S.F. Chronicle - Bruce Adams
Think of Joseph Ayoob as a violinist who sits down with the symphony and quickly encounters a significant obstacle.
"It's like trying to play an instrument when you have no experience," he said.
Luckily for Ayoob, the maestro is a patient man.
"It's totally natural," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "In no way, shape or form am I disappointed with what he's doing. He's new. He's working hard at it. "
Ayoob is the latest in a distinguished line of quarterbacks to come under Tedford -- learning a sophisticated and complex offense and, at the same time, relearning the basics of the position.
Tedford has it down to an art form, turning out first-round NFL Draft picks with regularity -- Trent Dilfer and David Carr at Fresno State, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington at Oregon, and Kyle Boller at Cal. He will soon have a sixth, with Aaron Rodgers, whose early departure leaves a major void.
Ayoob was recruited from City College of San Francisco where he was the state Junior College Player of the Year last season -- ranking No. 1 in the state in passing efficiency and leading an offense that averaged 500.1 yards a game.
He enrolled at Cal early, in time for spring practice. He's been sharing snaps with redshirt freshman Nathan Longshore, who was No. 3 on the depth chart last year. Mostly Ayoob's been learning.
"There are flashes where he really shows that he has great ability," Tedford said. There are also spells where he appears unsure of himself and his throws are off target."
"There are so many little things on every play that you have to know," Ayoob said. "It has to become second nature. Until that happens you can't really be comfortable. And if you're not comfortable, you're not going to be able to run the offense."
It's complicated by the fact that Tedford doesn't hold anything back -- giving his new quarterbacks the entire offense in a single overwhelming dose.
Tedford stresses that spring practice is all about learning. Longshore is taking more reps with the starting offense by virtue of being the incumbent, Tedford said, noting there won't be any competition for the starter's job until fall camp.
"That's when it begins," Tedford said. "And it never ends."
First off, Tedford went to work on Ayoob's throwing motion -- taking particular note of his non-throwing arm.
It was all new to Ayoob, who says he didn't have the benefit of fine- tuned quarterback coaching at City College or at Terra Linda High in San Rafael.
"My left arm was kind of wild and would swing out," Ayoob said. "It would throw my shoulders off and open me up, causing the balls to not be as accurate as they should be."
As he had done with Boller three years ago, Tedford rigged up a harness to keep Ayoob's left arm close to his body -- giving him a more compact throwing motion and an improved alignment.
He also has been showing Ayoob "before and after" video clips of his former protégés, illustrating the refinements made in their throwing motions.
Tedford has a laundry list of qualities he prizes in quarterbacks -- mental and physical toughness, intelligence, a competitive nature, mobility and a solid throwing motion -- and he says Ayoob has all five.
In making the transition to Cal he's shown his intelligence not just in the classroom but in forming his new social circle as well.
"You've got to make friends with the offensive linemen," he said. "I know who's watching my back."