Cal Spring Football: No Fullback? No Problem -- and Other Notes

Bears head coach Justin Wilcox working with defensive backs until another assistant is hired
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The fullback position will continue to be a vital spot in Bill Musgrave’s pro-style offense, but the Bears do not have a fullback on the roster during spring practice.

That’s not a problem, according to head coach Justin Wilcox.

“We can grab people from other spots that might not be labeled as a fullback on the roster but can play that position,” Wilcox said in the video above.

Virtually any of the seven tight ends on Cal's spring roster could probably play that fullback position. Wilcox mentioned tight end Gavin Reinwald specifically as a person who could man that spot, which can be called an H-back if that blocking back lines up behind a tackle rather than directly behind the quarterback. The H-back is virtually a hybrid fullback/tight end position, and Drew Schlegel, who was Cal’s starting fullback in 2020, was primarily an H-back at Kentucky before transferring to Cal.

Schlegel and Zach Angelillo were the only two fullbacks on the Cal roster in 2020 and both entered the transfer portal after the season.

Wilcox noted there is a possibility Cal could add a fullback later in the offseason, presumably by way of transfer.

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Other notes from Wednesday’s opening day of spring ball:

---Plenty of spring interest will be focused two players: wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter and nose guard Stanley McKenzie. Both were expected to be significant contributors as true freshmen in 2020, but injuries and other factors prevented either from getting on the field.

"Both of them probably had the opportunity to help us last year and for whatever reason, weren't able to," Wilcox said. "This spring will be incredibly important to them, like a lot of the guys.”

Hunter’s preseason work suggested he might become the big-play wide receiver Cal has been lacking the past several years, while McKenzie had a chance to become a starter last season at a position of need.

---Other than the flexibility at the fullback spot, there has been little in the way of position changes in the current roster.

The one exception is Trey Paster, who is labeled as a safety and played the hybrid outside linebacker/safety star position in 2020 but has been moved to the inside linebacker spot this spring.

Inside linebacker is a key position in the Bears’ 3-4 defense and is expected to make the lion’s share of the tackles. It is the position that Evan Weaver and Jordan Kunaszyk played on their way to first-team all-conference selection in recent years.

Kuony Deng is the standout at that position at the moment, and Muelu Iosefa started at the other inside linebacker spot in the final two games of the 2020 season as a true freshman and looks like a budding star.

---Versatile Brett Johnson, who has played both the nose guard and defensive end spots in the Bear’s three-man defensive line, will work at both positions again this spring.

“He could line up anywhere from [opposite] the center or the tackle and anywhere in between,” Wilcox said.

Aaron Maldonado, who was expected to be the starting nose guard before injuries ruined his 2020 season, is still not able to practice, but Wilcox expects him back before the end of spring ball.

---Wilcox has yet to name a new defensive backs coach to replace Marcel Yates, who left to become Oregon’s defensive backs coach.

Wilcox does not want to make a rushed decision, so until a new secondary coach is named, Wilcox and graduate assistant Ryan Conry are working with the Bears’ defensive backs during the spring.

“I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to the new DB coach being here,” Wilcox said with a smile.

Wilcox was a defensive back during his playing days at Oregon, and coached defensive backs at a number of his previous coaching stops before being named Cal’s head coach.

---The star position that Cal added to its defense last year for some alignments was supposed to be a hybrid safety/outside linebacker spot, but now that position’s responsibilities look more like those of an outside linebacker rather than a defensive back.

With that in mind, Wilcox mentioned that Cameron Goode is candidate to play the star position when it is utilized in certain situation against certain teams. Obviously Goode, a starting outside linebacker the past two seasons, will never be confused with a defensive back, suggesting how the role of the star position has changed.

The 15 spring practice sessions continue until March 20.

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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