Nice story by Ted Miller. He’s high on the Cougs this year (as he should be!). Interesting about Cal and the challenges they are facing as well. They do have some names to replace for next year, no question, but they have recruited well and have some serious talent that will get their chance to shine:
There’s been a lot of talk this spring about the “Tedford Effect,” most of it associated with the NFL draft and how California coach Jeff Tedford is such a wizard with quarterbacks that it’s dangerous to assume one of his former acolytes — see Aaron Rodgers this year — will match their college production as professionals.
There’s also apparently a lesson-known version of the “Tedford Effect.”
This one emerges from a respect for Tedford’s Midas Touch, which over the past three seasons restored the gold in the Golden Bears, and earned Cal a spot in most pre-preseason polls this spring, even though his team was drubbed by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl and lost a gaggle of big-name starters.
“It’s different; so many faces are gone,” Tedford said. That quote has been taken out of context in order to sound rueful, but, in reality, it was uttered with the same measured, matter-of-fact delivery that distinguishes almost everything he says.
Tedford doesn’t get distracted and is obsessive about consistency. Cal hasn’t been a consistent winner since face masks became common. Pre-Tedford, the Bears last recorded three straight winning seasons from 1950-52.
So this isn’t the sort of program that would automatically receive respect following significant personnel losses, a la Florida State or Oklahoma, particularly with the glaring departure of 13 starters, including the potential top pick in the draft (Rodgers), a 2,000-yard rusher (J.J. Arrington), the school’s career reception leader (Geoff McArthur) and a defensive end who set a school single-season sack record (Ryan Riddle).
There’s no reason to think much of Cal’s chances in 2005, other than the “Tedford Effect.”
That’s why he received a new contract that guarantees him $1.5 million a year and is worth well over $10 million if he stays at Berkeley all five years. That’s why construction on a stadium renovation many thought the school could never pull off will commence at the end of the 2005 season.
That’s why ESPN.com’s Pat Forde ranked the Bears 22nd in his Top 25 for ’05, and even noted that he “erred” when he left them out of his original poll in January. Whose name brought about the change of heart? Yep.
“That’s news to me — I haven’t seen anything,” Tedford said of the ranking. “That’s good though. It says something good about your program.”
So what’s up with the program? Much of the attention this spring has been on the quarterback competition between touted junior college transfer Joseph Ayoob and sophomore Nathan Longshore, but that won’t be settled until the fall, after Ayoob has had a chance to gain his footing with the offense.
And don’t fret about the Bears’ offense. With four linemen back from a crew that dominated last year, as well as the nation’s best sophomore tailback outside of Norman, Okla., in Marshawn Lynch — he only averaged nine yards a carry and scored 10 touchdowns last year — the ground game will be hardy enough to carry things until the passing attack finds its rhythm.
However, things could be interesting on defense, where only three starters are back from group that ranked eighth in the nation in scoring (16 ppg).
“We’ve still got a little work to do,” rover Donnie McCleskey said. “We lost some big names. But other cats have got to come in and play.”
McCleskey is one such cat. A first-team All-Pac-10 performer in 2003, he struggled with injuries last year and is sitting out spring after knee and shoulder surgery. Defensive end Tosh Lupoi also was a 2003 starter but he missed all of last season with a foot injury.
Most of the defense, however, will be made up of members of Tedford’s three highly rated recruiting classes. He has been particularly adept at finding ready-to-play junior college talent (see Rodgers, Arrington, Riddle), and two stars of spring practice indicate that golden touch remains. Linebacker Desmond Bishop and defensive end Nu’u Tafisi, two of the five JC All-Americans signed this February, appear likely to crack the starting lineup and make an immediate impact.
Certain folks smirked at Cal’s embarrassing 45-31 defeat in the Holiday Bowl, viewing it as proof the Bears didn’t belong among the elite. They were, noted the gadflies, just a new flavor, a boy band soon to fizzle. This, after all, is a program that earns a top-five ranking every 50 years or so.
Others put more faith in the “Tedford Effect,” and that might include the man himself.
“I don’t believe in rebuilding,” Tedford said.
Cougs lurking in familiar territory Things are perfect again for Washington State. The Cougars are being mostly ignored.
How soon everyone forgets three consecutive 10-win seasons that preceded a hiccup in 2004. Or how last year’s team, with only seven returning starters, still finished a respectable 5-6, despite critical injuries at quarterback, tight end and on the defensive line.
Coach Bill Doba’s message after spring practices concluded last weekend was simple. He thinks, if you don’t mind him saying so, that his team’s going to be pretty good.
“We’ve got some talent,” Doba said. “And this is a unique team. These guys are tight and they take care of each other. We practiced smart.”
Last year’s growing pains should pay off with 17 returning starters as well as numerous backups who saw significant action.
Tailback Jerome Harrison, who ran for 247 yards against UCLA last season, was the star of spring practices, rushing for 253 yards on 28 carries over three scrimmages.
“He’s dang hard to hit — nobody gets a good hit on him,” Doba said.
That’s probably good because the Cougars are perilously thin at the position. One or two incoming backs probably will see action this fall, and coaches are high on 5-foot-8, 175-pound scatback Lorenzo Bursey.
Quarterback also is a position to watch, though not because of a lack of depth. Alex Brink performed admirably last year in relief of starter Josh Swogger, who sat out spring still recovering from a foot injury. Brink had a good spring and made it clear that he believes he’s got a shot to win the No. 1 spot.
While Doba emphasized that Swogger won’t lose a starting position he previously earned due to injury, he also pointed out that Brink could win the job outright.
“That’s a competition,” Doba said. “(Brink) deserves an opportunity to challenge for the job.”
The offensive line appears solid, while the pass catchers — receivers and tight ends — are as deep a group as any team in the conference. Sophomore receiver/return man Michael Bumpus appears headed for stardom.
Though the secondary has some issues, a healthy Will Derting at linebacker — a wrist injury made him underachieve last year — means the defense with have it’s tone-setter back.
“He’s the kind of guy you’d want with you in a bad part of town,” Doba said. “He gives us confidence.”