Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Daily Cal:

Post-Lynch Era Begins With Spring Practice

Stephen Chen

Senior Justin Forsett was looking ahead to the Cal football team’s annual spring practice last week as Marshawn Lynch worked out in front of NFL scouts at Memorial Stadium.  “He’s about to be making a lot of money,” Forsett said of Lynch. “But he’s still level-headed. I’m happy for him.”  Forsett should be pretty happy himself because Lynch’s early departure means a prime opportunity for him.  The senior has served as Lynch’s primary backup for the past two seasons for the Bears, but Forsett will come into this season’s month-long spring ball—which began Monday—as Cal’s top tailback, a season after piling up 626 rushing yards. Forsett is atop in the country in career yards per carry among backs with over 260 attempts.  “He's been a very dependable guy for us,” Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. “Hopefully we can keep him healthy and he can play a major role.”

Forsett’s track record suggests the Bears can expect similar explosiveness in the backfield in the fall, but the team may benefit from his leadership and experience as well.

“I’ve been more of a leader by example these past years,” Forsett said. “Now I have to be more vocal, and I’m ok with that. It’s going to be fun.”  Despite returning 48 letterwinners—16 of them starters—Cal comes into the spring with a clear objective of finding the right combination of players in several positions. “I don’t think we have a full group that is battle tested,” Tedford said. “You have players here and there, but as far as a full group, it’ll be a big spring for that.”  Freshmen Charles Amadi and Darian Hagan, and sophomore Brandon Jones will compete to fill the void left by All-American Daymeion Hughes at cornerback.  The coaching staff will also evaluate the team’s top 8-10 candidates for the offensive line, which has spots open after the graduation of Andrew Cameron and Erik Robertson.

One battle that may be particularly interesting is the competition between freshman Kevin Riley and sophomore Kyle Reed as Nate Longshore’s backup at quarterback. Tedford said a decision will not be made until the fall, but both quarterbacks will have a lot to prove this spring.  “They’re both talented physically,” Tedford said. “It really comes down to their ability to run the offense.”  The Bears are more settled on special teams this season, considering they came into last spring without a punter. Tedford said it will be just as important for the team to find backups for kicker Tom Schneider and punter Andrew Larson, who are both entering their senior years.  Cal will hold a total of 15 practices during spring camp, which will conclude April 14. The Bears’ first game is Sept. 1 against Tennessee.  “Spring is very physical, its very rough,” Tedford said. “We put a lot of stuff in. Our philosophy is to saturate to the whole playbook. Most of the evaluation comes right now, so that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

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