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Cal U beefs up with grid recruits

CALIFORNIA -- The California University football team opens spring practice Saturday and veteran coach John Luckhardt says he is more excited about his new players than he has ever been in his previous 10 seasons at the school.

Luckhardt says his latest recruits have been, "the most responsive group we've had here."

"We're going to be young, but we are certainly not short on talent," said Luckhardt.

Luckhardt said he changed the off-season program and was able to take advantage of the mild weather over the winter. He added that his staff put the players through the rigors of tough training.

"We've done a lot of different things and I'm really surprised at how our players have responded," he said.

Although the Vulcans certainly don't have a bare cupboard when it comes to returning starters, he said the battle for backup positions and some starting positions will be interesting this spring.

For example, even though Peter Lalich returns at quarterback, Luckhardt noted that two newcomers are going to wage a fierce battle for the backup job.

Austin Stock, of Miami, Fla., quarterbacked Miami Central High to a state title last season. He and redshirt freshman Bill Schroeder give the Vulcans great depth at quarterback.

Luckhardt had high words of praise for Bubba Brown, of Kissimmee, Fla., who was the Florida Class AAAA Player of the Year in 2008.

He was a Kansas State recruit who has transferred to Cal and will be a redshirt sophomore.

"He's the closest thing to Antoine Bagwell that we've had here since Bagwell left," Luckhardt said.

Incoming fullback Scott Covert, son of former Pitt and NFL star Jimbo Covert, is a transfer from Iowa.

"He's a 250-pound fullback with great credentials," Luckhardt said of Covert.

On the offensive line, Cal will have great depth thanks to Chris George, Wayne Jones and Mike Price.

George (6-4, 305) played two years ago at Cal before leaving and Luckhardt has called him impressive.

Jones (6-3, 320) is a Pitt transfer who once played in the Big 33 Classic.

Price (6-6, 315) is a transfer from the University of Virginia.

Cal has added two new tight ends, one of whom is a familiar name.

Desmond Green (6-5, 245), who quarterbacked Clairton to WPIAL and PIAA championships, will be a redshirt freshman. Green signed with Texas Tech after graduating from Clairton. However, he was an NCAA clearinghouse casualty, Luckhardt said, referring to academic issues.

The other tight end, Andy Cerett, is a transfer from Temple. Cerett (6-5, 248) was one of the nation's best punters while in high school.

On defense, Luckhardt is really excited about defensive tackle Jason Cates (6-4, 360), who the coach said is "like another Casey Hampton."

The Michigan transfer could end up being a top NFL prospect if he loses another 20 pounds, Luckhardt said.

"Nobody has pushed this kid around and nobody will," he said. "He has two years of eligibility remaining and is going to be a force."

Another addition to the defensive front is mid-year transfer Ken Smith (6-7, 315), who Luckhardt said may be the most impressive newcomer in terms of ability.

"We've also added a defensive back in Brandon Saunders, a recruit from Liberty Union," Luckhardt said. "He's real talented kid."

"All in all, it's been a great recruiting year for us and we are still waiting for four more kids we expect to join us soon," he said. "We should have more competition at spots than we've ever had before."

Cal's annual Spring Game will be played April 28.

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