Grid Club Reports of the past: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3
There's nothing like a victory over a team from L.A. to put Cal fans in a good mood. And even better is a dominating, blowout win like Cal fans enjoyed last Saturday. Watching replays of Cal stifling UCLA's 'pistol,' constantly pressuring Kevin Prince and bulldozing the UCLA front 7 for consistent running yards while surrounded by appreciative Cal fans? I can't think of a better way to spend a Wednesday evening.
Unfortunately, all is not rosy for supporters of Cal athletics. This week's meeting of the Sacramento Grid Club covered Cal's win over UCLA, the upcoming game vs. USC, some background on the decision to cut four sports and reclassify rugby and lots of info on the SQUIRES program and Cal recruiting.
In a night full of Kevins we heard from Cal wide receiver coach Kevin Daft, Cal recruiting coordinator Kevin Parker, Cal Athletic Department Major Gifts Officer Andrea Campos and writer Gary Klein, who covers the Trojans for the LA Times.
Note: As always, all guest responses are paraphrased based on my notes and best recollections.
Can you preview Cal's offense vs. USC?
We must pick up the pass vs. USC. We feel that our wide receiver size matches up well with USC's defensive backs. And the offense has lots of confidence because of how well the defense is playing.
Will USC stack the box against the run?
That's what they showed on film, though they often drop into coverage on passing downs.
Thoughts on USC's defensive backs:
Their struggles have been exaggerated because they have played some really good QBs and passing offenses (Hawaii, UW with Jake Locker and Stanford with Andrew Luck). They are speedy, and #24 (Shareece Wright) is very talented. Some of their struggles could be because they are still learning and adapting to a new scheme under Monte Kiffin. They certainly miss talented players like Taylor Mays.
Is there a reason Cal has been throwing to the tight end less often?
There isn't any particular issue. Cal has designed plays for tight ends, but defenses might take away primary options on those plays.
On the freshmen wideouts who haven't seen the field this year:
Tevin Carter, Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery are all very fast, and they all should really help Cal stretch the field. Contributing immediately as a true freshmen is rare and very difficult, and all three will really benefit from a redshirt year to learn and get stronger, and all three are getting ready to contribute next year.
Many of you know Kevin Parker as 'rope coach,' and others probably remember him from his work with the SQUIRES program. He's all of the above, plus a recruiting coordinator, which means he sends out all of the mailings to recruits and takes care of them on official visits. Just this last week he hosted a number of recruits on official visits, taking them to San Francisco to enjoy the city and watching the Blue Angels.
He learned about SQUIRES from Cal great Chuck Muncie and has since become very involved in the program. Whenever he takes Cal players their general reaction is, Man, we gotta get the rest of our teammates here!' Seeing inmates has helped players appreciate what they have in their lives and what they need to do to stay on the straight and narrow. Parker has become so recognizable at San Quentin that the inmates want him and other Cal coaches to come and coach them, and frequently ask if they can play a scrimmage against the Bears!
What schools are our biggest recruiting competition?
Oregon, USC and UCLA, in that order. Stanford is the biggest competition for national recruits, because they go after the same type of kids who are looking nationally for the best academic schools.
Discussing how much spending is allowed on recruiting visits and recruiting rules:
Cal is very conscious of obeying rules, and the rules are important to ensure a level playing field between programs with very different resources and budgets. Sometimes on recruiting trips they will give a player a jacket or a hat if it gets cold or rains, and at the end of the trip they'll have to ask for the recruit to give the hat back because it would constitute a violation.
Will the additions of Utah and Colorado impact recruiting?
Not much. It might help recruiting kids from Colorado and Utah because they'll get to occasionally play games back home, but Cal already recruits both states and not much will change.
Is Cal recruiting anybody from Sacramento?
Parker couldn't comment on any specific schools or names, but Tedford's line has always been 'We must take care of our home,' which is roughly defined as everything from Sacramento to San Jose to Half Moon Bay.
Why have we been so successful out of state?
Academics! I'm jealous of you folks with Cal degrees - it opens doors (Parker graduated from Oregon while Tedford was on the Duck coaching staff).
What impact will the Student Athlete High Performance Center have on recruiting?
Oh my God! They may fire me because they won't need me! I just saw the facilities on Saturday and the are unbelievable! The best facilities in the country! They'll put Oregon to shame. Tours are going to be organized in the spring, and you should all try to get in on one to check it out.
Ms. Campos gave a brief summary of the events that led up to the athletic department cuts, describing the growth in student fees that led to a burgeoning athletic department deficit, and the academic senate's call for decreased payments to the AD. Ms. Campos wasn't privy to the specific factors used to decide which sports were cut, but a matrix was used that incorporated factors like budget, travel costs, past success and title IX considerations. It is estimated that an 8 million dollar endowment would be needed to support the cut teams.
As for rugby, they will continue to use Witter and the field house, and they will have access to the SAHPC. They will continue to travel and play the same teams they have always played, and the AD expects that they will continue to compete for and win national championships like they always have. It is true that rugby has a large endowment, and that rugby alums have been very supportive and generous. But it isn't entirely accurate that rugby is fully funded - there are a variety of indirect costs that the AD considered when making the decision to reclassify. All they will lose is the prestige of being a part of the athletic department.
What will happen to donated money directed specifically to cut sports?
The short answer is that the AD will have to go back to those donors and let them decide where the money will go.
How will Pac-12 revenue impact the cuts?
We just don't know how much money will come in under the Pac-12. I could imagine sports coming back like baseball at Oregon, particularly if the state economy improves and more money is appropriated for UCs by state government.
Does the Endowment Seating Program program have any relation to the cuts?
The Endowment Seating Program is designed to ensure Cal's long term financial stability, but the results are much more long term, like over a 30 year time frame. However, they are 65% of the way to their goal, and are ahead of internal projections.
The Trojans are trying to put two painful, last second loses behind them. The defense has not been encouraging, but the offense has been. Matt Barkley has been much less mistake prone in his second season, but the coaches would like to see more balance in their offensive attack.
Will wide receiver Robert Woods play both ways?
Gary would be surprised if it happened this week, thought it's something the coaches have talked about as a long term plan as recruiting sanctions impact USC's depth of talent.
How will the USC defense scheme to stop Cal?
Stopping Shane Vereen is the number one priority, and they don't want to put Cal in a position where they can use play action to beat USC. They probably aren't anticipating that Kevin Riley will be as good as Locker and Luck, but anything can happen.
Can you compare the talent level at USC this year to the years under Pete Carroll?
The front line 22 starters are almost as talented as any other year in the recent past, and is probably the most talented in the Pac-10. The difference is that USC just doesn't have the depth they have had in years past. Recruiting just hasn't been as good in the last few years, and the depth has really suffered.
Regarding injuries to defensive linemen and linebackers:
All players on the defensive line are available, but there are a couple nagging injuries that have impacted their effectiveness. Linebacker Malcolm Smith is questionable, and the injuries all make depth and even bigger issue. It's probably a big reason why the Trojan defense has struggled this year.
Regarding overall impacts of the sanctions on the players this year:
Everybody was stunned by the severity of the sanctions, but the players seemed to absorb it better than USC fans and administrators. So far USC has avoided the blowouts that they suffered in 2009 to Oregon and USC - the effort has been there from the players, even in defeat. That said, this is a critical junction of the season. With two tough loses and Oregon on the schedule next week USC badly needs a win over Cal or the season could spiral out of control.
How have the sanctions impacted recruiting?
It still seems successful - USC has been in the top 5 of most big recruits. But the finish of the season will have a big impact on final decisions if things appear to fall into disarray. USC has been really successful getting high profile national recruits, but those players would be unlikely to leave their home state to join a program that looks like it could be on the down slope.