Football: Pendergast coverage

Here is my story today off of yesterday’s media gathering with new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Obviously, the most striking development that came out of the conversation with a handful of reporters is that Pendergast doesn’t necessarily seem married to the 3-4 base scheme.

Pendergast’s message was mostly that he wants to be multiple in formations and isn’t going to be “pigeon-holed” into the 3-4 if a certain game plan doesn’t call for it. But even when asked to clarify and told that Jeff Tedford has been pretty direct about staying with the 3-4, Pendergast maintained his wait-and-see approach.


Here’s a transcription of the Q&A session:

On jumping to Cal after such a short stint with the Raiders:

“It’s just kind of part of the business, obviously. You look at the different opportunities that present themselves and you go from there.”


On what was attractive about this job:

“To get an opportunity to work with Coach Tedford – I’ve always admired him from afar with the success that he’s had here. There is a rich tradition in this football program. And it was the opportunity to do some things with this defensive unit.


On if he had any connection with anyone on Cal’s coaching staff:

“I had never met Coach Tedford before he contacted me at some point last week and gauged the interest. We just started talking about the possibility of a job from there. ”


On making the decision so quickly:

“It was something I was excited about and interested in. The tradition that this program has had and getting an opportunity to work with a successful collegiate head coach was surely something I was interested in. It was a fairly, easy quick decision. To have an opportunity to be a coordinator again was obviously a factor as well.”


On making the transition from the NFL back to college:

“Coaching is coaching. At the NFL level, you’re still coaching alignments, coaching assignments, coaching technique, communicating. Guys are constantly in flux from free agency to bringing in younger players to the draft, bringing guys in from other leagues. One of the things I enjoy about this job is teaching. It’s just another opportunity to teach football.”


On dealing with student-athletes rather than paid professionals:

“You have to be a good communicator at anything you do. It’s just part of the process. The NFL level, you’re at the combine, your’e visiting with players, your’e going to their campuses and talking to them and trying to find out what ignites them. I would imagine recruiting is a lot like that, just on more of a broader scale.”


On his defenses usually creating a lot of turnovers:
“You have to definitely preach it a lot, talk about creating turnovers. I’ve always felt like the more comfortable your players are and the faster that they can play, the more aggressive they can be. That’s when the turnovers become potential possibilities. So our goal here will to be keep it very simple where our guys can play extremely fast and have an opportunity to make plays.”


On Cal playing the 3-4 the past two years:

“I haven’t been looking so much at what has been done here in the past but been identifying and evaluating the personnel that is on this team right now and what their strengths and weaknesses are from an ability standpoint, and how we as a staff can utilize those skills to the best of their ability.”


On what he thinks of Cal’s defensive personnel so far:

“There are some pieces here. We haven’t had an opportunity to meet as a whole unit yet. I think I’ll have a better feel for that when spring practice is over with. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a group that’s hungry. They work extremely hard in the weight room and the conditioning aspect of football and they like to play the game. From that standpoint, I think going into spring I have a pretty decent idea. But I’ll have a lot better idea when spring ball is over.”


On continuing to play the 3-4:

“We’re going to look at our guys and see how they fit and we’re going to be multiple in what we do. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into being a certain philosophy or certain style, just based on scheme. We’re going to utilize the guys that we have.

“With the multiple personnel groups that you get, you’re going to have to have a little bit of both (3-4 and 4-3). It really depends on what we’re going to get from the offense.”


On whether Cal’s personnel dictates the 3-4:

“Based on the guys that we have out here and the number of athletes that potentially could line up at the linebacker position, that is obviously something that might fit the guys that we have. But to be honest with you, going through the film and then having a picture of what is going to transpire in spring ball will give us a lot better feel for what we’re really going to sink our teeth into. I want to identify the guys that can make plays for us and where we think we can benefit them from a matchup standpoint and where their role is the best. I don’t think we want to be pigeon-holed into one thing or the other. We want to utilize our skill-set. But there is a good incoming group of linebackers from what I understand that I’m looking forward to working with.”


On the incoming linebackers:

“It’s a group that is active, plays hard as a whole. From what I’ve seen so far is that they like to play and they have pretty good instincts. I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen so far.”


On being a coordinator again:

“Getting an opportunity to be a coordinator and the opportunity to work with a coach with his experience. …obviously he’ll be involved as the head coach, overseeing the whole team. I just want to give him the brand of defense that he wants.

“Anytime you get an opportuihity to be a coordinator again, it’s appealing. That was obviously a factor in the situation. I had a good job that I liked as well. I’m looking forward to this job. I like this job, too.”


On his experience as the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator for five years, which included a Super Bowl appearance:

“It was a great five years. It was my first opportunity to be a coordinator. I had a chance to work under Dennis Green initially, who was an extremely good coach in terms of talent evaluation. He was able to build the players who are there now and I also learned a lot about organization skils with his experience. That was a good time there.”


On the Super Bowl experience, especially since he is from Phoenix originally:

“That was exciting for me, growing up there and having a lot of family members there to be able to be a part of that run. That was something that organization had not done, making it that far and it had been so many years that they had not been in the playoffs. That was definitely an exciting time.”


On his experience with the 3-4:

“My background as a coordinator in the NFL for six years has been geared toward a 3-4 alignment if you look at the past and how we’ve utilized the players that we’ve had. The 3-4 allows you to have more athletes on the field. It allows your defense to create different looks.”


On his defensive philosophy:

“I think No. 1, we’re going to play with good sound technique. Obviously, bringing the zone blitz, bringing the man blitzes, creating some indecision in blocking schemes and those sorts of things sometimes can allow you to have an opportunity to have a mismatch on a particular player to where you’re not just rushing on the same person all the time.”


On getting acclimated before spring practice:

“As a staff, we’re working hard right now with the conversion of the terminology and the evaluation of the players to try to have some things in place by spring practice. I think we’ll have sufficient enough time.”


On the differences between coaching in the NFL versus college:

“You’re obviously dealing with the student-athlete, so that has to be the No. 1 priority, that their academics are in line. Once you get on the field, the coaching techniques aren’t going to change. If you’re going to be in a good position to tackle, you’re going to be in a good position to tackle. The technique aspect of it doesn’t change at all. The academic part of it is where it’s going to be al little bit different, particularly a university with as high academics as the University of California.”


On the quickness of the decision to come to Cal:

“It was fairly quick. I’m a guy that operates on early feel and making a decision on how I feel about it when it first comes up and try to go with my gut instinct.”

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.