In order find out how Coach Tedford feels about the program, we asked for an hour of his time. He agreed, and the following is a summary of the wide-ranging discussion we had with him Tuesday morning, two days ago.
Coach Tedford said that before he could really begin to rebuild the program, he needed to "erase the attitudes" of last year, to shake the team loose from the negativity that surrounded the team. He has worked at this since he arrived, using a combination of discipline, positive reinforcement and hard work. Coach Tedford is a great believer in constructive criticism - talking about "what you (the player) did right" rather than berating you for what you did wrong. He clearly believes that this method of communication is very important - and fundamental to how he goes about doing his job.
He says that players have a tendency to tune coaches out once they begin yelling; to be successful, both the coach and player must listen to each other. (Several of us have heard reports or comments from players that this is exactly what happened last year.)
In response to a question about his staff, Tedford said that he "feels great" about them. He said they bring a variety of opinions and personalities to the team. In fact, he said that he feels it "is important to have coaches who have coached elsewhere". The ideas they bring to the program can be quite stimulating. As far the Bears are concerned, Tedford indicated that Cal would use the same systems that are in place at Oregon. He said that he has trust and confidence in the defensive system and the coaches he has hired to implement it, and that he has largely assigned even game time responsibility for defense to them. For example - he said that he is not present at every defensive meeting. On the other hand, Tedford is involved in every aspect of planning the Bears offensive strategy.
The discussion turned to a review of spring practice and brief assessments on a unit-by-unit basis. Coach Tedford said that he believes Cal is deep at defensive line. He also said that the players at that position are close in talent. As for the offensive line, he is "pleased with them", and close to designating the eight O-Line players that will comprise the traveling unit.
Tedford made some interesting observations when discussing the OL. He indicated that he is more interested in identifying the best players regardless of position - than in maintaining a strict 2-deep at each position. In other words, if the sixth best lineman is nominally a guard, and a tackle is hurt in a game, he may well shift players from one position to another in order to get that "guard" into the game. Clearly, this puts a high premium on flexibility and the ability to learn multiple positions. The Coach's bottom line? Get the best players on the field at all times.
In response to a question about Ryan O'Callaghan and what we thought was a somewhat uneven performance during Spring, Tedford said, "he will be fine". He believes it is just a matter of Ryan having the time needed to learn the position.
As for the wide receivers, Coach Tedford identified both Geoff McArthur and Chase Lyman as players who performed well in Spring practice. He said Lyman "stepped to the forefront" and McArthur was "steady". In response to a question about LaShaun Ward, Tedford said, "he is not quite as polished". He indicated that Ward would need to work throughout the summer to improve his pass catching skills. It's all about "focus, concentration and fundamentals".
While Coach Tedford said, "speed is an area where we need improvement", he also stated that Cal's "talent is not limiting the offensive system because the system is so broad" that it can accommodate a variety of skills. Said another way - plays that rely on a particular skill might not be used with a given set of players on the field - that the offense as a whole is flexible enough to accommodate the skill set you have to work with.< /p>
As Bear fans know, Tedford installed the entire offensive and defensive playbook in Spring. And although the players did not - could not - entirely master all the nuances of the respective systems, Tedford believes that the players will have a much better idea of what is expected when Fall camp opens in August. Also, by exposing the players to the entire playbook, Coach Tedford was able to find who is best at specific tasks (i.e., running a reverse, catching a halfback swing pass, etc.).
Regarding the incoming JC players, Jonathan Makkonen and Monte Parsons, Tedford expects them to "contribute right away". In fact, he said that Makonnen could be a "major, major impact player".
In answer to a question regarding the quarterback situation, Coach Tedford said that Reggie Robertson is the #2 QB at this time. He said that Zac Wasserman would compete for playing time depending on his ability to pick up the offensive system Coach Tedford stressed the issue of a QB's need to understand the system, suggesting that it takes up to two years to do so. Having said that, Tedford was quick to point out that if Wasserman demonstrated superior physical skills to Robertson or Schwartz that he would play, even if with a truncated playbook.
When asked about the defensive scheme, and particularly about the lack of speed at LB, Coach Tedford stated that the key to success would be the linebackers' ability to "maintain the gaps and contain". Not being influenced out of position by the offense will be critical. In discussing defensive backfield play, Cal fans will be pleased to hear that Coach Tedford says, "We are not going to leave the middle of the field open". Coach Tedford said the cornerbacks must get inside position on the receiver when they do not have the support of the safety (thus using the boundary as a defender on the outside). If done well, this will cut way down on Cal's recent tendency to permit long gainers down the middle.
At this point in the discussion, Coach Tedford went to the chalkboard to diagram some basic defensive plays (including the zone blitz) to demonstrate exactly what he was discussing. Tedford said he believes the Bear corners are tough enough and fast enough to handle their responsibilities.
The discussion then turned to Athletic Department support and what needs to be done to put Cal in a position to effectively compete in the Pac10.
It should come as no surprise to Bear fans that the facilities at Cal are far behind other schools. Coach Tedford spoke quite directly to this point, saying "Compared to every other school in the West, we just don't measure up, and I'm including all the WAC schools when I say that". Coach Tedford said simply that Cal needs a "whole new complex". Among immediate particulars, he cited a weight room that is too small, offices and meeting rooms that need renovation, and the absence of decent lavatories for quests.
As a side note, this discussion was held in one of the department conference rooms because Coach Tedford's office is currently being renovated. Also, he said that a bathroom in being added within the complex of coach's offices.
Tedford confirm and applauded the recent efforts of the new administration to "get something done" regarding the facilities, but says, in a nutshell, that what we have now is simply not sufficient to compete in the arms race that has become a part of college football.
To illustrate all this, we turned