Six-man competition to be Cal's next quarterback

Six-man competition to be Cal's next quarterback

April 8, 2011

BERKELEY (AP) California coach Jeff Tedford has about the deepest and most wide-open quarterback competition he can remember, and there's one common theme among the candidates this spring.

"They all have to get a lot better," Tedford said.

Six different players are competing for the job, and there's no clear front-runner to fill the spot vacated by Kevin Riley. At the very least, Tedford hopes a few emerge from an overcrowded competition this spring.

"You'd like to be able to have somebody separate themselves," Tedford said. "If that's going to happen in the spring, I don't know. But we have the summer and the fall camp as well."

A sputtering offense and uncertainty at quarterback were some of the biggest drawbacks for the Golden Bears last season.

They posted just a 5-7 record and missed out on a bowl game for the first time since Tedford's initial season in 2002. Tedford has since revamped his staff and plans to take a more active role calling plays next season.

The next step comes this spring. Brock Mansion, Beau Sweeney, Allan Bridgford, Austin Hinder, Ryan Wertenberger and transfer Zach Maynard all are vying to be the starting quarterback.

And all of them want to lead the Bears back to prominence.

"We don't want to have any .500 or below .500 years," Mansion said. "That's not what we came to do. That's not what the coaches are expecting from us. We want to get back to the top teams, we want to compete for a Pac-10 title and get back on the national spotlight."

All the quarterbacks have their own levels of experience and style.

Mansion started the final four games last season after Riley suffered a season-ending knee injury. While he might be the favorite in spring camp, he wasn't effective enough last year to be declared the permanent starter.

Maynard, a dual-threat quarterback who started at Buffalo in 2009, didn't enroll at Cal until January. And the rest of the candidates have even more limited starting quarterback experience.

"Each guy definitely has their own nuances and strengths," receiver Keenan Allen said. "For us, it doesn't matter what quarterback is out there, we still have to run our routes the same and we still have to catch the ball the same. It's still a competition right now, so we'll see who's the best man who can get it in our hands."

This spring also begins a year of other changes at Cal.

The Bears have been on a constant road trip already, practicing at high schools and small colleges in the Bay Area and beyond while the facilities at Berkeley are renovated. The 15 allotted spring practices are spread out through the end of April and will take the Bears from Oakland to Berkeley to as far as Sacramento.

They also will play their home games in the fall across San Francisco Bay in the World Series champion Giants' ballpark while Memorial Stadium receives an extensive, 321 million renovation.

"It's definitely something we have to get used to," receiver Marvin Jones said. "We're in a good situation. It's all a process. We're not used to traveling, going off site and stuff like that so much. We're going to get used to it, and it's just going to be the same."

The one thing Cal would like to get settled soon is quarterback.

Whoever wins the job, they'll be working with new offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik who was the offensive line coach for the Oakland Raiders last season and is a previous Cal assistant along with other new assistants.

So there's only so much time to install a new offense and put a quarterback in place.

"I'm not going to put a timeline on it and force it," Tedford said. "When I feel that we have a guy that has good control of the offense and performing, then he'll take that position."

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.