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Pac-10 Media Day, Part II: Jeff Tedford and Mike Mohamed Interviews

When we left off in Part I of media day, Tedford and Mohamed had just finished their press conference.  Before we look at the second half of the press conferences and the luncheon, let's take a look at what Tedford and Mohamed said when I had the chance to talk to them near the end of the day.  As a bonus, let's also see if I managed to avoid having an awkward conversation with Cal media reps about CGB!

Because it was so hot out, most reporters started interviewing coaches during the second half of the press conferences (that way they wouldn't have to sit in the sun any longer).  By the time Tedford and Mohamed were available during the luncheon it seems like most major outlets (ESPN, etc) had talked to them, so they had more time and attention to devote to other reporters.  Unlike last year when the Cal table was surrounded with people wanting to talk to Tedford and Best, there were only a handful of people who still wanted to talk to Tedford when he arrived at the luncheon.  It helped that Tedford showed up at 1:30, an hour after the luncheon started.  Before that, he was somewhere inside the Rose Bowl presumably doing interviews.

Shortly before Tedford arrived at the luncheon, I wandered over to the Cal section again (I was there at the start of the luncheon, but was told I couldn't sit there because all the seats were reserved) and asked our good friend Herb Benenson if Tedford planned on coming to the luncheon.  Benenson assured me that Tedford would, at some point, be there to answer questions.  Not wanting a rehash of last year's awkward but enlightening conversation with Herb and Kyle McRae, I headed towards the Cal table where Mike Mohamed was eating a tasty-looking fruit/ice cream parfait thing.

As a quick diversion, here's a fun history lesson for those who don't remember last year's Media Day or want to learn why CGB's tagline is "The California Sports Website that's .....different from all the rest."  This is from last year's writeup:

While [Tedford and Best] were talking to reporters I talked to a pair of Cal media reps, Kyle McRae and Herb Benenson.  Both had heard of CGB and in fact had read some of it.  Herb said he had been forwarded Rag's/Avi's post on athletics 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!

I walked over to Mike and introduced myself as a writer for CGB and asked him questions for a good 5-10 minutes:

  • First off, Mike is huge.  The roster says he's 6'3" and 245, but he looks even bigger than that.  He's a solid guy and I'd hate to be on the receiving end of a full-speed tackle from him.
  • He's heard of CGB!
  • He's really excited about the upcoming season.  He speaks very highly of Pendergast and believes this defense will surprise people next season.  They've been working hard and have developed into an excellent unit.
  • Asked to name a defensive player who could be a household name next year, he chose cornerback Steve Williams.  He also mentioned Owusu, who showed flashes of potential last year (especially against Maryland), and ought to see the field more this year.
  • He describes linebacker Steve Fanua as a "ball of fire."
  • He said the loss of Whiteside and Martin isn't affecting the team.  He made the valid point that those guys haven't even taken  a snap at practice, so their loss won't have any effect on the defense.
  • Asked about who on offense gives the defense problems in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, he mentioned Vereen and Sofele.  He said Sofele is very tough to bring down and described him as a "bowling ball."  He also mentioned the O-line as a unit, saying that they're showing great improvement over last year.
By this time, Tedford had arrived at the table and I was running low on questions, so I thanked Mike and wished him luck during the season.  Now that Tedford had arrived, the handful of reporters and I (there were usually between 3 and 5 of us talking to him) finally had the chance to ask him some questions.  Here are some tidbits of info he gave us (broken down into categories):

NY Trip/ Expansion
  • Asked about the New York trip, he said he appreciated it because the Pac-10 sometimes pigeonholes itself on the West Coast.  He appreciated the East Coast exposure and praised Larry Scott for setting up the visit.  Tedford praised Scott's approachability, saying he's very easy to talk to.  Tedford appears to be quite fond of the new commissioner. 
  • Regarding the Pac-12 division split, he said he's confident that Larry Scott will make a good decision.  Nonetheless, he'd prefer to play a Southern California school each year.
  • Despite Colorado being a likely conference opponent next year, he says the team will prepare for this year's Colorado game like they would prepare for any other game (the guy who asked this was asking if they would begin to build a "scouting file" on Colorado because they'll have to prepare to play them semi-regularly).
Kevin Riley
  • Experience is paying big dividends for Riley this year (remember, during the press conference Tedford mentioned Riley as the leader in starts, yards, and TDs among Pac-10 QBs).
  • They want to put Riley in situations where he will thrive.  They can do this by calling more high-percentage throws and not falling behind by multiple touchdowns (where Riley is forced to pass his way back into the lead).
  • Riley has undergone a big leap in his maturity this offseason.
  • Pendergast's defense has helped, since it gives Riley (and the rest of the offense) so many looks at difference defensive plays.
  • Riley has to work on avoiding sacks by getting rid of the ball under pressure.
  • Tedford says he can easily envision a scenario in which Riley has a breakout year.  Referring to Riley, he says this year's team is "his team."
  • He spoke of stability as something that will help this season.  Riley has stability in his mindset and the stability with offensive coordinators and O-line coaches will help this year.  Tedford said people underestimate the impact it has on a team to lose both an offensive coordinator and an offensive line coach in the same offseason.
Injuries, dismissals, redshirts, etc.
  • Chris Little is "gone for good."
  • Charles Satchell is done for his career (he had shoulder surgery in the offseason).
  • D-lineman Keni Kaufusi is recovering from shoulder surgery, and may see playing time in the second half of this season.  "We'll see" said Tedford.
  • Gabe King is recovering from a leg injury and is at "about 90%" right now.
  • Losing Chris Martin is not a big deal because he has yet to take a single snap in practice (same as what Mohamed said).  Nonetheless, Tedford wishes him the best of luck.  He knew he couldn't keep Martin on the team because the "distractions" would create an environment that was detrimental to the team.
  • Cecil Whiteside is a likely grayshirt.  Summer Bridge wraps up this week and if he's not there, he won't be cleared to play by the NCAA.
  • Asked about the player-agent situations in the SEC, Tedford says he always tries to educate his players to make good decisions on and off the field.
Position battles heading into fall camp
  • O-lineman Charles Siddoway spent a lot of time focusing on school in the past year.  In terms of progress on the team he's "doing fine."
  • For now running back Langston Jackson will play a backup role for special teams.  The 238 lb sophomore could also see reps at fullback.
  • Will Kapp will take first reps at fullback this fall.
  • Linebackers Keith Browner, Jarred Price, and Jerome Meadows will compete for an outside linebacker spot.  Tedford seemed to suggest that the linebacker positions are very fluid--we may see guys moving in and out of inside/outside positions.
  • Tedford said Matt Summers-Gavin may be the team's best offensive lineman.  The goal heading into camp is to build depth in the O-line.  This was a clear need as the team suffered numerous injuries throughout the line last season.  The goal is to build a top-8 group and find out who is interchangeable and could fit into multiple positions.  Tyler Rigsbee is "still coming along" (it sounds like he won't be competing for one of the top spots).
  • Donovan Edwards creates some good flexibility in the O-line, as he can fit into several positions.
  • With the RBs, the goal is to find a couple guys who can spell Shane Vereen.  Once that is decided, they'll find places to put other guys.  That said, there will not be any plans to move Isi Sofele back to wide receiver until they know who will be the backups for Shane.
  • The depth chart says Covaugh Deboskie-Johnson is Vereen's backup, but Tedford said that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be on the second team when the season starts.  Tedford only put Debo at second because he had to.  It sounds like everyone (except Vereen) is at an equal starting point heading into fall camp.
  • Besides Jones, Tedford mentioned Ross, Calvin, and Lagemann as the top receivers.  He said Ross has great experience and ability and he mentioned that Calvin is healthy again.
Future games, future seasons
  • Although Cal is playing Nevada on a Friday, the team is not exploring any options of hosting any weekday home games.  The increased exposure (such games are typically shown nationwide on ESPN) is not worth the lost preparation time.
  • Tedford would like to play Fresno State, but they cannot progress on talks until the Pac-12 arrangements are finalized (with Fresno St and Cal both eager to play each other, it sounds like this will definitely happen in the near future).
That wraps up the wealth of information I obtained from Tedford and Mohamed.  Tune in tomorrow for the final five press conferences (including some comedic gold from Jim Harbaugh) and a look at how I was completely unprepared to live the dreams of any member of Addicted to Quack!