Today, we look at position coaches.
Ron Gould (running backs), Tosh Lupoi (primary recruiter/defensive line): Best units on the team, most invaluable coaches on the staff. They ain't going nowhere unless they want to go somewhere.
Kenwick Thompson (linebackers), Al Simmons (secondary): After tough seasons last year, both of these units have shored up. Although these guys had some breakdowns in the Nevada/USC games, still don't seem to be in any danger, particularly with Thompson making his mark in Texas recruiting (Steve Williams two years ago, Adrian Lee last year, Nathan Broussard this year) and Simmons having developed Syd'Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan into NFL-capable corners.
Too early to tell
Clancy Pendergast (defensive coordinator), Jeff Genyk (special teams)
Pendergast's schemes seem to be feast-or-famine. The unit seems to be amazing when they're ahead but press too much when they fall behind. When Nevada and USC scored the first touchdown it seemed like the defenses became too panicky on the field, lost their discipline and gave up even more huge plays, exacerbating an already difficult situation. On the other hand, the scheme seems to excite potential recruits, and could be a boon on that front.
Genyk's units look better, somewhat. Bryan Anger is alright (although he still shanks it). Giorgio Tavecchio has improved his range, although his three missed field goals against Arizona and UCLA hardly inspire confidence among the ranks. The kickoff coverage still gives up a lot of yards though. The new approach of using first-unit players (instead of the second-units, which generally practice particularly on special teams) is an interesting wrinkle, and it's hard to see whether it's a net cost or net benefit.
Too early to tell with these guys. But we have a body of work with our primary targets of ire. Let's take a look.
Andy Ludwig, quarterback coach (we focused on offensive coordinator responsibilities yesterday)
Avinash: Oh look, a two-parter on Ludwig! Goodie.
Riley's mechanics look better, but he still doesn't look that great. His decision-making ranges from good to downright awful. That interception he threw at the end of the half against USC has to rank among one of the five worst throws I've ever seen. Whatever the Tedford/Ludwig combo is teaching Riley is only offering incremental improvements. For all of the mechanical corrections, it's coming undone by the bad decisions.
Kodiak: This is where I'm more concerned. When the student struggles, is it the teacher's fault, or does the student just not have what it takes? Too soon to tell. We'd have to seen how Ludwig works with another QB to see if he can develop young talent or not.
Berkelium97: I'm not sure how much is Riley and how much is Ludwig. Riley's mechanics have improved tremendously over the past two years (which bodes well for Ludwig), but he's still a middling QB with habitual brain farts. He forces passes too often and has difficulty getting the ball out before he is sacked. His decision-making and mental game management have always been suspect. We might have to wait until we see the other QBs play before we can evaluate Ludwig's QB coaching.
Avinash: Also, the fact that no one else can challenge Riley for the job makes me think Ludwig isn't working on the fundamentals with his backups. From my reliable 2 AM Top Dog friend (not to be confused with my inebriated 1 AM Top Dog friend), I heard that Beau Sweeney needed work on throwing a spiral this past week. Painful.
Berkelium97: Mansion can't beat a guy who doesn't know how to throw a football? If Hinder, Bridgford, and Maynard don't do well in camp, it's going to be an ugly year next year.
CBKWit: Sweeney is what, a third year? I guess they teach you snap count first year, hand-offs second year, third year you learn to throw the ball!
HydroTech: I think this is probably a little overblown. Can Sweeney throw a spiral? Of course. We all saw him during the last two spring games. His balls certainly weren't fluttering ducks. What the coaches were probably doing was just trying to improve his mechanics to get some better balls out of him. This really isn't anything different from what Riley has received even this year. All players need tuneups along the way. To think that once you're told the proper technique, and you can do it once, means that you're going to do it perfectly forever is a complete fallacy. As since many of us were in the band and we had to learn proper marching technique and playing technique every year, we should know this. I mean, if players never lost perfect technique over time, then Cal Band's bootcamp week at UC Davis would only be for freshman.
Steve Marshall, offensive line coach
Kodiak: I know that we had a few lean years of O-line recruiting and that was a reasonable explanation for our struggles last year. But, that shouldn't be an excuse this year. We've got 3-4* recruits at each position on the line and all of them have game experience. Did we whiff on our talent evaluations? Are the rumors about last year's emphasis on scheme over technique true? I'm still not sure what to think of Marshall. Against Az and ucla, we ran the ball well, but struggled with their fast edge rushers. Against 'sc, we couldn't run nor pass-protect and looked completely over-matched. All three of these teams have great DE's, and 'sc probably has the best Dline talent in the conference. So although I'm disappointed in our struggles, I'm not completely surprised. However, if we continue to struggle against teams with average D lines, I think it's fair to say that Marshall deserves some scrutiny.
Avinash: Not looking good for Steve. The way we're getting blasted off the line of scrimmage against quality competition is sooo bad. Yeah we've had offensive hiccups in the past, but under Marshall we've had a half-dozen games where the offensive line didn't play well, and another half-dozen where they were atrocious.
So we've been running zone blocking a lot this year (in case you don't know what that is, go here). Although the updated depth chart had , you can just look at our linemen and recognize these are no Ryan O'Callaghans or Alex Macks around. These are a small group of guys. You'd figure they'd play better.
But they're not doing their jobs well. They let defensive tackles slip behind the line of scrimmage almost immediately at the snap, or they open up inside gaps for linebackers to rush through to sack the quarterback, or they get pushed back in the pocket.
The recruiting is looking better, and we do seem to have more guys that are committed to this game. But unless this offensive line starts picking up their game the rest of the year, I don't see him returning when his contract expires this winter.
Berkelium97: You can make the argument that our O-line doesn't have that much talent and that is the reason why they offer abysmal pass protection and spotty run blocking. At some point this has to begin to reflect on Marshall, particularly when players routinely make the same simple, easily fixable errors. How many false start penalties can we give up this year? I'm not talking about guys not hearing the snap count in Autzen or Husky Stadium. They routinely false start at home or at relatively mild atmospheres like the Coliseum. It seems like a simple discipline issue. And how many pass-rushers will break through unabated? Several times opponents twitch early and demonstrate who will blitz, yet the O-line often still doesn't pick him up at all or he'll get blocked for half a second before he sheds the block and annihilates Riley. After the bowl last year I asked Tepper about how Marshall differs from Michalczik and Tepper said that Marshall focused a lot more on scheme, but that he planned to work on technique all throughout spring ball. It doesn't look like that helped much.
Kevin Daft, wide reciever coach
Berkelium97: Drops. Drops. Drops. I know you can't coach guys to have hands of glue all the time. Sometimes guys simply drop balls. But when most of our receivers from 2008 through the present persistently drop balls, I have to wonder about the coaching.
Kodiak: I'm not seeing the WR's getting better at their craft under Daft's watch. I know you're always going to have some recruiting misses, and some injury issues...But to see WR's who have been in the system for years still being inconsistent with their route-running, not knowing how to read defenses and find open spots in zones, not being on the same page w/ their QB, and showing inconsistent hands is troubling. (by my admittedly inexpert eye) We clearly can't count on getting all-world recruits like KA to sign every year. If we don't develop the guys that we do have, it won't matter who we have at QB.
Avinash: I'm unimpressed. He wasn't given a great group to start off with (Verran Tucker, Nyan Boateng, and Jeremy Ross aren't the ideal trio), but now that he has a seasoned group in Marvin Jones, Jeremy Ross and Michael Calvin and a talented rookie in Keenan Allen, I'm expecting a lot more. Receivers drop the ball too much (Arizona and USC come to mind) or deflect it up into the air for other guys to pick off the ball (this cost us against Arizona and Nevada). And Jones and Allen are good receivers. They should be better with their timing.
I'm going to speculate a little. The fact that Daft was a former quarterback makes me wonder if he can really get on the same page with his group on gameday. He'll always be thinking like a quarterback and making the receivers try to understand what the quarterback wants as opposed to making them run crisp routes and how to slip past defenders.
It's true that his recruiting has been key to landing some of our guys (Kaelin Clay and Austin Hinder from this class), but recruiting is worthless if the receivers aren't putting their paws on the ball. I might be willing to give him another year when he's given a more speedy group of guys (when Clay, Coleman Edmond, Tevin Carter enter the mix), but that's about as far as I'll go. If the receiving game doesn't improve, Daft should probably be gone.