Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oakland Tribune: Cal's roster rounding into shape

After scrimmage, Tedford praises QB Ayoob, has better picture of his depth chart

By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER

BERKELEYThe rain clouds refused to let up Saturday at Memorial Stadium, but Cal's football picture suddenly became clearer.   The skies opened up on a Bears scrimmage, dampening the turf but failing to prevent a rash of individual highlights, and a more definitive sense of which players will be starters by autumn.  Lavelle Hawkins and Justin Forsett scored on 90-yard kickoff returns, and DeSean Jackson on a 64-yard punt runback. Steve Levy hit Hawkins for a 56-yard touchdown. Nate Longshore found Jackson for 45 yards. And Joe Ayoob and Noah Smith teamed up on 41- and 27-yard completions, the latter a touchdown.  Afterward, coach Jeff Tedford praised Ayoob for playing his way back into the quarterback picture after being demoted before the 2005 Big Game.

"They all have their moments," Tedford said of quarterbacks Longshore, Ayoob, Levy and Kyle Reed. "I think Joe has played extremely well. You can tell that his experience from last season is carrying over. He's throwing the ball a lot sharper."  Tedford added that freshman redshirt Reed's inexperience is hampering him, and by next Saturday's end of spring practice, Tedford will align his 1-through-4 quarterback rotation heading into fall camp.  Cal's new spread attack, which could be 25 percent of Cal's offense, favors a mobile quarterback. Longshore is the least mobile of the four candidates, compounded by his broken leg last season. Tedford said by fall camp Longshore will be healthier and thus quicker.

Tedford then laid out the rest of his offense: running back Marshawn Lynch, fullback Byron Storer, tight end Craig Stevens, tackles Scott Smith and Mike Tepper (who sat out Saturday with a slight concussion), guards Erik Robertson and Noris Malele, center Alex Mack, and wide receivers Jackson and Robert Jordan.  Sophomore Will Ta'ufo'ou is pushing Storer, a senior, and when Cal utilizes four wideouts, Hawkins and David Gray will join Jackson and Jordan.  Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will have a bigger problem picking a starting lineup, because he has more options. Thus, more people will play.  At the ends, Gregory named Nu'u Tafisi, Abu Ma'afala, Fahim Abd Allah, Cody Jones and Tad Smith. Philip Mbakogu is rehabilitating this spring. At the tackles, there are Brandon Mebane, Matt Malele,  Mika Kane and Tyson Alualu.

Cal's strongest position, offense or defense, is linebacker. Desmond and Greg Van Hoesen share the middle spot, with Worrell Williams and Zack Follett at one outside position and springtime surprise Justin Moye at the other outside spot. He's backed by Mickey Pimentel, who's also rehabbing this spring. Anthony Felder also figures on the outside. Seniors Tim Mixon and Daymeion Hughes return at cornerback, supported by Syd'Quan Thompson and Randy Bundy. Thomas DeCoud and Bernard Hicks are the free safeties, with Brandon Hampton and Robert Peele at the strong safety, or rover, position. "Depth helps the competition, everybody gets better, all that," Gregory said. "Our best defense was two years ago. If we can be at that level, that would be awesome. And this year's defense is a little deeper than '04." Kicker Tom Schneider returns, and the punter should be Andrew Larson, who transfers in from Saddleback Community College (Mission Viejo) in the fall.


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