had all the tools to be an NFL quarterback," said Campbell. "And after the game I met him and his parents outside the visitors locker room. I found out something else about him - that he's a great kid of top of everything else."
Like virtually every other interested observer of Saturday's draft proceedings, Campbell was stunned to see Rodgers, once considered a Top-5 pick, still available in the lower stages of the first round.
"I had never given much thought to the possibility of Aaron being around when Green Bay came up in the first round because everybody assumed he would be gone by then," said Campbell. "But the closer it got to Green Bay's turn, the more I thought how perfect that would be.
"I firmly believe Green Bay got a great player. I thought all along that he was the best quarterback in the draft."
The San Francisco 49ers obviously thought Utah's Alex Smith was the better of two, making him the No. 1 overall pick Saturday.
But back to the karma for a moment.
Campbell delighted in the fact that two former Cal quarterbacks wound up as first-round draft choices of the famed Green Bay Packers. But the enchantment doesn't end there. Campbell knows full well that Favre honed his skills as a quarterback at Southern Miss and still make his off-season home in Hattiesburg.
"The whole thing is just ironic, isn't it?" Campbell said rhetorically.
Not long after learning Rodgers' fate Campbell placed a congratulatory call to Favre's heir apparent.
"I got his voice mail, but I just told him that I thought he was headed to the right place and that I understood if he didn't have time to call back," Campbell said.
Well, he made time for a fellow Bear.
On Monday evening, Campbell got a return call from the newest Green Bay quarterback.
"We talked for probably 10 minutes," Campbell said. "He asked me about playing in Green Bay, what it was like. I told him he was going to love it.
"The people there are some of the nicest that you will ever meet and they dearly love their football team."
NFL pundits have been anything but nice to Campbell over the past quarter-century, labeling him as one of the all-time, first-round "flops." Campbell spent four seasons with the Packers as a back-up to Lynn Dickey. He never got a chance to showcase his ability and stayed in the league just long enough to qualify for the pension program.
Once-bitter about the experience, Campbell has accepted his NFL legacy, which includes being used as a punchline for commentators who refuse to look beyond the numbers.
"For the first 10 years it bothered me a lot," he said. "But I've long since resolved it. I've reached a level of peace about it."
For the record, Rich Campbell has a scrapbook full of personal accomplishments that supercede the glory he found as a football player.
In the past 24 years he has become a husband (to wife Janice), the father of two great children (Meredith, 19, and John, 12). He attended seminary for five years in Oregon, earning two degress that prepared him for work in the ministry. He served as associate pastor at a church in Little Rock, Ark., for six years and co-authored a couple of Christian-based books before joining the staff at the Hattiesburg American. During the past eight years Campbell has penned a number of award-winning editorials for this daily publication.
In the newspaper business, he's got plenty of game.
I asked Rich if he had any advice for Rodgers, who will be moving from balmy California to the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field in upper Wisconsin.
"I would tell him to find the largest pair of women's nylons that he can find," said Campbell. "He'll need them."
By Monday afternoon my old buddy Rich had suddenly become a media celebrity again, fielding calls from sports writers and broadcasters in California and Wisconsin.
Funny, how karma works that way.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Packers catch a falling Golden Bear

The Greenbay News Chronicle
By Todd McMahonNews-Chronicle
When they least expected it, a golden opportunity presented itself to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday afternoon.
Without having to budge from their position toward the end of the first round, the disbelieving Packers inherited a Golden Bear from the University of California who had only recently lost his hold on being the golden arm of this year's NFL Draft.
"We felt very fortunate," Ted Thompson would later say, perhaps the understatement of his inaugural draft as Packers general manager.
Green Bay has never had the honor of picking first overall since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Yet, there the team's brain trust was inside its Lambeau Field war room on the 15-minute clock, not having to think twice about whom it would select at No. 24.
Sacrificing their pressing needs to shore up a dismal defense, at least for one round, the Packers took what many of the other teams had given them and took California quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"In this particular case, it fell a certain way where the decision was really pretty easy," Thompson said.
Not even a week ago, Rodgers was roundly considered the hot commodity of choice for the San Francisco 49ers, who owned the No. 1 selection. Yet, as the countdown to the start of the draft at 11 a.m. Saturday dwindled to a matter of days, the indecisive 49ers turned their attention to Utah quarterback Alex Smith and, after a lot of hemming and hawing, ultimately settled on him. Still, there weren't many experts who envisioned the free fall that Rodgers experienced, for all of the country's devout football fans to see as the draft unfolded on ESPN. He was one of six draft prospects, along with Smith, treated by the league to a week in New York City.
Yet, after Miami cornerback Antrell Rolle was taken by Arizona at No. 8, Rodgers found himself on a lonesome island seated in the green room of the Javits Convention Center. He stayed seated for more than 4 1/2 hours.
Watching three running backs taken in the first five picks. Watching some more more as three cornerbacks went in the first nine picks and four in the first 23 selections. Still watching as four wide receivers were grabbed in the first 22 picks.
In fact, by the time the improbable watching and waiting were over, as Rodgers arose from his chair with commissioner Paul Tagliabue's announcing the Packers' pick at 3:44 p.m., the 21-year-old wasn't technically the second quarterback taken on this day. Arkansas' Matt Jones, who will be converted to a wide receiver or a tight end, went to Jacksonville at No. 21. "We hoped for the best, but we were prepared for the worst," Rodgers said.
The disappointment of not going No. 1 to the 49ers, his favorite team while growing up in Northern California, or anywhere in the top echelon of the opening round wore off when Rodgers learned where he would be beginning his pro career.
Brett Favre, the NFL's only three-time MVP, will be his mentor, and the young man who idolized Joe Montana couldn't think of a better situation where to be baptized. Never mind that the high investment the Packers have made in him means he has been minted as Favre's probable successor. For his part, Rodgers doesn't plan on ruffling any feathers with No. 4.
"I totally recognize the fact that Brett is the guy back there, and he's a legend," Rodgers said. "My goal for this next year is to tap into his resources as a player and just learn everything I can from him about the game and how to be successful for many years like he's been. I just really look forward to starting a good relationship with Brett."
Thompson stressed that the team won't put any undue pressure on Rodgers by labeling him as the heir apparent to Favre, who turns 36 in October and has committed for now to playing only next season.
"I think we shouldn't call him that," Thompson said. "He'll have a chance to be the quarterback that plays after Brett Favre. But, there is no Brett Favre heir apparent. There was no Bart Starr heir apparent. There were good quarterbacks maybe in between times. But, it doesn't necessarily mean he has to be Brett Favre. He has to be Aaron Rodgers and play quarterback for the Packers when his time comes. I'm sure he'll be up for that challenge."
Incidentally, Rodgers is the first quarterback the Packers have taken in the first round since they tabbed another Cal product during the lean years between Starr and Favre's storied tenures behind center. Rich Campbell was the sixth overall pick in 1981.
Once it became apparent that Rodgers was going to last until the Packers' turn Saturday - Oakland did trade up to No. 23 but took cornerback Fabian Washington - Thompson said the QB was the top choice among those working beside the boss in the draft room, including head coach Mike Sherman.
Thompson added no consideration was given to taking the top defensive player still available on the team's draft board over Rodgers, though the Packers' top priorities coming into the draft were on that side of the ball.
"We really and truly wanted to take the best football player on the board," Thompson said. "We felt like he was the best football player on the board.
"Now, did we think he was going to be there when we were watching (game tapes of Rodgers the last few weeks)? No. But, over the course of the last week or so, there was a couple of Web sites or ESPN that said maybe he might get there (to 24). So, I went back and did a little more work (on analyzing Rodgers) just to make sure. I feel very comfortable that this kid warranted being picked where we were at."
Rodgers starred at Cal for only two seasons, electing to forgo his senior year and enter the draft.
He completed 424 of 665 passes in his career with the Bears for a completion percentage of 63.8, ranking second in the school record book behind only Campbell's 64.5.
Rodgers was on the money last season, completing 66.1 percent of his 316 pass attempts for 2,566 yards and 24 touchdowns. He made a big impression in a big game, tying the NCAA Division I-A record by completing his first 23 passes in a Pacific 10 Conference loss to national champion Southern California.
"He's driven to excel," said Cal offensive coordinator George Cortez, who learned of Rodgers' selection by the Packers following the Bears' spring practice.
Cortez has coached a number of top-flight quarterbacks, including Baltimore's Kyle Boller while at Cal in 2002 and former San Francisco and Cleveland starter Jeff Garcia with Calgary in the Canadian Football League.
Cortez said Rodgers "throws the ball better" than Garcia, and he added that he hasn't seen a quarterback who has a quicker release than Rodgers.
However, it's believed that one of the reasons Rodgers' stock dropped in the view of some NFL teams is because of mechanics that have been likened to being robotic. Rodgers has an unorthodox throwing delivery, bringing his right arm up high with football in hand before releasing it.
When asked Saturday if he's aware of having any issues with his mechanics, Rodgers argued, "I don't believe I have any mechanic problems throwing."
Concerns also have arisen about the 223-pound Rodgers' standing 6-foot-2, which scouts assessed gave him problems finding his receivers over the line as a quarterback who predominantly operated between the tackles.
Cortez, though, contended that Cal's West Coast-style offense, like the Packers', did call for Rodgers to roll out of the pocket and occasionally run to the outside on option plays. Some insiders also were quick to downgrade Rodgers' performance against USC last season because all of those passes completed in succession were of short to intermediate distances.
Packers quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell acknowledged throwing the deep ball isn't one of Rodgers' strong suits.
"I just graded him below average on his deep-ball accuracy," Bevell said. "(But) we'll be able to work on that."
Similarly, Rodgers must overcome the stigma of being the latest star quarterback delivered to the NFL by Jeff Tedford. Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, A.J. Feeley, Boller and David Carr were other highly rated Tedford disciples in college but haven't always lived up to expectations in the NFL.
Packers officials wondered if Rodgers would turn out the same way. He had a ready answer for them when the matter was broached during their initial meeting at the scouting combine in February and then when offensive coordinator Tom Rossley attended Rodgers' pro-day workout at Cal in March.
"We asked him, 'Why are you going to be successful?'" Bevell recounted. "He said, 'Because I'm better than all of them.' So, he has confidence in himself, and we have confidence in him also."
Not much does faze Rodgers. He hails from the small town of Chico, Calif., and played for a high school (Pleasant Valley) that barely attracted attention from college recruiters. Rodgers didn't get any Division I offers, or Division II for that matter, and followed two of his teammates to Butte (Calif.) Junior College.
Tedford took notice of Rodgers his first year at Butte in 2002, only because the Cal coach was actually sent there to watch another prospect.
So, as Rodgers gets set to begin his pro career in Green Bay today, getting passed over not once, but 23 times by NFL teams Saturday isn't such a big deal. It just means Rodgers will wear the Packers uniform with an extra chip on his shoulder.
"Yeah, I will be," Rodgers conceded. "Merton Hanks told me (Friday), 'You should play your career with a chip on your shoulder regardless and just always feel like you have something to prove. I definitely have a lot to prove."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

WR Smith blows past secondary in Spring Game

Cal notebook
BERKELEY -- Cal coach Jeff Tedford kept waiting for one of his wide receivers to make his move during spring football camp and Noah Smith finally cooperated.
During Cal's Spring Game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Smith caught 70- and 29-yard touchdown passes, simply blowing past the Golden Bears' secondary in the process.
Smith, a former track star out of Taft High School in Lakeview, has been consistent in creating separation between himself and the defensive backs. However, once free, Smith has been inconsistent catching the ball.
Now a sophomore, his questionable hands made him a longshot to become one of Cal's starters in the 2005 season. But all that might have changed on Saturday.
"I absolutely was pleased with Noah's performance," Tedford said following the scrimmage, which marks the final day of Cal's spring camp. "He's been working very hard and he made some plays.
"He has shown that it is possible. Now he has to do it at a consistent level."
With a 10.51 time under his belt in the 100 meters, Smith has the speed to stretch the field. However, his inconsistency and a broken wrist held him to only two catches in 2004.
If he can copy his performance from Saturday, though, he could play a big role on the 2005 squad.
"I focused and put my best foot forward," said Smith, who also blocked a punt during the scrimmage. "It all comes down to concentration and not worrying about anything else."
Scrimmage highlights
Cal's offense dominated Saturday's scrimmage, but Tedford didn't match the two first-team units against each other. That made it easy pickings for tailback Marshawn Lynch, who rushed seven times for 101 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run.
Both quarterbacks, junior Joe Ayoob and redshirt freshman Nate Longshore, looked sharp. Ayoob went 7-of-9 for 192 yards and the 70-yard touchdown pass to Smith. Longshore was 5-of-6 for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
"Joe did OK," Tedford said. "If you have watched him from the first day of spring to now, there was a marked improvement. He looked comfortable and he did a nice job of getting the signals from the sideline and running the show. He is getting more comfortable every day."
On the defensive side, Tedford praised the play of sophomore defensive end Phillip Mbakogu, who had consecutive sacks of Longshore, and junior linebacker Desmond Bishop. "Phillip made some great plays off the edge," Tedford said. "He really took a step forward. And Bishop played very well."
Extra points
Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. "David Lonie (Cal's kicker) was chasing him and David can run like a deer," Tedford said. "But he ran away, I've been waiting to see that." ... Tedford said place-kicker Tom Schneider had a solid spring in which he showed off a much stronger leg. Tedford said Schneider, Lonie (who punts) and Anthony Binswanger (kickoffs) all have held off challenges for their jobs with solid efforts. ... Cal's only injury of the scrimmage was long snapper Christopher Janeway, who suffered a knee injury that Tedford said might need surgery.

Cal seeking replacement for Rodgers

Posted: Saturday April 23, 2005 8:11PM
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- The quarterback who wasn't at Memorial Stadium nearly overshadowed the two quarterbacks who took part in the controlled scrimmage that ended California's spring football camp Saturday.
Approximately 3,000 fans waited almost to the end of the spring game to hear that Aaron Rodgers, who led the Golden Bears to a 10-2 record and the Holiday Bowl last season, had been taken by Green Bay with the 24th overall pick in the NFL draft -- much later than he hoped to go after passing up his senior season at Cal. "I'm sure it was a long day for Aaron, having to sit in the green room that long," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Once he got past the first five, a lot of teams didn't need a quarterback. If I know Aaron, he'll take this as a motivation. There's probably not a better quarterback to learn from than Brett Favre."
On the field, junior college transfer Joseph Ayoob continued to compete with Nate Longshore for the starting job vacated by Rodgers. Tedford believes Longshore is ahead of Ayoob in the competition, but declined to name a frontrunner until regular practice begins.
Longshore, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, completed five of his six passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Ayoob connected on seven of nine attempts for 192 yards and a score on a 70-yard strike to receiver Noah Smith on his first pass.
Ayoob lost only one of 24 games in two years at City College of San Francisco, and was a two-time MVP of the California junior college championship game. If he claims the starting job from Longshore, it would be a similar scenario to Rodgers' move to replace veteran Reggie Robertson in the fifth game of the 2002 season.
"Nate is the incumbent," Tedford said. "If we played tomorrow, Nate would start it off. But we're going to come into fall camp, and it's going to be a competition. We're going to start all over and go into the first game.
"It's going to be a continuing competition. Ayoob was an improvement on what he's done throughout the spring. He looked very comfortable today. He was a little nervous at the beginning, (but) he's getting more comfortable every day. We put in the whole (offensive) package in the spring, so he has a fairly good understanding of 65 percent of what we're trying to do."
Ayoob also feels he has begun to grasp the complexities of Tedford's offense.
"There was so much information thrown in the first couple of weeks, it was almost too much to handle at once," Ayoob said. "After a while, it all settles in."
Smith, one of several players vying for a spot in the Bears' young receiving corps, caught one touchdown pass from each quarterback. Smith also blocked a punt that was picked up by Eric Snell for a touchdown.
"I knew it was the spring game and we needed to play our best," Smith said. "I focused and put my best foot forward."

Quarterbacks Impress in Spring Game WR Noah Smith also has big outing with 2 TDs, blocked punt

April 23, 2005
BERKELEY - Quarterbacks Nate Longshore and Joseph Ayoob combined to complete 12-of-15 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns, as California concluded its spring workouts with the annual Spring Game Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
Longshore, a redshirt-freshman, was 5-for-6 for 106 yards and three scores. He connected with LaReylle Cunningham on a 47-yard pass for one TD, with his other touchdown tosses going to Noah Smith (29 yards) and Robert Jordan (24 yards).
Ayoob, the transfer from City College of San Francisco, finished the day 7-for-9 for 192 yards. His lone TD strike was a 70-yarder to Smith on his first attempt of the afternoon.
"There is no front runner," head coach Jeff Tedford said of the battle to replace Aaron Rodgers as the Bears' starting quarterback. "We'll come into fall and there will be competition."
Smith clearly had his most productive effort in three spring scrimmages with his two receptions covering 99 yards. He also blocked a punt on special teams that was returned for a score by Eric Snell.
"I was very pleased with Noah's performance," Tedford said. "He made some plays, which is nice to see. It's nice to see him end spring practice that way, and he can probably take some confidence away from it."
No receiver caught more than two passes during the scrimmage, which was played under cloudy skies and off-and-on rain showers. In addition to Smith, Cunningham had two catches for 48 yards and two scores, Jordan had two for 29 yards and Sam DeSa had a pair for 31 yards.
On the ground, tailback Marshawn Lynch continued with his impressive play, rushing seven times for 101 yards, including a 46-yard TD scamper during which he broke a tackle, cut left and, behind a key downfield block from Longshore, raced down the sideline into the end zone.
Fellow running back Marcus O'Keith scored three touchdowns in his six carries, finishing with 39 yards, while Justin Forsett had 17 yards on eight rushes and Terrell Williams added 20 yards on six attempts.
Defensively, cornerback Harrison Smith had an interception and a blocked punt, and end Phillip Mbakogu produced a pair of sacks.
On special teams, Daymeion Hughes had a 92-yard kickoff return for a score, and Brandon Hampton returned a punt 85 yards for another touchdown.
Cal resumes practice for the 2005 season in early August. The Bears open the fall vs. Sacramento State Sept. 3 in Memorial Stadium.

Spring gives Ayoob lots to absorb

By Jay Heater
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
BERKELEY - Joe Ayoob, the next great Cal quarterback hope, expertly snapped off his three-step drop, quickly surveyed the field, then launched a missile over the middle during a spring scrimmage.
It looked quite proficient except for the very end of the play, where the ball skipped down the Memorial Stadium field, bouncing its way toward the goal line without a wide receiver in sight.
Ayoob, a City College of San Francisco transfer, went back to work on the next play, and that toss was errant as well. He threw a zig as his receiver zagged. The next pass was high. The next was low. Perhaps the wide receivers were running the wrong patterns.
"The wide receivers had a good day," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said following the workout. "The patterns were good."
As spring blossomed in Strawberry Canyon, it became apparent that Ayoob, named the No. 2 junior college prospect in the country by SuperPrep, had a lot of work to do. Locked in a battle for the starting job with redshirt freshman Nate Longshore, Ayoob looked like the new kid on campus trying to find the library.
"Some practices, we reinstate everything we have learned since Day One," Tedford said. "Joe has to be responsible for the whole thing and that's tough on him right now.
"So he makes some misreads and gets crossed up. You see his talent flash from time to time, then he throws the ball to the other side. I know it's got to be tough on him. He had so much success at San Francisco City College, then he comes here and struggles. It's enough to make anyone a little discouraged."
But Ayoob isn't just anyone, and his confidence has served him well at a time when his head is swimming.
"I had an idea that this was going to be hard, but I didn't think it would be this hard," Ayoob said. "I have to come up to the line of scrimmage and read my wide receiver's body language, and I've never had to do that before. So I'm sure that (quarterbacks coach) George Cortez is going to have a lot of time slots open for me.
"But I'm also very comfortable with what I can do. This is football, and I'm enjoying it a lot."
Longshore, who was a Parade All-American out of Canyon High School-Canyon Country, also seems to be enjoying his good fortune. Stiff and openly unsure of himself as a freshman, Longshore seems at ease now. He doesn't think about the fact that Tedford recruited another junior college quarterback who is expected to be the second coming of Aaron Rodgers.
"We're so far away from an actual game that it really doesn't matter," Longshore said. "And there is so much to be done. I just want to improve my skills as much as I can."
While Ayoob has been erratic throwing the ball, Longshore has been on target.
"I like to concentrate on things I know, and I've always been able to throw the ball," Longshore said. "But in this offense, throwing the ball is the easiest part of the job."
Longshore said he knows what Ayoob is experiencing. As a true freshman, Longshore felt lost at times.
"I never thought football was so complicated," Longshore said. "It blew my mind. But once you've been around it, you start to understand the concepts."
Tedford has been pleasantly surprised by Longshore's improvement.
"Nate is doing a real good job," Tedford said. "He has been very sharp throwing the ball and his experience shows. He has done a good job getting used to his receivers and understanding the pocket."
Even so, Tedford isn't tipping his hand if he has a preference between the two.
"The competition doesn't start until the first day of fall camp," Tedford said. "And I probably won't announce a decision until game week."
Those at Saturday's spring game at Memorial Stadium can understand why Tedford isn't jumping to any conclusions. While Ayoob struggled at times earlier in the spring, he has a swagger and the ability to make big plays. His first pass in the spring game was a 70-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Noah Smith. He also completed a 49-yard pass to tight end Eric Beegun.
Longshore also looked sharp during the scrimmage, but his main duty was handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Longshore's footwork might determine his fate. Tedford said he knows that Longshore can handle the throws, but his mobility has to improve.
"A lot of that comes down to strength," Longshore said. "I have been doing a lot of foot ladder drills and jumping rope. I practice the repetitions over and over. It's been a slow process, but it feels more natural now."

Ayoob, Longshore still competing for Rodgers' vacant job at Cal

(04-23) 16:35 PDT Berkeley, Calif. (AP) --
The quarterback who wasn't at Memorial Stadium nearly overshadowed the two quarterbacks who took part in the controlled scrimmage that ended California's spring football camp Saturday.
Approximately 3,000 fans waited almost to the end of the spring game to hear that Aaron Rodgers, who led the Golden Bears to a 10-2 record and the Holiday Bowl last season, had been taken by Green Bay with the 24th overall pick in the NFL draft — much later than he hoped to go after passing up his senior season at Cal.
"I'm sure it was a long day for Aaron, having to sit in the green room that long," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Once he got past the first five, a lot of teams didn't need a quarterback. If I know Aaron, he'll take this as a motivation. There's probably not a better quarterback to learn from than Brett Favre."
On the field, junior college transfer Joseph Ayoob continued to compete with Nate Longshore for the starting job vacated by Rodgers. Tedford believes Longshore is ahead of Ayoob in the competition, but declined to name a frontrunner until regular practice begins.
Longshore, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, completed five of his six passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Ayoob connected on seven of nine attempts for 192 yards and a score on a 70-yard strike to receiver Noah Smith on his first pass.
Ayoob lost only one of 24 games in two years at City College of San Francisco, and was a two-time MVP of the California junior college championship game. If he claims the starting job from Longshore, it would be a similar scenario to Rodgers' move to replace veteran Reggie Robertson in the fifth game of the 2002 season.
"Nate is the incumbent," Tedford said. "If we played tomorrow, Nate would start it off. But we're going to come into fall camp, and it's going to be a competition. We're going to start all over and go into the first game.
"It's going to be a continuing competition. Ayoob was an improvement on what he's done throughout the spring. He looked very comfortable today. He was a little nervous at the beginning, (but) he's getting more comfortable every day. We put in the whole (offensive) package in the spring, so he has a fairly good understanding of 65 percent of what we're trying to do."
Ayoob also feels he has begun to grasp the complexities of Tedford's offense.
"There was so much information thrown in the first couple of weeks, it was almost too much to handle at once," Ayoob said. "After a while, it all settles in."
Smith, one of several players vying for a spot in the Bears' young receiving corps, caught one touchdown pass from each quarterback. Smith also blocked a punt that was picked up by Eric Snell for a touchdown.
"I knew it was the spring game and we needed to play our best," Smith said. "I focused and put my best foot forward."

Ayoob shows progress at Cal's spring scrimmage

By Geoff Lepper, IJ reporter
BERKELEY - Conventional wisdom holds that an athlete can't win a major golf championship during the first of its four rounds, but they can lose it on the first day by carding an 87 or some other miserably bad score.
If you apply that analogy to the battle over who will succeed Aaron Rodgers as Cal's quarterback, then former Terra Linda High star Joe Ayoob posted a nice, safe, 1-under-par 71 with his performances in this month's practices, which concluded yesterday with the annual Spring Game scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
Ayoob, who transferred to Cal from City College of San Francisco over winter break, doesn't top the leaderboard at the moment; Bears coach Jeff Tedford said if his team was playing a game today, redshirt freshman Nate Longshore, who went 5-for-6 and had three touchdowns in the Spring Game, would take the field with the starting unit.
But Tedford also said that "there is no front-runner" for Rodgers' old job and that "we're going to come into fall camp and it's going to be a competition." That means that Ayoob has plenty of time to eventually claim the championship trophy - which in this case would be taking the first snap from center in Cal's 2005 opener, against Sacramento State on Sept. 3.
"I felt I progressed fairly well (during the spring)," said Ayoob, who completed seven of nine passes yesterday for 192 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown bomb on his first snap of the day. "There's still more to do, but it's a good start. I made the right plays, made the right reads, didn't make too many mental mistakes, and by doing that, I hope I showed the coaches I can lead this team."
Tedford, who just three weeks ago described Ayoob as being "paralyzed" by the Bears' intricate offensive schemes," was pleased with the 20-year-old's development.
"Joe did OK. If you were here on the first day of spring (practice) and had a chance to be here every day, you'd probably see a marked improvement," Tedford said. "He looked very comfortable today, did a nice job of getting the signals from the sideline, running the offense, (managing) the 25-second clock and threw the ball pretty well. He's just getting more comfortable every day. His first couple of scrimmages, he looked very nervous."
Part of that was dealing with the sheer volume of material a Tedford quarterback is expected to assimilate.
"There was so much information thrown in the first couple of weeks, it was almost too much to handle at once," Ayoob said. "And then, after a while, everything kind of started to make sense and fit together."
Ayoob, who said his comfort level with the offense had risen from 35 percent to 65 over the course of spring practice, looked at home in the pocket yesterday, beginning with his very first throw. Spotting sophomore Noah Smith wide-open on a streak pattern down the left sideline, Ayoob hit him in stride some 40 yards downfield. Smith waltzed in from there.
"You get that first play out of the way, and it's a 70-yard touchdown, it kind of relaxes you a little bit," Ayoob said. "So, yeah, it helped a lot."
Ayoob also hooked up with tight end Eric Beegun for a 49-yard catch-and-run down the middle, and deftly stepped up in the pocket before zinging a 25-yard pass to Sam DeSa.
Of course, with the third-string defense facing the first-string offense most of the day, such fireworks were in abundance.
Sophomore Marshawn Lynch, the heir apparent to running back J.J. Arrington, slipped out of an ankle tackle behind the line of scrimmage and burst for a 46-yard touchdown on the offense's first drive, part of his seven-carry, 101-yard day. Marcus O'Keith bulled over the goal line three times. Smith caught another scoring pass and blocked a punt. Walk-on LaReylle Cunningham grabbed a pair of TD catches.
All of those things bode well for Cal, but if the Bears are to match last year's No. 4 national ranking - the school's highest in more than half a century - they know they're going to need a big push from their starting quarterback, whoever it turns out to be.
"They're both great guys, they both stand out," Noah Smith said of Ayoob and Longshore. "It's going to be a great fall camp, to see who comes out on top."

Cal receiver Smith turns a few heads

TEDFORD `PLEASED' WITH HIS PROGRESS
By Jay HeaterKnight Ridder
Cal Coach Jeff Tedford kept waiting for one of his wide receivers to make his move during spring football camp. Noah Smith finally cooperated.
During Cal's Spring Game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Smith caught 70- and 29-yard touchdown passes, simply blowing past the Bears' secondary in the process.
Smith, a former track star out of Taft High School in Lakeview, has been consistent in creating separation between himself and the defensive backs. However, once free, Smith has been inconsistent catching the ball.
Now a sophomore, his questionable hands made him a long shot to become one of Cal's starters in the fall. But all that might have changed Saturday.
``I absolutely was pleased with Noah's performance,'' Tedford said after the scrimmage, which marks the final day of Cal's spring camp. ``He's been working very hard and he made some plays.
``He has shown that it is possible. Now he has to do it at a consistent level.''
With a 10.51 time under his belt in the 100 meters, Smith has the speed to stretch the field. But inconsistency and a broken wrist held him to two catches in 2004.
If he can copy his performance from Saturday, though, he could play a big role on the squad.
``I focused and put my best foot forward,'' said Smith, who also blocked a punt during the scrimmage. ``It all comes down to concentration and not worrying about anything else.''
Cal's offense dominated the scrimmage, but Tedford didn't match the two first-team units against each other. That made it easy pickings for running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed seven times for 101 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown.
Both quarterbacks, junior Joe Ayoob and redshirt freshman Nate Longshore, looked sharp. Ayoob was 7 of 9 passing for 192 yards and the 70-yard touchdown pass to Smith. Longshore completed 5 of 6 passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
``Joe did OK,'' Tedford said. ``If you have watched him from the first day of spring to now, there was a marked improvement. He looked comfortable and he did a nice job of getting the signals from the sideline and running the show.''
On the defensive side, Tedford praised the play of sophomore defensive end Phillip Mbakogu, who had consecutive sacks of Longshore, and junior linebacker Desmond Bishop. ``Phillip made some great plays off the edge,'' Tedford said. ``He really took a step forward. And Bishop played very well.''
Extra points
• Cornerback Daymeion Hughes had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
• Tedford said place-kicker Tom Schneider had a solid spring in which he showed off a much stronger leg.

Ayoob steps up in spring game Transfer from CCSF tosses 70-yard TD pass to Smith

Bruce Adams, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Quarterback Joseph Ayoob and wide receiver Noah Smith saved the best for last, playing key roles in the offensive explosion that marked Cal's annual spring game.
Ayoob was 7-for-9 for 192 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Smith.
Smith scored two touchdowns and blocked a punt on special teams.
Coach Jeff Tedford has been patiently waiting on both players.
Ayoob, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, has been sharing time with redshirt freshman Nathan Longshore -- with Tedford saying all spring that the competition to replace Aaron Rodgers wouldn't begin until fall camp.
Tedford has repeatedly praised Ayoob's potential, even as he sometimes struggled during the past four weeks of spring practice.
"He took a step forward today, no question about it," Tedford said.
"Hopefully, I showed coaches I can lead this team," Ayoob said.
Smith, a sophomore, had two catches for 16 yards last season, and has been valued for his potential and his speed (he was a standout sprinter in high school).
"He's been working very hard, but just hasn't made that many plays," Tedford said, noting he was "very, very pleased" with Smith's breakout performance Saturday. "It shows it's possible."
Smith will be one of the key returnees on a unit that will grow this fall with the addition of City College transfer Lavelle Hawkins and blue-chip high school recruit DeSean Jackson.
"It's going to be a very competitive fall camp," Smith said. "I'm looking forward to it."
The offense ruled in the controlled scrimmage Saturday because the starters on offense often lined up against reserves on defense.
"It's for the fans," Tedford said.
Those some 3,000 fans got plenty to whet their appetites for next season.
Tailback Marshawn Lynch carried seven times for 101 yards, including a 46- yard touchdown run, and Marcus O'Keith had six carries for 39 yards, including three touchdowns on short scampers.
Longshore was 5-for-6, throwing for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, end Phillip Mbakogu had two sacks and cornerback Harrison Smith had one interception, along with a blocked punt.
Cornerback Daymeion Hughes returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
Position changes: The Bears made two major position changes in spring camp.
Steve Levy, who came to Cal as a quarterback but was moved to fullback last year, is back at quarterback. He will play behind Longshore and Ayoob.
Brandon Hampton was moved from tailback to defensive back.
Injury report: Christopher Janeway, the team's projected long-snapper, left Saturday's scrimmage with a knee injury. Tedford said the extent of the injury wasn't immediately known, although he said it "may need some repair."
More of Marshawn: Lynch, still a freshman academically, said two things have changed for him at Cal.
For starters, he says he's doing much better in school than he thought he would, earning a B average in the fall semester. "I like school a lot," he said.
He's also getting bigger. He played at 205 pounds last season, but currently weighs 215 and wants to add even more bulk.
"It wouldn't be a bad idea to be 220 by fall," he said.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Spring practice was good lesson for Cal football

Bruce Adams, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005Much of the attention at Cal spring football practice has been on the breakaway running of tailback Marshawn Lynch and the trials of Nathan Longshore and Joseph Ayoob, the two quarterbacks who will compete to replace Aaron Rodgers.
But coach Jeff Tedford said the drills have gone well beyond the obvious.
"Everybody has improved this spring, in one phase or another," Tedford said.
The Bears mark the end of spring practice today with the annual spring game -- actually a controlled scrimmage -- at Memorial Stadium with as many as 5,000 fans expected to attend.
The challenge for Tedford and his staff has been to cram as much learning as possible into sessions spread over the last four weeks to prepare for fall camp early in August. The Bears will be young, with 26 letter winners gone from the team that went 10-2 last season.
Much is still to be determined at fall camp. Three regulars on the offensive line -- Andrew Cameron, Aaron Merz and Ryan O'Callaghan -- missed the spring while recovering from surgeries. And at wide receiver, two prize recruits, incoming freshman DeSean Jackson and City College of San Francisco transfer Lavelle Hawkins, won't be in school until the fall.
Some regulars, including center Marvin Philip and defensive back Donnie McCleskey, have been limited in practice. Fullback Chris Manderino broke his jaw two weeks ago and has been out, although he is expected to be fine by training camp.
And nothing is definitive in the search for a quarterback to replace Rodgers. Redshirt freshman Longshore and City College transfer Ayoob have shared the snaps in practice, and the starter won't be determined until camp. Tedford praised Longshore for his throwing arm. "His experience shows," he said. As for Ayoob, Tedford said he still has to become comfortable with the offense, although he shows "flashes" of great potential.
The emphasis has been on learning.
"We've been adding plays every single day," Tedford said. "It's a continual learning process."
While roles on the team generally are not determined until fall, several players have had outstanding springs.
Tedford singled out defensive tackle Albert Ma'afala, a transfer from Hawaii, linebacker Desmond Bishop, another City College transfer, and returning tight ends Eric Beegun and John Rust as players who have helped themselves this spring.
He said he was also pleased with the progress of the three JC transfers already enrolled at Cal -- Ayoob, Bishop and defensive end Nu'u Tafisi, from Mt. San Antonio College. "They've all improved," Tedford said.
In scrimmages, Lynch and Justin Forsett have made big plays at tailback and Bishop and redshirt freshman Worrell Williams have been noteworthy at linebacker.
On offense, the Bears need to replace the heralded Rodgers and other stalwarts, including tailback J.J. Arrington and wide receivers Geoff McArthur and Chase Lyman. On defense, Cal loses eight starters, including tackle Lorenzo Alexander, end Ryan Riddle, linebacker Wendell Hunter and safety Ryan Gutierrez.
The team will next report to camp in early August, the exact date pending possible NCAA rules on practice schedules.
Most of the players will continue regular conditioning programs and are expected to stay in Berkeley over the summer and take part in informal, unsupervised drills.
The Bears begin play Sept. 3 against Sacramento State at Memorial Stadium.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Don't believe Purdy or hype: Take Rodgers

By Tim Kawakami Mercury News
Sometimes, you have to close your eyes, put a cell-phone block on the murmuring NFL muckrakers and draft with your gut.
Hey, 49ers brain trust: Be brave. Be simple. Draft Aaron Rodgers.
OK, selecting Rodgers with Saturday's No. 1 overall pick -- or trading down just enough to still get the ultra-productive Cal quarterback -- might not be the trendy, ``SportsCenter''-sanctioned move.
But picking Rodgers, a red-hot commodity a week ago but now almost forgotten in the Alex Smith/Braylon Edwards hype parade, is the right move for today and especially for the next decade.
Because sometimes, all the latest gossip is wrong and you're right. (Akili Smith was a hot-gossip pick. So was Tony Mandarich.)
Sometimes, the choice immediately in front of you, the local kid dying to play for you, is the perfect choice.
Sometimes, you don't have to prove that you're as smart as everybody else; you shouldn't worry that Jon Gruden loves Smith or that SportsIllustrated.com has downgraded Rodgers 11 times in the past three minutes; sometimes, being wise means remembering how dumb everybody else can be.
Draft Rodgers.
Sometimes, yes, even Mark Purdy gets it wrong, especially now that he's distracted by his advanced film study for the upcoming 2006-07 NHL replacement-player allocation draft.
(His quasi-beloved, strike-breaking Los Tiburones de Substitucion?)
The Purd Man, whom I trust for restaurant recommendations and South Bay driving directions but not necessarily with $20 million draft decisions, says the 49ers should take Edwards, the Michigan receiver, or move down for some other non-quarterback.
But the 49ers desperately need a QB. You can't win unless you have something serviceable at QB, which the 49ers do not.
Now is the time to get one, when they have No. 1, and they'd better pray they're never on top of the draft board like this again soon. They can get a game-breaking receiver any old year, even this year in the second round.
So, in the QB market, you have Smith, who wants huge money and probably will stage a long holdout. You have everybody flocking to the lesser-armed Smith, who played in a gimmick offense at Utah and, despite his obvious brain power, will take at least a year to adapt to the NFL game.
If I thought Smith were the next Peyton Manning, or even Eli Manning, fine, take him, then hold tight. But Smith is more like the next Chad Pennington (high side) or Matt Hasselbeck (low side).
On the other hand, you have Rodgers, who won't hold out, who has an NFL arm and who, in my opinion, is a superior product to any of the previous Jeff Tedford pupils who have been drafted high and then produced low.
Don't get cute. Draft Rodgers.
Rodgers is like the Drew Brees of 2004 (high side) or the Drew Brees of 2003 (low side).
Sure, Rodgers' stock has fallen the past few days, but based on . . . what? Because his agent doesn't have NFL insiders on his speed-dial? Because Smith has had ESPN cameras following him this week? (In that case, maybe Barry Bonds reporter Pedro Gomez deserves a second-day look.)
Because Rodgers is cocky? (I thought that was good for a QB.) Because Rodgers is signable? (This is one time I will not accuse the 49ers of doing something just because it's cheaper.)
According to the rumors, Rodgers has dropped out of the top three; no, top five; no, maybe he'll plummet all the way out of the top 15, top 20, top 25; heck, is the World League supplemental draft still available?
No, no, no, no, I say. Stop the silliness. I know this is Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan's first draft -- and a nervous one it must be.
But the path is clear: Draft Rodgers.
OK, now that it's late in the column and probably only M.P. and John York have read this far, I can add my 49ers Ultimate First-round Draft Plan:
1. Go ahead, do what Purdy says, and draft Edwards No. 1.
2. Wait to see how far Rodgers drops; if he gets past No. 10, swoop in and trade next year's Nos. 1 and 2 picks for the slot that gets you Rodgers. Take him.
3. Trade this year's pick at the top of Round 2 for some desperate team's No. 1 next year.
VoilĂ , Edwards and Rodgers and a No. 1 next year, easy as can be.
And the only big question left is to find a power player to settle the NHL labor horrors.
My obvious answer:
Draft Purdy.

QB or not QB? Take your pick

Note from Blog editor: This is another reason why women shouldn't write about male sports. She actually thinks leinart would go number one, despite the fact that little Matt's throwing arm is ruined.

Although the idea is always seductive, selecting a quarterback in the first round carries certain risks.
By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff WriterPublished April 22, 2005
This is all Matt Leinart's fault.
Had the Southern California quarterback not elected to stay for his senior season, the NFL draft would have a clear-cut No. 1 player, a quarterback worthy of the risk.
Instead, it's a mess.
Teams at the top of the picking order are beating their playbooks against the wall trying to weigh a desperate need for the NFL's rarest commodity, a franchise quarterback, against the potential long-term damage if the pick goes kaput.
Most cannot resist.
Quarterbacks have been selected No. 1 overall for the past four years and six of the past seven. This year's prospects are Utah's Alex Smith and Cal's Aaron Rodgers, and while no one is calling them can't-miss quarterbacks, one could be the next Troy Aikman. The 49ers, who have the No. 1 pick Saturday, need a quarterback, but if he turns out to be a bust, it could take years to recover.
"Any time you're up at the top of the draft, you're in shark-infested waters because there's certainly no guarantee," said Browns first-year general manager Phil Savage, whose team has the No. 3 pick. "Quarterbacks are well-documented. It seems for every hit there's a big-time miss."
For every Donovan McNabb, an Akili Smith. For every Peyton Manning, a Ryan Leaf.
The list goes on.
"The history of drafting quarterbacks in the first round is a 30 percent hit," said first-year Dolphins coach Nick Saban, whose team has the No. 2 selection. "I don't know what the odds are on a craps table in Las Vegas, but I know about that one."
Evaluating quarterbacks is tricky business. According to Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, who orchestrated last year's draft-day trade that brought No. 1-pick Eli Manning from the Chargers to the Giants, this is no science.
"You like the big guy who can throw, has a quick release and decent feet," Accorsi said. "But ultimately, it's got to be an instinct that you have for him that he's got - you can call it anything you want, intangible, magic - but he's got to have some quality that you feel.
"The quarterback position is so different. Athleticism is important, but to me the magic is more important. I drafted (Bernie) Kosar; he's almost a reject as far as an athlete, but he had something about him and was very successful."
Among this year's crop, experts agree Smith and Rodgers, both of whom are college juniors, have NFL-worthy physical tools. Experts disagree about who rates higher.
Smith, who turns 21 on May 7, is taller at 6 feet 4, 217 pounds, but does not have a laser-like arm and did not run a pro-style offense at Utah, where coach Urban Meyer put him in the shotgun. Smith is mobile, able to avoid the pass rush and gain yards on the ground. Beyond athletic ability, he considers intelligence his greatest asset.
"If you look at the NFL today, especially the quarterback position, you've got to be smart," said Smith, whose uncle, John L. Smith, is the coach at Michigan State. "You've got to have the intangibles. You can't be just athletic. ... It's mental as much as anything else. I think I'll be able to adjust very, very quickly to the NFL, especially mentally."
Rodgers, who grew up in California a 49ers fan, is a tad short (6-2, 223), but has a strong, accurate arm. He played his freshman season at Butte Junior College, hardly a breeding ground for NFL quarterbacks, but played at Cal for coach Jeff Tedford, who has seen five of his star pupils selected in the first round the past 11 years.
Ironically, Rodgers' association with Tedford also is a strike against him. Among the highly regarded quarterbacks to matriculate in Tedford's pro-style West Coast offense - Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller - none has risen to NFL stardom.
"I'm not any of those guys," said Rodgers, 21, who wore a tattered Joe Montana T-shirt under his Cal jersey. "I'm a different guy, so I'm not too worried about that. I think my numbers speak for themselves. I did something not a lot of people expected me to do. I came in from a (junior college) and comprehended his offense in one year and mastered it in two years."
In two seasons with the Bears, Rodgers completed 63.8 percent of his passes with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Last season, he tied an NCAA single-game record with 23 consecutive completions in a loss to eventual national champ Southern Cal.
Because the draft lacks a clear No. 1 pick, the first several picks will be difficult to predict. The 49ers and Dolphins, teams with more needs than draft choices, might trade down. Smith and Rodgers might be the first two players chosen, or one might fall to the Bucs at No. 5.
Citing a similar situation when the Bucs drafted Dilfer at No. 6 in 1994, college scouting director Ruston Webster said Tampa Bay will be ready for anything.
Or anyone.
"I think the biggest thing you need to do is if you've can't trade up or trade down, you have to be prepared for whoever drops to you," Webster said. "All of those guys who may be considered to go ahead of us, we are preparing like they are going to be there. You don't know what's going to happen."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bears predict a bullish market

By Jay Heater
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
The magic number for Cal in this weekend's NFL draft is seven.
In 1977, six Cal players were drafted, and that remains a team record.
This year's crop has a chance to match the 1977 draft, and perhaps even surpass it. Having six or seven players drafted would make Cal coach Jeff Tedford very happy, since it would become one of his best recruiting tools.
Stanford also could find itself with a rather solid draft. Despite Stanford's 4-7 record in 2004, at least four Cardinal players should be plucked on Saturday and Sunday.
Both teams could have first-round picks. Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to be one of the top five players taken, and Stanford tight end Alex Smith could go near the bottom of the first round.
Cal tailback J.J. Arrington, the nation's leading rusher in 2004, and Stanford free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe also look like first-day picks. Rounds 1-3 are Saturday. The last four rounds are Sunday.
Cal should separate itself from Stanford on the second day of the draft when Bears defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander, defensive end Ryan Riddle, tight end Garrett Cross and wide receiver Chase Lyman should draw attention.
With Bears wide receiver Geoff McArthur, the team's all-time leader in catches and receiving yards, and all-Pac-10 rover Matt Giordano also potential picks, the record could fall.
"During the season, you never really stop to think about how many players we could have playing in the NFL," Rodgers said. "But now I definitely feel we could have at least five guys drafted and a number of other guys who can play in the NFL by going as free agents."
Lyman said he never noticed just how many potential NFL players were on board until the pro day workouts at Cal last month.
"You practice with the same guys every day and you never know how high the level of competition might be," Lyman said. "But once I began working out with guys from other schools, I could see that we did have a lot of talent."
Although Lyman missed all but four games as a senior season due to knee surgery, he is expected to be drafted in the middle to late rounds.
"I probably won't go the first day," he said. "I am looking at rounds five to seven. But whomever drafts me is going to think they got a steal. I just need an opportunity to show what I can do. The main question is the medical stuff and making sure they know my knee is fine."
Riddle has a different kind of question to answer, concerning what position he will play in the NFL.
"I'm getting a 50-50 kind of thing," Riddle said. "Some teams like me at linebacker. Some feel I can play defensive line. I feel linebacker makes a lot of sense because I have the speed for it. I might be raw, but I have the athletic ability."
Whether Riddle and Cross get drafted might determine whether Cal ties the 1977 draft of six selections. Both are considered a bit undersized. Even so, Riddle is confident they will be selected Sunday.
"I had just been thinking about how many great seniors we had in this class," Riddle said. "No wonder we had the success that we did."
Cross agreed. "I never really thought about our talent in terms of the NFL," he said. "But now when you look at it and see how many guys will get drafted or get into a camp, it's impressive."
While Cal's haul of potential draftees exemplifies why the Bears had a successful season (10-2), Stanford's draft number could indicate a team that underachieved.
"I definitely saw the talent around me," Smith said. "It was something that we wanted to take advantage of having. I still think my senior class was one of the best recruiting classes ever at Stanford. We've already had a couple of players leave early for the NFL, and I could see us having four or more guys getting drafted (this weekend)."
Stanford's poor season probably didn't hurt Smith's draft status, but it did make him worry about his decision to remain in college for his senior year.
"It's always hard when your team is struggling," Smith said. "You are not getting the notoriety and you're not getting the attention you deserve. You're not on TV, so it's hard for people to get a grasp on who you are.
"I thought about coming out for the draft after my junior year, but I wanted to fine tune and solidify my game. And, most definitely, I think I helped my stock coming back. Now I'm just wishing for the best. It's weird because you never know what will happen. Everybody tries to do mock drafts, but they really have no idea. I'm trying not to think about it much."
Detroit and Tampa Bay had Smith fly in for interviews, so those are two teams that are obviously interested.
Rodgers isn't sure where he will end up, either, despite being considered one of the top five selections in the draft.
"I am excited, but at the same time I'm ready for it to be over," Rodgers said Tuesday. "It's been a lot of fun, but there's also so many rumors."