Monday, March 12, 2007

Contra Costa Times: For Cal football, youth will be served

By Jay Heater
After capping a successful 2006 season by crushing Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl, Cal starts from scratch again today when spring football camp opens at Memorial Stadium. Practices are closed to the public, but the spring game April 14 is open. Coach Jeff Tedford realizes he has several holes to fill if the Bears, 10-3 last season, expect to challenge for the Pacific-10 Conference title. One of the most daunting is finding a cornerback to replace Daymeion Hughes, who will be playing in the NFL. Sophomore Syd'Quan Thompson will start at one corner, but the other spot is wide open. Leading the list of contenders is freshman Darian Hagan, whose situation is similar to Thompson's last year - Hagan has tremendous talent but no experience.
"You look at Darian change direction and you just go, whoa," defensive-backs coach R. Todd Littlejohn said. "He also has a cockiness that he brings to the position. He feels that you can't beat him. I like that. He moves so well, changes direction, and he can jump."
Hagan will compete against sophomore Jesse Brooks and freshmen Charles Amadi and Brandon Jones. On the defensive line, Cal needs an end and some depth. Freshmen defensive tackles Mike Costanzo and Derrick Hill are coming off knee operations, so their development will be key. Defensive-line coach Ken Delgado will be working to develop junior end Rulon Davis, a 6-foot-5, 275-pounder who has great potential but is technically raw. Tedford said he has to find backups at quarterback (sophomore Kyle Reed and freshman Kevin Riley are the main competitors) and tailback (freshmen James Montgomery and Tracy Slocum are the main contenders).
Starting quarterback Nate Longshore had a solid season in 2006 but needs to lose weight and work on his mobility, Tedford said. "He was pushing over 240 pounds at the end of last season," Tedford said. "He is a big person and he has to watch it. I want to keep Nate in the 225 to 230 range." Tailback Justin Forsett, who inherited the No.1 job after Marshawn Lynch's decision to enter the NFL draft, must prove he can be an every-down back. "Justin just needs to keep doing what he's doing," Tedford said. "He has been a very dependable guy for us. He will play a major role." As always in the spring, the coaches will tinker with possible changes. All-Pac-10 center Alex Mack will play some left tackle, and free safety Bernard Hicks might try his hand at rover. Mack's position might depend on the development of junior tackle Mike Tepper or freshman center Chris Guarnero.

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