Key Position Battles: Post Spring
Cal wrapped up their spring practice session on Saturday with the spring game, with 15 practices in the books before the Bears went on spring break. Cal didn't have too many open positions going into Spring Ball, but a few key spots have been either filled or in a more certain position than they were a month ago.
One big question entering the spring was who would be Chase Garbers' backup, with Devon Modster in the transfer portal. With two stellar scrimmages and two more QBs in the transfer portal, Zach Johnson has the edge for the backup quarterback spot right now. Johnson did throw the sole interception of Saturday's live period on a fantastic play by Miles Williams, but he had otherwise earned his spot throughout the spring.
Johnson might have been the least heralded of the three scholarship quarterbacks behind Garbers this spring, with Cal being his sole FBS offer (along with an offer from William and Mary), but he has a strong arm, good mobility, and has adapted to Bill Musgrave's offense as well as anyone. He'll continue to compete with Robby Rowell and Kai Millner over the summer for the spot, but he has the inside track.
With Jake Curhan headed to the NFL, the Bears need a new right tackle, and it appears that Valentino Daltoso will slide into that spot as the main starter at the position. Daltoso, one of the Bears' super-seniors, has started games at both guard spots and left tackle, and he'll be called on for his fourth different position at Cal (one he has briefly played in-game in 2017).
Daltoso may take the lion's share of the reps at the position, but multiple linemen, including Daltoso, have noted that they will use more than just the five starters at the spot. Ben Coleman, Brayden Rohme, and Ender Aguilar all took reps at right tackle during the spring, and there will likely be some division of reps going forward.
With Zeandae Johnson off to the pros as well, his spot would be a priority for the Bears to fill. Brett Johnson and JH Tevis will play in the role Zeandae Johnson had, but a couple more Bears have moved themselves into more playing time on the line. Stanley McKenzie and Ricky Correia showed Saturday that they can be effective in more than just a nose role. Due to a rash of injuries along the defensive line, McKenzie and Correia were used in the 'elephant package,' a nickel defense with the two noses as defensive tackles.
In addition, Akili Calhoun should also have some sort of role, despite being relatively raw on the defensive line. He has the size and power to cover up for some mistakes as he adjusts to another level of competition. The Bears will also benefit from the arrival of Derek Wilkins and Myles Williams this summer to bolster the position.
Cal's defense will be missing Cam Bynum, who had started the previous 42 games for them, but they returned Josh Drayden and Chigozie Anusiem, who will man the corner spots for the Bears in 2021. Drayden, a super-senior, has the chance to play in more games than any other Cal football player in the history of the programs.
In addition to those two, Collin Gamble appears to be the third cornerback who will come in the game, at both nickel and on the outside. The second year defensive back flashed for the Bears throughout camp, as defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon noted his ability in making a play every day that made heads turn.