Observations from Cal Scrimmage

Greg RichardsonCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2008

Run offense

The offense looked good running the ball. Until the end of the scrimmage, when the offensive line was made up of second- and third-stringers, they were able to get significant push off the ball all day.  Running inside was an easy four to five yards a pop, while going outside almost routinely created space for the tailbacks to break off big plays.

I was particularly impressed with the run blocking of Chris Guarnero, the sophomore center who looks to have made the shift to guard as he started with the first team on the left side and Mitchell Schwartz, the mammoth right tackle.

To my eye, all of the TEs were effective in run blocking, including Cameron Morrah, who had previously been described as an indifferent blocker.  Jahvid Best did not participate as he was nursing a minor leg injury of some sort.

Shane Vereen got the start and looked solid, although I have to believe he is still not 100 percent. While far from pedestrian in his cuts and acceleration, Shane was noticeably less explosive.

Tracy Slocum was very effective as well.  Slocum runs with great body lean and a low center of gravity, making him tough to tackle.  

Passing Offense
This was a mixed bag.  Protection was decent but certainly not up to the standards of recent Cal offensive lines.   The second team line especially struggled to contain the rush and the running backs had their share of problems with blitzing linebackers.
All in all, the QBs (even running with the second- and third-string offensive lines) were not overly harried.  Neither Longshore or Riley played particularly well as both spent time with the first and second teams.
Nate Longshore had good command of the huddle, stepped up nicely against the rush, and checked off well on blitzes.   However, he missed several wide open receivers with high throws.
Riley wasn't as consistent with his ball, as a few fluttered on him.  He did thread the needle on several throws, but he struggled to put together back-to-back positive plays.
There were few big plays, with the best being Brock Mansion's deep sideline throw to Marvin Jones.   The receivers had a positive day, insofar as I can't remember one ball being dropped in the scrimmage that wasn't forced out by a defender's hit.
Against man coverage, there wasn't a lot of separation although Sean Young proved he understands how to find the soft spots against the zone repeatedly.   The TEs had a nice day with Morrah, Smith and Anthony Miller all making nice catches on seam routes.
All in all, I suspect this part of Cal's offense to take some time to come together. Getting Mike Tepper back on the offensive line will help with protection as will more time for guys like Schwartz and Guarnero to gel with their linemates.

This could continue to be a big weakness this year.  Freshman David Seawright was more impressive on field goal tries than Jordan Kay but neither were stellar.  Kay gets the ball deeper on kickoffs, but Seawright has the bigger leg.  David needs to hit the ball more consistently to get his kickoffs both high and deep.

Run Defense
This was not a good day for the Bears front seven against the run.  As mentioned above, the offensive line consistently got good push on the defense and caught the outside linebackers blitzing on several plays to spring runs to the outside.
Eddie Young had a rough day, as did whoever the Bears had at NT.  Derrick Hill eventually limped off the field, and Kendrick Payne was very slow to get up after several plays late in the scrimmage.
Worrell Williams missed the scrimmage.  After Alex Mack was asked to take off the rest of the day, the run defense did get better but only slightly as the offensive line was still getting good push.   

Pass Defense
This was a bright spot for Cal.  Darian Hagen started opposite Syd Quan Thompson (who left the scrimmage early but I did not see if it was injury-related) and played well.
Bernard Hicks had a good day playing the ball in the air, and coverage was tight.  The defense struggled a bit with underneath passes in the two deep zone and they were aided by some missed throws from the QBs.
The pass rush was solid with good push being brought by Owusu, Davis and Jordan as well as blitzing linebackers.   

Bryan Anger is a rainmaker.  The guy absolutely kills the football.  You needed a sun dial to time his hang time.  Anger needs work in getting the ball off quicker, and he wasn't super consistent with his ball striking, but this guy is special.

Coverage teams
For the most part, kickoff coverage was very solid.  Punt coverage was less so.

I saw a lot of younger players who were quite impressive on both sides of the ball. Mychal Kendricks is very quick and aggressive, and athletically, he jumps out at you.  DJ Holt is HUGE, and he is not afraid of contact.  Both of these young players should be future stars at LB.
Robert Mullins is an undersized linebacker but he has a nose for the ball.  Ernest Owusu was very effective rushing the passer and was not easily pushed around on running plays.  
Marvin Jones has great size and fabulous hands.  He's not as explosive as Boateng coming in and out of cuts, but he has a knack for getting open.
Brock Mansion looked good and made some nice throws and several other players stood out for me including Justin Cheadle (powerful run blocker), Charles Satchell (very smooth and explosive), DJ Campbell, Dominic Galas, Cameron Jordan (He's HUGE), LaReylle Cunningham (he and Young were the most effective WRs) and Anthony Miller (blocking and catching the ball).
I wanted to see who the obvious playmakers and leaders were on the field.  Watching how they approached drills, the way they communicated with teammates, their play in the scrimmage,  Rulon Davis and Bernard Hicks stood out to me on defense and Alex Mack and Nate Longshore on offense.   

Overall impressions
This wasn't the most intense scrimmage that I've seen, and it lacked some of the big plays and hard hitting of scrimmages in past years.
The injury list was long and that certainly contributed, but the challenges with the run defense and our passing offense will leave Tedford and his staff with plenty of work to do with the remaining time in camp.