Correction: This story originally stated that the April 23 practice at Contra Costa College is open. Actually the practice that day is not open, and never has been. BearTerritory regrets the error.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- While last Saturday's open scrimmage in Sacramento undoubtedly belonged to the offense, today at San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian, it was the defense that won the day in what was deemed by California head coach Jeff Tedford to be a step back for the Bears.
"I expect us to be much less sloppy," Tedford said. "Things have been improving every day, and we really had a good week of practice this week. Today was not very good at all."
The offense committed several costly penalties, particularly the offensive line, and centers Mark Brazinski and Chris Adcock each had miscues on snaps, with three coming from Brazinski during 11-on-11s and one coming from Adcock during full-team goal line work.
"We had balls on the ground with snaps, false starts and things like that," Tedford said. "We're trying some guys up front at different positions, there's been more stuff put in and it looked like they weren't really comfortable with what they were doing.
"(Brazinski) has been taking all the first-team snaps and Adcock has been taking all the second team, because Galas is out for the spring, obviously, but that was unusual today."
With guard Brian Schwenke on a field trip and injuries to Mitchell Schwartz and Dominic Galas, there was a bit of shuffling on the offensive front, with 6-foot-7 junior transfer Matt Williams being moved to the right tackle spot and junior Matt Summers-Gavin sliding over to the left guard spot with the first-team offense.
Junior quarterback Zach Maynard, though, was able to redeem Brazinski on two of his three bad snaps, managing a completion on the first after a one-handed save and a five-yard touchdown run on the last, as he scampered for 9 net yards and a score on three carries.
"That's a broken play, so it was a nice job by him to make something happen," Tedford said. "The snaps have been good all spring, and, for whatever reason, today, we had too many balls on the ground. The key is to stay out of long-yardage situations, and bad snaps and false starts and holding put you in long-yardage situations. It's a lesson learned of how important those things are, to stay out of long-yardage situations."
Maynard lost 13 yards on a bad snap by Brazinski early in 11-on-11s, which he had to chase down and cover up.
"They go up against the defense every day, and I haven't seen that many bad snaps all spring," Tedford said. "It was a bad day, where the ball was on the ground probably four or five times."
While he had his struggles, Brazinski was stout in run blocking, keeping Austin Clark and Keni Kaufusi at bay for most of the day.
Maynard -- who transferred last fall from Buffalo -- took the majority of first-team snaps on Saturday, going 8-for-14 through the air for 90 yards, an interception and a touchdown while only getting sacked once.
"The atmosphere here is a lot different, the weather is a lot different," he smiled. "People are all about us here, where in Buffalo it was all about the Bills. I like it a lot out here in California, and just getting the chance to work with Coach Tedford and play for him is just a blessing."
Maynard did make a few questionable decisions, saw some of his balls float a bit and threw a few butterflies even on completions. Maynard's speed and athleticism allowed him several opportunities to make something happen on broken plays, but he had overall mixed results.
"I kind of feel like I took a step back today," Maynard said. "During this week's practices, I did pretty well, up until now in the scrimmage, probably because we're live and the speed is going a lot faster, and you've got to think a lot quicker."
During the middle portion of 11-on-11s, Maynard gained five yards up the middle, and he also came up with a 12-yard first-down run up the left side on third down.
Earlier in 11-on-11s, Maynard escaped pressure and scrambled right, delivering a slow lob to senior wide receiver Marvin Jones which was ripe for the picking, and was pulled down by cornerback Marc Anthony for a 10-yard interception return.
On his next drive, again with the pocket collapsing around him, Maynard stepped up and shot-put a floater 40 yards downfield to Jones, but the pass was well short and nearly intercepted again by Anthony.
In his second turn at the helm, Maynard rolled left and dumped a short pass to tight end Anthony Miller, but the low desperation throw seemed to catch the senior by surprise, and it fell incomplete. Throughout the day, Anthony provided some lock-down coverage and was very physical in run support, as well.
"Marc Anthony's been solid," Tedford said. "He had a forced ball today that he picked off and did a nice job breaking on that ball. He drove real nice on the wide screen when the linemen didn't get out there in front in time, so he wasn't blocked. You expect him to make that play when he's not blocked. There's a lot of little detail, and we have so much offense that we're putting in right now, that it's a lot different."
Maynard's speed kept the defense honest on several plays, and he showed a lot of poise during handoffs, particularly on one dish to junior Isi Sofele which fooled just about everyone on the field and off, resulting in a gain of three up the middle. That being said, Maynard did botch several pitches.
"You've just got to make your reads, the two shell, the one shell, pick up the blitz and see where it's coming from, try to stay poised in the pocket and do what you can," Maynard said. "If you can throw it, throw it, if not, try to run or throw it out of bounds."
On one heady play, Maynard checked down, rolled right and could not find an open receiver or a running lane, so he quickly tossed the ball high and out of bounds on the right side.
There was, of course, the security blanket of all security blankets out wide for Maynard: half-brother Keenan Allen. On what is becoming a trademark play for the dynamic sophomore wide receiver, Maynard hit his younger sibling on a five-yard hitch underneath, and after several broken tackles, Allen came up with a 12-yard gain. During goal-line situations, Maynard delivered a perfect touch pass to Allen in the back right corner of the end zone for a touchdown over Anthony.
"That's the dream aspect of it," Maynard laughed. "When the play breaks down, you've just got to do what you can, and we have that connection, obviously, and when I can get it to him, I know he's going to do something."
Senior signal-caller Brock Mansion played with both the first and second teams, went 3-for-4 passing for 17 yards. Mansion looked strong and confident, and on one play gained a handful of yards on a draw and a bootleg, though it looked as if he could have gained at least three more yards. Mansion was sacked twice by freshman Cecil Whiteside, who was a big presence in the backfield for most of the afternoon.
With the Cal offense set up at the 20-yard line, the 6-foot-3, 229-pounder out of Newport Beach, Calif., tagged Mansion on two straight plays. Later on in the day, Whiteside came up with another sack against sophomore Allan Bridgford on a third-down play at the defense's 37-yard line.
"Nobody blocked him, so I hope he's making the sack of nobody blocks him," Tedford laughed. "There was bad communication up front, the tackle comes down and he comes off the edge clean. We moved Williams from the left side to the right side, you take some of those guys out of there and start moving guys around, it's a learning experience."
Both Lucas King and Ernest Owusu had one sack apiece. Other defensive stars included Tyre Ellison -- who returned a fumble caused by redshirt freshman Gabe King for a 39-yard touchdown -- and Anthony, who had a 10-yard interception return. Freshman safety Avery Walls nearly made a pick in the end-zone on a 5-yard pass to the back of the end zone from Bridgford, but was only able to bat the ball away from Allen. The defensive line also came up with a batted pass at the line of scrimmage on Maynard, which was recovered for 10 yards by linebacker Dan Camporeale.
Allen proved to be the most productive wide receiver on the afternoon, catching three passes for 32 yards and two touchdowns, including the five-yard pass underneath from his brother Maynard which he turned into a 12-yard gain.
Bridgford worked almost exclusively with the second-team, with a line of sophomore Bill Tyndall at left tackle, redshirt freshman Alejandro Crosthwaite at left guard, Adcock at center, big Geoffrey Gibson at right guard and Williams at right tackle.
"Brock Mansion is a great quarterback, Bridgford is a really poised, calm kid, so I'm just trying to work at it and fight," Maynard said of the QB competition.
Of the three top signal-callers, Bridgford was the most accurate, completing 6-of-10 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He was, however, the only quarterback not to record any positive rushing yards. Towards the middle of practice, Bridgford placed a perfect strike right into the waiting hands of redshirt freshman Kaelin Clay for a huge 44-yard gain, finishing the drive with a beautiful fade to senior Michael Calvin in the back left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score.
"Zach got the most reps, then Brock and then Bridgford," Tedford said. "I didn't like much of what I saw. Bridge threw a couple balls that were catchable and guys made good plays on (them). Zach's still really learning the feel. He practiced really well last week, and he needs to get it to the Saturday practices."
-- Tedford said that he plans on taking his team on the road next spring for weekend practices, much as he has this year.
"It's been good, but you've got to think about it, because you can't control a lot of things when you come to these places," Tedford said. "You're not airtight like you are at our stadium, so there are some things you don't do, because of that."
Saturday marked the second of three open practices at a high school home of a big-time recruit. Last Saturday, Cal visited Sacramento Grant, home of signees Viliami Moala and Puka Lopa, as well as heavy Cal lean Shaq Thompson. Valley Christian is the home of 2012 running back Byron Marshall, though he was not in attendance. In two weeks, the Bears will visit the high school of US Army All-American and 2012 QB commit Zach Kline. Kline was on the sidelines today, along with tight end target Ian Taubler and jumbo athlete Fernando Villanueva.
"We wanted to get to San Jose, and typically, recruiting is part of it," Tedford said with a coy smile. "They have recruits."
Kline, wide receiver Bryce Treggs and defensive back Dalis Bruce are slated to be on hand during next week's practice at Contra Costa Community College.
-- Tedford said that he has not yet thought about the annual Fan Appreciation Day, which could be logistically complicated, to say the least, with the unavailability of Witter Field and the renovations at California Memorial Stadium.
"I know we're not having a Women's Huddle, and we usually have a women's huddle," Tedford said. "With our facilities the way they are right now, there's no parking and there's really no place to do (Fan Appreciation Day). Marketing is going to have to come up with a plan that's conducive to everyone, and if they do, we'll have one. We're fine with that, and we love having it, because it's a great day, but there's a lot of distractions, from parking to accessibility to the field and space. I think we can have it, if (Witter) is finished, which it should be, by mid-June. If it is, I would anticipate having it there."
-- During special teams periods, kickoff returners consisted of junior JuCo transfer Mike Manuel, redshirt freshman Terrance Montgomery, Sofele, Walls, Jones and Anthony. Punt returners included Clay, Allen and sophomore defensive back Steve Williams.
-- Running back Darren Ervin was catching passes and going through modified running back drills at the start of practice, but was still in the red no-contact jersey as he heals from a sprained ankle.
-- Tight end Spencer Hagan looked very good in blocking drills during his first full practice back after suffering a big hit to the ribs last Saturday, courtesy of Walls. Tight ends did not figure much in the passing game, though, and Hagan did not make a catch.
-- Tight end Spencer Ladner, who injured his knee on Thursday, was on crutches and did not participate.
-- Senior wide receiver Coleman Edmond did some light work, but was sporting the red jersey, as well.