Friday, November 20, 2009

San Jose Mercury: Cal coach Jeff Tedford's QB assembly line has faded

Tim Kawakami

When Jeff Tedford sets up the digital video, taps "play" and starts to watch Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, I wonder what Cal's coach feels. Admiration, no doubt, as Tedford prepares for today's Big Game. Worry, I'm sure. How will Cal stop Luck, Toby Gerhart and the rest of a Cardinal machine that just put up 106 combined points on Oregon and USC? Deeper metaphysical Tedford worry: Luck is a redshirt freshman, already helping to put Stanford within reach of a big bowl berth and set up for two or three more Big Game/bowl game double-dips after this. And envy. Yes, given the recent state of Cal quarterbacking, there has to be significant Tedford envy when he watches Luck zip accurate passes to the right receiver at just the right moment. Meanwhile, Tedford's quarterback is Kevin Riley, who is sputtering to the end of another uneven season. Riley has one season of eligibility left, and there's no obvious candidate to supplant him in 2010.

Before this season, Tedford had Riley and Nate Longshore go on and off (and perform off-and-on) in 2007 and 2008; before that, it was Longshore in 2006, by far his best season. Before that, Tedford had Joe Ayoob. No need to say more.

You have to go back to 2004 to find Tedford's last quarterback treasure. That was Aaron Rodgers' last season at Cal and, not coincidentally, the last time Cal really figured as a national power late into November. That's a long time without a top quarterback, especially for Tedford, who made his reputation tutoring Trent Dilfer at Fresno State, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith at Oregon, and Kyle Boller and Rodgers from Cal to the NFL draft's first round.

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