We’ll wrap up Cal’s spring session in much the same fashion as previous Hotline items on San Jose State and Stanford — that is, with a tilt away from the spring scrimmage itself and toward the sweep of the four-week session.
First off … and let’s be completely clear on this matter … the 15 spring practices for the Bears constitute a fraction of the great rebuild facing Justin Wilcox and his staff.
If we set the bar the level necessary to compete for the North title, then the Bears have no quarterback, no offensive line, no defense, new playbooks, new schemes, new positions and are several recruiting cycles away from being fully stocked.
That said, the spring session was a success in at least one regard: The Bears whittled the quarterback competition to two.
When it comes to meaningful practice reps, three QBs is difficult and four is unworkable.
That Chase Forrest and Ross Bowers separated from Max Gilliam and Victor Viramontes and received the bulk of the reps for the final stretch of spring was about the best development possible.
How it plays out through camp, I have not a clue. Most staffs prefer to name a Week One starter 10 days before the opener. But that might be possible with Bowers and Forrest.
*** One of my favorite questions — either at the end of spring practice or the close of training camp — is to ask coordinators if anything transpired that challenged preconceived notions: What player/unit forced them to re-think what they thought they knew.
It’s always interesting to see where they take the question …
Here’s offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin:
“The fact that these guys can handle some info. You come to a place like this, and the things they retain in terms of what you want to put in offensively … That excites me, the feeling you can correct things once and get them corrected. I’m not saying that’s all the time, but it excites me because you feel like, ‘OK, we’re not starting over at fall camp. These guys are going to retain stuff, continue to grow, going into practice 16.”’
Practice 16, of course, is the first workout of training camp, and the fact that the Bears might very well pick up where they’re leaving off — or close to it — will be invaluable as they get prepare for North Carolina with so much information to assimilate.
That’s particular important up front, with the revamped offensive line.
“They can take the info and apply it,” Baldwin added. “It allows us to do things … you feel like you’ve progressed.”
For what it’s worth (probably not very much), here’s the OL from the first series of Saturday’s scrimmage:
RT: Jake Curhan
RG: Dwayne Wallace
C: Addison Ooms
LG: Kamryn Bennett
LT: Patrick Mekari
*** DeRuyter on the same question:
“We’re still trying to evaluate if we’re better in a four-man front or three-man front and do the pieces we have fit where eventually we want to go. It’s been really good to get into both fronts. We have to spend time evaluating which front gets our best players on the field and what they execute the best.”
The three-man front is the presumptive base defense and allows Cal to move several down linemen (from the Dykes-era 4-3) to the edge positions, which are so vital to generating pressure.
The four-man front is the Bears’ nickel package (4-2-5), with the defensive ends standing up.
The Bears were 105th nationally in sacks per game last season. On the lengthy list of needs, edge pressure is near the top.
To that end, junior college transfer Alex Funches, the Camerons (Goode and Saffle) and Russell Ude showed promise during the spring.
“All are potential guys that can give us a presence off the edge,” DeRuyter said.
On Ude, the former touted recruit yet to make an impact, he noted:
“He’s got a tool set that lends itself to playing (outside linebacker) from a physical standpoint. Now we’ve got to get him to where instincts and coverage are not concerns, and that take reps. I like the edge presence. He’s a physical player, he’s got a good pass rush, he’s got some hips. For most of spring, he’s done a nice job.”
Why do I get the sense this coaching staff will make more of the defensive personnel than its predecessor did ….
*** True freshman Elijah Hicks, who enrolled over the winter, was terrific in the scrimmage, with several pass break-ups and an interception.
Far more telling was that Hicks’ performance mirrored his play across four weeks of practice.
“Since the day he’s been here, he’s jumped right in,” Wilcox said. “It hasn’t been too big for him.”
Junior safety Quentin Tartabull also made a lasting impression.
DeRuyter: “He has seized a position by making plays.”
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** The Hotline podcast is available on iTunes.