By Stephen Chen
LOS ANGELES-As the start to the 2006 Cal football season nears, it's only natural to think back to 2004 when the Bears were presented with the same lofty preseason expectations. That campaign ultimately came down to the missed opportunities in team's setback against USC, which left Cal fans wondering, "Why didn't they run on second down?" or "What if Jonathan Makonnen hadn't slipped on fourth and goal?" But if this is the year the Bears erase those painful memories, you can thank coach Jeff Tedford for a quiet move he made in early February. In his four years at the helm, Tedford has shown he is always a step ahead of the competition. When he hired Mike Dunbar to be offensive coordinator, it once again demonstrated his brilliance.
This isn't going to be one of those Remember-the-Titans-you-do-your-job-I-do-mine types of marriages. Tedford is one of the brightest offensive minds in all of football, but by hiring Dunbar, whose spread offense at Northwestern averaged 500.3 yards a game last season, Tedford proves he isn't too big-headed to incorporate new ideas and tactics.
It's not that Tedford really needed to tweak his offense. Cal averaged 32.9 points last season, the fourth highest average in its history. But much like the wishbone offense in the 1970s, the spread formation is the new thing to do these days-and you can't argue with the results: Oregon implemented it last year and saw a 40-yard increase in total yards per game. Texas Tech and BYU's attack have caused the Bears' defense to struggle. Tedford, who had no prior relationship with Dunbar, made a simple phone call, which led to a meeting and eventually a job at Cal. Just like that, done. If only ordering a pizza could be this easy.
With the versatility of Lynch, Justin Forsett, DeSean Jackson and Marcus O'Keith, it makes perfect sense for the Bears to use at least some form of a spread offense. After seeing Forsett and Lynch both rush for around 1,000 yards last year, imagining the possibility of them in open field will make opponents sweat more than the Tennessee humidity. But when asked about Cal's new offense at Thursday's Pac-10 Media Day, Trojans coach Pete Carroll said, "This conference is so loaded with offense and tactical approach that I don't know how it can get a whole lot more productive than it's been." Though the comment was probably meant as a compliment to Tedford, Carroll will have his hands full next year. There has always been a sense of assurance that Tedford has all the answers. Behind the sunglasses, cap and headset is a man carefully dissecting the other team. In 2004, Cal outscored its opponents 227-67 in the second half, compared to just 134-80 in the first half. Think of the upcoming year as the Bears' second half run to the Rose Bowl, only this time Marshawn Lynch has come in for J.J. Arrington, DeSean Jackson has replaced Geoff McArthur, and perhaps most importantly, Tedford has added a secret weapon in Dunbar.