When I looked at my schedule and realized that Roxy Bernstein would be this week's Grid Club guest I thought it was perhaps a nice coincidence - folks who didn't have any desire to think about the football team could talk hoops with the voice of Cal basketball! But Cal fans had very much not gotten over such a painful loss to UCLA, and discussions about what plagues the football team were the dominant topic of conversation.
In fact, rather than the usual Q&A session, it ended up being more of a direct dialogue between and audience asking impossible to answer questions and Roxy trying to talk us all off the ledge. We're all hardy souls, but all these years of Cal football still haven't numbed us to the pain of losing to UCLA! Unfortunately, lively back-and-forth discussions about all of the problems Cal faces is much harder (if not impossible!) to turn into a readable narrative. But we did our best to bring you what could be transcribed!
In addition to hearing from Roxy (and you'll hear plenty of him if you tune in to 95.7 on Saturdays, or any of a number of upcoming Cal broadcasts!) we also heard from Ryan McKinley, a graduate assistant for the defensive coaching staff, and Brian Floyd of Cougcenter.com, SBNation Seattle and SBNation.com. He's original the triple threat!
As always, thanks to the wonderful CalBear81 for her excellent notes, allowing me to better paraphrase our speakers!
How is the team doing moving on from a tough UCLA game?
Coach Tedford did a good job addressing the team on Sunday about moving forward - It's about us, not the media or the hype.
What is your role on the team?
To be a graduate assistant you have to be in a master's program. It's like a coaching residency.
I run break downs of film and make reports for coaches and create scouting reports on players. I also am involved in the scout team, creating the opposing team's offense to help prepare our defense. Austin Hinder is usually the QB for the scout team. It's not a glamorous position but Austin has taken a leadership role.
Who on the scout team have looked like players to watch in the future?
Maurice Harris has looked really good as a WR, and Daniel Lasco has made some impressive plays as a running back against our first team defense.
What are some concerns about what WSU can do on offense?
Their first string QB is out but the 2nd stringer is doing well. They really run the clock down and the QB uses that time to read the defense and make changes.
What can we do to cause more turnovers?
It's something the coaches emphasize. Every day we have turnover drills on defense, trying to strip the ball, break up catches, how to best recover fumbles, etc. Increasing the turnover margin is absolutely critical for us.
What adjustments do we try to make when we've had a rough first half on defense?
We don't scrap our entire defense - we just try to simplify it for the guys as much as possible.
On where you can hear Roxy:
I've got a show every Saturday on 95.7 The Game covering Bay Area college football as well as national college football. This week Isi Sofele will be on the show. I also do play-by-play on a national football game each week. I just did USC-Stanford. I'll be doing Cal-Washington State with Mike Pawlawski and Jason Stiles from ROOT sports, and then again Cal-Oregon State the week after.
Why is Cal a 9.5 point favorite?!
We're at home, we're 4-4 and they're 3.5. We're the better team on paper. We've shown flashes of being a good football team.
Is the pre-season basketball hype legit?
Yes. Mike Montgomery always downplays his teams. Even at Stanford he would always downplay his teams. But one year he said "you know, we should be pretty good this year." And that was the year Stanford went to the final four. This year at the Pac-12 media day he said he thought Cal would be pretty good. It got overshadowed with the other news, but when Mike thinks the team is going to be good they'll be good.
They've got two senior leaders in Jorge and Harper. Allen Crabbe is going to have a break-out year - he's put on 15 lbs of muscle, so he'll be finishing shots that he couldn't finish last year. Richard Solomon also bulked up. Justin Cobbs is going to have a big impact off the bench. He and Jorge are going to be amazing together on defense.
There are question marks for Washington, UCLA, the other contenders. I believe we are the team to beat this year in the Pac-12.
How is Mike doing?
He's doing very well. The energy level is a little low, but he's fine. This team is capable of something special and Mike will make it even better. Best X's and O's coach in college.
How does the bench look?
Murray will come off the bench, Bak Bak will be there, though his development was stunted because he couldn't travel with the team in Europe because of his passport issues. David Kravish, a true freshman, he needs to get bigger but he will have an impact. He's very much a Mike Montgomery type of player. Robert Thurman will have a big impact and should get some real playing time.
We will have some real depth this year. Last year we had what, 6 . . . maybe 7 guys in the rotation. All those overtime games, three OTs against Arizona, OT against UCLA, they ran out of gas.
When a QB is clearly having a bad game, why won't Coach Tedford ever bring in the backup, if only to give the starter a chance to calm down and settle himself before coming back in?
It's always been JT's way to stick with his guy, but it's a good question that I'll talk to him about before Saturday's broadcast.
Is there an explanation for Cal's struggles on the road?
It's a great question that the coaches would love to be able to answer. They used to play really well on the road early in JT's career. It seems like he has them prepared and ready, but we don't know why they've struggled.
On Zach Kline:
I've seen him play. He'll be here for spring ball at Cal, and he has a shot to play next year. He's that good, that talented.
Why don't we have Maynard throw on the run more?
It's true that he does that well, but it's important to realize that when you do that you're cutting off half the field. If you do that all the time then the defense can just flood the left side of the field and nobody will be open.
What should we expect to see from Washington State on Saturday?
We're not sure what to expect. The team made terrible mistakes against OSU, but then played pretty well against Oregon.
Talk a little bit about Marshall Lobbestael
He doesn't have Jeff Tuel's arm strength, and he can throw it into coverage too much - he had a bad interception against Oregon. But he adjusts well
What about WSU's running attack?
We have two shifty little guys. We won't power over you. It's been inconsistent, but they're trying to get more balanced between passing and running, even when the running game isn't working.
Do you run a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense?
They usually run a 4-3 defense, but sometimes a 3-3-5 against teams with spread offenses or lots of passing plays. Expect to see a 4-3 the majority of the time on Saturday.
On WSU special teams:
Kickoffs are a real problem - the kicker can't get it into the endzone. Coverage is decent but poor kicks are a problem. Punting is erratic.
What is the team strength?
Wide Receivers. There are three or four receivers that are all decent weapons.
The entire defense, depending on the time of day. Especially the pass defense.
What is Cal's biggest vulnerability?
Probably Maynard's inconsistency.