Cal mixes old offense with new tempo

California will look to improve its execution of new no-huddle offense against Southern Utah, but players and coaches like the possibilities new approach will offer.

BERKELEY, Calif. – The no-huddle offense has taken over college football, but almost always in conjunction with the spread. Oregon, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Clemson, among many others, have used an aggressive tempo in recent years to attack defenses and put up points and yardage usually reserved for video games.

But California – one of the holdouts still running a pro-style offense more reliant on putting the quarterback under center, running from the I-formation, even using a fullback – is combining its decidedly old-school approach with the new-school philosophy.

After working on it during spring practice and fall camp, the Golden Bears (0-1) used the same offense they have for years under head coach Jeff Tedford against Nevada, only without having to huddle between plays.

"Now we can run our whole offense from it," Tedford said. "You can speed it up, you can put a lot of pressure on the defense at times."

And while the result didn't go as expect, a 31-24 loss in their return to Memorial Stadium, coaches and players were pleased with the potential for the offense moving forward.

"I think it went well," Tedford said. "We had one little glitch in the beginning, but I felt the guys did a good job of handling it and communicating."

Against Southern Utah on Saturday (noon, Pac-12 Network), Cal will get another chance to become more familiar with the no-huddle before its trip to Ohio State next week and Pac-12 opener at USC seven days later.

After seeing the success Oregon has had in wearing down defenses with its aggressive pace for years, tight end Jacob Wark and his teammates got a little taste of what that rhythm feels like. During the touchdown drive to tie the game at 24 in the fourth quarter, Cal gained 32, 13, 8 and 13 yards in consecutive snaps, the last being quarterback Zach Maynard's touchdown pass to freshman Chris Harper. The entire possession lasted all of 1:22.

"Those three or four straight plays we ran, we could just tell we were clicking," Wark said. "Everything was going, and we could tell the defense was getting a little bit tired. I think that's going to be a huge advantage for us towards the end of the game."

Added center Brian Schwenke: "You feel like you're really dominating the defense. That's what we need to get to, and we will. It's just going to take some time because it's all new to everybody."

The other advantage it gives the offense beyond tiring out the opposing defense comes by limiting their substitutions and the time they have to relay signals and make adjustments.

"It minimizes the personnel calls," wide receiver Keenan Allen said. "You can't really switch guys on and off the field when we're moving at a good pace like that."

"If you can force them to play under a little bit of stress as a defense and not regroup, it's a good deal," offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik said.

Conversely, Cal's defense has had plenty of time to prepare for the onslaught it will face later in the season.

"Each game we're going to get better at it, no doubt," Wark said. "And for the defense, going against us in practice everyday going against running that no-huddle will definitely help them get in better shape and prepare them for Oregon and other teams."

However, it shouldn't be an issue against the Thunderbirds (0-1), who run a similar offensive scheme to that of Cal, minus the no-huddle aspect.

Quarterback Brad Sorensen, who started out at BYU, has made the All-Great West Conference first-team each of the past two seasons. Despite struggling last week in a 34-3 loss at Utah State, where Sorensen threw for just 153 yards and one interception, Tedford believes the 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior has a legitimate NFL future.

"He is a big-time pro prospect," Tedford said. "They do a good job. Last year I was watching one of their games against (UNLV). They blew out Vegas in Vegas. They do have some talented players on their team."

Still, the gap between Cal and their FCS foe is so wide that Tedford knows how to evaluate the game beyond the inevitable blowout win.

"It's about us," he said. "It's about our execution. It's about not making mental mistakes or physical mistakes. It's about our execution, not so much who is in the other uniform."

Offensive tempo will certainly be one of those measurements.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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