BERKELEY — Cal is hoping the year of experience that Nyan Boateng, Verran Tucker and Jeremy Ross got last year will result in more production this season. But it may be a player without much experience who emerges as the Bears' biggest star at wide receiver.
Sophomore-to-be Marvin Jones is having the best spring of any receiver. He appears to be picking up where he left off early last season before suffering a sprained knee. Cal could use the emergence of somebody such as Jones to help improve a passing game that was ranked No. 83 nationally last season.
"He's been excellent," coach Jeff Tedford said. "He's a hard worker, a physical guy. He's explosive. He's always had great hands, and he's tough. He's definitely had a great spring ball so far."
It looked as though Jones was on the cusp of cracking the starting lineup as a true freshman before he went down with a sprained knee during a practice last September. He came back later in the season but played sparingly, totaling one reception on the season.
Still, Tedford was excited about the way Jones was practicing at the end of last year. It appears he hasn't let up.
"He would have played in (more) games," Tedford said. "But he was still in on game-planning. His head was in the game. To travel, to get ready for a game and those types of things, going through pregame — those are experiences that are valuable."
Boateng led the Bears last season with 29 catches and 439 yards. Tucker had 21 catches and Ross hauled in 17. While each receiver demonstrated potential, nobody ever emerged as a consistent playmaker.
"We're all progressing, and we're all doing well," Jones said. "I do see myself on the field making that spectacular catch that we need. ... I want the pressure to make the big catch."
Depth is always a good thing, but is it possible the Bears have too many kickers?
Incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio has looked excellent this spring, but Cal recruited incoming freshman Vince D'Amato to compete for the job. Now, David Seawright has returned to practice after progressing in his recovery from a potentially serious hip injury.
It's not often a team goes three-deep at kicker, but that's the situation Cal may find itself in once the season begins.
"Obviously, it's a situation where you feel good about that competition," Tedford said. "That's three quality kickers right there."
Doctors have had a difficult time getting an accurate diagnosis on Seawright's injury. He tore an external rotator in his hip and has been told he may not be able to kick without pain ever again.
"It's frustrating," Seawright said. "I'm still optimistic that someday I will kick without pain. My confidence hasn't gone away."
Tight end Tad Smith underwent surgery on his broken scapula Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined for 3½ months. Tedford expects Smith to be ready by the beginning of fall camp in August. Smith suffered the injury after taking a hard hit by safety Marcus Ezeff in practice last week. ... Backup center Dominic Galas sprained his left ankle at practice Tuesday and is in a boot.
— Jonathan Okanes