Former California center Alex Mack was again on hand today as the Bears spent their first Saturday practice not in the public eye. The team still ran through scrimmage drills during the closed portion of practice, however, complete with officials.
"It's for everything," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "It's for our alignments, what's holding, what's not, all the things that you need to work on."
With Mack in attendance, the focus was, of course, on the offensive line, and particularly the youth and inexperience on that unit with veterans Mitchell Schwartz and Dominic Galas out for the spring.
"If we're just out there holding, they get away with it," Tedford said. "Here, it's going to be seen, so it gets them into good habits. That's what they're here for: to make sure that we create good habits."
Redshirt freshman Alejandro Crosthwaite - who had been running with the second unit on the interior - was sidelined today, as were Ross Bostock, linebacker Lucas King (who had seen some time with the first unit) and senior receiver Coleman Edmond, still out with a tweaked muscle.
"We played (Michael) Calvin, and I wish Coleman wasn't hurt, because he's in that mix too," Tedford said. "Hopefully he gets back next week, because he's missed most of spring, now."
"We've made a lot of progress, and I think as we get down to this last week, it shows. We're starting to practice fast and get the picture. We starting to get more sound in our assignments, and that's a big thing. We're trying to get a little more healthy for Saturday."
Tedford said that only a few positional battles have become clear during the course of spring ball, and that the fact that Galas has been sidelined has allowed both Mark Brazinski and Chris Adcock to establish some depth at the position.
"Probably in a couple of positions. We have those two young freshmen as centers, those guys are pretty close," Tedford said. "The guys that have really stood out are guys like Michael Coley, who can step in there as the nickel back. He's done a nice job. We just have to continue to look at everything."
With the emergence of Coley, as well as Cecil Whiteside and David Wilkerson at the outside linebacker spot, several other redshirt freshmen from the 2010 recruiting class have made their moves as well.
"Wilkerson is doing really well, Chris McCain is doing well, Nick Forbes has made a lot of plays, so all of those young guys really have a lot of potential," Tedford said. "I've been very pleased with the young defensive guys. Gabe King's done a nice job too. He's been healthy. Had a little bump today, but ran sprints at the end just fine. I saw him limping in practice a little bit, but he ran well."
Junior quarterback Zach Maynard continued to run with the ones, as he has for the last several practices, and Tedford said that there may be a tentative pecking order at the signal-caller slot by the end of spring.
"I think we may, I think we may," Tedford said. "I think in the middle of next week. We'll continue to evaluate, but every day there's more clarity."
Maynard's time with the first unit has been mainly for him to soak up as much of the offense as he can as fast as possible.
"It's for him to get some reps with the ones, and to give him more reps where he's more used to the offense, and that's because he's the new guy," Tedford said.
Redshirt freshman Austin Hinder has also shown up well throughout spring, particularly in positional drills. It appears as though the young QB just needs to put it all together when the whistle blows.
"He's still very young, and so right now, he hasn't been getting a lot of reps lately, just because he's still learning so much," Tedford said. "Like I said going in, we cannot give six quarterbacks reps. We just can't do it. The three have been getting their reps, and then Zach and Brock (Mansion) and (Allan) Bridgford."
Cal luminary Hardy Nickerson was in attendance, as his son -- Hardy Nickerson, Jr. -- continues to be courted by several programs as a linebacker, including the Bears.
"It's always good to see guys like that out here," Tedford said. "Jahvid (Best) has been here working out, Alex, it's always great to see those guys come back. Alex has been here for a week, now, comes out to practice every day and the guys get inspired by that. Makes me cry a little bit: how bad would I like to have him? It's great to see those guys, and it's nice when they get a chance to come back."