0

Catching up on a Tuesday night

Hey, folks. Sorry about the lack of presence on the blog today, but this is a busy time for us college football writers. I spent most of the day working on some season-preview stories that will appear in the paper over the next couple of days, and of course attending the first Cal weekly press luncheon of the season. I know many of you have posted comments recently and I will respond to them as soon as possible.

You know the season is in full swing when the first luncheon comes around. Media coverage is light during training camp, with only a handful of print and internet writers attending practices and an occassional appearance from a television camera. The weekly luncheon is a chance for everyone to get into the act, and Tuesday’s first installment was a well-attended affair.

This one didn’t have the same level of excitement as last year’s season-opening luncheon to get folks ready for the Tennesee game. Obviously, there were major storylines about that game because of what had happened the year before, and the Bears started the season highly ranked. Jeff Tedford only spoke for 12 minutes today, substantially shorter than usual.

Tedford touched on a handful of topics, commenting further on his decision to choose Kevin Riley as the team’s starting quarterback, evaluating Michigan State tailback Javon Ringer, expressing his satisfaction with the receiving corps and reminiscing about the Bears’ big win over the Spartans in 2002, in just his third game at Cal.

Tedford praised Nate Longshore for how he’s handled losing out to Riley in the quarterback competition.

“Nate has been awesome,” he said. “Obviously, the first meeting I had with him, was very disappointing to him. But there is no other person on this team that is dedicated like Nate to team success. He still provides great leadership to Kevin and the offense.

“He has a great attitude. It’s really impressive to see a guy take that approach of not going into the tank and feeling sorry for himself but really, really dedicated to the success of this football team.

Tedford said it was tough having to inform Longshore of his decision.

“You never want to disappoint anybody,” Tedford said. “It’s hard when you disappoint somebody. It’s emotional for them. It’s not easy to do. But he understood what I was saying.”

The highlight of a conversation with linebacker Zack Follett came after he was asked about the big hit he laid on Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge last season, one that led to a fumble return for a touchdown by Worrell Williams.

“At Fan Appreciation Day, I think every person I saw wanted another hit like that,” Follett said. I told them I’d do my best.”

Williams talked a little about Ringer, the third-leading returning rusher in the country. Cal linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson compared Ringer to former Cal back Justin Forsett, and Williams said he can see the resemblance.

“He’s a great back,” Williams said. “He resembles Justin Forsett a little bit. I think he’s a little bigger, but he’s fast, he can make all the cuts and all the moves. He has the physical tools to get the job done. We have a huge task.”

Follett added: “We have experience going against a guy like Forsett (in practice). We’ve had great running backs here every year since I’ve been here. I don’t think it will be that big of a challenge, but you definitely have to respect him because he’s a great back.”

Riley hung around the luncheon for quite awhile talking with several different members of the media. He said it’s definitely different preparing for a game taking the first team reps.

“I’m focusing a lot more, watching more film,” he said. “You get more reps at practice, which is good because you get more looks.”

There’s a dose of sincerity about Jahvid Best which is refreshing considering all the talent he possesses. You get the feeling he isn’t totally comfortable with all the attention he is receiving this preseason, but he’ll politely answer every question thrown his way (“Yes, the hip is fine.” “Yes, I am fast.”). You get the feeling Best is going to get very used to all the attention.

Tuesday, he talked about how excited he is to return to the field after sitting out the final three games of last season and spring practice.

“I’m anxious, a little bit nervous,” he said. “I’m ready.”

Best was rested a lot during camp becasue the coaching staff wants to keep him fresh for the start of the season. Best wasn’t exactly thrilled with that approach but learned to deal with it. He found himself trying to sneak in reps when running backs coach Ron Gould wasn’t looking.

“It bothered me,” he said. “They’re looking out for my best interest, but I feel like I need the reps and I need the drills to make myself better, so I tried to get in there as much as possible.”

Best said he’s definitely going to be returning kicks and still could return punts as well. The Bears hope to get Best the ball in a variety of ways this season.

“I want to do all of it,” Best said. “If I had my choice, I’d still be playing gunner (on punt team). I’m just excited about it. Any way I can help the team, I’m ready to do it.”

All-American center Alex Mack closed down the luncheon with some pretty entertaining stuff. He said the offensive line’s goal is to not allow a sack all season. When asked if that was realistic, he said: “Probably not. Set the bar high and see where you can go. As an offensive line, that’s our job, to protect the quarterback. To me, it sounds kind of obvious.”

Mack’s on-field persona has changed substantially this fall. He’s become one of the more vocal players on the field, something he set out to do as the Bears tried to solve their leadership problems from a year ago.

“Last year I tried a little bit but I don’t think I did a good enough job,” he said. “I’m much more of a quiet guy. I’m growing into it.”

And when talking about the progress nose tackles Derrick Hill and Kendrick Payne have made, Mack said: “I hope I gave them a good look and they’ve got used to going against me. Hopefully I’m still a good center and not just a bunch of hype.”

Uh, yeah, he’s still pretty good.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Jan K Oski

    First! I’ll state now that I too would like a solid hit from Follett n Company on several occasions on Saturday. If they can make a few around the south-end’s 10 yard line, I’d appreciate it. Go Bears!

  • Macdaddytms

    J.O…. there seems to be alot of enthusiasm & the players seem loose, which is good after last years’ collapse, but is the team taking MSU seriously? The Spartan’s may not be an elite team, but they have some talent & per the reports you have linked for us, they seem pretty fired up for the season as well. Does Tedford have his guys focused?

  • HOUSE

    Thanks for this very in depth update J.O. Counting down the days till saturday and its going by VERY SLOW. Hopefully these next 3 days will fly by and i will see you all there!!

  • Dan

    JO.
    I just want you to know that I checked the blog nearly every hour at work today and every chance I got when I finally got home and put the kiddo to sleep. I’m happy to finally get my fix for the day.

  • Blaker

    Jonathan:
    Just wanted to send a thank you for all the great updates. The blog keeps getting better and better, and the stories you publish are some of the best out there. All us rabid Cal fans truly appreciate your hard work–your reporting is a must read every day.

  • J Willz

    Thanks for the update.
    I can’t wait till saturday…

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    JO

    Is the game a sell out? How many are expected? 50K, 55K, 60K????

  • Brobrobro

    Hey JO:

    First you apologize for being busy, then you post a great, lenthy blog? Way to go, we enjoy.

  • CalBear

    JO:

    Get ready to get a lot of silly leading questions from MoreNCsarecoming. He’s an obsessive Cal troll. Your predecessor used to call him Moron.

    He asked the question so he can ridicule Cal for not selling out their stadium. He does this on Cal’s opponent’s message boards all the time.

    He’ll be with you all season. Sorry, dude.

  • Jan K Oski

    According to TwistNHook who has a 3 part series and great pics of the Fan Appreciation Day, the Bears are ready to play. Follett and Mack are intense individuals, and as team leaders, I have no doubt that they’re constantly stressing, “Every Game Counts”.

    Go Bears!

  • Jan K Oski

    Opps, TwistNHook is over at californiagoldenblogs.com

  • macdaddytms

    Cal Fans – You’ve been Dissed Nationally….

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/pac10

    How will you respond!!! GET OUT THERE AND MAKE SOME NOISE!!!

  • Jan K Oski

    Mac, a stupid writer from Mideast shows his ignorance, and we are suppose to get upset? He isn’t even affilliated with the MSU team. You’re stretching something that just ain’t there. But, we should make nose no matter what.

    Notice to all Bear fans:

    Drink lots of sugar-loaded drinks (soda) during the game to keep those voices strong and loud. Go BEARS!

  • Steve in Concord

    For those attending the game: Freeze a bunch of those foil juice package thingys and put ‘em in an insulated bag with your sandwiches, fruit, etc. That way you’ll have cold drinks to keep your throat lubricated throughout the game, they’ll keep everything else cool, and save you money on lousy hotdogs and $5.00 lemonades.

    Go Bears!

  • CalAlum97

    Uhh, it was Mark Dantonio’s comment, but still, not sure where he got his info. Why doesn’t he ask the Vols how loud they thought it was last year. I seem to remember a few misques and snaps…

  • http://msuspartans.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/082608aaa.html Jan K Oski

    Not true, ’97. The following is from the link that is on my forum name.

    Q. Folks from Cal have told us that they’re expecting probably 15,000-16,000 Spartan fans. It’s not traditionally a loud stadium. How do you use that in recruiting?

    COACH DANTONIO: Like I said earlier, when you see that kind of atmosphere 4,000 miles from home, you’re at a program that is a nationwide, nationally respected program, whether we go to Florida and play in front of 30,000 people there that come, or whether we play in Texas, there will probably be 10,000 there, or whether we play in the Midwest with 70,000, 80,000. Michigan State University is a nationally recognized University with alumni across the entire nation. And that’s what makes this place special.

    I think as a recruit who’s trying to decide whether to come to school here or not, I think that sends a message, that there are job opportunities, there are people throughout that will help them, and they will be known throughout the country.(end quote)

    Again, the stupid reporter asked the question, and Ted Miller got it wrong in quoting. Thankfully, we have JO who only occasionaly mixes up names which is a minor error in the grand scheme of things. As I said before, we should make a lot of noise for the sake of supporting our Bears!

    Go Bears!

  • http://msuspartans.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/082608aaa.html Jan K Oski

    ’97, I forgot to mention that D’Antonio didn’t make much sense in his answer with his numbers, but I don’t think he insulted Cal. He was merely talking about MSU alumni.

  • Big D

    I looked at Calbears.com ticketing availability map and there are a few tickets available at the north-west side. Other than that the only tickets available are in the visitor’s section. It looks like MSU won’t be bringing that many folks with them. This probably explains the discount on the MSU/CAL tickets. MSU must not have sold their allotment, returned them and now CAL is trying to get those sold. You’ll probably see some blue and gold in the visitors section…

  • Big D

    I’m confident CAL will prevail, but that Ringer sounds pretty good. He’ll probably get his yards, but MSU will still lose.

    Go Bears!

  • Big D

    Ringer = 146 yards?
    Best = 225 rushing, 72 recvg, 121 returns?

  • Big D

    Cal 38- MSU 21

  • HOUSE

    Ahhh back to the days of 20 plus comments on good ol J.O.’s blogs, it must be football season :)

  • RollinsBear

    JO, will you report Cameron Jordan’s arrest or is it quietly going to be swept under carpet?

  • CalAlum97

    My bad Jan. It was a Miller misquote. Double-my-bad for trusting the source.

  • dball

    RollinsBear, Cameron Jordan’s DUI is a misdemeanor offense, the only publicity I can find for it is on the Michigan State boards….and they are actually sympathetic towards him, so if our opponent takes that position, then I think we should be supportive as well. I’m sure Tedford will manage it appropriately…most players get suspended for a game or two for a misdemeanor. Since he’s a sophomore, and a backup, I’m sure it won’t affect his playing career very much.

  • CalAlum97

    Dball, CBG, all, this is a classic Amy line RollinsBear uses. I would bet my life savings ($50?) that this is another Amy posting disguised with a new moniker. She (actually a he) is probably getting tired of us ignoring the MoreNCs persona and is trying to goad us with another persona. At least Amy took on a Cal moniker this time! GO BEARS!

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Mac, I’m pretty sure they’re taking them seriously. If not, they certainly haven’t learned their lesson. Considering it’s the season opener, at home, and on network television, I don’t think you’re going to see the come out flat or disinterested.