Checking in with Jeff Tedford

With the Armed Forces Bowl coming up in two weeks and the Cal football team winding up its final practices at Memorial Stadium, The Bear Insider caught up with Cal head coach Jeff Tedford to get his thoughts on several topics - including how practices have changed, what the coaches have been up to in the past few weeks, and the importance of helping keep a positive atmosphere around the team.

Because the team is not installing the game plan for the Bowl until the end of this week, they have been able to change practice routine during the past few weeks. Instead of having the first team offense work against the scout team defense, and the first team defense up against the scout team offense, the whole team has been able to work together during practice, rotating in three units on each side of the ball. This has given the coaches a chance to try different combinations and to see how certain groupings of players play with each other.

"It's nice to get the young guys out there and to get the whole group involved and have the benefit of everybody being in a group," said Tedford. "We've taken the first week to get people back in the swing of things."

Although the players had a few days off after the Stanford game, and have been practicing in the early afternoon to help them prepare for the bowl game's late morning start, the last few weeks have been anything but restful for the coaching staff.

"We've been out on the road recruiting. (The coaches) have been on the road a lot, we've been doing home visits and going to kids' schools. It's a contact period, and we've also had people in on their official visits. We've had the last of them this past weekend and we've been showing them around campus," said Tedford, who has seen the coaching staff's efforts pay off this week with verbal commits from wide receivers L. J. Washington, Jarrett Sparks, and defensive back Kamaron Yancy.

"In practice we've been working on basic fundamentals. We'll start preparing for Air Force toward the end of the week. Right now we've got a lot going on with recruiting and practice and soon we'll move on to concentrating strictly on the bowl game."

With the coaches on the road, we asked Tedford whether Cal's late-season struggles meant that he faced different sets of questions from recruits than he might have earlier in the year. The answer was surprising.

"No, we haven't had a lot of questions about that," said Tedford. "A lot of the questions we've had are the same ones that have been important to (recruits) all along; questions about academics and how they'd fit into the program."

As a head coach, but also as a manager, Tedford has to act pragmatically. He knows that a coach can't panic or make changes simply for the sake of change. Even when the team was doing well, Tedford consistently maintained that the team's focus was never beyond winning the next game - and that a better record or a higher ranking wasn't going to change anything.
Similarly, when the team started losing games, his emphasis stayed on the next game; losses didn't lead to burning redshirt years or a massive rewrite of the playbook.

There's a school of thought that says a leader should never let the highs get too high and or the lows too low. One way to accomplish that is to look at what warrants improvement when the team is doing well - and pointing out what the team is doing well when the team isn't.

"We've faced adversity - but we've also had success in a lot of games," said Tedford. "After those (successful) games we didn't change things around, but then we had a few games when we didn't come out on top. With adversity comes motivation, and the guys have managed to stay focused and have kept working hard."

As the team slid down the Pac-10 standings, it's perhaps reasonable that some fans developed a catalogue of ills - some imagined, some real - things like coach and player disagreements, players losing motivation, and perhaps a degree of apathy in the final games of the regular season.

Counterbalancing that are the statements made in several interviews in recent weeks where players have insisted that the team's spirit is good - and that regardless of what has happened in games the team has always kept working hard. But even for very good teams hard work doesn't always pay off.

"High expectations and adversity are a tough combination, and it's been a bit of a disappointment," said Tedford, "But I'm pleased that the team has come through it with a good attitude."

One of the bigger challenges for Tedford as a manager has been to help the team deal with the fallout from the season's finish. Although it's easy to tell people to block out what gets published in newspapers and on the Internet - and whatever they hear on campus - but it's something else when they're in the eye of the storm and are trying to block that all out.

While some might cavalierly argue that it's part and parcel of playing major college football, there's a strange element in the psyche of some of the most zealous of sports fans that reserves a special kind of venom for the teams they support, venom thatwould be never be conferred even on those people who play far more significant roles in contributing to societal ills.

Tedford, as well as his players, have repeatedly talked about the importance of being able to accept and deal with the aftermath of both wins and losses. It's not a matter of being thin-skinned or only being willing to accept praise. And while the team is trying to find solutions that will take them back toward their early-season form, the coaching staff has tried to make sure that the team isn't unduly effected by the critics and second-guessers."

"We try to," said Tedford. "Negativity is tough thing. People say things without understanding, and it has an effect on others. (The players) are human and we're working hard to keep the atmosphere as positive as possible."

No one associated with the football team would suggest that a six-loss season is even close to being acceptable. For a team that wasn't entirely satisfied with last year's 10-win season, was projected as a preseason top-20 team this year, and had a stunning rise to the #2-ranking, the season's ending was a shock. While a small measure of consolation can be found in the fact that all of the Bears' losses were close, the ongoing question is what Tedford believes will be needed to help return the team to its former bully-boy status in the Pac-10.

That's not a question that can be answered now. With a bowl game ahead, practices to run, and progress to maintain on the recruiting front, the time to look back and review the big picture will come, as Tedford has said in numerous interviews, after the Armed Forces Bowl.

"After the season we're going to sit down an evaluate what we're doing, we're going to evaluate whether we're doing the right things, and what sort of lessons we've learned through adversity," said Tedford. "We always want our expectations to be grounded. The margin between winning and losing is very fine and we've got to keep working to overcome that."


©Copyright 2007, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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Because the team is not installing the game plan for the Bowl until the end of this week, they have been able to change practice routine during the past few weeks. Instead of having the first team offense work against the scout team defense, and the first team defense up against the scout team offense, the whole team has been able to work together during practice, rotating in three units on each side of the ball. This has given the coaches a chance to try different combinations and to see how certain groupings of players play with each other.

\"It's nice to get the young guys out there and to get the whole group involved and have the benefit of everybody being in a group,\" said Tedford. \"We've taken the first week to get people back in the swing of things.\"

Although the players had a few days off after the Stanford game, and have been practicing in the early afternoon to help them prepare for the bowl game's late morning start, the last few weeks have been anything but restful for the coaching staff.

\"We've been out on the road recruiting. (The coaches) have been on the road a lot, we've been doing home visits and going to kids' schools. It's a contact period, and we've also had people in on their official visits. We've had the last of them this past weekend and we've been showing them around campus,\" said Tedford, who has seen the coaching staff's efforts pay off this week with verbal commits from wide receivers L. J. Washington, Jarrett Sparks, and defensive back Kamaron Yancy.

\"In practice we've been working on basic fundamentals. We'll start preparing for Air Force toward the end of the week. Right now we've got a lot going on with recruiting and practice and soon we'll move on to concentrating strictly on the bowl game.\"

With the coaches on the road, we asked Tedford whether Cal's late-season struggles meant that he faced different sets of questions from recruits than he might have earlier in the year. The answer was surprising.

\"No, we haven't had a lot of questions about that,\" said Tedford. \"A lot of the questions we've had are the same ones that have been important to (recruits) all along; questions about academics and how they'd fit into the program.\"

As a head coach, but also as a manager, Tedford has to act pragmatically. He knows that a coach can't panic or make changes simply for the sake of change. Even when the team was doing well, Tedford consistently maintained that the team's focus was never beyond winning the next game - and that a better record or a higher ranking wasn't going to change anything.
Similarly, when the team started losing games, his emphasis stayed on the next game; losses didn't lead to burning redshirt years or a massive rewrite of the playbook.

There's a school of thought that says a leader should never let the highs get too high and or the lows too low. One way to accomplish that is to look at what warrants improvement when the team is doing well - and pointing out what the team is doing well when the team isn't.

\"We've faced adversity - but we've also had success in a lot of games,\" said Tedford. \"After those (successful) games we didn't change things around, but then we had a few games when we didn't come out on top. With adversity comes motivation, and the guys have managed to stay focused and have kept working hard.\"

As the team slid down the Pac-10 standings, it's perhaps reasonable that some fans developed a catalogue of ills - some imagined, some real - things like coach and player disagreements, players losing motivation, and perhaps a degree of apathy in the final games of the regular season.

Counterbalancing that are the statements made in several interviews in recent weeks where players have insisted that the team's spirit is good - and that regardless of what has happened in games the team has always kept working hard. But even for very good teams hard work doesn't always pay off.

\"High expectations and adversity are a tough combination, and it's been a bit of a disappointment,\" said Tedford, \"But I'm pleased that the team has come through it with a good attitude.\"

One of the bigger challenges for Tedford as a manager has been to help the team deal with the fallout from the season's finish. Although it's easy to tell people to block out what gets published in newspapers and on the Internet - and whatever they hear on campus - but it's something else when they're in the eye of the storm and are trying to block that all out.

While some might cavalierly argue that it's part and parcel of playing major college football, there's a strange element in the psyche of some of the most zealous of sports fans that reserves a special kind of venom for the teams they support, venom thatwould be never be conferred even on those people who play far more significant roles in contributing to societal ills.

Tedford, as well as his players, have repeatedly talked about the importance of being able to accept and deal with the aftermath of both wins and losses. It's not a matter of being thin-skinned or only being willing to accept praise. And while the team is trying to find solutions that will take them back toward their early-season form, the coaching staff has tried to make sure that the team isn't unduly effected by the critics and second-guessers.\"

\"We try to,\" said Tedford. \"Negativity is tough thing. People say things without understanding, and it has an effect on others. (The players) are human and we're working hard to keep the atmosphere as positive as possible.\"

No one associated with the football team would suggest that a six-loss season is even close to being acceptable. For a team that wasn't entirely satisfied with last year's 10-win season, was projected as a preseason top-20 team this year, and had a stunning rise to the #2-ranking, the season's ending was a shock. While a small measure of consolation can be found in the fact that all of the Bears' losses were close, the ongoing question is what Tedford believes will be needed to help return the team to its former bully-boy status in the Pac-10.

That's not a question that can be answered now. With a bowl game ahead, practices to run, and progress to maintain on the recruiting front, the time to look back and review the big picture will come, as Tedford has said in numerous interviews, after the Armed Forces Bowl.

\"After the season we're going to sit down an evaluate what we're doing, we're going to evaluate whether we're doing the right things, and what sort of lessons we've learned through adversity,\" said Tedford. \"We always want our expectations to be grounded. The margin between winning and losing is very fine and we've got to keep working to overcome that.\"


©Copyright 2007, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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