Sunday, April 24, 2005

Cal receiver Smith turns a few heads

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.

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