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Football: A conversation with Wes Chandler

By Jeff Faraudo
Thursday, January 19th, 2012 at 10:02 pm in Football.

I had the chance this afternoon to speak with new Cal receivers coach Wes Chandler during a brief teleconference call involving one other reporter.

At 55, Chandler clearly has the energy and enthusiasm to dive into this job. He talks fast and exudes passion for football.  He is excited about the opportunity and described himself as a teacher. He also said he embraces recruiting as an essential part of the job.

But make no mistake: Jeff Tedford hired a coach who was a big-time talent. An All-American — and an Academic All-American — at Florida, Chandler became a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL.

In the strike-shortened 1982 season, he was All-Pro after a spectacular season-ending performance over four games with the “Air Coryell” San Diego Chargers: 27 receptions for 641 yards (23.7 ypc) and eight touchdowns.

And Chandler, who played the final season of his 11-year NFL career with the 49ers, is optimistic about how things will go Sunday at Candlestick Park.

Here’s the interview:

Let’s start off with this: Who wins the 49ers-Giants game?

“I think the 49ers win it. They win it 20-17. They have some momentum, they’re playing at home and it’s going to be tough (for York) to beat them after going to Green Bay and now taking a long West Coast trip. What coach (Jim) Harbaugh has brought to the 49ers is a different mentalty. A toughness, but a relaxed toughness.”

You are best known for your playing days in the NFL. Talk about how those skills and your coaching experience at various level since then translates to this opportunity?

“First of all, all great players don’t make good coaches. Because you played the game at a high level and you were successful does not necesarily mean you can be a teacher. For me, I was a student of the game. I wanted to know everything about the position, the offense, the pattern, why it was going to be successful and what my role was in that particular play.

“When I started coaching — teaching for me is a better term — you look at each player differently, individually. They learn differently, have different skill sets. You want them to come together. The communication aspect is a major part of it. I expect to be able to talk to them and have feedback. It’s  different when you coach it than when you played it. When you’re on that field it’s a different animal because players move, they’re not pawns. You have to translate what’s going on on the field.”

How much do you know at this point about Cal’s All-Pac-12 wideout Keenan Allen and what are your impressions of him?

“I met him for the first time yesterday. Just looking at the size (6-foot-2) and his energy, it appeared to me that he was a guy who was there for a real purpose. Some kids are there because they have God’s gift. I think this kid wants it all. He believes in the educational system, but I’m talking football as well. (I got) a warm feeling about him. I could see we will establish a great relationship.”

You spent a long time as a pro player and coach. The college game is totally different. Talk about how will you adapt:

“First of all, when I retired, the first opportunity I had in coaching was at the high school level, at a private prep school in Daytona Beach. The following year I was the head coach and athletic director. When I got the opportunity to coach at Central Florida, it gave me enough that I could say I  took a lot away from being able to reach out to these young men. They’re hungry and looking for someone who can help them become the best player they can be. Or, if not, (give) them necessary tools to be successful in life.

“You coach the game the same way. You never waver from the basic fundamentals of teaching the game. You have to have patience with these players. They have have to be academically eligible to participate. When I was athletic director not one of the sports programs was allowed to pick up a ball until they had a one-hour tutorial. Today’s athletes have to study history or they become history.

“You never want to take away their dream. They believe they can become the next Jerry Rice, the next DeSean Jackson. There’s also a price to pay and that’s the classroom. You have to have communication with these young men. Not only are you their technician, but also a friend.”

Do you have the passion and drive at this point to contribute on the recruiting side?

“The recruiting side is where I want to be. Recruiting is a team effort. It  takes the entire coaching staff. I have no problem in doing that. First of all, I’m a team player. I’m used to evaluating talent. That’s all you do on (as a coach on) the pro level when the season’s over. Because I have this tremendous competitiveness about me, I want this program to be the best not only in the Pac-12 but in the entire country. It starts with the people you bring in here. They’re the very foundation.”

Talk about your work in recent years coaching elite-level high school prospects and even younger players with Football University:

“Sometimes people get caught up in the hype that this guy played pro football. But the things I’m able to teach I didn’t read about. It’s my true life experience. I do talk about not just the good things, but the things I had to learn. I wasn’t born with the greatest gifts in the world. I had to work at it. Football is just as much mental as it is physical. It goes back to becoming a student of the game.”

How do you feel about the modern tools of recruiting . . . social media, Twitter, Facebook?

“The digital age of communication with people is huge. We see it in politics and, more importantly, we see it in football. At the end of the day, it’s about being able to sit down in front of a young man and his family and talk about the game of life. Not do it on the phone, not text him `Hello.’ Let them hear that come out of your mouth instead of reading it. There’s a tremendous difference. I can respect (social media). But the people who take advantage of the key recruiting aspects, they do it in person.”

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  • ho

    I’m a fan

  • Matt

    This just reaffirms my belief that this guy is 2 steps up from Kiesau. He will be a huge hit.

  • Hungry

    An upgrade in WR coaching for sure. Great job JT! Can’t wait …

  • Uh Huh!

    Hey Wes! Welcome to Bezerkely! Really glad to have you!
    I can’t find your Twitter account, which means neither can recruits.
    Giddy-Up!

  • jim

    Great interview! Seems like a perfect fit for Cal!

  • abe

    wow, this guy sounds like he is reading this stuff, i am definitely impressed with his succinct yet complete responses with little jibber and jabber. finally some much needed positive news, eh?

  • PC

    W O W.

    Sounds like a great guy, an experienced coach, and someone that fits in at Cal.

  • EastCoastCalFan

    I always admired him as a player. And he has the cred from a talent standpoint and a resume standpoint to talk the talk with 17 year old kids who want to become better players and better PEOPLE. I guess we owe a thank you to MuttU for relieving us of a middling, anonymous coach for a guy who is light years past him. Talk about trading up! It’s like going from dating Roseanne Barr to Emma Stone!

    Welcome Wes, and GO BEARS!!!

  • Jim

    He has it all.
    His personal credentials are outstanding:
    All-American, ACADEMIC All-American, All-Pro.

    He has coaching experience at all levels but, most especially, the recent experience dealing with elite talent AND their parents.

    He understands the aspirations of the top players. He understands that they’re individuals and each has different skills and styles. He also understands that preparing kids for life is the most important.
    He KNOWS that academics is of primary importance which makes him a great fit at Cal.

    He’ll learn to twitter but he understands that face-to-face is more important then facebook.

    Thank you Sarq for being so greedy and “stealing” our do-nothing WR “coach”. LMAO. Dawgs are DUMB.

  • Kent Wilson

    I suspect Wes Chandler is a significant upgrade at the position. I did not know he was also an Academic All American…very impressive resume. Strong substance as WR coach…This is starting to become a top tier coaching team….Ashley Ambrose, Ron Gould, Wes Chandler and OL Coach (Milchzick sp?) All of these coaches either bring significant NLF experience or have a strong track record of developing NFL caliber players at their respective positions.

    If Tedford can get a top tier DL coach, Cal will probably have the best coaching staff in Tedford’s tenure.

  • Kent Wilson

    I wonder if Cal could poach a DL coach from Alabama, LSU or other SEC teams other than Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Ole Miss.

  • Rollonubears

    If all of our coaches were of this pedigree, we’d be loaded with the brightest
    Football players out there. They’d all want to cal. We lose a
    Few academic all Americans with. 4star talent every year to other schools like Stanfurd and notre dame. This could change things. This guy is so well rounded its ridiculous. Go bears!

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Pleased. Come close to him for a DL coach, and things should work out.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Uh oh…looks like Treggs maybe reconsidering.

    Competitors compete.

    They want to play for programs with a tradition for winning.

  • JimBob

    Admired Wes Chandler in the NFL – great player. Seems like a quality person and a great hire for Cal

    Go Bears!

  • Juancho

    Folks. There’s a new episode of Bear Territory Podcast on cal.rivals.com

    It’s free and pretty fun but most importantly informative as hell. They had a real long interview with Zach Kline last week.

  • David

    Go Bears!

  • ScottyBear

    Academic All-American, 50+ career touchdowns in the pros, this guy has the pedigree to compete with any recruiter and coach. Who the heck is Eric Keisau compared to Wes Chandler?

  • Juancho

    Kind friends, enjoy the email that went out to Bear Backers from the administration:

    Fellow Golden Bears –

    With nearly 130 years of history, Golden Bear football has a long and proud tradition at the University of California, one that will continue for decades to come. As a community, we root for the Bears with a passion that rivals any school in the country. The same enthusiasm that unites so many of us also motivates us in our daily work within Cal Athletics as we strive to put the best possible teams on the field.

    While two assistant coaches – Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau – have recently left the Cal football family, we are wholly committed to completing our staff with talented coaches who personify the values and principles we all share.

    Rest assured, we wanted coaches Lupoi and Kiesau to remain on our staff and were aggressive in our efforts to retain both of them. The willingness of our community to support these efforts was crucial. While compensation is important, we cannot ignore our fiscal responsibility. In the context of the University’s overall financial situation and the extraordinary efforts from so many of you to help preserve the scope of our 29-sport athletics program, we have an obligation to remain vigilant when it comes to our precious resources.

    Coaching changes occur frequently, and change in and of itself is not unusual. Neither Coach Tedford nor I begrudge the coaches for doing what they think is best for themselves and their families. We are disappointed, though, in the timing of their decisions and the manner in which this has unfolded as we approach National Signing Day.

    We know from past experience that while those who choose to leave our program are usually missed, they are always replaced with other gifted coaches who jump at the chance to become part of our program. Our new coaches will join an experienced and successful staff already in place.

    We are being diligent and expedient in finding the right people who meet our needs and objectives for the long-term health of our program – just as we do in every coaching search. As many of you know, we have already hired Wes Chandler as our new wide receivers coach, a former NFL All-Pro who has more than 25 years experience playing and coaching football at the professional and collegiate levels.

    This University stands as one of the world’s great institutions of higher learning with a well-deserved reputation for excellence and high achievement in all its endeavors. What helps set us apart at Cal is that the term student-athlete is not an oxymoron – a fact that is not lost on recruits. As always, the quality of our institution, our students, our faculty and our staff remain our biggest draw.

    The future of Cal football could not be brighter as we fully anticipate signing another highly-rated recruiting class on the heels of our past two classes that have ranked among the top 15 in the country. Memorial Stadium construction is ahead of schedule thanks to the dry winter, and the new Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance has proven to be a game-changer for us; recruits themselves have talked about the impact it has made on them and their decision to come to Cal.

    We – the team, the coaches, the staff – are all looking forward to seeing everyone back on campus and in Berkeley in a newly renovated Memorial Stadium in 2012!

    GO BEARS!

    Sandy

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Uh, . . . , Sandy, . . .

    “the new Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance has proven to be a game-changer for us; recruits themselves have talked about the impact it has made on them and their decision to come to Cal.”

    Decisions or initial inclinations?

  • Juancho

    Sometimes when I’m irked or dissapointed, and I admit this is petty, it bugs me how much Sandy acts like she’s a Golden Bear. She’s not. She didn’t go to school here. She didn’t support us when she wasn’t on the payroll. She’s an employee. That’s it.

    I cut Tedford more slack b/c he’s been here for so long and his son went to Cal. But Sandy who nearly killed baseball and rugby – will always be in a bad light for me.

    I admit I am wrong in a lot of ways. But it’s my subjective bias. As a baseball guy, I’ll never forgive her for that.

    But who cares.

    In other news – there’s a rumour that Bryce Treggs is working hard on getting Ishmael Adams to de-commit to UCLA and commit to Cal. That would be massive. He’s a shutdown corner and was I think the top player in the US Army All America game.

    Let’s hope the D line hire is a grand slam and we keep a top 10 class and we roll on, you bears.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Now that is great news, if true, Juancho. Treggs may be on his own poaching mission (could Shaq, too, then?) after recent events. The players have to step up and do it on the field, so why not on the recruiting trail as well, eh?

    As to Sandy, I have always thought she intentionally chose baseball because it, like rugby, would be the easiest to find support for and save. In my mind, she is very much like Tedford. She did everything right in her initial years, then got complacent and has found herself playing catch up and running in circles ever since.

  • bigdruid

    Yeah, Sandy is an employee, but an incredibly effective one:

    Memorial Stadium retrofit
    SAHPC
    Hiring Montgomery
    Re-signing Tedford to a long-term contract (despite what some people may think of this now, at the time getting the money to keep him versus other schools like Michigan was *huge*).

    Yeah, I can understand why threatening to cut the baseball team hurt, and I can understand why people are angry about it (and I don’t know enough about what the alternatives were to comment), but I wouldn’t let it overshadow her other significant accomplishments.

  • BlueNGold

    Looks like the troll has reneged, yet again, on another statement of intention to leave this blog. Hey moron, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?

  • Rollonubears

    Monty was huge. The baseball thing was a giant cluster f, though. The tedford extension will either turn out to be genius or a colossal failure in the next 2 years. All things considered thru today, I am very very happy with her.

  • Juancho

    She did good in her first years. And probably has done well overall, even in my eyes.

    I admit it’s a personal bias that I blame her for baseball. She knew the pac 12 tv network revenue was coming in. That could have saved baseball. Instead she made us pony up $10 million.

    Wisdom – the story is that Walker and Treggs are solid in their commitment again given the new WR coach. And given that Treggs’ dad gave him a good talking to about considering flaking on Cal. I.e., you chose Cal for the university not a coach or even a program. So those two guys are visiting UCLA this weekend to work on Ishmael Adams.

    Originally people thought they were going to try to re-flip Ellis McCarthy. But apparently he’s solid with UCLA. I didn’t know this, but McCarthy’s dad is a UCLA alumni. So they know he’s not moving. Who is apparently considering flipping back, is Ishmael Adams.

    Again, this all hinges on Shaq. By the way Shaq cancelled going to UCLA this weekend. Ishmael was the one trying to get him there. Their friendship is strong and imagine a secondary with those two beasts?

  • wehofx

    The kool aide is still working on me for sb and jt.

    Any rumors on who jt is looking for d line coach? I’m optimistic he’ll get a big name with character to match or up the chandler hire.

    Juancho, thanks for another update. I was wondering if the hype about treggs bailing had any truth to it.

    Come on, Shaq and Ismael, Cal is where you belong for your short and long term future.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Rereading my last post, it could certainly look critical of SB. I went with the easy comparison to JT as both have had, . . . , issues, . . . , of late. However, she definitely was awesome in her first years and when I said going in circles lately, I meant more in terms of chasing all the problems that have been popping up (hippies to finances to coach poaching). Obviously no one is perfect, and to expect her to have been in front of many of these issues would have been asking for the impossible.

    My one real critique would be that she uses the same PR people as JT, so, for those that can read through a BS Tedford press release, it is hard to suspect whatever SB produces to be worded to cover up the mistakes that may or may not really be there. Of course, until LOI day, perception in the eyes of those recruits is all that should matter to her, so why not administer truthiness.

  • BlueNGold

    Juancho- I think you are being unduly harsh toward SB. Remember that her mandate was to make the athletic dept. self supporting financially and still maintain the balance required by Title IX between men’s and women’s sports programs. The reason baseball got ‘singled out’ was because it requires a lot of $$ to operate the program and it skews the Title IX equation. You are characterizing the whole thing as an orchestrated shakedown of baseball alums and fans. I don’t see any evidence to support that theory.

  • eric

    Wes Chandler looks a real solid hire. Since WR is a question mark heading into the season – after KA who plays #2 and slot? – Wes has a chance to deliver immediate, tangible results.

  • Easy Ed

    Can’t wait for Sarsleazian and the turn coats to visit the new facilities this fall. Kick their ASSES!

  • Shaka

    A real class act and great hire. I’m sure Ted is working on a similar impact coach to replace what’s his name. If anyone got to see Kline and Powe at the Under Armour Bowl, that’s part of the air corps of the future along with Treggs, Montgomery, and Payton. Go Bears!

  • Suttree

    I am excited about this hire. One thing though is we haven’t heard much from the recruits. The reactions haven’t been all that strong. Hoping more is going on behind closed doors.