Spring Game Impressions
Can ANY meaningful insight come from Cal's spring showcase? Probably not!
I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever put much stock into a spring game, but over the years what little value I attached has dwindled. Some of that is learning from experience, and some of that is watching at Cal coaches slowly remove time, structure, and intensity from the Spring game.
Which has finally led to the point where I’m calling it the spring ‘game’ only out of habit. The event was described as a ‘showcase,’ which was entirely appropriate. 90 minutes of practice, of which very little was actual 11 on 11 plays, with frequent breaks, frequent lineup shifts, and plenty of other drills and activities that, while important, mean very little to us non-football lay folk.
Heck, even if you attended the event in person, as I did, you left thinking that it was all much more catered to Cal’s recruiting efforts than providing entertainment or insight for fans . . . which, fair. Recruiting is a whole lot more important to our enjoyment as fans than an intra-squad scrimmage regardless of the precise format.
Knowing all of this going in, I went in with the intent to look at a few specific things. In no particular order:
The QB battle (duh)
How Cal is handling the tackle position
Generally how Cal’s lines look on both sides
Reports out of spring have indicated that Jack Plummer has been the strongest performer, and that was no different on Saturday. He had probably the single best throw of the day on a touchdown pass, and was generally accurate on everything else. But again, we’re taking about a small sample size of a small sample size.
Meanwhile, Kai Milner had what I sense was one of his weaker practices of the spring, with an interception and a few other inaccurate passes. I came into the event kind of assuming that Plummer was the most likely winner of the QB competition anyway, and nothing that happened made me think I’d be surprised come September.
Cal’s spring set-up for the first string offensive line was unsurprising given what we knew about the tackle depth chart exiting the 2021 season. Ben Coleman, Cal’s best returning lineman (and maybe best lineman last year, period) , shifted over from right guard to left tackle, and Brayden Rohme, Cal’s only returner with on-field experience at tackle, played on the right. I also saw 3rd year players Ender Aguilar and Everett Johnson get snaps as part of the 2nd team.
And, consistent with reports that the defense has largely been ahead of the offense, it was tough sledding for the offensive line as a whole. It’s always tough to be precise since they blow plays dead before the QB is actually tackled, but there were 5 or 6 sacks, plenty of other pressure events, lots of roll outs, and a bunch of stuffed runs.
Cal only brought in 11 linemen to the spring showcase and there’s a general assumption that Cal will bring in more competition through the transfer portal. At a minimum, we know they’re making transfer offers. For example - Montana State transfer tackle T.J. Session:
In short, spring practice is not necessarily a great guide to what you’ll see in September, and doubly so when there are still likely to be additions to the roster.
So no, I didn’t see anything on Saturday to dampen my excitement for the things I’m optimistic about (boy should the Bears have a deep, disruptive defense) or to calm my fears over areas of concern (going into the season with approximately 1.5 true tackles on the roster: scary!) But it’s all we get between late November and early September, so you take what you’re given.