In yesterday's Media Day post I left off at the end of the break between the first five and last five press conferences. After the jump you'll find the second half of the day which includes the Cal press conference (with coverage of Arizona, OSU, Oregon, and USC too), a look at how budget cuts may have affected Cal's media brochures, a roundtable lunch with Tedford and Best, and an insightful yet awkward conversation with Cal Football's media representatives.
Break time was over soon enough and I thanked Miller both for reading CGB and for linking to it in his lunch links, which usually results in a nice influx of viewers on that given day. As the conferences resumed, Arizona's Mike Stoops was up next. He looks so professional without that stupid visor. It also helped that he wasn't yelling wildly. He was quite optimistic about Arizona this year, calling the defense the best he's ever had. When asked if he'd ever play his brother who coaches Oklahoma, he said it would only happen in a bowl game. I was disappointed. I'd like to see a sibling rivalry game. When Arizona's Cam Nelson was asked about opposing offensive threats, Best was the first name he mentioned. This was a continual theme throughout the day: whenever any defensive players talked about opposing offenses, Best was always the first name they would mention.
Finally, it was time for Tedford and Best. Tedford first talked about how pleased he is with the leadership that has emerged for this season. This likely explains why he's putting the names back on the jerseys. He even praised the quiet Best for taking a role as a leader. Naturally, the team is very focused on the first five games of the season, which will define the season. Tedford said, like he has said before, that the team not only knows how to deal with high expectations now, but that they embrace them. They clearly learned a lesson from the 2007 season. They also may have learned a lesson from 2008: Tedford acknowledged the possibility that the team will leave Thursday to become adjusted to the time change at Minnesota. But he was firm in his belief that the humidity and not the time change is what really hurt the Bears against Maryland. He says he does not want to appear stubborn and wants to be open to new ideas in order to learn how the team responds to different situations. He downplayed the fact that Cal will travel by bus to Pasadena to play UCLA. He says that overall, it won't add a significant amount of time to their normal trip.
Moving on to talk about the offense, Tedford first acknowledged how fortunate he has been to have tandems of NFL-quality running backs and how this will be a great advantage for this year's offense. He then spoke of Kevin Riley's improved consistency. Throughout the day he emphasized how Riley re-worked his throwing motion. It's shorter and he is now much more accurate. Apparently the bad form that plagued him in 2008 is gone. Although Kevin is a clearer frontrunner now than he was last year, Tedford is not opposed to another dual qb system if neither qb is impressive. Tedford said that he does not regret last year's two-qb system because neither one was willing to step up and demonstrate the consistency and performance he desired from them.
Speaking about this year's games, Tedford said he's glad Cal is playing USC for the homecoming game (though he didn't even know it was the homecoming game until someone pointed it out during the press conference). He's confident that homecoming weekend will be conducive to a wild, electric environment. He's disappointed about the new Rose Bowl/B
CS system where a WAC team can edge out a Cal team that otherwise would have gone to the Rose Bowl .
Jahvid spoke a little bit at the conference too. He said the team will really miss Alex Mack's skills and leadership. He said he always brought a special intensity to practices and games and that this intensity was contagious. However, he praised Guarnero as worthy successor to Mack. Tedford spoke a little about Best too. Tedford doesn't mind the Heisman hype for Best because Best believes "team above one all the way" and "is so sincere about that." Much to my delight, Tedford said Best will continue to return kickoffs this year. When I asked if Best will play his role as gunner on special teams, the two look at each other, smiled, and Tedford gave a firm "no." They want to avoid excess wear and tear on Best. I wouldn't mind seeing Vereen's speed put to use as gunner, though. Our kickoffs will need all the help they can get. Although this was the end of Tedford's press conference, I would gain more nuggets of wisdom from him later in the day.
Mike Riley of OSU was up next. I was disappointed he didn't bring Quizz with him, but he assured us that both Rodgers brothers are at 100%. Moevao is still injured, but he should be at 100% by the time the season starts. It sounds like Canfield will be on the first team during fall camp.
Chip Kelly and Walter Thurmond III were up next. They're expecting the defense to surprise people this year. They'll need a strong defense to contain Boise St who is 64-2 on the SmurfTurf™ since 1999. Asked about why they run so much at Oregon, Kelly said they run because that's what their personnel is best suited to doing As long as they continue to recruit quality runners, they'll keep running. If they recruit some good fliers, maybe they'll put those new uniforms to use and have players fly around the field. I considered asking about the silly new uniforms, but I didn't want to ruffle any feathers.
Local favorite Pete Carroll was up next and he brought Taylor Mays with him. Carroll kept going on and on about how glad he was that Mays is coming back for a fourth year instead of leaving early for the NFL. He said Mays is maximizing his experience at USC. I thought I heard him declare Sanchez sanchez under his breath, but I may have misheard him.
Carroll went into "rah rah" cheerleader mode and started praising the Pac-10 as one of the best conferences in the country. He pointed to his own team's experiences where they have lost of most of their games to Pac-10 foes instead of losing to nonconference opponents. Then he talked about how many players the Pac-10 sends to the NFL every year. It looks like Larry Scott had a good talk with Carroll before media day. He then praised Barkley as the best quarterback he has ever had at this stage. Despite being so new, he is not too far behind Corp.
One of the last things Carroll said was that if he was in charge of the NCAA, "we'd have an awesome playoff system."
Now that all the coaches had spoken, Larry Scott came back to the podium and gave another speech. I thought it was a little odd that half of the room cleared out before he started, but shortly into his speech I realized this was the exact same speech he gave to the media the night before. Having read excerpts and stories about this speech, I thought it was a little redundant to hear it again, so I left to see what else was going on.
I wandered into an adjacent room and saw that all the teams set out team programs filled with statistics, bios, facts, and more. They were all bound and filled with full-color pages and pictures and were very impressive...all except Cal's. Oregon, USC, and others had these nice programs and Cal had some stapled sheets of copy paper. Budget cuts at their finest!
While others had nice-looking programs...
We had stapled sheets of paper.
After I gathered some fancy programs and Cal's stapled sheets, I headed over to where some people were gathering food. I looked around and saw that each table had a sign with a team name or "Pac-10."
Arizona's table. The guy on the right in the light blue shirt made a face when I took this picture.
Tedford, Best, and others at the Cal table.
I grabbed some food and went over to the Cal table where Jahvid Best was talking with some reporters and Cal media guys were talking among themselves. Not long after I sat down, Tedford came and sat at the table. I was sitting at a table having lunch with Tedford and Best! Media types were quick to swoop in and talk to Tedford and Best. While they were talking to reporters I talked to a pair of Cal media reps, Kyle McRae and Anton Malko (?). Both had heard of CGB and in fact had read some of it. Anton said he had been forwarded Rag's/Avi's post on atheltics revenue. Before I had the chance to ask him what he thought of it, he stepped aside to talk to someone or answer his phone or something. Kyle took his place a few minutes later and sat next to me. When I told him I was with CGB he slowly nodded his head and said "Ohhh, okay." I asked if he had heard of us and indeed he had. He said CGB was not your average Cal site. He said CGB is "different." I asked him if this was good or bad and he paused for a while and eventually said "...neither." I'm under the impression that "neither" isn't necessarily a good thing. I didn't get to learn more about his perspective because he also had to step aside shortly after I talked to him. Awkward!
People were going to and from the table continually, so it was tough to talk to the Cal media reps any longer than two minutes. I did, however, get some nuggets of wisdom from Tedford. Not surprisingly, Tedford mentioned Riley's new throwing motion everytime he talked about Riley. He is really serious about how this is improving his performance. He said he's most pressing concern about the team is kicking. Seawright and Tavecchio have struggled with distance and accuracy on both kickoffs and field goals. He said he has no concerns about Anger, though, who is still "a puppy." Tedford is really pleased with Anger's performance and seems thrilled to be able to have him for three more years. Asked about the number of track athletes on the team, Tedford said it isn't a prerequisite but that track athletes certainly bring certain advantages to the team.
Tedford also talked about the USC game. He said he's not treating the SC game any different this year even though many in the media say USC is "rebuilding" this year. He says the only difference this year is that Cal will get them at home. And asked if he thinks USC can keep winning like it does, Tedford said they certainly can because he does not "see them going backwards."
Tedford left shortly afterwards, but Best stayed around a little longer to answer questions. He was talking to people constantly. He seemed shy, but was open to answering most questions. Like Tedford, he gives lots of generic, neutral answers, but I can't blame him. He did offer some good information, though. He's not concerned with his Heisman candidacy because he does not want the team to become distracted and lose sight of its goals like they did in 2007. He said the memories of 2007 are still fresh in his mind. He thinks every game is winnable and does not see any "dangerous" games ahead this year. He wants to take each game one at a time. He also said his own stats don't matter much to him and said he didn't mind that he was taken out early against Washington last year. As long as the team wins every game, he's happy. In a more candid moment, Best said he was strongly in favor of an 8-team playoff over the current BCS system. I always knew Best had a good head on his shoulders, but seeing him in person and seeing the way he conducts himself really makes him stand out as a player. He is very humble, very respectful, and represents the university as well as anyone could. If any Cal player ever deserves to win the Heisman, it's Best. He has a long, fruitful career ahead of him.
By this time, it looked like Best was going to be leaving soon, so I left. I had spent six hours at the event and was ready to go home with a head full of new knowledge and insights. It was a great time full of unique experiences (How often do you have the chance to dine with Tedford and Best?!). If any of you ever have the chance to go to either the Pac-10 media day or the Bay Area media day, definitely go. It is a fun, informative experience. You not only get to meet players and coaches in a less anonymous environment than a fan day, but you also get to meet various reporters (like Ted Miller!) too.