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BY Steffi Chan
If you remember the Jeff Tedford from five years ago, you may not recognize the coach who will be standing on the sidelines today when Cal takes on Louisiana Tech at Memorial Stadium. When Tedford first came to Berkeley to turn around a struggling Bears program, his dynamic play-calling schemes were one of the features that helped bring the program out of the cellar and into national prominence. Let’s rewind to 2002: In Cal’s first offensive play of its season opener against Baylor—Tedford’s first game at the helm—he called a play that would be indicative of both his creative play-calling schemes and the success he would find in his tenure. Tedford called for running back Terrell Williams to throw a halfback pass to a streaking David Gray. The play was executed to perfection, and it resulted in a 71-yard touchdown pass. The rest, you can say, is history.
But since that 2002 season, the play-calling has become less creative and more conventional. Sure, conventional seems to have done the team OK—after all, who would’ve suspected that the 1-10 program of 2001 would evolve into a top-10 team and title contender just five years later? But Tedford may need to resurrect that dynamic play-calling if the Bears are to continue to contend with the top teams in the nation. He knows that the Bears have one of the most dazzling and elusive players in college football in DeSean Jackson. But so do opposing teams—and that’s where elusive play-calling must come into play. With opposing defenses giving No. 1 priority to covering the electric wideout, the only way Tedford can exploit Jackson—and further his Heisman campaign—is to revert to his tricky play-calling tendencies where flea-flickers, halfback passes and misdirection plays happen more than once or twice a game. Look at what Jackson has done so far. Against Tennessee, Jackson fielded a punt and cut, juked and sped his way 77 yards to the end zone.
Against Colorado State, the Heisman hopeful ran 73 yards on a reverse to the goal line untouched. In two games, he has 99 rushing yards on three carries and 84 yards on nine receptions. That’s 183 all-purpose yards on just 12 touches—not counting his 101 yards on three punt returns—averaging out to only six touches a game. Getting his most talented player more touches should be on Tedford's priority list. Sure, Cal’s plethora of offensive threats should be taken advantage of, but Tedford also needs to maximize Jackson’s damage—and that starts with giving him the ball. Tedford has spoken of fulfilling his team’s potential as a key to victory. Fulfill Jackson’s potential—and who knows what will happen?