2011 Cal Football Off-Season Thoughts

(1) Marshall moves on to Colorado.  Not a complete surprise here.  I was thinking that he had at least one more year to turn things around, but I wasn't discounting the possibility of him moving on or getting fired this year.  Remember when Marshall was first hired there was a lot of skepticism surrounding his hire?  A lot of people pointed to the fact that despite coaching in the NFL (under the assumption that a coach has to be more accomplished to coach in the NFL rather than college), the teams that he coached for all had pretty weak offensive lines.  Who were those teams?  The Cleveland Browns (2007-2008), and the Houston Texans (2002-2005). 

2008 Cleveland Browns
#26 in the NFL for yards per rush attempt
#8 in the NFL for least amount of sacks given up

2007 Cleveland Browns
#6 in the NFL for yards per rush attempt
#3 in the NFL for least amount of sacks given up

2005 Houston Texans
#9 in the NFL for yards per rush attempt
#32 in the NFL for least amount of sacks given up (68 sacks)

2004 Houston Texans
#22 in the NFL for yards per rush attempt
#25 in the NFL for least amount of sacks given up (49 sacks)

As you can see, it seemed as if Marshall's offensive lines got better as the years went on (sort of), but he did have a few years of really horrible offensive lines.  I'm talking about those years with the Texans.  In 2005, the Texans gave up the most sacks in the NFL.  Things weren't much better in 2004 either.  Of course, sacks given up is also dependent on how good your QB is, and how good your receivers are too.  But without going back to look at the film of those teams, statistics are the next best way to gauge their effectiveness. 

Anyways, I guess the skeptics were right.  Marshall... not that good.  Next. 

(2) Daft is fired.  I was actually pretty surprised by this move.  Of course I knew Daft was on a fairly hot seat.  I was no blind to the fact that Marvin Jones (Cal WR #1) was dropping so many balls, and our receivers never seemed to be getting that open against coverages.  But I really thought Daft was going to get one more year of leeway. 

Why? 

First of all, I saw him as one of Tedford's original guys.  Although Daft wasn't a coach for the team in 2002 when Tedford arrived at Cal, he was a graduate assistant in 2004.  He's been here a long time, and I thought that Tedford wouldn't really get rid of him unless things go really bad. 

Second, I didn't really think things were incredibly bad.  Sure, Jones was dropping balls like hot potatoes, but Michael Calvin (Cal WR #11) was also having a nice turn-around and was catching everything thrown his way when the previous two years he couldn't catch a ball if he was wearing gloves with glue on them.  Additionally, there were some stories in the media about how the WRs liked having Daft as a coach because of his QB experience.  Being a QB, he was apparently doing a good job teaching the WRs what the QB is looking for in the defenses and thus the WRs had a better understanding of what the QB was reading, doing, and expecting them to do. 

Third, Daft is a young coach with two young kids (When I worked with the team, his wife would come to practices with their daughter and watch things.  After practices, Daft would always go over to them and play with his daughter.)  I feel like Tedford has been a bit more cut-throat with the older coaches he's hired who are more stable and can more easily find work elsewhere if fired.  But what are Daft's options now that he's been fired?  He's not a big name guy.  Cal's WRs haven't been great, and thus Daft probably can't rely on his resume that much other than his limited NFL experience.  This could be the end of the road for Daft and his young coaching career.  I'm sure Tedford knew that, and didn't want to put Daft on the streets.  But I guess I'm taking a too compassionate view on things.  As TwistNHook told me, being a college football head coach is a multi-million dollar business -- and most importantly a business.  Personal feelings can't come in the way of making decisions which will benefit the team. 

(3) Eric Kiseau returns as WR coach.  Hooray.  I mean, like, seriously.  Hooray.  It can't be denied that some of Cal's best WRs during the Tedford era have been produced under the tutelage of Kiseau. 

Now, what's this about Kiseau also being a "passing game coordinator"?  Sounds to me like he's somewhere in between "WR Coach" and "offensive coordinator."  I mean, he's clearly not going to be calling plays -- Ludwig will still do that -- but it sounds like he's going to have the abilities to work on a game plan with Ludwig on how to attack defenses by passing the ball.  The fact that Tedford is giving him these abilities seems to suggest that Tedford has respect for his abilities to put together a good passing plan.  Let's hope we can see the results next year.

[Author note: Since I wrote this, Okanes recently put up a blog post explaining what passing coordinator means -- it's basically just as I expected]

(4) DB Coach Simmons moves on to pursue other opportunities.  A bit surprised here.  There seems to be confusion as to whether he was fired, or if he truly left on his own terms.  The timing suggests that this wasn't a firing.  Tedford has (usually) been pretty fast to fire coaches after the season ends, usually within a few weeks max.  So the timing suggests that Simmons really did leave on his own terms.  But why?  I didn't think he was really on a hot seat and perhaps left because he was feeling the pressure.  DB play wasn't *that* bad last year.  Obviously, there were some problems here and there, but Simmons has a long resume of producing good DBs and Cal's DBs were pretty good in 2008, which was a few years ago but wasn't ages ago.  Overall, I would have been fairly content having Simmons around for another year.

(5) Ashley Ambrose is hired to coach the DBs.  Pretty excited about this.  He has NFL experience.  I think this will be a good recruiting pitch.  He's fairly young (40 years old).  Okay, maybe not that young.  He is from the south (born in New Orleans, and went to Mississippi Valley State for college), and might have connections in the south to open up recruiting efforts down there. 

In the past few years, Tedford has really pushed hard to recruit nationally.  Cal has made progress by signing recruits from the northwest (Washington), the Rockies (Colorado), the southwest (Arizona, and Texas), and North Carolina.  But Cal has failed to successfully recruit from two of the other major recruiting areas in the United States: (i) Florida; and (ii) the rest of the south (Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana).  Those two areas are RICH, I mean absolutely RICH, with top quality recruits.  Cal hasn't touched those areas AT ALL.  It's my suspicion that Ambrose will be able to help out with those areas. 

On the down side, Ambrose coached at Colorado last year and their passing defense didn't seem to be that good at all.  Colorado's passing defense was #112 in the nation (out of 120), for opponent passing efficiency.  Yikes.  Not good. 

(6)  Luck returns to the Farm.  No surprise here.  Kid sounds like a nerd.  What's the price of turning down the opportunity of being the #1 draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft?  Fifty million dollars.  What's the price of staying in school, and obtaining a degree from Stanfurd?  Quite literally, priceless. 

(7)  Harbaugh goes to the 49ers.  Hallelujah.  I'm not quite sold on him being a great coach, but he's done a good enough job down on the farm that I don't mind seeing him go.  I was quite amused to hear that the Dolphins were going to offer him between seven to eight million dollars a year -- making him the second highest paid coach in the NFL -- despite having no NFL coaching experience.  He certainly might be a great NFL head coach, but to offer him that much money right out of the gate, without even seeing his results first?  Wow.  I think it's a gamble. 

(8)  Rumors that Tedford is looking at other offenses to revamp the offense next year.  I don't believe them at all.  I don't see Tedford changing the offense at all.  I wouldn't be surprised if it is substantially similar to what we've seen in the past few years.  Tedford is a pro-style guy.  He's not going to change his offense to be more like Oregon.  I mention Oregon, because I feel like a lot of Cal fans have Oregon-envy right now, and are wondering why Tedford hasn't decided to copy Oregon's offense since it clearly works (sarcasm). 

Why wouldn't Tedford change his offense to something like Oregon's?  We don't have the personnel.  It would take (potentially) years for the change to be implemented -- just look at what happened to Michigan.  Having a pro-style offense is a good recruiting pitch. Tedford is a pro-style guy. 

I've also heard some people wonder if Tedford will simplify the offense, completely dump the spread elements of the offense, and go back to his pure pro-style offense and smash-mouth running the ball offense of glory years.  I presume people are pondering this due to their Stanfurd envy.  I mean, I get it.  The Furd runs the ball a ton, and even uses six offensive linemen sometimes.  Why can't we do that?  We used to do that (except for the sixth offensive linemen thing which we've only done about once).  But what's sort of ironic about these grumblings, is that the Furd offense isn't exactly completely pro-style either.  They do tons of other things.  Their offense isn't always simple.  Did you watch the Orange Bowl?  They were doing everything that game.  They used TONS of formations. The spread the field.  They used tons of pre-snap shifts (something a lot of Cal fans hate).  Stanfurd has so many plays they prepare for games that not only does Luck wear a playcall wristband, but the center wears a second one too with even more plays.  Did you hear what they said on TV?  There are 300 plays combined between the two wristbands (or was it 450?  I can only remember it was a multiple of 150).  Holy hell.  Nothing simple about that offense between the number of plays, the number of formations, and the pre-snap shifting.

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