Monday, April 03, 2006

CBS Sportsline: Notebook: Tedford ready to unleash spread offense at Cal

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Jeff Tedford is making points -- points about "mesh points" and "launch points."  Get the point?  No. Your head is already spinning when the California coach commands you to break down into a center's stance. In a flash, one of the nation's best offensive minds is playing nose guard against a helpless sportswriter.  "Now I line up on your snapping arm," Tedford says, "You're snapping and I'm on your hand."  The implication being that Tedford -- the quarterback guru and former CFL quarterback -- could blow past you into the offensive backfield, which right now is represented by a nice leather chair in his office.  Yes, Jeff Tedford is serious about installing the spread offense.  You would assume that Cal's fifth-year coach, who has developed six first-round NFL quarterbacks, was well-versed in the spread. True, if you consider his six years as a pro quarterback in Canada.  "In the CFL, that's all we did," he said.  Not so true as a college coach. Almost everyone is using the spread, or at least elements of it. That's nothing new. Tedford not being part of the trend is the surprise.  He never has been a shotgun guy in college. Too risky, Tedford said. Who could argue? Tedford's offenses have always been productive.

Productive is good, lethal is better. Tedford moved quickly in the offseason, hiring Northwestern's Mike Dunbar as his offensive coordinator. Dunbar is fresh from running the second offense in Big Ten history to average 500 yards per game for a season.  "This is all totally new to all of them," said Dunbar, who arrived here after five years in Evanston.  Combining Tedford with Dunbar is like throwing gasoline onto a fire. Dunbar's offense was one of the sole reasons Northwestern had been competitive recently. His scheme is more of a basketball-on-grass philosophy, run by quarterback Brett Basanez.  "I used to kid him he's like the point guard of a basketball team," Dunbar said. "He can control tempo."  The offense won't change that radically at Cal, a school used to radicals wanting change. But the teaching begins right now. Tedford has to find out which of his quarterbacks can run.  First, he has to find a quarterback. Nate Longshore is listed as the starter. Longshore broke his leg early last season and was lost for the rest of 2005. Junior Steve Levy is the backup. Juco transfer Joseph Ayoob took over after Longshore was injured but lost the job to Levy because of ineffectiveness.

Elsewhere, the centers have to be taught a completely different snap. Grounders won't be tolerated. There are different blocking angles.  We're talking empty backfields, which should make tailback Marshawn Lynch more dangerous. Expect to see him split wide.  Somewhere in there are Tedford's magic mesh points and launch points.  You know why this is happening, don't you? The Rose Bowl. The nation watched Vince Young run one of the most lethal spread offenses in college history.  Tedford and others in the Pac-10 have had to react to Southern California. While the Trojans figure to be slightly diminished this year, they're still a top 10 team. Meanwhile, Cal has averaged slightly more than eight victories in Tedford's four seasons.  Until Texas did it in the Rose Bowl, Tedford's Bears were the last team to beat USC. But they've never gotten over that BCS hump.  "Everybody is strong, but we have as much potential as anyone to compete in this conference," Tedford said. "I thought SC had a leg up on everybody last year because they had a championship team and everybody coming back.  "We had to make a change."  Staff members left last week for visits to West Virginia and Florida. Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez and Gators coach Urban Meyer are noted veteran spread practitioners.  The idea is to find a system that produces balance. Think of Texas last year, with Young holding the trigger of the shotgun. The Longhorns averaged 237 yards passing and 275 rushing. They were one of only 11 teams to average 200 yards per game in both categories.  It's noon after the last practice before spring break. Tedford is notified by his blocking dummy/sportswriter that players could be seen practicing snaps and blocking schemes on the Memorial Stadium turf.  "Oh, they're getting extra work in because they practiced at 6:30 this morning. Now they're on spring break," he said. "They're very eager to get it all figured out."



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