PRE-SPRING Q&A WITH CALIFORNIA HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
March 6, 2007
BERKELEY - The California Golden Bears have posted five straight winning seasons since the arrival of head coach Jeff Tedford, including advancing to four straight bowl games for the first time in program history. In each of the last three years, Cal has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation. This past year, Cal posted a 10-3 record, capping the season with a convincing 45-10 victory in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The Golden Bears open their 15-session spring training on Monday, March 12. The training will conclude on Saturday, April 14. Tedford took some time to sit down with CalBears.com to give his thoughts on the upcoming spring session.
What are your goals for the spring?
'Our goal on both sides of the ball is to find our best 11 to put on the field at any one time. We need to develop depth at every position and establish rotations. Offensively, we need to get some experience for our young tailbacks and we also need develop some depth at quarterback and to establish some of the young offensive linemen in our rotation. Defensively, we need to establish depth on the defensive line and solidify our corner spot across from Syd [Syd'Quan Thompson]. The general theme is to get players back into our system, to get some competition, and to use some of the young players that have not had the on-field experience.'
What are the biggest strengths of the team heading into the spring?'Without a doubt it's our receiving corps; they have the most experience of any position. Our receivers as a group are as good as anyone's in the country. Our safeties also have a lot of experience.'
Which players do you think could be surprises to fans?
'[Tight end] Cameron Morrah is right on the edge of being a big-time guy. He's a guy with a lot of talent; he has grown and developed into a guy who can be a strength for this team. By creating some depth, all the defensive linemen will have the potential to surprise.'
You had two key players graduate from the offensive line, any thoughts on who fill those positions?
'Mike Tepper will definitely be a guy vying for considerable playing time, but we'll move people around to try and find the right combinations. Chris Guarnero will compete. We will look for flexibility, guards to tackles, centers to guards, to create depth.'
Does Craig Stevens have the tight end position locked up?
'Craig is a solid all-conference performer with experience, but the growth of Cameron Morrah as well as the addition of Skylar Curran should provide depth.'
You lose Marshawn Lynch at running back, but are you feeling confident with Justin Forsett in that role?
'It's a new group; we didn't just lose Lynch, but Marcus O'Keith also. We had very good depth at that position and I feel that we are still very talented. Justin has been a very productive player for us and we'll get a good look at Montgomery and Slocum in the spring. I am very excited about the two young freshmen, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, coming in.'
Are you as comfortable as you have been in a couple of years at quarterback?
'Definitely. To have a guy like Nate who has started and played the whole season brings maturity, leadership and experience to the position. This spring, we want to give Kyle Reed and Kevin Riley the chance to compete to see how our depth is. We feel very confident with Nate, but we also want him to use the spring to improve on things he needs to improve on.'
The defensive line will have a full makeover, who do you see stepping up into big roles?
'I think we'll see a youth movement - guys like Derrick Hill and Mike Costanzo will have the opportunity to step inside at the tackle positions. We'll see if we can play Tyson Alualu inside or outside. Rulon Davis has experience at this level. We feel good about Matt Malele and Mika Kane who both had significant playing time. A big thing will be to check our flexibility with our freshmen.'
The linebacker position loses a lot, but you should still be very strong, right?
'We were so multiple last year with so many guys playing, that there is still experience. Justin Moye, Worrell Williams, Zack Follett, Tony Felder and Greg Van Hoesen all had significant playing time and gained good experience. We will mix and match to find out what is best.'
How do you replace a guy like Daymeion Hughes at cornerback?
'Daymeion Hughes was an All-American player for us, but there is a list of guys that have ability; they just need an opportunity to play. We have a lot of talented guys and we need to use the spring to see which one is ready to step up and play at this level.'
What are your goals for special teams in the spring?
'We don't have as many question marks as last year. Andrew Larson has established himself as a premier punter in the conference and Tom Schneider has been very consistent. The experience is very good, we'll use the spring to figure out our backups. It is also important in the spring to work a lot on special teams to find out who has the body type and athleticism to help us in those areas.'