Lost in the very deserved praise of Tosh Lupoi's recruiting talents is the excellent performance of Cal's defensive linemen under his tutelage.
Grid Club Reports of the past: Week 1, Week 2
Just like last week, I dreaded watching replay footage of Cal's painful loss to Arizona. So I was surprised to find that rewatching the game actually left me more optimistic about the rest of Cal's season. What I saw the second time around was a truly impressive defensive performance and an offense that gradually built up some momentum and started driving the ball against a good defense late in the game. Football is often a game of such absurd margins, and you can drive yourself crazy counting all of the things that had to happen for Cal to lose in the desert. But in the end all of the things that did go right gives me hope for the rest of the season. After all, Cal was that close to winning their toughest conference road game - that has to count for something, right?
The rest of the Grid Club seemed to agree, as most of the questions directed towards guests this week still had to do with Nevada, although perhaps UCLA's adoption of the pistol offense had something to do with that preoccupation. This week we got to hear from defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire Tosh Lupoi, Cal broadcaster and increasingly ubiquitous radio personality Roxy Bernstein and UCLA radio broadcaster Chris Roberts.
Note: As always, all guest responses are paraphrased based on my notes and best recollections.
The Grid Club was lucky enough to have former Cal defensive lineman and Tiny Bates Award Winner Ralph DeLoach on hand to interview Tosh. Here are the topics they covered:
Ralph asked about a quote that Tosh had up in his room that read: "Remember - someone somewhere else is working and when you meet them they will win." Tosh talked about how he prepares for recruiting the same way he prepares for a game - with so much effort that no matter the results you can walk away with no regrets.
On the legacy of Joe Roth
The coaching staff introduces Roth during camp by watching videos and doing some reading about him, but his legacy resurfaces during Joe Roth Memorial week to remind them. It can be hard to reach players during a game week because they are so focused, which is why they want to ingrain Joe's legacy before the L.A. schools come to visit.
Why will we do better against UCLA compared to Nevada?
Mike Mohamed is back! More seriously, it comes down to being responsible at your spot. Against a pro-style offense sometimes mistakes aren't punished, but they are against option teams like Nevada. Lots of time in practice this week has been dedicated to focusing on motion and fakes - trying to separate what matters and what is designed to distract and fool defenders.
How was the bye week dealing with the Arizona loss?
It hurts in your stomach, but you have to move on. Guys did a good job of getting after it in practice. You try to learn from what happened in the loss, like how we need to get more pressure so plays like the bomb to Criner don't happen again.
How did the team react to the news of athletic department program cuts?
Tedford addressed the team about it. They support the AD but it's a tough, tough situation. What they want to focus on is realizing how lucky they are to have a chance to be here when other teams don't.
When asked about 2nd guessing various field goal decisions
It doesn't matter. We should have stopped Arizona from scoring.
How do the coaches decide when to blitz and when not to?
It depends on the team and the situation. Against Arizona it's hard to blitz because their offense and Nick Foles does such a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly that pressure rarely gets there in time. Tosh credited coach Pendergast for a gameplan that shut down Arizona's offense for the majority of the night.
Regarding having a spy on the QB running the pistol
Somebody does have to account for the QB, but it's based on assignments. Having a single designated spy tends to compromise pass coverage or another part of the field.
I'm sure most of you are aware that Roxy Bernstein got his start with KALX doing Cal baseball and is currently the excellent play-by-play man for Cal men's basketball. But he also currently has a radio show he co-hosts with J.J. Stokes and does college football radio broadcasts for Touchdown Radio with former Heisman winner Gino Torretta, amongst a variety of other play-by-play jobs. He also was a part of the Florida Marlins radio crew for three years and as best I can tell left out of loyalty to his alma mater.
Roxy opened with a discussion he had on his radio show with UCLA alum Stokes: How big is the Cal - UCLA rivalry? For Roxy, UCLA is #2 right after Stanford and he needs a Cal win so that J.J. can't bust him on the show next week. They recently had Rick Neuheisel on their program and he agreed that Cal is the 2nd most anticipated game on UCLA's schedule after USC, and that both teams get very fired up for the matchup.
On the national work he's been doing, and how the conferences stack up
Roxy is heading for Athens to do play-by-play for the Georgia Tennessee matchup, and this season he's had the chance to see just about every conference in action already, so he has a pretty good look at football across the nation. He firmly believes that one through nine the Pac-10 matches up with any conference in the United States. All of the close games last week (OSU vs. ASU, USC vs. UW, even UCLA vs. WSU) show how close the teams are. And there is a bias - Roxy noted that the majority of the people he works with week to week are from easy of the Mississippi.
On cutting Cal baseball
Everybody had an inkling that something would happen, but nobody really anticipated that it would be baseball on the chopping block. He's talked to a number of baseball alums who have all expressed extreme disappointment and embarrassment, and he plugged the protest even taking place at Evans Diamond at 9:0 before the UCLA game this Saturday.
On the 2010-11 men's basketball team
He expects that two freshmen will start and total will get significant playing time. The team will probably play much more like Mike Montgomery's old Stanford teams - slowly, and with an emphasis on defense. Harper Camp is absolutely 100% healthy and ready to go - just as strong as before his injury. Despite the youth there's plenty of reason to get excited. The freshmen class is very impressive, both on and off the court. Crabbe, Franklin and Solomon are all excellent recruits.
Roxy related an exciting story: The team frequently plays pick up games for about 90 minutes to 2 hours every day. Jason Kidd has visited a few times, and had the chance to work out with Emerson Murray. Roxy talked to Kidd and he said that Kidd was blown away with Murray, and compared his abilities to those of Jerryd Bayless, a guard out of Arizona who was one and done for the Wildcats. Murray is the unknown, wild card player for the Bears this year, and it will be exciting to see what he and the rest of the freshmen can do.
On expectations, Roxy noted that many are picking Cal to finish in 8th or 9th place in the Pac-10, but he's not buying that. Monty will not have a bad team - he's just too good of a coach to let that happen.
Roxy was asked about Max and he gave pretty much the same story we've heard from the coaches - that Max was told that if he wants to have a chance to play for China in the Olympics that he needs to stay with the national team for the Asian Games. As of right now, nobody really has any idea what chances are for his return in the 2010-11 season.
On UCLA's weaknesses
Chris wasn't sure if he wanted to characterize the secondary as a weakness, despite WSU's success passing the ball. He thought Jeff Tuel looked just that good throwing the ball and credited him for throwing some great balls to find holes in UCLA's coverage. Generally he identified UCLA's tendency to shoot themselves in the foot with poorly timed penalties and turnovers as their biggest weakness thus far.
On UCLA's offensive line
The injury and eligibility struggles of UCLA's offensive lineman have been well documented, but Chris feels that UCLA's line coach Bob Palcic is one of the best in the business, and the fact that UCLA has been so successful running the ball despite such massive attrition is a credit to his hard work
Why did UCLA play so poorly against Stanford and so well against Texas?
UCLA came out so flat against Stanford, particularly on offense. The defensive performance was solid, but they were out on the field for so long that they just got worn down. It was embarrassing for coach Neuheisel and he apologized to the fans directly for it. As for Texas, it's possible that the Longhorns were just an overrated team, and that that explains some of the divergence in UCLA's performance.