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Cal Football

Weaver Unplugged

July 26, 2019
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Linebacker Evan Weaver sat down with local media Wednesday to field a wide range of questions, supplying enough humorous, sarcastic and insightful replies to fill a notebook.

The Bears will start Pac-12 season early, squaring off with 2018 Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies in Seattle September 7 and the opportunity has the energetic linebacker fired up.

Would a win be especially meaningful for the Spokane, Washington native?

“Oh man, that would be awesome,” said Weaver. “And to (potentially) start the season 2-0? Beating them the last time I’ll play them, too? I know I’ll have a lot of family there.”

Making things extra special is Washington’s somewhat tepid recruitment of the Eastern Washington star prep, who rampaged through opponents as a defensive end and running back for Gonzaga Prep.

“They recruited me but I wanted to do something different,” said Weaver. “I grew up a Husky fan but I didn’t want to stay on the path of my dad (who went to UW) and wanted to go out of state. 

“I went to every Husky game of my life. It was a four-hour drive. We’d go the day before and stay at the Silver Cloud Inn and go back the same day. It was worth it sometimes. Not the ‘08 (0-12) season, though,” (when the Bears defeated UW 48-7 in Cal’s 9-4 season while UW stumbled to a futile 0-12 campaign).”

The confident Weaver liked what he heard while being recruited by Cal when he was challenged to help turn the Cal D to a strength of the program coming off some of their worst defenses in program history.

“Yeah, definitely,” said Weaver. “That was a big part of why I came to Cal. I wanted to be the person and part of the team that helped turn Cal around. Teams like Cal under Jeff Tedford in ‘04 and ‘06. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Did the former defensive end and running back envision a situation where he could dominate at a totally new position at middle linebacker after the Bears eventually converted him after his freshman season, finishing second in the nation in tackles?

“Yeah, I actually expected myself to be first,” said Weaver. “I expect myself to be better than anyone else on the field, no matter who we’re playing or what position I’m playing. I have the mindset to be dominating in everything I do. If I go play, let’s say offensive guard, I’d go put on 50 pounds and be the best in the conference. Stuff like that. I feel like I can do everything, without actually being able to do everything.

“I feel like just being able to use that mindset in the right way -not like me, me way- but to bring it in with the team and share that mindset with a bunch of guys on the team, I feel like that’s helped bring us to where we are today. The DB’s are insane and the LB’s had a great year last year. The D-Line had a great year. Hopefully we’ll be able to carry that into this year.”

“I expect myself to be better than anyone else on the field, no matter who we’re playing or what position I’m playing. I have the mindset to be dominating in everything I do.
- Evan Weaver

Is Weaver’s unique style rubbing off on the big crop of 2018 and 2019 linebacker additions to the Cal roster?

“They’re starting to like it a lot, actually,” said Weaver. “They’re starting to learn a lot more stuff, the guys that have been here. They’ve made huge improvements over the summer. I mean, our whole team’s bigger, stronger and faster, but you can tell with the young guys how much they’ve put into the offseason. Being able to see it day in and day out, the little steps -not necessarily big growth but just little things every day. Like, ‘Oh, you just did 315 on a power clean. Great job.’ Little things that just a few years ago wouldn’t have been possible.”

Does he see any of himself in any of the young guys, like incoming frosh linebacker Blake Antzoulatos?

“Oh yeah, Blake Antzoulatos,” said Weaver with a smile. “I think you guys are going to have some fun years with him after I’m gone. 

“The first time I met him on campus, he goes up to me and says, ‘So, I’m like you.’ I said, ‘Well, good to know. Who are you? Like are you a student here?’ Then we started talking and I’ve actually hung out with him a few times on the weekend. He’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks, that’s for sure.

“We’ve only seen the freshman a little bit on Tuesdays and Fridays but Blake looks real athletic.” 

The dynamic LB has been on virtually every preseason watch list and doesn’t shy away from the expectations or national attention.

“I love it,” said Weaver with a smile. “I love all the attention. I love sharing my story and I love talking to people. It’s just fun.

“Preseason awards are cool but more for your mom. At the end of the day, what have to done during the season? What awards will you get at the end of the season? I mean, congratulations on being a top 50 linebacker. You’re not really going to go anywhere being a top 50 linebacker. You’ll go somewhere winning an award but that’s about it. “

The resurgence of the Cal D started up the middle for the Bears last season. wher the duo of Weaver and Jordan Kunaszyk led the nation in tackling duos, compiling an astounding 306 combined tackles on the season. The next closest duo -Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray (155) and Curtis Bolton (139) were next, with 294, followed by Central Michigan’s Malik Fountain (155) and Devonni Reed (97), with 252 tackles on the year.

"That was fun. That was really fun," said Weaver. "It was probably one of the most fun football seasons I've ever had. It obviously didn't end up the way we wanted it but just like the guys -being able to play with guys you really like.

"That was probably the closest team I've been on since high school -and not lying about it, like usually you lie to the media and say, 'Oh man, I'm so close with these guys. They're my best friends. We hang out all the time.' But now, these guys are all awesome. Everyone's hanging out with each other outside of football, which never happened on every other team I was with.

“Usually, you have your little cliques but there really aren't any here, except maybe the DBs -The Takers (a little dig at teammate Cam Bynum, seated near him during the interview). But even they hang out with all the other players, too. I mean, I'm as much of a taker as Cam is anyway (with two interceptions, including the game-winning pick-six vs. UW in Cal’s upset victory last season)."

"That was fun. That was really fun. It was probably one of the most fun football seasons I've ever had. It obviously didn't end up the way we wanted it but just being able to play with guys you really like.
- Weaver on the 2018 season

The Bears not only have the Takers, but also more than their share of talkers.

Who are the best?

"Me or Tevin," said Weaver. "Tevin will attack you and your game. He'll like research your social media before the game and find your girlfriend or something and start talking about that type of stuff. You really gotta attack him at a deep level because once you get into their heads...just ask USC about halftime in the tunnel. We all know how that game ended up.

"We had some games there where there was a lot of great trash talking, like Colorado (where QB Steven Montez lost his cool and threw the ball at a Cal player). "Rent free condo in his head. That was fun. The refs came into the locker room and gave us warnings at halftime and told us we couldn't trash talk anymore. So it turned into the most sarcastic compliments of all time, like, 'Wow, great job there, guys! Keep up the good work! That might be worse than the trash talk -the sarcastic compliments after they told us to stop."

What will Weaver miss the most about his partner up the middle in Kunaszyk, currently signed with the Carolina Panthers and Cal LB great Ron Rivera?

"Oh man, nothing really, to be honest," said Weaver with a smile. "I'll probably miss somebody hogging another 150 (tackles) from me but that's alright. You guys thought we were friends? He has these little weird, quirky personalities traits you can make fun of and he gets all sensitive about it, which makes it even more fun.

"Nah, we had a great relationship and we kind of balanced each other out. You're gonna miss having a (disciplined) guy like him around you because everyone else around me is more up to my speed on the spectrum."

Coaches and players have talked in the offseason about having taken things to a new level this year on the strength and conditioning front -a common refrain most years but one strongly held by both Weaver and cornerback Camryn Bynum -always hard workers in their own right.

What’s different this season?

"Man, just being able to finish workouts," said Weaver. "We have so many guys who can just do the full workout now and more than at just half speed.

"We have these things called Bear shuttles, where you have five and 15-yard shuttles, so we have to do perfect reps of those, touching with your left hand and your right foot. Coach Becton actually texted me today that they did 10 perfect today and only two missed. We used to not be able to do four perfect. We'd get up to 10 and be like one (right) and nine (wrong). Somebody wouldn't touch the line or finish or turn the right way.

"Being in shape enough where you can still run at full speed and think at the same time is just something we haven't had much before."

Becton incorporates a lot of up-tempo short movements to improve cardio rather than longer runs that lead to fatigue and weight loss when good weight gain is optimal for most on the roster.

An exception on the weight loss front is Weaver, who shed some unwanted pounds to get to a leaner, quicker 235 without loss of strength. Gone are the unhealthy binge snack items that previously filled the All-American's daily consumption menu.

"I lost 17 pounds in the offseason. No more bowl-season-weight-looking Weaver," said Weaver with a laugh. "I've been meal-prepping twice a week, making 10 meals at a time. Less calories. I used to eat a lot of crap, like pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers."

So basically, the anti-Jordan Kunaszyk diet?

"Jordan's a little psycho if you ask me," said Weaver, with a smile. "We had a dessert bar the night before games and I don't think I saw him take one ever. Someone needs to check that man."

Jokes aside, no desserts for Weaver anymore, either.

"I'm a changed man," said Weaver. "No more funny interviews. No more emotions. All business. I'll show up everywhere in a suit and a bow tie and maybe a little top hat."

As the conversation turned to the offense, Weaver echoed what fans saw in spring ball in the growth of returning starting redshirt soph quarterback Chase Garbers, who appeared much more comfortable running the team and completing contested balls downfield.

"He's matured so much," said Weaver. "You can see it in 7-on-7's. He's beating us sometimes and we consider ourselves the best defense around. So when you're beating us, it means you're doing something right. He's putting in the work with the receivers, route concepts, getting the right routes down, making better pre-snap reads, making better decisions.

"He's definitely grown up, especially since the end of the season. Every player has some growing pains but it really looks like he's started to figure it out."

Competing with Garbers is UCLA redshirt soph transfer QB Devon Modster, who saw some starts as a Bruin frosh in 2017.

"Devon's definitely learned the playbook now," noted Weaver. "Between him and Chase, it's going to be a tough battle (to start). It's going to be really interesting to see who wins the job. But whoever doesn't win, we'll have a good backup ready."

Weaver’s also bullish on the offensive backfield heading into the 2019 season after the Bears struggled on the ground behind an injured Patrick Laird who was clearly not in his 2017 form, and true frosh Chris Brown, who was coming off a foot injury that hampered him all senior season at Oceanside High School.

"Man, they're so different," said Weaver. "I lift next to Chris Brown and Marcel Dancy. Just the difference in all the running backs -speed, power, a combination of both. It's going to be a great one-two. It will be fun to watch how big their strides will be this year because they're really primed to right now.

"It should be exciting. You get Marcel in space on a swing route or something, he'll most likely get the first down. He's good at breaking tackles and staying low -he's a little short guy. He's a tough back to play against.

"(Deshawn) Collin's really quick and super-strong. They've both impressed me a lot with their strength in the weight room and their dedication. Also Chris Brown.

"It's going to be really, really interesting watching them run the ball this year because we have really three, four maybe dynamic back that can make big plays for us. These guys could all compete for 1,000 yards, too."

As for defense, who will be making plays on that side of the ball?

"It's gonna be interesting to see what happens," said Weaver. "The Takers (DBs) think they'll be making all the plays, but us four (LBs)? It's a wrap.

“It's going to be exciting."

 
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