Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Contra Costa Times: Cignetti ready for challenge

New Bears offensive coordinator is in charge of the offense as Tedford pays more attention to all facets of the team

BERKELEY -- There's a different look at Cal spring practice this year. The coach directing traffic on offense is not Jeff Tedford.   Tedford still is involved in the unit's affairs, but new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti is the one hovering behind Cal's quarterbacks, blowing the whistle when he sees something he doesn't like.

It's all part of the Bears' new regime that has Tedford as more of an overseer and Cignetti running the offense. Tedford made the move following last season, removing himself from play calling duties to pay more attention to all facets of the program. "He's done a great job," Tedford said of Cignetti. "He's worked very hard and is very detailed. He's enthusiastic and has really brought a lot of energy." Cignetti brings his own offensive philosophy to the Bears, but has been careful to adjust to the team rather than the other way around. Tedford and Cignetti both said they are combining on ideas, and that their philosophies are similar.

"It's a situation where you want to make as little changes as possible for the players, so I'm the one who needs to do most of the learning," Cignetti said. "So there's definitely an adjustment period. I've enjoyed every day." Cignetti has a lot of experience adjusting to a new workplace. Cal is the eighth stop during his coaching career, including three stints with NFL teams. "I've done this many times, making changes," Cignetti said. "There is always an adjustment period to the university itself, the coaches and the players, learning a new language. It's been a great situation so far."

Cignetti is taking over an offense that is loaded with questions. The Bears don't have any experience at wide receiver and not much at running back. The team is attempting to decide on a starting quarterback, a competition that has been slowed because of an injury to Nate Longshore.  "We're pleased with our progress," Cignetti said. "When you look at the three phases of offense -- the running game, protection and the passing game -- we feel like we're making progress and getting better with each practice."

No holding back

With only three more practices left, Tedford said he wants the team to "cut it loose" today and Saturday.  "For the young guys who haven't been through it before, it's definitely important," Tedford said. Many of those young guys are at wide receiver, where the Bears are trying to figure out who is going to replace DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Cal's inexperienced receiving core has been a work in progress this spring, and injuries have taken their toll.  Michael Calvin has been the team's best receiver, but he hasn't been spectacular. Jeremy Ross had been playing well before suffering a sprained ankle last weekend. Drew Glover had been a revelation before incurring a separated shoulder and Nyan Boateng has been inconsistent. "We need to get better," Tedford said. "They're working hard at it and trying to get better every day. That's what spring is all about."

Extra points

Walk-on Richard Fisher has started to get first team reps at left guard in place of Mark Boskovich. The Bears need to replace Brian De La Puente at that position. ... Tight end Cameron Morrah missed Monday's practice after having an asthma attack. Tedford also said a flu bug has hit the team pretty hard.


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