NCF Nation: Ron Gould

1. At the Heisman Trophy press conference Saturday, Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury was asked if he had been contacted about the head coaching job at his alma mater, Texas Tech. Kingsbury smiled and said no but that he had gotten a lot of texts from friends. Kingsbury, 33, is Red Raider royalty. A fan base that never wanted to see Mike Leach go, now gets his first quarterback to return and presumably run a version of the offense they loved. That love may need to buoy Kingsbury and fans alike through the rough waters of inexperience.

2. In his 16 years as Cal’s running back coach, Ron Gould has sent Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Arrington, Shane Vereen and Justin Forsett to the NFL, and I’m sure I missed a few. But the new coach has the prerogative to clean house, and when a guy like Sonny Dykes is hired to bring in a new offensive system, the Ron Goulds of the coaching business know what that means. The Old Blues, as Cal alums are known, aren’t happy, but with that résumé, Gould won’t have any trouble finding work.

3. Georgia coach Mark Richt played the Homer Smith card in explaining his decision not to stop the clock in the final seconds of the SEC Championship Game. Smith, the offensive guru who died last year, tutored Richt after clock mismanagement cost Georgia the Auburn game in 2001, Richt’s first season as head coach. My thought: To put it in red and black terms for Dawg fans, Richt spun the roulette wheel and the ball landed on the green 00. A deflected pass? Caught? Time expires? The odds of that are at least 38-to-1.

Tedford trying to block out critics

April, 13, 2011
4/13/11
1:08
PM ET
BERKELEY, Calif. -- California coach Jeff Tedford hears the negative chatter but he's trying not to listen. The operative word there being "trying." He also understands why some Bears fans are grumbling, but such talk nonetheless frustrates him.

Tedford rebuilt a lousy program and created a high standard to which Cal fans happily became accustomed. Yet over the past few seasons, he has not consistently met that high standard.

"All of a sudden, you have an eight-win season and it's not good enough," Tedford said. "Then, all of the sudden, you have a [losing season] and it's, 'Wow, what happened here?'"

[+] EnlargeJeff Tedford
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAn imposing front seven on defense should help coach Jeff Tedford and Cal be competitive against elite teams in 2012.
Things turned sour in Berkeley in 2010, a 5-7 finish that was Tedford's first losing season -- first season with fewer than seven wins -- in nine years leading the program. Meanwhile, on the south side of the Bay Area equation, archrival Stanford won a BCS bowl game and appears poised to start 2011 ranked in the top 10. That juxtaposition doesn't sit well with the Old Blues.

It no longer matters where Tedford started, taking over a 1-10 program in 2002 that won seven or more games just four times in the 24 previous seasons. Forget that from 1978 to 2001, Cal won three or fewer games nine times. Sure, back then, a couple of seven-win seasons -- heck, even 5-7 -- would have seemed pretty nice.

No longer.

But it's more than that, Tedford's critics will tell you.

What happened to Tedford, the quarterback guru? Tedford transformed Kyle Boller from a five-star recruiting bust into a first-round NFL draft pick. He then discovered Aaron Rodgers out of nowhere and made him into a first-round pick. Nate Longshore appeared poised to join them when he led the Bears to a 5-0 start and No. 2 national ranking in 2007. But, really, since Longshore sprained his ankle during a marquee win at Oregon on Sept. 29, 2007 -- Cal fans just fainted recalling the memory of what happened next -- the Bears haven't benefited from consistent play at quarterback.

It's not just losing, either: It's the nature of the defeats. In Tedford's first seven seasons, the Bears suffered only two defeats by more than two touchdowns. Over the past two seasons, they've lost eight games by 17 or more points and six by 27 or more.

Further, the staff turnover, particularly at offensive coordinator, has been notable. Not including himself, Tedford has gone through four offensive coordinators before arriving at his present, complicated configuration, with offensive line coach Jim Michalczik returning as coordinator, running backs coach Ron Gould set as running game coordinator, receivers coach Eric Kiesau set as passing game coordinator and Tedford (again) helping with the quarterbacks and (again) calling plays.

A couple of years ago, Tedford listened to the nattering nabobs of negativism and he wanted to smack them. Now, he's trying to be philosophical about criticism. Trying.

"I have it back in focus now not to worry about the external things," he said. "That one year [2009] we went [8-5] and it felt like we went [5-8], it felt like people were real irritable about that. I was irritable, too. About their reaction to [8-5]. Now, I'm just back to focusing on what it takes to get us back on the upward trend again."

If you're the sort who prefers optimism, there's grounds for that, too. For one, Michalczik and Kiesau were both with Tedford during the "glory years." There's history and comfort there. And Michalczik is widely considered an elite line coach, perhaps the best in the Pac-12. The play of the Bears' O-line hasn't been as good the past two seasons while Michalczik was with the Oakland Raiders.

Further, Tedford is re-engaging on the offensive side, and not only by calling plays, as he did during his early years at Cal. He's also working extensively with the quarterbacks, even to the point of sitting in all QB meetings.

"Consistency at quarterback has been something that has hurt us at times," Tedford said.

Another big-picture item for Cal fans to be upbeat about: An uptick in recruiting that, perhaps not coincidentally, began when stadium and facilities renovation projects began in earnest after protesters -- old school Berkeley! -- were forced out of the trees. The Bears are nomads this spring, traveling from site to site in search of good grass to practice on, and they will play "home" games in AT&T Park this year. But when Memorial Stadium re-opens in 2012, the structure will match the grandeur of its Strawberry Canyon home.

As for hot-seat talk -- it's probably more accurate to call Tedford's chair lukewarm -- the players are aware of said chatter. They don't live in a protective bubble. And they are aware that pointed observations about the blowout defeats also fall on them, whether those embarrassments are about poor preparation, a lack of mental toughness in the face of adversity or -- gulp -- a propensity to quit when an opponent asserts itself.

"We all love Coach," offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "His past record of success, that's why we are all here. There's no grumbling [in the locker room]. We're more disappointed in ourselves. We feel like we let the coaching staff down."

And, of late, Cal fans feel let down. When the Bears were controversially blocked from playing in their first Rose Bowl since 1959 by Texas and the BCS computers following the 2004 season -- Cal fans just fainted for a second time while reading this story -- the consolation was a confident belief that it was just a matter of time before a Tedford squad ended that lengthy, painful Rose-less run.

The clock is still ticking -- 52 years and counting -- on that one, though.

California spring notes

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
8:29
PM ET
BERKELEY, Calif. -- California has something sort of old and something sort of new this spring on both sides of the ball.

On defense, Clancy Pendergast is back for his second season coordinating the Bears defense. On offense, Jim Michalczik is back in town after spending a couple of years with the Oakland Raiders. Pendergast turned in a successful first campaign, with his more aggressive version of a 3-4 scheme ending up ranked third in the Pac-10 in scoring and first in total defense. And from 2002-2008, Michalczik might have been the best offensive line coach in the conference.

Here are some notes from chats with both coordinators as well as head coach Jeff Tedford.

  • Other than a blowout loss to Stanford, the Bears defense turned in its best work in November, most notably holding Oregon to just one offensive touchdown in a 15-13 Ducks win. Pendergast didn't think that was a coincidence: "I think our guys trusted the system, trusted each other. Had better eyes. All those things." As for year two, the longtime NFL coach, probably has a better grasp on some of the quirky offenses he'll face in the conference. "Anytime you go into a second year, you're going to be more comfortable," he said.
  • Pendergast on former defensive end Cameron Jordan, who is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick on April 28: "He'll be solid, consistent player at next level who can do a lot of different things."
  • [+] EnlargeCal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast
    Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIRECal's Clancy Pendergast expects to be more comfortable coaching against Pac-12 offenses in his second season.

  • Pendergast is clearly high on the incoming freshmen. He repeatedly mentions them -- first and last names -- when talking about his potential depth chart. When asked if he expects a handful to play, he said, "No question." Names he -- and later Tedford -- mention: defensive tackle Todd Barr, defensive tackle Viliami Moala, defensive end Brennan Scarlett, and cornerbacks Stefan McClure, Joel Willis and Kameron Jackson.
  • The top three defensive ends are Trevor Guyton, Deandre Coleman and Ernest Owusu. At nose tackle, both Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne are out with shoulder injuries. Guyton has had a good spring, while Tedford said, Coleman "should be much better this year."
  • The inside 'backers are Mychal Kendricks, who put up huge numbers last fall playing outside, and D.J. Holt, also a returning starter. As for Kendricks move inside, Pendergast said, "He's probably a better fit as a stack inside linebacker than an outside linebacker."
  • There will be two new starters at outside linebacker. At present, Ryan Davis and David Wilkerson (strongside) are with the ones, with Chris McCain, Cecil Whiteside and Lucas King providing depth.
  • In the secondary, Marc Anthony and Steve Williams are the corners. The depth appears unsettled -- see Pendergast and Tedford both listing three freshmen who are not on campus yet as being in the mix. Pendergast seemed most pleased with Anthony, whom he said was playing physically and with a lot of confidence. At safety, there's Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell, with Adrian Lee, C.J. Moncrease, Alex Logan and Michael Coley earning note. It's hard to say if true freshman Avery Walls, who's participating in spring practices, will get into the mix.
  • On offense, Michalczik is mostly focused on the offensive line. Tedford will call plays this fall and is working with the quarterbacks as well, while receivers coach Eric Kiesau is the passing game coordinator and running backs coach Ron Gould is the running game coordinator. So there will be plenty of input on offense.
  • Michalczik wouldn't commit too much on the offensive line: "We've got some young guys and we've got some time," he said. Left tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Dominic Galas are likely starters, but both are sitting out with injuries. Matt Summers-Gavin has bounced from guard to right tackle. Brian Schwenke and Justin Cheadle are the No. 1 guards at present. Youngsters to watch include Chris Adcock and Mark Brazinski at center, as well as Alejandro Crosthwaite, Bill Tyndall and Tyler Rigsbee.
  • Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen are set at receiver, but the No. 3, 4 and 5 options are not. Michael Calvin -- yes, him again -- Coleman Edmond and Kaelin Clay earned note from Tedford, who said of Clay, "He's been very good, very fast, brings big-play potential."
  • Tedford isn't very happy at running back behind Isi Sofele. His highest praise goes to walk-on Mike Manuel, who was impressive in the scrimmage Saturday. Injuries are a big issue at the position, but it seems as though Tedford isn't happy with the group, which includes a number of touted recruits. "As of right now, it looks like to me we are going to have to rely on younger guys who are coming in," he said.
  • Quarterbacks? It's still wide open, but it shows how serious Zach Maynard's candidacy is that Tedford said he doesn't expect to announce a starter until well into fall camp, specifically because he wants to give Maynard, who transferred from Buffalo last year, as much time as possible to digest the offense. Said Tedford, "He does have some athleticism. He can make plays with his legs. He throws the ball accurately. He can throw all the balls on the field. He's a lefty. He can throw the deep ball. He's got zip on the ball. His main thing is just going to be the mental part of understanding our offense and understanding what we're looking for."
  • As for Brock Mansion, who started the final four games after Kevin Riley went down, Tedford said, "You can tell that Brock is better because of the experience he had last year. He's more comfortable. And he's even learned some things physically. You can see the maturity there a little bit. Still not where we need to be."
  • As for Allan Bridgford, the question might be athleticism. Said Tedford, "Smart guy. Can throw the ball. He can throw all the balls on the field. Escape dimension? Haven't seen that yet. That's a concern, but he's not a led-foot by any means."
  • One problem for the Bears this spring is injuries. There are a lot of them, which makes it more difficult to give the QBs full-tilt, looks. "That's a challenge, to get QB's enought reps without beating up the whole team," Tedford said.

Nomadic Cal has issues this spring

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
12:41
PM ET
There's lots of change going on at California this spring, starting with the Bears becoming nomadic.

Cal will practice at six different sites due to renovations at Memorial Stadium and problems with the team's temporary practice facility on Witter Rugby Field. And, of course, home games this fall will be played in AT&T Park, not in Memorial Stadium, the team's home for the past 88 seasons.

Beyond the grass under their feet, the Bears have plenty of issues. Most folks know there's as wide open a competition at quarterback between Brock Mansion, Beau Sweeney, Zach Maynard, Allan Bridgford and Austin Hinder. But that's not the only question.

[+] EnlargeJeff Tedford
Kirby Lee/US PresswireJeff Tedford is going to have an expanded role in the offense this season.
The offensive line underachieved in 2010 and now must replace two starters. What's the pecking order at tailback (and, by the way, who's healthy enough to compete)? There are four voids on the defensive front seven -- two on the line, two at linebacker -- and two in the secondary. And what about improving the special teams?

Further, coach Jeff Tedford is taking a bigger role with the offense, though that role hasn't been defined, other than him coaching quarterbacks. It seemed he said he was going to call plays this fall, but then he apparently backtracked on the first day of spring practices Tuesday.

There are a lot of chefs in the offensive kitchen. In addition to Tedford, who is looking to reclaim his title as quarterback guru, there's offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Michalczik, passing game coordinator/receivers coach Eric Kiesau and running game coordinator/running backs coach Ron Gould. While they are all familiar with each other -- Michalczik and Kiesau are returning to Berkeley after stints elsewhere -- those lines of communication will need to be worked out.

Further, in terms of personnel, the Bears have recruited well the past two years. It's likely a number of younger players -- redshirt freshmen, sophomores as well as incoming players this fall -- will immediately compete for playing time.

So Cal's spring practices are as much about transition as they are renewal after a disappointing 5-7 season.

Some notes:

Injuries: This is fresh from Jonathan Okanes of the Contra Costa Times after the first practice:
Several players will practice only in limited fashion this spring because of injuries/surgeries: Among them are left tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back), center Dominic Galas (shoulder), fullback Will Kapp (shoulder) and nose tackles Kendrick Payne (shoulder) and Aaron Tipoti (shoulder). All of these players were there and in their gear today doing individual drills. But they won’t be involved in team drills.
Running back pecking order? Also out is running back Dasarte Yarnway (knee), and fellow running backs Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson and Trajuan Briggs are coming back from injuries -- though both are reportedly ready to go -- so it's difficult to project how the competition will go with Isi Sofele, whom Tedford designated as the No. 1 guy before spring practices. Brandon Bigelow, Daniel Lasco and junior college transfer C.J. Anderson join the fray in the fall. It's more than likely that the ultimate depth chart at the position won't be resolved until mid-to-late August.

As for the QBs: Tedford almost certainly won't name a starter after spring practices, though he would like to narrow the field of five (or so) to three. If you were a betting Pac-12 blog reader -- and you probably are -- you should put your money on Brock Mansion, junior Zach Maynard and sophomore Allan Bridgford being the top troika heading into the offseason. The basis of that, it must be noted, is pure hunch -- Tedford's veneer of vague has been admirably tenacious on the matter. It's possible he truly doesn't have much sense of a pecking order in his own head at this point.

Youngsters to watch: Youngsters and new players who might challenge for starting or key roles include wide receivers Tevin Carter and Kaelin Clay; linebackers Nick Forbes, Dave Wilkerson, Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside; defensive end Gabe King; O-linemen Mark Brazinski and Matt Williams; and safety Avery Walls.

SPONSORED HEADLINES