By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 10:23 am in off-season stuff.
Jeff Tedford has been a hard man to contact recently. Turns out he was in Puerto Rico for a trip for Nike coaches. He’s back in town now, and was on hand for the annual Tiny Bates banquet last night at the Sterling Hotel in Sacramento.
For those unfamiliar, the Tiny Bates Award is given out annually by the Sacramento Grid Club to the top senior from the Sacramento area. This year’s winner was Worrell Williams, and he was on hand to accept the award. Williams had just returned from Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine the day before.
So Tuesday night was the first opportunity to talk to Tedford at length about the hiring of Andy Ludwig as offensive coordinator and the departure of Frank Cignetti. I caught up with him after the banquet and here is some of what he had to say”
Why Ludwig?: “We’ve been around the same offenses and we talk a lot. I’ve always really respected everything he’s done. He continues to do a great job, which was evident last year, coaching Utah to their record and such a great bowl victory.
“He’s a really knowledgeable guy, A really poised guy. He’s a guy that I think is really going to take great command of the offense. I have a lot of confidence in him.”
How much influence will he have on the offense?: “We’re always trying to learn and get better. I’m sure he’s going to bring some great ideas. He’s been successful for a reason. I’m sure he’ll put his stamp on the offense.”
On Cignetti leaving: “I’m happy for Frank that he got something that he always wanted, to go back to Pittsburgh. But it worked out the best I could possibly imagine.”
Was Ludwig considered last year when you hired Cignetti?: “Yes. It was just a timing issue. If there would have been more time, I probably would have went into the process a little more. Frank was getting ready to go to another school and I had to make a decision before I really got a chance to go through the whole process.”
Ludwig comes from a spread background, much like former offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar. Will we see that spread influence?: “Anytime you’re in the shotgun, the shotgun running game is pretty much the spread. Spread teams are single-back all the way. We’re going to implement a two-back system with single-back concepts, just like it always is.”
Some other news and notes:
–Tedford said Chris Guarnero is definitely moving back to center. Guarnero played left guard last season before undergoing season-ending toe surgery after three games. But center is his natural position. Although Guarnero is recovered enough to practice in the spring, Tedford said Dominic Galas is also in the mix. Galas took a lot of second team reps as a true freshman last season.
–With Mitchell Schwartz, Donovan Edwards, Chet Teofilo and Mike Tepper, the Bears have a logjam at tackle. The question is whether they will all play tackle next season. “We’re going to see what they can do and then try to find the right combination,” Tedford said. “We have some depth and experience on the offensive line.”
–Senior-to-be Matt Russi is moving from linebacker to fullback. Tedford said John Tyndall is the leading candidate to replace Will Ta’ufo’ou, but he also added that fullback is the most open position on the team.
–Tedford said wide receiver Alex Lagemann, who was injured for the first year-and-a-half of his career before finally seeing action on scout team last season, is making strides and is legitimately in the mix to play next season. With Michael Calvin out of spring practice as he continues to recover from ACL surgery, Lagemann should get a good shot to make an impression. Tedford said he will have a keen eye on Marvin Jones, Lagemann and Charles Satchell this spring.
–Tedford said Tad Smith is the No. 1 tight end now that Cameron Morrah has left for the NFL, but that Anthony Miller and Spencer Ladner “will be right there competing.”
A couple of other observations from Tuesday:
–Williams seemed almost in awe of his combine experience. He said he was disappointed with his 40-time (4.8), although he said some teams said they clocked him at 4.7. He said the whole experience was incredibly exhausting but rewarding at the same time.
–One of the highlights of the night was when Williams’ mother, Sherri, came up to the podium while Tedford was speaking simply to thank him for looking after her son while he was at Cal.
–Tedford said both Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney will compete with Kevin Riley at quarterback. But Mansion still will probably enter the spring getting second-team reps, simply because he’s been around one more year than Sweeney and practiced with the offense last season.