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Cal Coaches Tour Recap: Jeff Tedford

Tedford hopes to make life a little more bearable for Southern California's Cal fans living in enemy territory.
Tedford hopes to make life a little more bearable for Southern California's Cal fans living in enemy territory.

As we continue our recap of the Cal Coaches Tour, today we'll run through the multitude of topics Coach Tedford touched on when he spoke to fans. In his opening remarks, Tedford said he was thankful to be speaking after Coach Montgomery. Otherwise he would inadvertently provide Monty with plenty of fodder for jokes. Despite going first, Monty still got some jabs in and Tedford acknowledged that "I don't think it's ever safe with Mike." I bet Monty even had some Tedford jokes at the San Diego stop, which Tedford had to miss.

At each meal some special guests were in attendance. At lunch we were joined by Pro-Bowler, Heisman finalist, and contributor to Cal's Pac-8 co-title in 1975, Chuck Muncie as well as Gene Pickett, who played for Stub Allison's Bears in the early 1940s, sat at Tedford’s table. At the dinner event Chris Conte’s parents were in attendance along with Pat Barnes and Tyler Fredrickson. It's great to see alumni from all eras still involved with Cal football.

In introducing Tyler, Tedford talked about that USC game… he said "I don’t know how many of you remember but we had a couple of field goal attempts blocked in that game… so Tyler came over to me before the final one and said ‘Coach, let’s just move it back to eight yards.’ At that point I was basically just do it! That was a tremendous moment for us all."

At each event Tedford began by discussing the Memorial Stadium renovations. He said he gets "chills up and down my spine" when he walks around the stadium to catch up on the latest progress. He was glad to be on the field before the renovations--he doesn't know how we put up with the facilities before. "Honestly, I was only ever in the concession areas during the week when it was basically empty… I have no idea how you people put up with those bathrooms on game day… but thank you!"

Join us after the jump as Tedford discusses spring practice, the new hurry-up offense, and his thoughts on the shakeup at the assistant coaching levels this offseason.

Tedford said he used to bring prospective student athletes through the stadium and old facilities, only to see the looks on their faces as they think "this place is a dump." Now we have some of the best facilities in the nation. Tedford isn't the only one excited to return to Memorial Stadium: the players are itching to play games at their true home. While the team was happy to be hosted by AT&T Park, Tedford acknowledged that they had an unusual number of distractions while playing at the home away from home. He said AT&T "didn't feel like didn't feel right."

After spring practice Tedford brings every single one of the 115 players into his office for a one-on-one meeting. This year many mentioned how excited they are to come back to Memorial Stadium this fall and to come running through the North Tunnel and hearing the fans roar. The players love that. The team should be able to start practicing in Memorial Stadium around the first or second week of August.

Coach Tedford at Southern California Coaches' Tour
Tedford speaks at the Los Angeles event

Overall, Tedford is pleased with how spring ball went. They accomplished the two major objectives you always strive for during spring: productivity and staying healthy (except for Brazinski's knee). The first position group he commented on was the running backs. He said the backfield is "pretty special." Before Isi won the starting role last season, Tedford and the coaching staff "didn't know what Isi would do, based on his stature." We all saw what Isi did and know that we have an exceptional running back returning this fall. Tedford had high praise for other running backs. He called CJ Anderson the team's "best all-around back" when you account for running, pass protection, receiving, etc. Tedford praised the progress of Brendan Bigelow, who was initially intimidated by the academics at Cal. He has developed well and responded to challenges on and off the field. One of the primary goals for Bigelow during spring ball was to get him more comfortable with physical, beat 'em up, type of play--he responded well to the challenge.

Tedford was also pleased with quarterback play and looks forward to what Maynard and Bridgford will do this season. Tedford spoke about how much Maynard grew up as the season went on. Over the final stretch of games Maynard was in the top-13 in passing efficiency nationwide--and the only 1st-year player in that group. Allan Bridgford is finally healthy after working through his shoulder injury from a couple years ago. Tedford singled out Kline as having a phenomenal spring, especially for a first year player. Tedford said he knew Kline was truly special when he saw that the game was neither too complicated nor too fast for him, something exceedingly rare for a QB in his first semester. Despite being highly touted, Kline came into the program with no shortage of humility. He "kept his mouth shut" and used his performances on the field to earn the respect of his teammates. And Tedford says he immediately earned that respect. Tedford then addressed an issue which I had been wondering about all spring: will Kline redshirt? Typically third-string QBs see limited action in games during the season, but I think it would be a waste to burn Kline's redshirt in some fourth-quarter action against Southern Utah. Fortunately Tedford seems to agree: Kline will redshirt this year if Zach Maynard and Allan Bridgford stay healthy.

Football wasn't the only thing the players excelled at this spring--the Bears also made great progress in the classroom. While he sat out several practices, Maynard put in plenty of work into his academics. Tedford was particularly proud that 17 out of 20 players passed college writing (an intense 6-unit class).

Since we were in Southern California, Tedford mentioned that he and the team would "do our best to give you guys some bragging rights" since we are entrenched in enemy territory. He said he missed a turn coming into the country club and passed through a neighborhood where it seemed like every house had a USC flag. He said he "know[s] how miserable it must be" with all these SC fans everywhere. Beyond beating the Trojans, he mentioned that they're working on the bigger goal of trying to sustain 10 and 11-win seasons. When he joined the Bears in 2002 he said people would be doing backflips if we could get to a Holiday Bowl, but now the standards have been raised--7 and 8 win seasons will not cut it anymore. He's striving to bring the team to that next level and achieve the ultimate goal for Cal fans: earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.

A safe haven in Orange County.

FiatLux: I was particularly struck by how sincere Tedford was on this. He said he was embarrassed by the Holiday Bowl. "We played terrible and it was really disappointing." Then he talked about the whole bowl experience and what it means to him that so many fans are there. "We’ve had decent success in bowl games, 5-3. And I tell you, when I am down there on the field and look around and see all the Cal fans, and there’s always more of our fans than the other team’s, [ed note: with the exception of playing BYU in Vegas] that means a lot to the kids and me. It says a lot for our program and our fans. I know it’s during the holidays and people have spent their money to come and support us and I feel terrible when you come away without a positive experience." To me it was a remarkable thing for a head coach to acknowledge.

At this point Tedford opened things up for Q+A and answered questions on a variety of topics:

· The hurry-up offense: one fan asked if Tedford was considering speeding up the offense after seeing how much success Chip Kelly and the Ducks have had with it over the past few years. Tedford said we will run many more hurry-up sets this season. We ran lots of no-huddle offense this spring. He believes it should also help open things up for the running game with Zach Maynard who, as Tedford pointed out, had the team's two longest runs last season.

· Concussions: Tedford was asked about his thoughts on the recent focus on concussions and brain injuries. Tedford has reached out to biochemisty, biomechanics, and physiology labs to help better understand how to prevent and treat these types of head injuries. Tedford has put effort into bridging the great science and academics on campus with athletics. He has even been collaborating with the head of neurology at Cal to put together different helmet designs to prevent concussions. Because many injuries occur from secondary contact (i.e. after the initial hit, the head jerks and hits the other side of the helmet), they have been working on a three-part helmet that would separate into pieces after sustaining a heavy impact.

· Defensive backs: How are the Bears going to defend Matt Barkley and his fearsome duo of receivers? Tedford said we have great defensive backs led by Marc Anthony and Steve Williams. In addition to relying on DBs to make plays, he says we'll have to mix up coverages to try to confuse Barkley. Additionally, we'll try to put some pressure on him. Stefan McClure had surgery last Tuesday to identify the cause of some unusual swelling. They cleaned out the knee and didn't find any issues. McClure will be out for three more months and he may not be ready for the start of the season.

· Incoming freshmen: Tedford doubts any incoming freshmen will play on the offensive line. To do so is pretty much unheard of for the Bears. If anyone can break though, Tedford said, it's Freddie Tagaloa. Due to the shortage of receivers on the roster we will have to rely on some freshmen this fall. Tedford said Treggs is most likely to play among the incoming WRs, followed by Darius Powe.

· Tight ends: During the first week of June Tedford will spend a week with the New England Patriots to get a better understanding of how they utilize their tight ends. We will make much more use of tight ends on offense this season. Tedford said Richard Rodgers could be a first-round draft pick someday.

· New assistant coaches: Due to all the incoming talent at WR this fall, Tedford said it's a great time to have Wes Chandler coming in as receivers coach. Despite losing Lupoi and Kiesau to UW, Cal could have suffered much greater losses. Although he received generous offers from Kansas and Texas A&M, Coach Pendergast opted to stay with the Bears. LB coach Kenwick Thompson was offered the defensive coordinator position at Stanford but turned it down. This offseason six assistants received lucrative offers from other schools, but we were able to retain four of them. Tedford acknowledged that keeping up with rising assistant coach salaries is tough and implored us to keep contributing to the program to ensure that we can afford the best possible talent on the sidelines.

· New faces in the Pac-12: Tedford is impressed by the quality and quantity of new coaches in the Pac-12. At a recent Pac-12 meeting he and Mike Riley looked around and realized that every other coach had been hired within the last three years.

· Keenan Allen: "Keenan is such a special young man. He is so competitive that we have to make sure to back him off a bit because he just goes all out all the time in everything he does.

· Other Receivers: "It’s going to be important that at least 3 of the 5 had to step up and really make a difference.

· Getting kickoffs into the endzone: "Well as you know they’ve moved the kickoffs up 5 yards… but you have to decide, do you want them in the endzone or do you want them inside the 10 or 5… and don’t forget a touchback now results in the ball being placed at the 25 yard line." [wow, somehow I think a lot of us missed that]

· @CoachTedford: I asked Tedford if he is actually the one operating his twitter account and he said that he sends out most of the tweets and uses a staff member to keep track of what's going on in the social media world. Since he can't keep track of everything that's happening online, Tedford said he needs additional support via his staff. Every day this staff member reports to Tedford and JT then reaches out via Twitter and Facebook, where necessary.

· Monty vs Tedford on the golf course: Since they were decked out in golf attire, I had to ask whether Tedford or Monty was the better golfer. Tedford was too modest to give me a straight answer and said he didn't want to brag.

Fiat Lux:Tedford spent considerable time at dinner talking about some of the highs and lows. Having the facilities being so challenging was a low. Being so close to a #1 ranking and having it slip away (pause for collective sigh) was tough. He said by far the hardest thing was after we beat Southern Miss telling the team we would not be going to the Rose Bowl. They, we, all deserved that. As he said in OC he feels the fans’ pain of us not beating SC. He also said we’re probably the only fan base in the country if given the choice of the Rose Bowl or National Championship game, we would choose the Rose Bowl. The highs were his first game against Baylor and seeing the team realize they could beat people. Beating Michigan State in East Lansing. The Oregon games in 2006 and 2007. The Tennessee game in 2007, which he thought was an amazing environment in Memorial. Even though it was a loss the game against SC in 2004.

But then he talked about what it meant to be a college coach. He said he takes greatest pride in the growth and development of the young men he coaches. "10 years ago that wasn’t necessarily a priority for me, but now it is. I feel like I am a father figure to these young men. I will tell you, there is never a dull moment with 115 18-22 year olds! But to see them develop in the classroom; there is no greater feeling than seeing kids excel academically and transform themselves into confident adults. And I’ll probably regret saying this, but they don’t embarrass you. I know many of you have had the chance to meet our players at functions, I think you’ll agree they’re terrific young men." And yes, I get chills typing that.

Tyler Fredrickson and Ken Montgomery
FiatLux and Tyler Frederickson

Tedford finished up by talking a little bit about the recruiting process and social media. Following on Monty’s remarks about how much recruiting has opened up for hoops, Tedford said we’re fortunate it’s not like that for football. He said that fans really need to help keep this in perspective. He knows this is probably impossible, but he asks that we not look at recruiting until the first Wednesday in February because it just doesn’t mean anything before then (as we saw). I again was impressed with his candor and directness here "By paying so much attention to it, you are part of the problem… Everyone got all excited at the Army game but I knew it wouldn’t play out like that… these are kids… they get excited about something today and tomorrow it is something else."

He understands he is responsible for results and if they’re not good he has to answer for that. He knows how frustrating it is that we have been close many times and the last couple of years have not been up to expectations. But we need to stick together. People get too down and then go online and we really have to watch ourselves because kids read those blogs. "You will not believe the difference you can make with social media. But be positive. We are all in this together."

Berkelium97: With that, Sandy came back to the podium to thank us for all our support and answer a few questions. She mentioned the WSJ article from a few weeks back that painted the Cal ESP in a bad light. The WSJ issued a correction, which Sandy mentioned was an exceptionally rare circumstance for the paper. She said the reason the project was so expensive was because 70% of the budget was for seismic costs. While critics point to how inexpensive Stanford's stadium was, Sandy says they do not have to deal with a fault line running through the stadium. She also asked us to look at Stanford Stadium and Memorial Stadium and ask whose finished product looks more impressive (the answer is obvious). Since she was speaking to Southern California residents who cannot visit the SAHPC as often as our fellow alumni in the Bay Area, Sandy assured us that they will hold open houses on Sundays throughout the season to ensure that we can check it out.

As she finished up, Sandy acknowledged that it will be difficult for us Cal fans to get our hands on tickets for the Ohio State game. We were only given 1,200 tickets (from a stadium that seats 102,000). We will return the favor next season and only give Ohio State 1,200 tickets when the Buckeyes come to Memorial Stadium.

Sandy thanked us again for attending the event and sent us on our merry ways. Let's hope the Cal Coaches' Tour makes a return trip in 2013!