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Archive for September, 2006

And Tedford is a dad, too

Yes, that No. 17 playing quarterback in practice is none other than Jeff Tedford’s son, Taylor. Of course, he is 5-11, 185 pounds and he was not one of the top rated athletes in the country.

However, he is a kid interested in what makes his dad so successful. Like so many of us whose kids want to take an up close look at dad’s profession, Taylor is going to sweat it out on the field to learn more about coaching football. He’s not going to stand in the background and watch. He is going to run through the drills, the sprints, the techniques to learn it up close and personal.

I seldom write much about coach Tedford’s family because I figure he gives enough when it comes to explaining what’s going on with the football team. But anyone who has been around the program after a game or on the road when the Tedford family gets together gets a glimpse at how close they are.

So when I saw that Taylor is donning a helmet to learn dad’s business, I asked coach Tedford about whether he likes the fact that his son is going to be around.

Jeff looked at me and smiled. “I never even get to see him,” he said, like any dad who knows how hard it can be to schedule a few moments with a 19-year-old. “He just kind of runs past,” Jeff said, jerking his head as if to watch a car speed by.

As a dad, I’m sure all of us want our children to see us at our best. What could be better for Taylor than to see Pop out on the football field, doing his thing? It’s just one of those neat behind the scenes stories.

Posted on Thursday, September 28th, 2006
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Heading to Corvallis

The theme of today’s media conference was very clear. Jeff Tedford told his players “you got your butt kicked last season, now what are you going to do about it?”

Tedford has been very good about issuing challenges to his players. When Oregon State has been able to run against the Bears, it has handled them. The Beavers also have mugged Cal’s receivers at the line of scrimmage and that has had a significant effect on the game.

Tedford wants his players to understand this is another of those smack down challenges, a physical war along the line of scrimmage. And that just doesn’t mean the front seven. Those defensive backs and wide receivers will be hammering each other the entire game.

Some good news came out of the luncheon when Tedford said Andrew Cameron should be ready to play. I would imagine that Cameron will reclaim his starting spot even though Tedford said he was very impressed with Mike Tepper’s effort against ASU. Tedford is enormously impressed with Mike Gibson on the other side so I think Scott Smith is going to have his hands full in terms of getting his job back once he recovers from his sprained knee.

This will be a good test for Cal’s offensive line since Boise State tended to run over the Beavers. If Marshawn Lynch lets loose, Cal just might roll.

Rover Brandon Hampton came to the luncheon. He talked about his love of track. I asked him what would happen in Cal’s four fastest players, for example, Hampton, DeSean Jackson, Noah Smith and Sam DeSa, ran against Cal’s A 4X100 relay team. Hampton said it would be very, very close. Tedford talked about timing Jackson in 4.29 in the 40-yard dash during the off-season on a cold, damp day. Hampton said, “I saw it with my own eyes.” He ran 4.3 that day.

Quarterback Nate Longshore and center Alex Mack were joking about the shotgun snap that hit Longshore in the chest. It turns out that Longshore decides what count to go on. He tried to surprise ASU by going on first sound. What he didn’t consider was that if somebody was not lined up right, he would have to deal with it. He tried to move one of the players, Mack heard the first sound and BOOM.

Perhaps that’s why they call it the shotgun snap. When things go wrong, it kills you.

Jay

Posted on Tuesday, September 26th, 2006
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question about officiating in non conference games

Some asked me if I thought it would be good (using Cal and Tennessee as an example) to have SEC officials do the game at Cal and Pac-10 officials do the game at Knoxville. I don’t really see any difference than what they do now (Pac-10 at Pac-10 stadium, SEC at SEC). The bottom line is that there is no conspiracy. Officials are human and they make mistakes. Teams are going to whine about bad calls when they lose on the road no matter who officiates.

Posted on Monday, September 25th, 2006
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The top dog (Bear)?

Someone asked me which Bear was the most important. I thought it was an interesting question. Certainly, there is no mistaking the fact that a quarterback has to run the entire show and without a capable guy, it could be a disaster.

Cal’s easy win over ASU was an illustration. Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter was horrible. He was interesting to watch during the game because he throws with an almost sidearm motion at times and he isn’t the most athletic guy in the world. Carpenter got the much easier schedule last season than previous starter Sam Keller faced, so I wonder if Sun Devils fans are a bit worried now that Dirk Koetter’s first decision (to start Keller) was better than his strange change of mind a couple days later.

Certainly, it would be hard to argue that Longshore means the most to Cal at this point.

But, I might argue that one guy is very close to him. Is it Marshawn Lynch? Probably not.

Lynch is the marquee player, probably the best player and the guy who is going to make millions in the NFL. He is a monster talent and deserves Heisman consideration. That being said, I don’t know that Cal’s fortunes would be that much different this season if they had Justin Forsett or Marcus O’Keith as the main tailback. Teams prepare for coach Tedford’s system and any of those three guys would make huge yards.

I probably would go with DeSean Jackson as the most important Bear after Longshore. This guy is coming into his own and teams simply can’t deal with his abilities. Any team that faces Cal from here on out will have to game plan to stop Jackson, even more so than Lynch.

Jackson has seven touchdowns already and he is getting better. That’s scary for opponents. It’s almost impossible to cover him one-on-one and that means cheating a safety over who might be better used to concentrate on tackling Lynch or guarding one of Cal’s other speedy wide receivers.

With someone to get him the ball in Longshore, Jackson’s talents should continue to be on display. He puts two moves on a corner and it’s over. Or he simply can outrun most corners that he faces. Teams will have to play back off him, and that opens up possibilities in terms of throwing the ball in the flat.

It will be interesting to see how Oregon State deals with Jackson. In the past, Oregon State has been very aggressive up on the line of scrimmage in covering Cal’s wide receivers. But if a cornerback doesn’t get his hands on Jackson right away, it’s over.

With Lynch as a threat, and the Beavers having so much trouble stopping the run against Boise State, Jackson should have opportunties to break the game open. It will be interesting to watch.

Jay

Posted on Monday, September 25th, 2006
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It’s Pimentel time

After Wednesday night’s practice Bob Gregory said that linebacker Mickey Pimentel most likely will start on Saturday. Justin Moye, who has played very well, too, will continue to get lots of snaps as well.

Pimentel is such a physical beast, it will be good to see if the psychological fix of starting will get his motor running right away. He can be a difference maker.

Pressure would seem to be a crucial aspect of this game. ASU 18 sacks, Cal 5 sacks. However, Cal faced a running team in Minnesota and the Portland State game was a blowout and can be discounted. Even so, it will be interesting to see if the Bears can put the screws to ASU sophomore QB Rudy Carpenter.

Somebody asked about my thoughts on OU-Oregon. I wrote my college notes that run in every Wednesday’s Times. I will have to look around on-line and see if they are up. I received about 12 e-mails on Wednesday telling me I’m an idiot. In short, I saw that Bob Stoops has every right to be mad, but he shouldn’t take it out on Washington. If teams didn’t play conference where there were bad calls, there would be no games.

I will keep checking all your comments for questions and I will add a new category called ANSWERS, where I will post them. keep them coming.

We had a few computer glitches this week that kept some posts from getting up on time, but it’s starting to get better.

Thanks everyone. See you on Saturday.

Jay

Posted on Thursday, September 21st, 2006
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Devil of a time

Cal’s media luncheon always is held on Tuesday and it usually is a chance to talk with a very relaxed jeff Tedford, who isn’t dealing so much with practice issues.

One of the more important topics was the fact that tailback Marshawn Lynch seems to be back to 100 percent after favoring a sprained ankle the past couple of weeks.

Tedford talked about being wary of ASU’s defense, which has been putting a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. he said the Sun Devils find a way to send more blitzing players than an opposing team is ready to block.

I find that interesting because Cal has such an inexperienced quarterback in Nate Longshore. On one play against Portland State, the Vikings blitzed a guy up the middle who was picked up by tailback Justin Forsett, but a linebacker came from the outside and sacked Longshore, who appeared to be unaware he was coming. One thing a veteran quarterback can do is identify where trouble is coming from, and then do something about it. How Longshore reads and reacts to the ASU defense will be a key to the outcome on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Worrell Williams came by the press conference and I will write something about him either for tomorrow’s papers or Thursday. I did an interview with Worrell about a year ago and he talked about the fact that football isn’t always his No. 1 priority. He assured me that has changed.

Posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2006
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Tedford tidbits

After his team pounded Portland State, Jeff Tedford was smiling pretty wide when he talked about red-shirt freshman tight end Cameron Morrah. Morrah is going to be an impact player and he showed it by catching the first touchdown pass of his career.

Although Tedford worried about Morrah’s blocking a bit last season when he was a true freshman, he has gained about 15 pounds. This guy is an absolute load, especially the way he runs. The Portland State game, combined with the concussion suffered by Craig Stevens allowed Morrah to get some much needed experience.

Morrah is a very soft-spoken kid. I talked to him after the game and he pretty much had the pulse of a guy sleeping. It all seems to be no big deal to him. He did laugh a bit when I talked to him about the realization that a major college tight end had to do a lot of blocking. As he admitted, in high school, he just wanted them to throw him the ball. The more he plays, I would imagine that Tedford will follow that strategy as well.

I asked coach Tedford if he is warming up the shotgun snap and he said that, yes, he was. He never liked the shotgun snap before as he had told me many times before this season. But he does like its ability to give his quarterback a chance to look over the field. Of course, when Joe Ayoob came in, the backup center planted a shotgun snap at his ankles. “I was starting to like (the shotgun snap) until that one hit the ground,” Tedford said with a big smile.

Wide receivers coach Danny Ferrigno looked proud as a peacock that his son caught a long touchdown pass and it didn’t hurt Cal a bit. Ferrigno was headed out to dinner with his disappointed son, but I’m sure dad found a way to cheer him up a bit. Portland State has a very nice team that should do well in its conference if it can overcome those quarterback injuries. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they also have to play Oregon. Yikes.

Place kicker Tom Schneider has done a good job getting the ball in the end zone, so I wonder if Tedford will start to have him just drill the ball and forget about the placement. Schneider does a good job of locking a team up against the sideline, but that strategy might be why he loses a kick out of bounds at times. We’ll see.

It was nice to see Anthony Felder get a lot of snaps. He looked very good and he needs the experience. Cal is going to lose Desmond Bishop and Mickey Pimentel after this season, so Felder will be needed big time.

Tedford was very annoyed after the game about his team’s personal fouls. I would imagine the Bears as a group are going to get an ear-ful in a meeting. Nobody around Cal’s campus likes to see the head man irritated. He doesn’t get angry often, but when he does, the Bears do some tip-toeing around him. He is not going to put up with personal fouls. I wouldn’t expect many against ASU.

Tedford felt bad that due to some penalties (roughing the punter) and a bad snap on the shotgun snap, that Joe Ayoob didn’t see much time on the field. He planned to use Ayoob in the third quarter and Steve Levy in the fourth, but Cal didn’t spend much time on the field in the third quarter.

I asked Tedford how he was handling the new rule about challenging a play. He said he challenged Justin Forsett’s fumble because the replay on the stadium board seemed to show his knee down plus Forsett told him his knee was down. “i have to stop listening to my players,” he said.

Posted on Monday, September 18th, 2006
Under: Last game tidbits | No Comments »
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A whole new world

It’s a whole new world we live in. When I started at the Contra Costa Times in 1981, I type on a typewriter. Now, I have a blog. Wow. I hope Cal fans can be patient with me for a while as I get used to this new format. I will be trying to find out what kind of information the readers want. I will still answer Q&As for now, but eventually I would hope that the readers ask questions in this format. Between writing, going to practice, and handling other duties, I get stretched pretty thin. But I will try to answer Q&As until I get the traffic redirected.

Thanks so much,
Jay

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006
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Leadership

It has been interesting in practice lately to see leadership rising at Cal’s practice sessions. Cal fans would love watching Desmond Bishop take charge. This guy understands that his team can’t falter again and he appears to be taking matters personally. This week, as the team readies for a game that figures to be a sure win, Bishop won’t let his teammates relax. He has kept the emotion running high. His voice booms through the stadium at times and it affects everyone. That’s great stuff from a guy who only has been around the program since last season (he is a junior college transfer). How many JC transfers would even attempt to have this kind of impact in terms of leadership? Bishop commands respect, and he gets it.

The bottom line is that any Cal fans who are worried about the team’s focus this week can relax.

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006
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A big game week

OK, it’s not THE BIG GAME, but it is a big game week in college football. It’s too bad that Cal isn’t included. Nebraska-USC, Florida-Tennessee, Oklahoma-Oregon, LSU-Auburn. It goes on and on. The nation will be watching and Cal is playing Portland State.

Oh well. Cal just needs to keep rolling along under the radar for a while. I have often talked about how important hype is to a program. If you aren’t getting any, you put yourself in a very difficult situation. Take, for instance, the case of Boise State vs. Cal. Cal received off-season hype and was ranked in the top 10. It look an early game, but didn’t fall out of the rankings. If it can win out, it can be right back in the top 10 by the end of the season and in contention for a bowl championship series game. Boise State, meanwhile, which returned 18 starters and figured to be a monster team (i’m not arguing here about strength of schedule, obviously the Broncos have an easier road to hoe) can’t afford to lose a game anywhere along the way. This is a team that will completely disappear if it stumbles anywhere along the way. If you don’t get that early season hype, you can’t recover.

The point of this topic is that I’ve found that the very top teams in the nation EMBRACE high expectations and hype. John Robinson used to state plainly that his teams were shooting for a Pac-10 championship and a national title. He would push his players for national awards. He wasn’t afraid of failure.

I thought it was very important this off season that Jeff Tedford talked openly about what a wonderful player he has in Marshawn Lynch. He talked about having high expectations for what he deems to be a very talented group. Teams that are ranked higher in the beginning of a season have a better shot to FINISH in the top 10. It might not be fair, but it’s true.

Cal is becoming known on a national level and that new-found respect will show itself in early season rankings. It is important.

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006
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