For this week’s Across the Web feature we visit with our friends from SBN’s California Golden Blogs. The CGB was gracious to take some time and answer our questions and they even took it one step further for us. We get the insight from a couple of different members as Kodiak and NorCalNick give us some of their views and opinions.
1. What do you make of last weekend’s PAC 12 success over the Big Ten. UCLA, ASU, and Oregon State all with wins?
Kodiak: Well, as good Cal fans, this naturally gives us a feeling of doooooom. The early reviews would be that UCLA and ASU have upgraded their coaching. Both schools seem to have underperformed relative to their recruited talent lately, particularly UCLA. Oregon State is always a bit under the radar, but Mike Riley does a great job. He might be the best coach in the Pac-12. He’ll have a down year here and there, sure. When he has veteran players, I wouldn’t want to face him.
NorCalNick: I think it’s clear that those three teams have improved immensely over last season, which isn’t a huge shock – UCLA finally has a head coach that won’t allow the talent they have to underachieve, and last year’s Oregon St. squad was unbelievably young and unbelievably injured.
That said, I think the fact that all three games were played on the west coast might have something to do with the clean sweep. Playing at home is always an advantage, but that advantage only seems to get amplified when one team is travelling 2/3rd of the way across the country.
2. Cal has regularly had a speedster receiver returning kicks. Is there such a player on the roster today that OSU should worry about?
Kodiak: Brendan Bigelow is the designated speedster on kickoff returns. He’s finally recovered from a couple of HS knee injuries. Prior to getting hurt, his highlight films were a bit unreal. We haven’t really seen him unleash his potential yet, but there is plenty of coachspeak hype with how he’s starting to light it up in practice.
The guy to worry about is Keenan Allen on punt returns. He’s not a true burner, but has amazing agility and instincts in the open field for a bigger receiver.
On the other hand, Cal’s special teams units are poorly coached, so it’s all about individual brilliance by the returners and not so much a well-executed blocking scheme.
3. Given that the rest of the Nation only ever hears about USC and Oregon out of the PAC 12, we often have trouble identifying players on other teams. Name a player on each side of the ball we will know about after the and why?
Kodiak: Well, assuming Cal has a good day, you’ll know Keenan Allen and Chris Harper(receivers) as well as Isi Sofele and CJ Anderson (tailbacks). If Cal has a bad day, you’ll know Zach Maynard (QB) because he’s the guy your D keeps sacking and picking off.
On defense, our best players are Deandre Coleman (DE), Chris McCain and Brendan Scarlett (OLB). If Michael Lowe, Alex Logan, and Josh Hill (all safeties) are making a ton of tackles downfield, or are futilely running after Braxton Miller as he runs down the sidelines, then it means we lost contain and got burned by the zone-read yet again.
4. Cal has had huge success in the recent past, but lately seems to have become an afterthought in the PAC 12. Do Bear fans feel that perception, and is there pressure on Coach Tedford because of it?
Kodiak: Yes. It’s not just the blow-out losses or the lack of upset wins. It’s the fact that the team has seemed to get sloppier with each successive year. Despite touted recruiting classes, we continue to have issues with penalties, mental errors, and poor execution. There’s a sense that we coach scared, are overly conservative, and don’t make good in-game adjustments when our game plans don’t work out.
Many Cal fans feel like this year or the next could be the end of the Tedford era if he doesn’t right the ship.
NorCalNick: It’s a little unfair to go with such specific endpoints, but from 2002 until halfway through 2007, Tedford had a winning percentage of about 70% even though he inherited a broken, sanctioned program. Then #2 Cal was upset by Oregon State, and since then the Bears have been a .500 football team.
I can’t even begin to explain why the results have changed so suddenly and so completely. But the bottom line is that the incredible amount of good will and faith that he built up over the first 5.5 years of his tenure have essentially been exhausted by the subsequent 5.5 years. If things don’t change soon the Athletic Department’s hand might get forced.
5. What are your thoughts on why Cal has had success recruiting lately in typically tough areas for them?
Kodiak: The company line is that the combination of the stadium upgrade, Student-Athlete High Performance center, and Cal’s already noteworthy academics make it a good sell. For all the justifiable criticism, Coach Tedford is an upfront guy who doesn’t negatively recruit, puts an emphasis on academic study plans for each player, and promotes a family atmosphere for the team. I think this resonates well with parents.
NorCalNick: I think we’d like to imagine that Cal’s profile as perhaps the top public school in the nation would make it attractive to recruits all over the country. I’m not sure how much that’s really the case – for example, Cal brought in a bunch of highly rated guys from North Carolina, but they were all friends and family package.
I think it’s mostly that the coaching staff has brought in a few guys over the years with connections to very specific areas, and every once in a while they’ve been able to find a gem or two. We’ll see if Cal can continue to recruit nationally elite type guys outside of California now that our best recruiter defected to Washington in a rather public blow-up.
6. The Golden Bears have continued to excel in putting receivers and quarterbacks into the NFL. What is it about Coach Tedford’s program that makes them distinctive in this way?
Kodiak: Tedford’s offense is pro-style with its various reads and route progressions. If players are able to master this offense, it likely makes it easier to pick up an NFL playbook during training camp due to the similarities. By contrast, players from pure spread or zone-read teams may only be familiar with a few basic routes.
NorCalNick: I think that when players are willing to buy into everything that Tedford and the university are selling – his pro-style system, his academic gameplan – that it acts as a pretty great preparation for the rigors of the NFL. True, Cal has had a number of stars find success in the league, but I’ve been pretty happy with the number of ‘marginal’ guys – the 6th and 7th round draft picks or undrafted free agents – that have been able to stick around the league and find roster spots without overwhelming talent.
7. Does the tension that exists at the University regarding the athletic facility expansion impact the players and coaches at all, or is it mostly limited to faculty and upper administration?
Kodiak: Hard to say since I’m not close to the ground on this one. I’d suspect that this would be more of an impact on administrators with a trickle-down effect on the coaches. It’s possible that it could impact the players if faculty decide to take a hard-line stance on papers, exams, make-up work.
Thanks again to the CGB and Kodiak and NorCalNick for their time. Be sure to check them out at www.californiagoldenblogs.com.