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Cal Football

Monday Practice Report: Depth Chart Released With Few Surprises

August 27, 2018

With the season opener against North Carolina just five days away, Cal head coach Justin Wilcox released the first depth chart of the Fall on Monday. It reads pretty much as most Cal followers thought it  would.

Wilcox also announced that freshman running back Johnny Adams, Jr., sustained a lower body injury Friday and would miss the season. He also said that running back Patrick Laird and linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk were elected season captains by a vote of the players.

Head coach Justin Wilcox:

Most of the depth chart interest, of course, is in the quarterback position, and despite the coaching staff's insistence that there was a four-way battle, Ross Bowers winning the job was a foregone conclusion. He is clearly No. 1.

What is interesting is that transfer Brandon McIlwain and redshirt freshman Chase Garbers were listed as co-backups. And Chase Forrest, who was the only QB besides Bowers to throw a pass last year, was not listed at all, although Wilcox did mention his name when he talked about the backups.

Thomas, who last year kicked for City College of San Francisco will replace Matt Anderson as the Bears placement specialist, beating out Gabe Siemieniec and Chris Landgrebe. According to the depth chart, Siemieniec will handle kickoffs as he did last year.

The JC transfer Marcel Dancy is a No. 2 backup (along with Derrick Clark) to starting running back Patrick Laird. Alex Netherda and freshman Chris Brown, Jr., are even at three and four.

One defense, Rusty Becker is listed as even with Chris Palmer, who started the last three games a year ago, and was presumed to be the No. 1. 

As the incumbent Bowers would have had to have a total face-plant in the Fall to lose his job. And while he wasn't always 100 per cent on the top of the game, he showed more than enough.

"On the field his overall understanding of the offense, more than just what he's doing but conceptual things," Wilcox said of Bowers. "His decision-making has gotten better and better. And then just what it takes to be a quarterback in this conference. ...He has improved, he is significantly better than he was a year ago."

Linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk:

He was named the starter during Fall camp last year and held onto the position all year. He completed 272 of 462 pass attempts for 3,039 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He had a passer rating of 122.6.

He is the Pac-12's leading returner from 2017 in passing yards per game (253.3) and completions per game (22.67) while ranking second in passing yards and third in passing TDs.

He feels he is a lot better now than he was then, and the same goes for the offense as a whole.
"We are a million miles away from where we were last fall camp," he said earlier in camp. "Just getting a year of experience under your belt really helps. I can start relating things to games and how it feels. The comfort level being in the same offense again. This is the first time in college that I have had the same offense for more than a year, which has been awesome. Much more fun because you can build something rather than rebuild."

Much of the criticism directed toward him dealt with turnovers. Bowers feels that is being addressed. "Turnovers were a big issue last year, cost us some games," he said. He has studied them all and thinks he has profited from the review.

"When I look at them I kick myself every time," he said. " 'How could you do that? How could you not see that?

"But it is is some of the best learning things for me. It's (interceptions) not a good thing.  I've always learned the hard way but at least I've learned. This year I am expecting to take those lessons I've learned and apply them." 

Thomas won the position battle that was the most hotly contested. At some points during Fall camp it looked as if no one wanted the job. 

"You remember from early in camp the kicking wasn't where we hoped it would be," said Wilcox, trying to be delicate. "But in the last few weeks he (Thomas) kind of picked up. Over time, the last month or so, he has kind of earned it. Whether it was the competitive situations...the consistency was there. We're excited for him and he is earned the right to go out and kick for us."

Dancy made one of the bigger ascensions. He was not around in the spring, and climbed from the bottom of the running backs to just behind Laird. 

Running back Patrick Laird:

"The running back position is fluid," WIlcox said. "It might be by play sometime, by the type of runs we're using, pass protection. Marcel from the day he got here has been all in, he is very conscientious. He doesn't have a lot to say, he's very quiet and has done some good things."

Becker, who has been in 16 games in two years with nary a start, is a proof that maximum effort yields results. He was shifted to nose guard from defensive end and has made himself a force.

"Rusty works at it," Wilcox said. "You tell Rusty something to work on, you notice it, he'll come out and hit the sled for four hours. He's one of those guys you've got to tell him to go inside. He wants to do everything right. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and he plays that way. ....He is going to be an important guy for us. We'll need him."

Of course Palmer and other defensive linemen will see the field plenty themselves.
"They're all going to play," Wilcox said. "Especially when you are in position where you tend to rotate a little bit more. I know there's one guy listed in there, those guys are all oging to play six defensive linemen in the first game."

In addition to the season captains, the Bears will have game captains. For North Carolina it will Patrick Mekari and Luc Bequette. 

Bear Insider



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