Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fox Sports: Top 30 quarterback battles

6. Cal – Last year was unusually frustrating for Jeff Tedford, who watched his quarterbacks throw nearly as many picks as touchdowns.  The coach and new coordinator Mike Dunbar are determined to make sure 2005 was just an aberration.  Would things have been different if Nate Longshore had been healthy all year?  Maybe.  He showed promise before breaking his ankle and begins spring atop the depth chart.  The same can’t be said of Joe Ayoob, a touted junior-college transfer, who was in over his head after Longshore got shelved, opening the door for some late-season heroics from Steve Levy.  And don’t forget Kyle Reed, the dynamic redshirt freshman that chose Cal a year ago over the rest of the Pac-10.      
Prediction: Longshore


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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

West Virginia Mountaineers Notebook: Tedford Spotted

“Coaches from Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama have already visited Milan Puskar Stadium to witness West Virginia spring practices this year. Yesterday, Cal coach Jeff Tedford was in the stands to watch practice.”


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Contra Costa Times: QB gets back in the fold

Longshore, expected to be in a four-way battle for the starting job, looks sharp in practice as he returns from a leg injury

Cal football notebook

BERKELEY -- Cal football coach Jeff Tedford was asked how his sophomore quarterback, Nate Longshore, was faring early during spring practice.  "He's doing OK," Tedford responded. "But he's still got a little bit of a limp."  Cal has a deep and talented squad coming back for the 2006 season, one that should be ranked high going into the season. The Bears have one of the nation's top tailbacks in Marshawn Lynch, a blossoming star in wide receiver DeSean Jackson and a bevy of other offensive playmakers.  They also have a quarterback, ranked No. 1 on the depth chart, who has a limp.  That doesn't seem to bother Tedford, who noted that the limp is a habit after more than six months of rehabilitation. "Nate is doing everything," Tedford said. "It's just a matter of him developing trust in it. It's not like he is in pain or anything."

It appeared during this week's practice sessions at Memorial Stadium that Longshore, who had won the starting job before breaking his left fibula in the 2005 opener against Sacramento State, is getting more confident by the minute. He was whipping balls around the field, right on target, in impressive fashion.  "Obviously, there is going to be a little rust there from not being behind center," Tedford said. "We will look at his mobility to make sure the injury doesn't have any long-lasting effects."  Longshore will be locked in a four-way competition with seniors Steve Levy, who is 2-0 as a starter (Big Game and Las Vegas Bowl), and Joe Ayoob and redshirt freshman Kyle Reed.  The competition remains wide open. Tedford said that he will give all four quarterbacks equal snaps throughout camp. Considering that Tedford is tweaking his offense with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar, that's quite a commitment.

Coaching search

Tedford said he will interview three or four prospects next week to fill the vacancy left by defensive backs coach J.D. Williams' move to Washington. Tedford said Williams' departure could have come at a better time, but he didn't expect to have any trouble filling the position quickly. "The good thing about it is that the kids are on spring break next week," Tedford said.  Besides interviewing assistant candidates, Tedford will fly to Gainesville, Fla., to observe Urban Meyer's practices at Florida, and to Morgantown, W.V., to check out Rich Rodriguez's practices at West Virginia. Meyer and Rodriguez both use forms of the spread offense.

Bear facts

Cal offensive tackle Mike Tepper, who missed all of last season after he was run over by a car, crushing his right ankle, is listed as first-string on the depth chart. Tedford said Tepper is moving very well and will practice without any restrictions. "It looks like he really doesn't have any ill effects from his surgery," Tedford said. "We're looking forward to seeing him reach a level that we thought he was going to be at last season." ... Tedford said he has been impressed with junior wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who struggled a bit toward the end of last season but came into spring ball ready to go. Tedford said Hawkins is paying more attention to detail. ... Although former defensive tackle Chet Teofilo, a sophomore, only has taken snaps at left offensive tackle for a week, Tedford said he has been impressed. "Chet is a very talented guy," Tedford said. "We were able to move him to offensive line because he is a 295-pounder now. He came to us at 245." ... Offensive lineman John Gibson and defensive back Delo Hilton have had to give up football due to chronic injuries. Gibson, who would have been a sophomore this season, was a high school All-American out of St. Mary's High in Stockton, but back problems kept him from breaking into the lineup. Antioch's Hilton came to Cal last season out of Los Medanos College but heel injuries forced him to end his career.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Daily Trojan: Don't count Trojan football out just yet

By Dan Greenspan Daily Trojan

Los Angeles, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Can you name seven teams better that the Trojans?  Apparently Dennis Dodd of can, because he has USC sitting at No. 8 in a newly revised preseason top 25.  It's still early after all -- the Trojans will play only their second day of spring ball this afternoon -- but based on track record alone, Pete Carroll deserves the benefit of the doubt.

After all, he has handled constant roster turnover over the last four seasons. In that time, he has lost a total of four games and finished no lower than No. 4 in the Associated Press and USA Today polls.  There are still numerous questions to be addressed (John David Booty or Mark Sanchez? Dwayne Jarrett or Ben Malcolmson?), but USC remains a top five team.  The best receiving quartet in America -- Jarrett, Steve Smith, Patrick Turner and Fred Davis -- plays in the Coliseum. A tremendously deep linebacking corps will be the backbone of a vastly improved defense. Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis will be household names and All-Americans 13 games from now.  If they get effective play in the secondary early on, an offensive line that keeps the quarterback's jersey clean and can find a backfield that doesn't field just fullbacks, the 2006 installment of Trojan football could again be playing for a national title.  But before planning to get buck wild on Mill Avenue just yet, here are six other teams capable of joining the party in the desert.  


Ohio State -- The Buckeyes are more than just lucky; they have the best offense this side of Jan. 4, 2006. Quarterback Troy Smith and wideout Ted Ginn Jr. open the year as legitimate Heisman Trophy contenders and will be bolstered by the arrival of Chris Wells.  Wells, the consensus No. 1 tailback recruit in the country, offers Ohio State the best combination of power and speed in the run game since Maurice Clarett.

Pass two early season tests at Texas and Iowa, and Jim Tressel will return to the site of his greatest postseason triumphs.  


Notre Dame -- Are you sick of Brady Quinn yet? You will be as the Irish expect big things from year two under coach Charlie Weis.  With Quinn, receiver Jeff Samardzija and running back Darius Walker all back, the offense should be prolific.  The defense? Don't ask.  Get ready for shootouts every week. As USC learned last season, you can't outscore all of the people all of the time.


West Virginia -- The Mountaineers surprised everybody in 2005, including Georgia in Atlanta during the Sugar Bowl. Now the spotlight will shine brightly on Morgantown, especially on the tandem of speedsters Pat White and Steve Slaton.  The main concern is developing enough of a passing attack to keep defenses honest. White completed only 65 of 114 attempts, and had more rushing yards than passing yards on six occasions.  Also, can Louisville claim revenge after an embarrassing collapse that led to WVU's 46-44 triple-overtime stunner?


Oklahoma -- Adrian Peterson. Healthy. 2,000 yards. 'Nuff said.


Texas -- The Longhorns bring back plenty of talent, but their main concern will be maintaining the swagger Vince Young gave them. Texas was fearless on its way to winning the national title, whether it was down in the Horseshoe, at Oklahoma State or with five minutes left in the Rose Bowl.  If the vibe isn't there, they could easily lose to Ohio State and the rival Sooners. Coach Mack Brown doesn't want to test his newfound appreciation so soon, does he?


California -- The Golden Bears are the most unlikely team on this list, but have a number of ingredients to make them national championship caliber.  Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory is perhaps the most unappreciated assistant coach in Division I.  Tailbacks Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett are now the best one-two punch in the sport.  A win in the season opener at Tennessee has enough cachet to legitimize Cal.

The ever-productive offense of Jeff Tedford will be getting an injection of spread offense with the arrival of former Northwestern coach Mike Dunbar.  And just when it seemed USC had ridded itself of the sturdy Golden Bears with a 35-10 whipping, Nov. 18, 2006, appears that it will again decide the Pacific-10 Conference championship.


The next week, the Trojans and Irish will renew their intersectional affair.  Those two might be better than USC on those specific Saturdays.

But seven teams better?  Please.

ESPN: Longshore appears to be front-runner at QB

(NOTE: Apologies, but you must register at the link below to read the rest of this article)


By Ted Miller

Special to

The transition to Nate Longshore from Aaron Rodgers appeared seamless as Longshore finished a nifty half-rollout with a deep completion in his first start as California's quarterback, prompting the crowd at Memorial Stadium to erupt in the 2005 season opener.

Longshore was the chosen one, the next great passer for quarterbacks guru and head coach Jeff Tedford.

Then -- snap -- his ascension ended just moments after that 40-yard completion, his 11th career pass, left his hand. He was tackled from behind by a Sacramento State defender. His fibula was cracked and ligaments in his left foot were torn. He crumbled to the ground while stubbornly trying to walk off the field.


(Adding to the fun, you have to combine this URL into one continuous link)




Tuesday, March 21, 2006 Ranking the coaches - Pac 10

Analyzing the coaching situations in each conference

By Richard Cirminiello


Best Coach – Pete Carroll, USC – Only a fool or a contrarian would argue with Carroll’s 54-10 record that includes four straight Pac-10 titles, three BCS bowl wins and shares of two national championships.  Yes, no one has better talent or depth, but managing and mollifying so many different mega-stars is far tougher than some would make it out to be.  Carroll has created a unique environment that fosters individuality and somehow keeps an eclectic group of players and coaches from becoming discontented.  Faced with getting back up the mountain for the first time in a while, he appears more motivated than ever for the upcoming season.  


Most Underrated – Jeff Tedford, Cal – Tedford has gotten near-maximum coverage the past couple of years, and yet it still doesn’t do justice to what’s he’s accomplished in four seasons in Berkeley.  He’s completely revamped a program that was on life support and is on the verge of making Cal a perennial national power out of the Pac-10.  Tedford has even gotten the University to invest money into facility upgrades, a pipe dream for past administrations.  


Most Overrated – Tyrone Willingham, Washington – Not many coaches in recent college history have straddled the .500 mark and won a single bowl in 11 years, yet commanded so many headlines.  Willingham continues to be all that’s good in amateur coaching, but the attention he gets is hardly commensurate with his production in the fall or in February.  He was a good hire for a Washington program that desperately needed stability, but he’s not the type of head coach that can consistently deliver big wins or titles.    


Coach on the Hot Seat – Bill Doba, Washington State – With a team constructed by Mike Price, Doba went 10-3 with a Holiday Bowl win over Texas in 2003, but ever since, he’s won just nine times.  The Cougars have been terrible in close games, and the defense, Doba’s forte, has reached its lowest point in five years.  A third consecutive bowl-less December would be catastrophic for a coach some felt was best suited as a career assistant when he got the job.  Would Wazzu and Price ever reunite?  It’s not as if he left the Palouse on bad terms.  


Bucking for a Promotion – Jeff Tedford, Cal – With each passing season, the price to pry Tedford out of Berkeley gets a little steeper.  It’ll be worth every dollar for whichever college program or NFL organization secures his signature.  In four short years, Tedford has turned dust into gold, taking a dreadful 1-10 squad and transforming them into a perennial bowl team and one of the most explosive offenses in the country.  Signing the coach through 2009 was the easy part for the Bears.  Keeping him until the contract expires might be tougher than winning the Pac-10.        


Best Offensive Coordinator – Dirk Koetter, Arizona State – In a league brimming with quality offensive strategists, Koetter remains on the top rung, but not by a landslide.  Cal’s Mike Dunbar arrives from Northwestern with a history of confounding Big Ten defenses.  Gary Crowton helped give the Oregon offense the instant lift it was seeking in 2005.  At just 30, USC’s Lane Kiffin is on the expressway to really big things, and Washington State’s Mike Levenseller doesn’t get nearly enough credit for building a powerhouse offense in Pullman.  Koetter, however, is still the man.  Now in his fifth year at Arizona State, he really has the Sun Devils humming.  He’ll use multiple sets and personnel combinations to gain the edge, and is rapidly turning Tempe into an NFL quarterback factory.       


Best Defensive Coordinator – Bob Gregory, Cal – Pete Carroll ceding control of the USC defense to Idaho import Nick Holt opens the door for Gregory, one of the country’s most underrated coordinators.  Lost in the growing shadow of the Cal offense has been its counterpart on the opposite side of the ball, a unit which held opponents to just 16 points a game in 2004 and led the Pac-10 in scoring defense a year ago.  Gregory deftly blends junior college talent into an attacking 4-3 defense that has shown a penchant for keeping even some of the better league offenses off stride.   


SF Chronicle: Cal's spring practices will be more than routine in key areas

Bruce Adams, Chronicle Staff Writer

In addition to the routine drills on fundamentals and the early competition for starting jobs, Cal goes into spring football facing several major issues.  Coach Jeff Tedford led his team in the first day of spring practice Monday, hoping to resolve the uncertainty at quarterback, to incorporate a new system on offense and to rebuild his coaching staff.  Last year, the Bears were characterized by uncertainty and inconsistency at quarterback. Nate Longshore began as the starter but was lost for the year with a severe ankle injury in the season-opener. Joe Ayoob took over the job, but didn't thrive. He was replaced by Steve Levy in the Big Game and the Las Vegas Bowl.  They're all back, along with Kyle Reed, who is coming off a redshirt freshman season.  Longshore goes into the spring as the starter.  "But that's obviously a key position for us to evaluate through the spring," Tedford said.

Tedford gives the early nod to Longshore by virtue of his having won the job last year.  "I was very comfortable with where he was in his development," Tedford said, "but obviously there's going to be a bit of rust there from not being behind the center."  Tedford also has some off-field issues. This is the first time in three years he has had turnover in his staff.  Bob Foster, who was at Cal for Tedford's inaugural season in 2002, returns as linebacker coach, replacing Justin Wilcox. Foster coached 19 years at UC Davis and was defensive coordinator at Oregon when Tedford ran the offense.  Dan Ferrigno, an assistant at Cal for four seasons (1996-99) who also coached with Tedford at Oregon, returns as wide receivers coach. He replaces Eric Kiesau.  And most notably, Mike Dunbar joins the staff as offensive coordinator. Dunbar spent the past five years at Northwestern where he directed an offense that ranked No. 4 in the nation last year. Dunbar will play a more high-profile role than his predecessor, George Cortez, did.

His hiring reflects Tedford's desire to incorporate the spread into his more conventional system.  "Trying to put it together is the challenging part," Tedford said.  The spread can employ as many as five receivers. Meanwhile, Cal will retain, with some possible modifications, its basic formations, which include sets with two backs, two tight ends and/or two wide receivers.  And unlike in many spread offenses, the fullback and tight end will continue to be an integral part of Cal's offense.

"That's where we differ from teams that are solely spread," Tedford said. "That's a work in progress as we try to find what the right combination is."  He said the spread elements of Cal's offense would be similar to systems that run the so-called Utah spread-option, which retains a strong running game, as opposed to the Texas Tech-style pure spread, which relies heavily on the pass.  Tedford said his new staff is coming together nicely, although things that were routine in the past, such as practice schedules, have to be specified again.  "It really forces us to re-address everything," he said.  Spring drills conclude April 22.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Contra Costa Times: Spring practice has Cal betting on the spread

By Jay Heater

Plenty of midnight oil is being burned in the football offices at Memorial Stadium as Coach Jeff Tedford and new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar go about ``tweaking'' Tedford's offense. How big of a tweak is it? ``This is earthquake country, right?'' Dunbar said. ``Well, is a 5 bad?''  Not too bad if it is Memorial Stadium that's shaking. In this case, though, the only thing rattling is the Cal fan base.  The addition of Dunbar and his spread philosophies, so successful at Northwestern, are cause for uneasiness in Strawberry Canyon, where Tedford's offensive schemes are revered.  Would a higher power ask for help? In this case, the answer is yes. Tedford said he isn't looking to overhaul an offense that has produced an average of 34.4 points per game during Tedford's four seasons. ``We are just adding some wrinkles here and there,'' Tedford said.  Those wrinkles begin appearing this week as Cal opens spring drills.

With a veteran group returning after an 8-4 season, hope springs eternal that Cal might be headed for a special 2006. But will changing the offense, even minimally, cause the Golden Bears to lose a beat? No, Tedford says, particularly once Dunbar gets on the same page with the rest of the staff.  ``We need to teach Mike what we do,'' Tedford said. ``A lot of it is terminology.''  It probably won't take Dunbar, 57, long to get a good grasp of Tedford's offense. ``We offensive guys around the country have been very aware of Jeff Tedford,'' said Dunbar, who has been offensive coordinator at Northwestern and Toledo and head coach at Northern Iowa and Central Washington. ``I've also studied a tremendous amount of Oregon film (from Tedford's days there as an offensive coordinator). This man knows his offense.''  Tedford obviously was aware of Dunbar's reputation as someone who commands attention, unlike previous offensive coordinator George Cortez, who was much more low-key.

Dunbar said he won't be shy about offering ideas. He said the spread offense will help Cal's quarterbacks to see the field better when they operate out of the shotgun and the offense should open wide running lanes for running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett.  Spring drills will feature a quarterback battle among Steve Levy, who started last season's Las Vegas Bowl; previous starter Joe Ayoob; rehabilitating Nathan Longshore and redshirt freshman Kyle Reed. The changing offense, Dunbar said, shouldn't hinder the competition.  ``The offense is a verbage thing,'' Dunbar said. ``And we are keeping as much of the verbage as we can. It's not our goal to change what Cal has been. It's to take the Cal offense, and incorporate the spread.''

Oakland Tribune: Tired of retiring, Foster returns to Cal sideline

By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY — Bob Foster — or Retiring Robert — has done it again. He has come out of retirement a third time, and he's back coaching at Cal, which begins spring football practice today.  Foster, 65, coached at Cal in 2002, Jeff Tedford's first year, then retired, he thought, for the last time.  "My wife told me, 'I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch. Get a job,'" he said. So after Justin Wilcox left Cal to become Boise State's defensive coordinator, Foster replaced him as the Bears linebacker coach.  "I'm not sure why I left the last time. Maybe that's why I'm back," he said, laughing. Actually, he felt fatigued from the long coaching hours, so he retired, even though Tedford told him to wait a few months, when he would feel rejuvenated.  Tedford was right, and Foster regretted his hasty decision. Now, this senior citizen, who jogs every day, is giving it another go, believing the hours won't be as long with Cal now an established program.  "You kind of wonder if you have a disease, you love it so much," Foster said of coaching. "I really missed the players, looking into those young eyes, that enthusiasm. It makes you feel younger, and I need to feel younger."  Tedford is delighted that Foster decided to return.  "Not only is he sound fundamentally and schematically, he is the most optimistic and positive person I've ever been around," Tedford said. "He always looks for the best in a young man, always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt."

Tedford and Foster were the offensive and defensive coordinators together at Oregon in the late 1990s. Then Foster retired a second time. Thus, Tedford has talked him out of retirement twice. Foster's first retirement came in 1992 after four years as UC Davis head coach, a 30-11-1 record and two Division II playoff appearances. Dan Hawkins, now the Colorado coach, talked him into joining him at Willamette as an adviser for three years. Then Oregon called, Cal called and Cal called again. Retiring Robert hasn't said how long he will stay in his fourth time around in a 38-year coaching career. Remarkably, he hasn't had a losing season in all that time. "All these changes have been kind of fun, really," he said. "I started doing a lot of the cooking, but my golf was driving me crazy. So I decided this would be a great thing to do."  Once again.


AP: Tedford ready to reinvent Cal's offense in spring practice

GREG BEACHAM   Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. - Jeff Tedford won't be afraid to break something that probably doesn't need fixing this spring. With a deep roster of returning players headed by star tailbacks Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, the California coach simply could have added minor tweaks and twists to the Golden Bears' powerful offense during spring practice, which began Monday at Memorial Stadium.  But Tedford couldn't resist the opportunity to get better when offensive coordinator George Cortez left the program after last season. Tedford hired Northwestern assistant Mike Dunbar as Cortez's replacement, securing his extensive knowledge of the spread offense that's setting records and gaining followers throughout the game.

"I've been thinking about that for a while, about implementing certain parts of (the spread offense)," Tedford said. "I pursued someone with spread knowledge, and (Dunbar) is one of the leading guys in that. ... It's a work in progress right now, but we'll have it figured out by the fall."

Although the Bears won't abandon Tedford's effective running game, they'll spend the spring installing some aspects of the spread offense in the Bears' game plan. Tedford, who played in spread offenses while he was a CFL quarterback, hopes to turn Cal into one of the nation's most versatile offensive teams, able to run a spread-out passing game and Tedford's more traditional running attack on consecutive downs.  And you thought Lynch was hard to tackle during his sophomore season. Imagine being a defense that doesn't know whether Lynch will run the ball, catch a pass or line up as a receiver. "It can be a very entertaining system to watch, and we all know how effective it can be," Tedford said. "This offseason has been very busy. It's been a challenge, but it's been exciting." The Bears are expected to enter the season with a top-20 ranking, thanks to 15 returning starters from last season's 8-4 team, which beat Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl. Cal's few personnel losses were all key players, but several candidates will vie for each of those spots during spring.  Tedford also must evaluate four quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Nate Longshore, who won the starting job last fall before breaking his ankle in the season opener, will start the spring atop the depth chart in front of senior Steve Levy, who led Cal past Stanford and BYU while starting last season's final two games.

Joe Ayoob, who spent most of his junior year as Cal's starter before Tedford was forced to bench him for inaccuracy and interceptions, will be back in the pack alongside redshirt freshman Kyle Reed, the heralded prep star from Oakland. But all four will get plenty of chances to impress Tedford, Dunbar and the rest of the Cal coaches.  "That's obviously a key position for us to evaluate during the spring," Tedford said.  Eight starters return on defense, including defensive line powerhouse Brandon Mebane and cornerbacks Daymeion Hughes and Tim Mixon. Cal must replace rover Donnie McCleskey, but coordinator Bob Gregory's squad is experienced and solid.  Though Tedford's quarterbacks will occupy much of his time until the spring game on April 22, he also will be looking for three new starting offensive linemen after the departures of NFL prospects Ryan O'Callaghan, Marvin Philip and Adam Merz.  "They can take a huge step toward playing," Tedford said of the players vying for the spots. "This is the time for the new players to step up and make a huge impression on us."

Sunday, March 19, 2006 Spring Update


To the typical observer of college football, Jeff Tedford faced three different challenges when he inherited a struggling University of California football program in 2002. Stage one would be the program flip. Re-directing the fortunes of California from the pitfalls of the 1-10 team Tedford inherited into a winning program looked to be a process that could take lots and lots of energy, and possibly years and years to accomplish. Mission accomplished in a matter of months. Tedford's first group of Golden Bears opened with three straight wins on its way to a 7-5 record. Stage two would be the elusive climb into the polls and up the Pacific-10 Conference standings. Another mission accomplished.

Four games into the 2002 season, the Bears were in the polls for the first time under Tedford and they have climbed all the way into the top five during his tenure with numerous weeks in the top 10. Over the last two seasons, California has been a fixture in the polls, ending each of the last two seasons as a member of the top 25. The final challenge would be consistency. Under Tedford, California has become a consistent winner. The record shows four straight winning seasons, three straight bowl games, and at least eight wins in each of the last three campaigns. Many of the milestones Tedford's teams have reached are feats that last occurred during the glory days of Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf in the 1950s.

Those accomplishments should satisfy the expectations and requests of a typical college football fan. However, inside California Memorial Stadium, the mission continues. The non-stop drive to improve, reach new heights, and grow into an even greater national presence are far from being fulfilled, despite the bucket-load of accomplishments already attained by the Golden Bears under Tedford. California enters the spring of 2006 with a habit of winning, a consistent presence in the polls and soaring respect. Offering evidence of that is the 2005 season. Despite returning the fewest number of starters in the Pac-10 Conference last season, the Bears were picked for second in the league and climbed as high as No. 9 in the Associated Press poll in what, on paper, was a rebuilding season. Injuries and a couple of nail-biting losses were a factor in an 8-4 season. It was the kind of season that would have been wildly celebrated just a couple of years earlier. It was a season that provided numerous accomplishments considering the youth and injuries of the 2005 team. It was the kind of season that might have just set the table for bigger things in 2006. As Cal enters its 2006 spring practices, there is a buzz around the program that has become a steady him. Less than two years removed from a run at the national championship and a run at the Rose Bowl, Cal's 53 returning lettermen and 18 returning starters have fans once again eagerly awaiting the opening kickoff with dreams of big things. "We're a different team this season," Tedford said. "We are a year older after being very young last season. But we need to continue to build team chemistry and gain knowledge and experience. There is a lot of potential in a lot of places."


It was a year of transition for the Cal Bears in 2005. Gone was a 2,000-yard rusher, gone was a first-round draft pick at quarterback and gone was the school's all-time leading receiver. How did the Golden Bears handle the losses -- by ranking ninth nationally in rushing with 235 yards per game and 26th in America in total offense, despite starting three different quarterbacks, and a virtually completely rebuilt receiving corps. Things will be different this fall. For starters, Cal returns two of the top seven rushers in the Pac-10 in Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, a handful of big-play receivers that are still very young, an accomplished two-deep at tight end and all three of the quarterbacks who got starting assignments a year ago. Up front, the Bears must replace some of the foundation with the loss of All-Pac-10 players Ryan O'Callaghan (tackle) and Marvin Philip (center). But there is talent and still some experience for a Cal offensive line that has cleared the way for some of the nation's most exciting offenses since Tedford arrived. If possible, the Bears will have even more offensive firepower with the arrival of former Northwestern offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar. "With the addition of Coach Dunbar, we will work to meld the two offensive styles together to see what components of the spread offense we will want to incorporate into our current offense," Tedford said.

Offensive Line

There is little doubt that the Bears coaching staff will spend lots of time looking at scenarios in the offensive front, the only place on the offensive side of the field where the Bears suffered major losses. "We will be looking for some of our young guys to gain some experience there and give them a chance to gel," the head coach said. "We thought before Mike Tepper's injury that he could have been a factor for us, and Mark Gray is a guy we brought in for the spring who is a smart and competitive player." The Bears lost three solid starters up front, including the headliners in O'Callaghan and Philip. Also gone is the steady Aaron Merz, who started 10 games and super sub Jonathan Murphy, who had starts at both tackle spots last season.


Senior Scott Smith will hold down the fort at one tackle spot. The senior has spent part of his time in Berkeley as a center. As a tackle, he took over starting duties last season when Andrew Cameron was lost to injury. Smith is an intelligent player and helped Cal through its injury woes by starting in eight games. Also on the depth chart this spring is redshirt freshman Kevin Bemoll. One of the most heavily recruited players out of California as a senior, the Mission Viejo product will get his first real look this spring. Across the way at the other tackle slot, there are a couple of early candidates to replace O'Callaghan, the winner of the 2005 Morris Trophy, which is presented annually to the Pac-10's best offensive lineman. The early leader is Tepper. He would have likely been a contributor in 2005 had he not been sidelined by a non-football injury. The early leader is Tepper. He would have likely been a contributor in 2005 had he not been sidelined by a non-football injury. He is an athletic player who spent much of his youth on the soccer field which has resulted in excellent footwork. Tepper enters the spring as a starter with two other young players, sophomore Chet Teofilo and redshirt freshman Matt Laird, behind him on the pre-spring depth chart. Teofilo saw action on the defensive line last season after coming back from injury. Laird is another athletic lineman who spent most of his prep career at tight end.


Like the tackle position, Cal returns a starter and must replace a starter. The returning player is senior Erik Robertson. He held down the left guard slot all of last season and is a strong upperclassman. If needed, he could also move inside and help out at center. Robertson will be one of Cal's most experienced offensive linemen entering the 2006 season. Robertson's early backup is sophomore Jeff Fritch. The Torrance native was a standout defensive lineman in high school who brings good size to the position and will get his first hard look by the coaching staff this spring. On the other side of the ball, the early starter is the hard-working Brian De La Puente. He enters his junior season as a strong candidate for starting honors after spending two seasons working behind the scenes. "Brian is a former walkon who earned a scholarship last year," Tedford said. "He is a hard worker." Noris Malele will also be a candidate at guard. He saw spot duty behind the 2005 veterans as a redshirt freshman and was the former offensive scout team player of the year for the Bears.


Cal must replace a two-time Rimington Award finalist at center where Marvin Philip has departed. Sophomore Alex Mack is a talented candidate to fill the void. He helped spell Philip in 2005 as the senior fought through a variety of injuries. In 2006, the sophomore will get his chance to take the job on a full-time basis. Newcomer Gray arrived in Berkeley in time for the spring semester, and the community college transfer will also get a long look as Cal works to develop depth in the middle of the offensive front.

Tight End

The tight end plays an important part in the Bears' attack, and that role could increase in 2006. Returning is Pac-10 honorable mention all-conference selection junior Craig Stevens and top reserve senior Eric Beegun. The duo combined for 19 receptions last season, but are capable blockers and athletic enough to cause matchup problems. Senior David Gray, a converted wide receiver, also added seven receptions and averaged more than 16 yards on his catches in 2005.

A newcomer to keep an eye on in 2006 is redshirt freshman Cameron Morrah. He is a fleet-footed big man who caught the eye of the coaching staff early and often while a member of the 2005 scout squad. "Craig brings some strength and stability to the position," Tedford said. "There is some experience with Beegun and a talented underclassmen in Cameron."


One year after rebuilding the receiving corps, Cal's returning talent is sure to cause concern to opposing defensive coordinators. There is a lot of speed that can stretch a defense, plenty of youth and now, thanks to a year in the trenches, some experience for the receivers to draw upon. As a whole, Cal returns 154 of its 167 receptions from a year ago (92.2 percent) with the only losses coming from the graduation of fullback Chris Manderino. That also translates to more than 2,100 receiving yards returning in 2006, along with 20 of last season's 22 touchdown receptions. "There is a lot of big-play ability in that group," according to the head coach, "that generally comes with speed.

Z Receiver

Junior Robert Jordan is the elder statesman of Cal's still young group of receivers, and he is the returning starter at the Z spot. Jordan was second on the team last season with 34 catches covering 455 yards with four touchdowns. He averaged 13.4 yards per reception a year ago and showed big-play and big-game capabilities. Junior Lavelle Hawkins is also listed at the Z position. He is coming off his first year at the Division-I level, and he had 18 receptions in 2005. He was sidelined for part of the year by injury, but his presence gives California two impressive options at the position.

X Receiver

True sophomore DeSean Jackson returns as the starter at this position. As a freshman, he led the Bears in receptions (38), receiving yards (601) and touchdown receptions (7). The exciting Long Beach Poly grad can also be a factor on special teams, as he returned a punt for a touchdown in the 2005 season opener. Another fleet-footed wideout, Sam DeSa, is listed as Jackson's understudy. The junior saw action in 10 games last season. Cal also returns LaReylle Cunningham and a healthy Noah Smith to the wideout group. Smith, a junior, was off to a strong start in the opener before going down to injury and Cunningham, a sophomore, was a key in the Bears' come-from-behind win over Washington State.

Running back

It would be hard to find anyone in the country with a better situation at running back than what California carries into the 2006 season. Junior Marshawn Lynch is back and could be a contender for every national honor available. His 1,246 rushing yards last season came in less than 10 full games. His total was the third best ever by a Bear, and that was all accomplished in his first season as a starter. Justin Forsett, a junior, filled in so well for Lynch in 2005 that he ran for 999 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per rush. Also returning is senior Marcus O'Keith, who has also flashed big-play capabilities. O'Keith, in limited backfield duties a year ago, averaged 11 yards on his 22 carries, including a team-best 71-yard run.

Cal will be looking to replace the invaluable Chris Manderino at fullback. He was a four-year starter who had a knack for the big play. A likely candidate for that spot is Byron Storer, a senior, who is a heavily decorated special-teams player. Will Ta'ufo'ou could also see time at fullback.


In the first half of play in the first game of the 2005 season, redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Longshore was lost for the season due to an ankle injury. He is recovered and tops the early spring depth chart at quarterback. He is a big, accurate quarterback that never had the chance to fully display his talents. Also back in the fold is senior Steve Levy. The quarterback-turned-fullback-turned-quarterback led the Bears to two straight wins to close 2005 with victories over Stanford and Brigham Young in efficient fashion. Also returning is senior Joe Ayoob, who took the majority of the snaps for the Bears in 2005. He passed for 1,707 yards a year ago with a 49.2 percent completion ratio. New to the fray this spring will be former Oakland prep standout Kyle Reed. He is a talented athlete who will get lots of reps in the spring in what will be his first extended action in the Cal offense. "The spring is really important for Nate and Kyle," Tedford said. "Joe and Steve really gained some experience last season and Nate and Kyle didn't have that opportunity. We are really anxious to see those two develop during the spring."


One year after the Bears saw lots of new faces in lots of new places, California's defenders should have a familiar look in 2006. The Bears have experience and talent up front, a fleet-footed linebacker corps that is still very young but experienced. In the secondary, the Bears have proven corners but will break in new starters at safety. Overall, a Bears defensive unit that is often overlooked because of Cal's marquee offensive numbers will likely field another strong unit in 2006. "The general thought is that with so many people returning, you can do a lot more on defense," Tedford said. "But I'm not always sure that more is better. I do think that with our returning experience, we can do a good job of eliminating mistakes."

Defensive Line

California returns virtually its entire two-deep across the defensive front, including two all-league performers and some active role players who figure to be improved. "We really have everyone back with Tosh Lupoi the only loss," Tedford said.

Defensive End Seniors Nu'u Tafisi and Abu Ma'afala return as starters on the defensive ends. Tafisi, who tallied 10 tackles for loss in 2005, ended the season by being named second-team All-Pac-10. He is one of Cal's most active defenders and seems to cause constant disruption along opposing offensive fronts. Ma'afala was a part-time starter a year ago and saw action in every game. Listed as backups for Tafisi and Ma'afala are junior John Allen and freshman Tad Smith. The Bears will be without some mainstays on the defensive line during spring workouts, including defensive ends Phillip Mbakogu, Fahim Abd Allah and Steve Kelly, as they recover from injury.


Senior Brandon Mebane returns as a first-team All-Pac-10 performer who is worthy of national honors consideration. He rarely has the luxury of competing against just one offensive player, and his disruption up front allows for big plays to be made by the California linebackers. Mebane is clearly the anchor up front as illustrated by his seven quarterback sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss last season. The other starting tackle entering spring drills is sophomore Mika Kane, who saw his role in the middle increase as the 2005 season progressed. Playing backup at the tackle positions are senior Jason Miller and freshman Tyson Alualu. Alualu joined the Bears in the spring after originally signing with the Bears before the 2005 season. He was rated the No. 2 player in Hawaii in 2005 by "Brandon is a force inside that you can't really address one-on-one," the head coach said. "He can be a dominating factor, no doubt about it. He really helps our linebackers because he draws so much attention." Matt Malele will miss spring workouts while recovering from injury.


California's linebacking corps is just ...well, fun to watch. The returning group includes an All-Pac-10 choice, two Freshman All-Americans and a couple of other returning players that made more than one jaw-dropping playing during the course of the season. As a whole, the group may rival any unit in the west with the ability to fly sideline-to-sideline as well as plug up the middle. "The linebackers are still young and when you take Desmond Bishop out of the picture, they're very young," Tedford said. "They are a very talented group with a lot of competitors. They can really create a mindset for your football team."


Senior Desmond Bishop, who led California with 89 tackles last season on his way to second-team All-Pac-10 honors, returns to the inside. He is an athletic backer who played well in his first year of Division I football and could be an "all" candidate as a senior. He figures to be one of the defensive headliners in 2006. Junior Greg Van Hoesen, who started three games on the outside as a sophomore, is listed second on the depth chart inside entering spring drills. He can obviously give Cal help in several spots and has seen lots of playing time in his first two years on campus. Like Bishop, Van Hoesen has shown big-play capabilities, including a defensive touchdown after an interception last season.


Sophomore Anthony Felder, one of Cal's two freshman All-Americans, is the leader at this position. Felder was a starter for eight games and saw action in all 12 games in 2005. Justin Moye, a standout special-teams player in the past, is also listed on the depth chart at the strong side linebacker spot. Senior Mickey Pimentel will miss spring workouts while recovering from injury.


Worrell Williams saw action in nine of Cal's 12 games, displaying his powerful and bruising style of play. Zack Follett, one of Cal's two freshman All-Americans, will back up in this slot. Follett, who showed big-play capability last season, saw action in all 12 of Cal's games.


California returns two starters and several contributors in the secondary. It's an athletic group with playmaking abilities, especially at corner.


California lost a major contributor and leader on the defensive side with the graduation of Donnie McCleskey. His presence will be missed, but there is talent waiting for its chance. Junior Brandon Hampton, a former walkon running back, was a steady contributor last fall, and his athletic ability and nose for the football figures to provide him a chance to nail down starting duties at rover. The depth chart is completed by another athletic player, redshirt freshman Robert Peele, a former SuperPrep All-American.


Along with McCleskey, Cal lost another force at safety with the graduation of Harrison Smith, who had 72 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups during 2005. The heir apparent to the position is junior Thomas DeCoud. He has been on the field often during his first two years on campus and has recorded six blocked kicks in his career. He is a big safety whose size brings a new dimension to the secondary. Gary Doxy and Bernard Hicks, who figures to be fully recovered from injury, are also candidates at safety. Hicks, a sophomore, is capable of seeing action at rover as well.


Cal has the luxury of a pair of returning starters at corner in seniors Daymeion Hughes and Tim Mixon. Hughes was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a junior when his impressive numbers included 62 tackles, five interceptions and 12 breakups. He is a candidate for national honors at corner. Across the field, reliable Mixon returns. His numbers featured three interceptions and 10 pass break-ups during his junior season. He was also among America's leading punt returners in 2005.

Entering spring, Randy Bundy, a rising senior, and Syd'Quan Thompson, a redshirt freshman, complete the depth chart.


Cal returns placekicker Tom Schneider, holder Joe Ayoob, and long snapper Nick Sundberg. Their experience alone is invaluable after a year in which Cal's specialists were nearly error-free.

The Bears also return big-play capabilities in the return game with Mixon and Jackson both recording punt returns for scores a year ago.

The position of punter is open with the graduation of David Lonie. However, Cal did ink a solid prospect in community-college star Andrew Larson.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Modesto Bee: Tedford Guest Speaker at Stanislaus County Sports Awards Banquet

The Modesto Bee reports that at the Outstanding Athlete Award Banquet in Modesto, honoring college and high school athletes, “Many in the large crowd wore the blue and gold Cal logo in honor of football coach Jeff Tedford, the guest speaker.”

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kingsport Times-News: Vols' receivers have 'clean slate'

Note From Blogger:  Once again, to clarify, Cal’s first game is against Tennessee, so I’m including some articles about the Vols on this blog.


Thursday, March 09, 2006



KNOXVILLE - With a new coach comes a new start. That's the mind-set Trooper Taylor has this spring as he takes over as position coach for Tennessee's wide receivers. "I think they feel like their slate is clean," Taylor said. "We're gonna start from ground zero, and we're gonna work from there." The Volunteers' wideouts likely are eager to move on. Coach Phillip Fulmer described their play as "obviously a disappointment" during last season's 5-6 campaign. That led to the new job for Taylor, who spent the past two seasons tutoring UT's running backs. Veteran Vol receivers like rising senior Jayson Swain already know what to expect from their new coach. "We expect him to be in our stuff, the way it should be," Swain said. "He's gonna treat us like he treats his little kids. If we mess up, then he's gonna be there to tell us we messed up - probably not in a nice way. If we do good, he'll sit there and pat us on the back.

"He's always gonna be on you and make sure you're doing what you need to do to get better everyday." Swain said that when the previous receivers coach Pat Washington was fired, Taylor was at the top of his wish list of potential position coaches. After what Taylor did with the running backs, it's hard not to see why. In Taylor's first season, Tennessee had two backs record concurrent 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the first time in school history. One of those athletes was Gerald Riggs Jr., who had been a problem child for UT until Taylor arrived. "Gerald needed somebody like Trooper to come in there and wring his neck, and it turned out good," Swain said. "(Riggs) didn't get in trouble ... he was doing the things he was supposed to be doing. That's gonna be the same thing for us." Problems off the field weren't a big issue for the wideouts last fall. Problems on the field were another matter.  The receiving corps was plagued by frequent drops, and widespread criticism of uninspired play. Already, Taylor is taking steps to insure that the former will not be a problem. "Drops will not be accepted. They understand that," Taylor said.

Taylor has incorporated some new drills, such as having the receivers catch tennis balls to improve their hands. The program also bought two new sets of Jugs machines. "Before we had just one. Now we've got three sets and they've been catching 100 balls a day," Taylor said. When the wideouts aren't catching, chances are, they'll be running. "They will run before practice, they will run in the middle of practice and they will run after practice," Taylor vowed. With all that running, it's no surprise the veterans are slimmer and trimmer. Swain started spring drills down about 8 pounds from 215 to 207, while Robert Meachem - last year's leading receiver - also has lost weight. Although Meachem and Swain are Tennessee's top two receivers on paper, Taylor is all about establishing versatility by the time the season begins. "I don't believe in a go-to guy because you can take that guy away," Taylor said. "You won't have to see Meachem at X or Swain at Z. ... I think that helps you because it'll be harder for defenses to take you away." Meachem and Swain aren't the only available weapons. Bret Smith showed promise as a freshman but had serious issues with drops last fall. Then there's younger guys like Austin Rogers, Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe. Regardless of how the depth chart shakes out, the liberal substitution pattern from last year appears to be extinct. "You ask any quarterback, they want to know the receivers," new offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "It's an unusual situation where you have four, five or six that can play." Whoever ends up playing will be aware of who they're accountable to - and what's expected. "Like Troop said this morning, he ain't gonna set the bar low, cause then we'll be tripping over it," Swain said.


Modesto Bee: Tedford's job at Cal far from finished


Modesto Bee

Good coaches, it's said, never stand pat. They're evolving, looking for an edge, always keeping score.  Jeff Tedford of the University of California is one of those coaches. Unfortunately for him, his resuscitation of the Golden Bears - now entering its fifth season - has coincided with USC's return as college football's pacesetter.

Cal was humbled at home 35-10 last November by Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and the then-streaking Trojans.  The Bears, primed for the same upset they sprang on USC two years before, were decisively humbled. "One of the most difficult days I've ever been associated with as a coach," Tedford said this week.  Tedford, 44, sees the big picture with 20-20 vision. He knows he's done well at Cal and that the university recognizes his team's turnaround. When he was introduced at Haas Pavilion last weekend during the Cal basketball team's final home game, the ovation was warm and sustained. In four seasons, Tedford's Bears have gone 33-17 with three straight bowl appearances - a first in over a half-century - two bowl wins and a national ranking as high as No. 4. But when you're chasing the Red Menace that is USC, an even bigger push is required. The bottom line is Cal, like everyone else other than Texas, can't measure up to USC.

So Tedford is pushing. Hard. His hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar, the mastermind of Northwestern's potent spread attack, signals changes ahead in the Cal offense. "We're looking to meld our offense with portions of the spread and pick and choose from each," Tedford said. "It's an addition of a philosophy for us." That's Tedford. "It's nice to go to the bowls, but there is more for us to accomplish," he said. "There are conference championships, the BCS ..." And, we'll add, overtaking the almighty Trojans.

That said, Tedford displayed all the right stuff in the hour following Cal's disappointing loss to USC. He agonized not just over the loss but also for his quarterback, Joe Ayoob, whose confidence had just been sliced and diced. Ayoob tossed four interceptions that day, and the look in his eye suggested a young man defeated in every way. Tedford, the so-called builder of quarterbacks, also had a reason to be devastated. Eventually, he replaced Ayoob with Steve Levy, who guided Cal to wins over Stanford and then BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. But on that day, he was concerned over Ayoob the man, not Ayoob the QB.

"Here was a young kid who was thrown into high expectations after Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers (Ayoob became the starter after Nate Longshore was injured during the season opener). You can be crushed by the expectations at this level. You don't wish that on anyone," Tedford said. "I've never been through a situation like that. We've always been very efficient at that position. For us to struggle, there were new lessons to be learned." Cal's upcoming four-man dual for the quarterback job will define its season. If the Bears find a capable man behind center, they will enjoy more success. Preseason polls, which rank Cal as high as 10th, reveal continued respect. Regardless, Tedford vows a slight change in his approach.

"The main thing is to provide a lot of support for the guy at that position," he said. "And, hopefully, we won't put him in a position where he's not ready." How driven is Tedford, you ask? Rewind, again, to last November, and the postgame reaction from USC coach Pete Carroll. "California has been kind of right behind us for a while," Carroll said, "and we talked about putting some separation between us, and we did this game."

Tedford, when reminded of those words, accepted the final score but not the sentiment. "That was his opinion on a day we struggled. I don't see it that way. I don't think they're dramatically better us. We aren't in awe of them, nor are they of us," he said. "Just because we struggled that day doesn't mean our programs are light years apart. He sounded like someone happy with himself after a big win. It was easy to say when you've got all those guys back, with a Heisman Trophy winner and a veteran team. I do know that tides seem to change from time to time." Even in March, Tedford is keeping score.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Stanford Daily: "Victoria "punks Pruitt

Note: While this blog is limited to Cal football, this story about Cal basketball deserves a mention):

By Alex Gyr and Daniel Novinson

Hey, Sixth Man: take notice.

Sure, heckling visiting shooting free throws is nothing new, and First Team All-Pac-10 guard Gabe Pruitt of USC has received his fair share of taunts. But when the sophomore stepped to the stripe during last Saturday’s game at Cal he heard something incredibly familiar yet even more jarring from the Bears’ student section: his own phone number.

As first reported, it turns out Pruitt had been chatting on AOL Instant Messenger the week leading up to the game with “Victoria,” who claimed to be a cute UCLA student.

Pruitt liked the pictures she sent, allegedly telling her, “You look like you have a very fit body,” and, “Now I want to c u so bad.” Sure enough, he eventually gave the “girl” his digits and agreed to meet her when he returned to L.A.

Unfortunately for Pruitt, “Victoria” turned out to be a member of the Cal RallyCom, who shared the information with the rest of his student section. So when Pruitt came up to shoot his first free throws of the night, the student section erupted in chants of “Victoria,” as well as his phone number.

Pruitt, a 79-percent free throw shooter, missed both attempts badly, and finished just 3-of-13 from the field. Perhaps Not surprisingly, Cal ended up winning the game 71-60.

The two teams meet in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament on Thursday. No word yet on whether “Victoria” will attend.