Pac-10 Football Media Day Notes
July 31, 2003
University of California head coach Jeff Tedford and wide receiver Jonathan Makonnen represented the 2003 Golden Bears football team at the Pacific-10 Conference Media Day in Los Angeles Wednesday morning, before flying back to Berkeley to open fall training camp that afternoon.
The quick one-day trip may not have been as important as the trek the team will make August 23, when the Golden Bears take on Kansas State in Kansas City, but it was definitely business. Tedford-the reigning Pac-10 Coach of the Year-addressed the media on a variety of subjects stemming from who will fill the quarterback spot to the upcoming match-up against the Big-12 powerhouse Wildcats.
'This is the most exciting day of the year,' said Tedford. 'We graduated 24 seniors last year and I am looking forward to working with and evaluating my players.
'I am very excited to get the chance to play against a top team from a great conference on national television, and am very happy and grateful for the exposure the program will receive.'
Cal's first test will not come against the likes of Kansas State, however, as the team will first battle amongst each other now that camp is in session. With many key positions still to be decided, including quarterback, Bears coaches and players come into fall practice eager to see how things pan out.
'Our main focus for the fall camp is to evaluate the players,' said Tedford. 'We lost a great quarterback and one of our key points is to replace him. Reggie Robertson and Richard Schwartz had effective springs, and we were able to recruit Aaron Rodgers. We hope to get a starter out of those three.'
Whoever the eventual starter becomes, he'll be lucky that he will not have to face Cal's pass rush of 2002, which recorded 44 sacks for third best in the conference. In fact, no other conference quarterback will face the Bears' fearsome frontline from a year ago, due to the graduation of their top two sack artists Tom Canada and Tully Banta-Cain. Their departure leaves question marks, but more importantly, opportunities for a young, but talented group up front.
'Our recruiting class was very good,' said Tedford. 'We were able to fill a lot of holes especially up front where we lost a lot of guys.
Makonnen echoed his coach's sentiments.
'We lost a lot of good seniors in Kyle Boller and Nnamdi Asomugha. But every year you have to get players to come in and take those spots. It's a good chance for players to step in right away,' said Makonnen. 'This year there is not as big a drop off in talent as far as the players Coach Tedford has recruited. I think the new players will take those spots and show that we can play with the best teams.'
In all, the key to early season success for the Bears, according to Tedford and Makonnen, will be determined by how well they practice in fall camp and pay attention to detail.
'With the new rule, no back-to-back double days, we have a lot more meeting time which will be good for our younger players,' Tedford said. 'However, with the cutback practice time, it is important-especially at the defensive line and quarterback positions-to simulate game speed as much as possible during drills.'
The preseason Pac-10 media poll has the Bears projected to finish eighth in the conference, however experience on the offensive line and at wide receiver, coupled with a nationally ranked recruiting class, may put the Bears in a position to raise some eyebrows this season. Cal was projected in most polls last year to finish last in the Pac-10 and ended the season (7-5, 4-4) tied for fourth in the conference.