With training camp starting one week from today, I’ll be taking the next week to examine some of the bigger issues facing Cal during camp. Players report to camp Thursday and hit the field for the first time Friday.
Also, Bay Area college football media day is Monday and I will have coverage of that. Jeff Tedford, Jahvid Best and Syd’Quan Thompson are scheduled to appear for the Bears.
Just to clarify: We will be deleting comments that are personal attacks, include profanity or are otherwise inappropriate. We will not be deleting them simply because a person is not a Cal fan, etc.
A couple of notes from Jeff Tedford’s time at the podium this morning at Pac-10 media day in Los Angeles:
–Tedford said he is considering having the team travel an extra day earlier for the Minnesota game on Sept. 19. Tedford said he still doesn’t believe the time change was a factor during last year’s loss at Maryland, but also wants to be open-minded about it. He said leaving an extra day early will give him the opportunity to compare any differences with the experience.
–No surprise, but Tedford said Kevin Riley will begin training camp taking the first snaps at quarterback. This is only significant because it’s not something Tedford had to say. It was offered. But he did talk later about his desire to have any of the quarterbacks play well enough to win the job and keep it the entire season.
Pac-10 media day is underway in Los Angeles and the annual preseason media poll has been released. Not surprisingly, USC has once again been picked to win the conference title. Also not surprisingly, Cal has been selected to finish second. The Bears received three of the possible 32 first-place votes. USC received 28 and Oregon got one.
No. 1: USC. While the Trojans may enter this season with more uncertainty than usual, no other Pac-10 team has improved enough to make a sound argument it can dethrone USC. The Trojans still are the most talented team in the Pac-10. The question is how much inexperience at some key positions will negatively affect them. USC has to replace many key parts to one of the best defenses college football has ever seen, but it’s not like those holes are being filled with walk-ons. USC will once again field a talented defense. And although the Trojans will be breaking in a new quarterback, the offense has experience and is loaded at running back. The competition among talented players for key spots, combined with the expectations and culture surrounding the program, should help offset the inexperience and result in yet another Pac-10 championship for USC.
Due to cost constraints, I won’t be traveling to L.A. for Pac-10 Media Day on Thursday. The good news is you don’t need me to tell you what happened. The Q and A portion of the program will be streamed live on the Pac-10 website. Fans also can submit questions to coaches and players via Twitter.
Jeff Tedford, Jahvid Best and Syd’Quan Thompson will appear at Bay Area media day next Monday in San Francisco, and I will be there for that event.
No. 2: Cal. I know some of you were wondering if I would pick Cal to win the Pac-10. While the Bears certainly have enough pieces in place to make a nice run this season, they haven’t improved enough to overtake USC. I agree that this may be the best chance in years for the Trojans to be dethroned. But to do that, it will take a complete team, one that has been competitive over the years and finally has put it all together this season. I don’t believe Cal is there yet. The Bears still need to find more balance in their offense. They can be a defensive-oriented team once again and win a lot of games that way. The problem with that approach is you leave less margin for error. You are going to play in more close games when they are defensive struggles. Until the Bears find a passing game, it will be hard to call on the offense to bail them out if the defense is having a bad day or they are facing an explosive offense. Cal may indeed find that passing game, and if that happens, it will become a serious contender. But as we stand right now, the Bears aren’t much different from last year’s team. They will have more experience and their defense might be even better, and that’s why they will climb a couple of notches up from fourth place. But until they find a balanced offense to complement their dominant defense, it is difficult to pick them as champions.
Thanks for all those who participated today in the live chat with Jeff Tedford. I apologize to all of you who didn’t get your questions answered. There were over 500 questions posed and we were getting through them as fast as we could.
Just to clarify one thing about the procedure. As with the Jahvid Best chat, I am not choosing the questions. Both Best and Tedford saw every question and it was up to them to decide which ones to answer. I just did the typing!
Here’s a transcript from today’s chat.
No. 3 Oregon State: I’m getting tired of the Beavers’ making me look bad. Every year I look at their talent level and what they have coming back and think there is no way they can finish in the upper half of the conference. And every year they are as competitive as ever. This year, it seems once again they have incurred heavy losses, especially on defense, but I’ve heard that before. No coach makes more with less than Mike Riley, and just because some Oregon State players weren’t regarded as top prospects when they entered the program doesn’t mean they can’t play. Just look at this spring’s NFL Draft. This year, with Jacquizz Rodgers and James Rodgers returning, along with two proven quarterbacks in Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield, Oregon State has some proven commodoties. That’s a pretty good sign for a team that was in position to win the Pac-10 late in the season last year.
–In case you missed it, here’s a story I wrote for yesterday’s paper, focusing on the Bears’ mood as training camp nears.
Some stuff that didn’t get into the story:
–Kevin Riley admitted the quarterbacks should have thrown more during the offseason last year because of the influx of new receivers. “With a new batch of receivers coming in, we should have thrown the ball more last summer,” Riley said. “This summer, we are throwing the ball more.”
–Riley also said the receivers have shown improvement this summer. When asked who has stood out, he singled out Marvin Jones, Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng and Alex Lagemann. Riley said Jones has just continued to do what he did during the spring while Calvin, who is coming back from a torn ACL, is getting more and more healthy. “Every week as the summer has progressed, he’s gotten a little more comfortable with his route running,” Riley said. “Coming back from an injury like that, you’re going to be a little scared at first on your break. Every week, he’s running routes better. He’s always caught the ball well. Hopefully he can continue to get better. He can be a guy who can really makes plays for us.” Riley said Lagemann, like Jones, also continues to build off his spring, although he has been slowed by a toe injury during the offseason.”
–Mike Mohamed said he’s looking forward to settling into one position rather than backing up all four linebacker spots this season. “It was awesome moving around, but it will definitely be better to settle down in one position and know you’re going to be sticking there. Just to be settled in and know your job — you’re not scrambling around trying to keep track of everything that is going on with every position.”