Pac-12: Kevin Riley

Pressure mounts on Tedford, Cal

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
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No one argues that Jeff Tedford hasn't done a lot for California. He took over a team that went 1-10 in 2001 and played its football in a half-empty stadium and built a winning program from scratch that played in a full one.

As a business decision, the hiring of Tedford in 2002 has more than paid off. His winning 28 games from 2004-06 created an enlarged fan base. That fan base, enlivened by winning, developed expectations.

And no one argues that those expectations have not been met over the past two-plus seasons. Not by a 1-4 mark at present, nor a 13-17 record -- 7-13 in Pac-12 play -- since going 8-5 in 2009.

Not anyone, including Tedford.

"We're definitely not where we want to be," he said. "We're not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We're going to attack this and work hard at it and stay together."

In August, athletic director Sandy Barbour told CBS Sports that "Jeff Tedford is not on the hot seat."

That might have been true then, but that was before the Bears opened the stadium that had just undergone $330 million in renovations with a loss to Nevada. That was before USC handed Cal its 12th defeat by at least 17 points over the past three-plus seasons. That was before the Bears were beaten by 10 at home by Arizona State, a team they defeated on the road last year and which fired its coach shortly thereafter.

It's not difficult to defend the big picture of Tedford's 11-year tenure, the longest continuous employment of any Pac-12 coach. As we've previously noted, in 24 seasons before he arrived in Berkeley -- 1978-2004 -- Cal won three or fewer games 10 times while winning seven or more games four times. Tedford has suffered one losing season -- 5-7 in 2010 -- and has won 10 games twice and nine games once. Before he took over, Cal's last winning season came in 1993. Finally, Tedford is 7-3 in the Big Game against rival Stanford.

Yet, again, the focus isn't on the big picture. It's the recent history. Cal hasn't finished a season nationally ranked since 2008. There are two Big Game losses in a row and a rising Stanford playing in consecutive BCS bowl games.

Further, there are four new coaches in the Pac-12 who have boosted their programs to varying degrees. The Bears host No. 25 UCLA and Jim Mora on Saturday. Todd Graham has the Sun Devils on the cusp of a national ranking. Arizona's Rich Rodriguez led the Wildcats to a victory over Oklahoma State. And Mike Leach provided a boost of enthusiasm among Washington State fans in the off-season.

Many Old Blues -- and young ones -- feel a sense of stagnation and malaise. And, with five of the next seven games against teams that are currently ranked with no off week, there's not a lot of hope the Bears can rally for a winning record and earn a bowl berth, as they did after an 0-3 start to Pac-12 play last year.

So what went wrong?

The obvious answer is quarterback play, which is where Tedford built a sterling reputation.

In 2004, Aaron Rodgers finished ranked eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and the Bears went 10-2. In 2006, after struggles the previous season with Joe Ayoob, sophomore Nate Longshore ranked 28th in the nation in passing efficiency, led the Bears to a 10-3 finish and was widely hailed as a future early NFL draft pick.

In 2007 -- Cal fans might recall some of this -- the Bears won a thriller at Oregon, 31-24, and rose to No. 2 in the nation behind LSU. In fact, LSU opened Week 8 with a loss to Kentucky. Cal was poised to rise to No. 1.

But Longshore had hurt his ankle at Oregon. He was replaced by Kevin Riley against Oregon State. No need to rehash what happened next.

[+] EnlargeZach Maynard, Jeff Tedford
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIZach Maynard hasn't borne out promises by coach Jeff Tedford, right, that Cal's quarterback was much improved entering his senior season.
Quarterback play at Cal would never be the same. Longshore's career never delivered on early promise, and Cal quarterbacks haven't ranked higher than 61st in passing efficiency since 2006.

As for the present, senior Zach Maynard, who was touted by Tedford as vastly improved in the preseason, is 94th in the nation in passing efficiency. He's been sacked 25 times, most in the nation, so that doesn't help, but he has not seemed to rise to the occasion as a player or leader. He was suspended for the early portion of the opening loss to Nevada, had a heated sideline exchange with Tedford during the Southern Utah game and, last weekend, was caught on camera yelling at his offensive linemen.

But it's not just the offense by any stretch. The defense is giving up 30.2 points per game, which ranks 10th in the Pac-12. It's last in the conference in rushing defense, 11th in pass-efficiency defense and 11th on third down.

All of this has led to plenty of negativity around the program, which makes life difficult for Tedford. While Tedford said he doesn't "read it or get into" the speculation about his job status, he can't ignore the topic in the locker room.

"It's important to address it with the team," Tedford said. "They do live in it and around it."

If the negative chatter -- and losing -- eventually makes Tedford's position untenable, it will be costly to fire him. Tedford is paid privately and not with state money, and, as Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has pointed out, there is no buyout in his contract.

Writes Wilner:
[Tedford] is signed through the 2015 season, and the Bears would owe him his annual salary ($2.3 million) for each year left on the deal if he’s terminated.

So a change this winter would cost nearly $7 million, and that’s only for Tedford.

Add the expenses involved in turning over the coaching staff -- approx $1.5 million for Tedford’s assistants and at least that for a new group -- and we’re talking $10 million for a complete overhaul.

That means several wealthy folks would have to be highly motivated to get rid of Tedford.

Still, there are plenty of folks who are on Tedford's side. He's run a clean program, has graduated players and has built a program that justified massive facilities upgrades, which he was promised upon his hiring and has patiently waited for. And he's been loyal to Cal, turning down several suitors in both the NFL and college ranks through the years.

Entering the season, it seemed that Tedford still had some leeway. If he produced another winning season, the odds were he would be safe.

Few entertained the idea of the team cratering. Few imagined a season that could be Tedford's worst.

No one argues that Tedford hash't earned patience. A program's winningest coach deserves that. Plenty of it.

The question for the powers that be at Cal, however, is when that patience runs out. It's not a question anyone in Berkeley wants to entertain -- everyone wanted to win in 2012 -- but it's clearly out there looming, unwanted yet real.

Quick look at week 10 games

November, 1, 2011
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Here's a quick look at Week 10 in the Pac-12.

All times are ET.

Friday

USC (6-2, 3-2) at Colorado (1-8, 0-5) 9 p.m. ESPN: USC leads the series 5-0, winning the most recent meeting in 2002 40-3. Trojans QB Matt Barkley needs just 108 yards of total offense to move into third on the school's all-time total offense list. Colorado QB Tyler Hansen moved into fifth place on the Buffaloes' all-time passing yards list with 4,851. The Buffs rank 11th or 12th in the conference in 16 of 33 team statistical categories listed on the Pac-12's official release, including ranking last in scoring offense, scoring defense, rushing offense, rushing defense, pass-efficiency defense, sacks against, red zone offense and red zone defense.

Saturday

No. 4 Stanford (8-0, 6-0) at Oregon State (2-6, 2-3) 3:30 p.m. ABC: Stanford is riding a 16-game winning streak, longest in the nation. The Cardinal leads its series with Oregon State 49-25-3, including a 38-0 win last year. The Cardinal, however, lost its previous visit to Corvallis, 38-28 in 2009. The Cardinal trailed for the first time this season in its 56-48, triple-overtime win over USC last weekend. Last week, Oregon State receiver James Rodgers became the third Beaver to eclipse 200 career receptions. The Beavers are last in the conference in turnover margin (minus-5). Stanford is second (plus-7). The Cardinal have turned it over just six times, the Beavers 21.

Washington State (3-5, 1-4) at California (4-4, 1-4) 6:30 p.m. CSNCA: California leads the series 42-25-5. The Bears won last season in Pullman 20-13, a game that was notable because it was the Cal's first without QB Kevin Riley. Cougars QB Marshall Lobbestael, formerly Jeff Tuel's backup before Tuel got hurt, has eclipsed 300 yards in four games. Only Arizona's Nick Foles has more 300-yard games (six). The Cougars have scored 266 points this year (33.2 points per game). They scored 235 points in all of 2010 (19.6 ppg). Cal receiver Keenan Allen needs 11 yards to eclipse 1,000 receiving this season.

Utah (4-4, 1-4) at Arizona (2-6, 1-5) 7 p.m. FSAZ-KJZZ: Utah leads the series 19-15-2, last beating the Wildcats 27-24 in 2005. Before scoring 27 points in their first Pac-12 victory, the Utes had averaged just 13 points per game in their previous four conference games. The Utes lead the conference in total defense (325.6 yards per game). When Utes running back John White rushed for a career-high 205 yards in the win over Oregon State, it was Utah's first 200-yard rushing game in nine years. Wildcats QB Nick Foles leads the conference with 366.1 yards passing per game, which is on pace to eclipse the conference record of 342.9 yards passing per game set by Washington's Cody Pickett in 2002.

No. 19 Arizona State (6-2, 4-1) at UCLA (4-4, 3-2) 7:30 p.m. Versus: UCLA leads the series 16-10-1, but the Sun Devils won 55-34 in Tempe last year. Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall is first in the conference with 12 rushing TDs. Bruins QB Kevin Prince rushed for 163 yards in the win over Cal. It was the first time since 1976 (Jeff Dankworth vs. Cal) that a Bruins QB eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. ASU has forced 25 turnovers, five more than any other Pac-12 team. The Sun Devils are first in the conference in turnover margin (plus-12). UCLA is tied for sixth with just as many giveaways as takeaways.

No. 8 Oregon (7-1, 5-0) at Washington (6-2, 4-1) 10:30 p.m. FSN: Washington leads the series 58-40-5, but the Ducks have won seven in a row, each by at least 20 points. The Ducks have scored 40 or more points in each of their past seven games, averaging 50.4 points during the winning streak. Running back LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas both started for Oregon against Washington State after missing action due to injuries. Thomas was yanked at halftime, however, so it's unclear if he or backup Bryan Bennett will start Saturday. Washington has scored 30 or more points in seven games this season, which hasn't happened since the 2000 Rose Bowl team scored more than 30 in nine games. Huskies running back Chris Polk's 3,577 career rushing yards ranks 14th in conference history and second all-time for the Huskies, only behind Napoleon Kaufman (4,106 yards). This will be the final game in Husky Stadium before it undergoes major renovations. The Apple Cup on Nov. 26 and the 2012 season will be played in the Seattle Seahawks home stadium, CenturyLink Field.

Cal hoping to avoid repeat vs. USC

October, 11, 2011
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Sometimes a football team so sparkles that a description of its performance should be inscribed with gold leaf on granite tablets. Other times a football team steps on a rake, falls into oncoming traffic and ends up face down in the sewer.

And sometimes the twain shall meet on the field of play, which is what happened in the first half of California's visit to USC last season.

USC rolled to a 42-0 halftime lead over the Golden Bears on Oct. 16, 2010. It piled up 372 yards and 20 first downs. Cal had 65 yards and three first downs.

[+] EnlargeCalifornia Bears
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonCal is looking to avoid another blowout loss to USC.
Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley completed 20 of 29 passes for 257 yards with five touchdowns -- tying a school record before halftime -- and no interceptions. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley completed 3-of-12 for 51 yards with two interceptions.

"We didn't make any plays and they made every play," Cal coach Jeff Tedford recalled. "I thought Barkley played about as well as he could play. He was on big time. They had everything going and we didn't make plays."

USC coach Lane Kiffin, who was a reserve quarterback for Tedford at Fresno State, took his foot off the gas in the second half, and USC only ended up winning 48-14. Cal, however, didn't score until late in the third quarter.

"Everything just went right for us and went wrong for them," Kiffin said. "Everybody has those games every year or two. Even when you call a play that's not supposed to work, somebody makes a great play. It was just one of those games."

The Bears will get a chance for redemption Thursday night in AT&T Park when the Trojans visit (ESPN, 9 ET).

How things went down last season was unexpected (the Pac-10 blog -- cough, cough -- picked Cal to win). Cal was coming off a blowout win over UCLA, while USC had suffered consecutive defeats to Washington and Stanford. It was reasonable to wonder then if the wheels were coming off for the Trojans, who were in the first year of a postseason bowl ban and perhaps lacking motivation.

Further, USC's defense had been terrible. It came into the game ranked 100th in the FBS after giving up 69 points in those losses. Cal's defense, other than a big hiccup at Nevada, had given up just 27 points in its other four games.

This year, the USC and Cal defenses have been mostly mediocre, and the offenses have been inconsistent. The Trojans are coming off a bye following a win over Arizona, while Cal is riding a two-game Pac-12 losing streak after falling at Washington and Oregon.

What remains the same from last year is Barkley and his favorite target, receiver Robert Woods. Woods, who caught seven passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in last season's match, presently ranks second in the nation with 149.4 yards receiving per game, while Barkley ranks 14th in passing efficiency.

"Barkley, when he's on, he can make you pay because he's got a lot of weapons around him," Tedford said.

USC is again banned from the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. Kiffin said he has tried to loosen things up this year and make things fun to keep his players motivated. But a second loss in three games might make the atmosphere around Heritage Hall less than jovial.

For Tedford, a three-game losing streak would have fans grumbling -- again -- and a repeat of last season's blowout might cause some to question his job security. While there are plenty of winnable games ahead, the Bears can't afford to lose their confidence at midseason.

As for last season's disaster, Tedford said revenge isn't big motivation.

"Of course, they remember it," he said. "But this is about this year's team. All that stuff goes out the window after about the first play."

Then it just becomes a football game, and the expectation is that both teams will be closer to their mean this go-around. What that means on the scoreboard remains to be seen.

Maynard the key piece for Cal

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
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Our oversimplification of the day is this: If QB Zach Maynard plays well this year, California has a successful season.

But more than a few Cal fans would nod their heads.

The Bears are solid to good at just about every position, starting with both lines. There's intriguing young talent to fortify the depth, particularly on defense. While the Pac-12 North Division looks rugged, there's enough here for the Bears to bounce back from a hugely disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2010, the first losing season in nine years under Jeff Tedford, the dean of conference coaches.

[+] EnlargeCal's Zach Maynard
AP Photo/Ben MargotNew Cal quarterback Zach Maynard passed for 2,694 yards and 18 touchdowns during his 2009 season with the University of Buffalo.
But Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo who'll make his debut against Fresno State on Saturday at Candlestick Park, said he doesn't feel any pressure. In fact, he kicks that line of questioning to the curb and segues into what he wants to talk about: How many are discounting the Bears.

"We're the underdogs right now," he said. "Nobody is saying anything about us. There's a lot of hype about other teams. Everybody's wondering what we're going to bring to the table. Everybody is going to find out when we start our first game and get into the season."

Here's what we're saying about Cal: It has to pass better. It ranked 89th in the nation in passing efficiency in 2010 and 94th in passing, with just 175 yards per game. That ain't going to cut it, particularly in the Pac-12, where superior QB play is required.

Tedford's reputation as a quarterbacks guru has taken some hits of late, but he seems to feel he's found his man. Tedford named Maynard the starter at the end of spring practices after he outplayed Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgford, who won the No. 2 spot, and part of that was so Maynard could start winning over the locker room as a leader.

"He's really stepped up and earned the team's respect," Tedford said.

Maynard passed for 2,694 yards with 18 TDs and 15 interception in 2009 for Buffalo and also rushed for 300 yards. Tedford likes his arm and his quick release, but he particularly likes his athletic ability.

"He has an escape dimension that we haven't had here in a while," Tedford said.

But it's not only an ability to escape pressure and scramble. It's an ability to create -- "Manufacture," Tedford says -- plays. There was a seeming tendency to panic that made Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley often throw the ball into the wrong place at the wrong time. Maynard has a bit of the cool-cat artist to him.

And if he's looking for a go-to guy, he's got one in true sophomore receiver Keenan Allen, and not just because Allen is super-talented. Allen is Maynard's half-brother and they are tight.

"It's like throwing in your backyard really," Maynard said. "You have a connection. You always know where he's going to be."

Maynard could be the key piece that gets Bears back into contention, and thereby mutes the increasingly vocal Tedford critics. But that's another topic Maynard kicks to the curb.

"I don't really hear anything about that," he said. "I don't get involved in the politics. I just go out and play ball and go to class."

But if he plays well, folks will start talking about Cal and Tedford (again), and they'll probably be saying nice things (again).

UCLA is only Pac-12 QB battle

August, 9, 2011
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Typically, every preseason features a handful of quarterback competitions, even if we sort of feel like we know who will ultimately emerge.

Last fall, there was uncertainty at Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon.

At the end of the 2010 season, it looked like there would be plenty of ongoing quarterback intrigue. Arizona State was expected to feature another showdown with Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler. California was completely wide open with the departure of Kevin Riley. There was a new coach at Colorado, Jon Embree, who said every job was open. UCLA clearly had no clear No. 1. Washington had to replace Jake Locker.

But most of the mysteries were solved by the end of spring practices.

Threet was forced to retire because of multiple concussions, thereby handing the job to Osweiler. Cal coach Jeff Tedford surprised a few folks when he announced Zach Maynard had eclipsed Allan Bridgford and Brock Mansion. It was clear throughout spring drills that Tyler Hansen was the Buffaloes' best option. And Steve Sarkisian tapped Keith Price over Nick Montana before the spring game.

If you're looking for a potential source for making quarterback decisions before preseason camp, consider former USC coach Pete Carroll. He believed in "anointing" a starter after spring practices because he believed it helped them become leaders over the summer -- see Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez. Notably, Sarkisian chatted with Carroll before tapping Price.

While coaches will still talk about competition, and it wouldn't be wise for any of these guys to take their job for granted, the only team with remaining uncertainty behind center is UCLA, and even then most would project a healthy Kevin Prince -- the incumbent starter who suffered a season-ending knee injury that also knocked him out of spring practice -- is the likely choice.

Still, let's look at where the Bruins' competition stands.

The candidates:

[+] EnlargeKevin Prince
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireKevin Prince seems the likely choice to enter the season as UCLA's starting quarterback.
Kevin Prince: While Prince's passing numbers were horrid in his five 2010 games before getting hurt, he showed in 2009 that he can be a capable passer. And last fall, he showed he could do a pretty good job running a pistol offense. But Prince had suffered myriad injuries even before he hurt his knee last fall, and while he enters the preseason reportedly at 100 percent, keeping him healthy is the critical element for him to become a reliable starter. Recall that the Bruins' ragged start on offense in 2010 could be attributed to Prince not practicing until the week before the season opener -- an embarrassing loss to a Kansas State team the Bruins pushed around the previous season. So it's fair to expect less running -- or at least more running out of bounds -- for Prince. He will be given every opportunity to win the job.

Richard Brehaut: There's no other way to say it: While Brehaut didn't play terribly well after replacing Prince, his passing numbers were better than what Prince did in 2010. That fact has engendered some not unreasonable sentiments that coach Rick Neuheisel has some sort of issue with Brehaut, a summary of which is provided here by Adam Maya (by the way, former offensive coordinator Norm Chow doggedly believed Prince was a better option than Brehaut). While Neuheisel said it was "nothing personal," it is fairly clear that Neuheisel questions Brehaut's complete commitment, which is reflected in Brehaut's apparently incomplete absorption of the offense. Further, knowing Neuheisel and how he works with quarterbacks, I can tell you that those little tirades he seems to have with his quarterbacks after a bad play mostly amounts to Neuheisel asking the quarterback to explain what he was thinking. And if the player doesn't have an answer, it drives Neuheisel crazy. A bad explanation -- "I didn't see the safety cheating over" -- is way, way better than "I don't know."

Brett Hundley: Hundley is the hotshot incoming freshman -- one of the nation's top dual-threat prep quarterbacks during the 2010-11 recruiting season -- whom many fans have been making googly-eyes at. But it ain't easy going from high school quarterback to college quarterback, and it was clear during spring practices that Hundley had a ways to go (though he also had some "wow" moments, too). Hundley was a bit of a long shot in any event, but after he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will be out most of camp, his chances of redshirting are now higher than of him winning the starting job. Still, if he comes back strong, he could earn playing time. And if the situation gets desperate, Neuheisel, under pressure to win now, might roll the dice with a true freshman.

Nick Crissman and Darius Bell: These are the two long shots. Crissman's career has been riddled by shoulder injuries, but he had a fairly good spring and he's got some skills. Bell, a JC transfer, is a far better runner than passer. Many Bruins fans probably recall his regrettable debut in relief of Brehaut during a loss at Washington: 0-for-3 with an interception and a tongue-lashing from Neuheisel.
No Pac-12 offensive line is going to scare you heading into 2011. Even Arizona State, which welcomes back its entire 2010 depth chart, doesn't look like a dominant unit.

So there is no Washington in 2000, California in 2004, USC in 2005 or Stanford in 2010. Just about every team has at least some concerns up front.

So how to things stack up? Read on.

Great shape

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Garth Gerhart
Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIREArizona State center Garth Gerhart anchors the top returning line in the Pac-12.
Arizona State: 11 of 12 from the 2010 two-deep are back, including center Garth Gerhart and tackle Evan Finkenberg. The Sun Devils line was not dominating in 2010, so this unit is not a sure-thing. But it's reasonable to project a solid unit becoming a very good one in 2011.

Good shape

Colorado: Sure, tackle Nate Solder is gone, and center Mike Iltis decided to give up football, but three quality starters are back and several others have experience. Ryan Miller and Ethan Adkins might be the best guard tandem in the Pac-12.

Stanford: The Cardinal lost three starters, but the two coming back are first-team All-Pac-10 guys from 2010 and All-American candidates this fall: tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. The new guys played well this spring. It's possible this line will again be very good, but three new starters is three new starters.

Utah: The Utes welcome back three starters, including both tackles, from a line that was solid in 2010. Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen will be one of the better tackle combinations in the conference, and Tevita Stevens, who played guard last year, provides experience at center.

California: The Bears were uncharacteristically mediocre last year, but they probably weren't as bad as some think, seeing that they didn't have a passing threat to keep defenses honest after QB Kevin Riley got hurt. Three starters are back -- tackle Mitchell Schwartz was second-team All-Pac-10 last year -- and a number of other players have experience.

Oregon: While the Ducks officially lost three starters, tackle Darrion Weems started enough games in 2010 to count as a returning starter. Tackle Mark Asper and guard Carson York are solid, but there are questions after that. The line struggled this spring -- perhaps the D-line is just good? -- and former walkon Ramsen Golpashin was able to hold onto a starting spot. It's nice when a walk-on does well but it does cast the scholarship players in a questionable light.

Washington: Three starters are back and there's optimism the Huskies struggling line is ready to take a step forward. The run blocking was much better over the second half of the season. Still, none of the three returning starters even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 2010.

Oregon State: Four starters are back but that might not be good news considering how mediocre-to-bad the line play was in 2010. Still, the Beavers have, traditionally, found a way to get it done up front. Perhaps 2010 was just a blip.

We'll see

UCLA: If healthy, the Bruins could be solid on the O-line, but that's a big if. The unit struggled during spring practices due to injuries, which exposed a lack of depth. It's uncertain when tackle Jeff Baca will be back from a broken ankle and he may be the Bruins best lineman. Center Kai Maiava and guard/tackle Sean Sheller are expected to be OK in the fall, but will they stay that way?

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back three starters and should be better in 2011 due to young players getting experience last fall. But you have to wait-and-see with a unit that gave up 51 sacks a year ago.

USC: The Trojans lost three starters from a line that mostly underachieved in 2010. They have two good starters back -- tackle Matt Kalil and guard Khaled Holmes -- but things are wide-open after that. And the struggles this spring, due in large part to injuries, revealed a worrisome lack of depth.

Arizona: There was plenty of optimism in Tucson that the Wildcats will be fine on the O-line, that losing five starters from a unit that underachieved isn't that big of a deal. But replacing five starters means a team has no idea what things will look like when the lights come on for real. So we'll see.

Pac-12 links: QB Prince 'tough to beat'

May, 31, 2011
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It really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

Spring wrap: California

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
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CALIFORNIA

2010 overall record: 5-7

2010 conference record: 3-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Marvin Jones, WR Keenan Allen, OT Mitchell Schwartz, LB Mychal Kendricks, LB D.J. Holt, P Bryan Anger

Key losses

RB Shane Vereen, C Chris Guarnero, QB Kevin Riley, DE Cameron Jordan, S Chris Conte

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Shane Vereen (1,167)

Passing: Kevin Riley (1,409)

Receiving: Marvin Jones* (765)

Tackles: Mike Mohamed (95)

Sacks: Mychal Kendricks* (8.5)

Interceptions: Marc Anthony* (2)

Spring answers

1. Getting defensive: Even with the top two nose tackles out -- Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne -- the Bears' front seven controlled the line of scrimmage. Ends Trevor Guyton, Gabe King and Deandre Coleman turned in strong springs. Mychal Kendricks moves from outside to inside linebacker next to D.J. Holt, while the rest of the linebacking crew is young but talented, including Cecil Whiteside, Chris McCain, Nick Forbes and David Wilkerson.

2. Isi on top: Isi Sofele isn't big and some wonder if he can take the week-to-week pounding a starting tailback does, but he was the clear No. 1 on the depth chart at the end of spring. He likely faces a challenge this fall.

3. Team matters: There was a lot of focus this spring on intangibles -- improving the team culture and building unity. Players wore workout shirts that said "Team Matters," and that was a theme that seemed to catch on. In 2010, the Bears were a talented team that often appeared unfocused. They either played great or terrible. Coach Jeff Tedford wants more consistency.

Fall questions

1. Is Maynard the man? Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, seemed to emerge as the top quarterback by the end of spring practices, eclipsing Brock Mansion and Allen Bridgford. Particularly appealing is his mobility. Will he hold his spot in fall camp, or might Mansion or Bridgford make a charge?

2. Is there going to be a youth movement? The Bears signed an outstanding recruiting class, and incoming players could be in the mix immediately on both sides of the ball. Who makes a move? It seems almost certain that one of the running backs gets into the rotation, but the incoming talent on defense is already on coordinator Clancy Pendergast's radar.

3. Tedford takes charge: Tedford is working extensively with the quarterbacks now, and he will be the primary play-caller this fall, a job he's juggled at various times during his Berkeley tenure. Will this extra coaching involvement help, particularly at quarterback, where things have fallen off in recent years?
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Quarterbacks are always a big story. Quarterback competitions are typically bigger stories. But quarterback is an almost singular story this spring at California.

For one, no one has any idea who the 2011 starter will be, an uncertainty that has been rare since coach Jeff Tedford took over in 2002. Tedford announced last week that he'd reduced the candidates list from five to three -- senior Brock Mansion, junior Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard and sophomore Allan Bridgford -- but it's unlikely that troika will be winnowed to one until late in preseason camp.

[+] EnlargeBrock Mansion
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezBrock Mansion threw for 646 yards and a pair of TDs last season.
Finally, more than a few critics are questioning Tedford's once impeccable bona fides for developing quarterbacks. Sure, Tedford has mentored six who became first-round NFL draft picks: Kyle Boller, David Carr, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Aaron Rodgers and Akili Smith. But in our "what-has-he-done-lately?" world, folks are asking, well, what has Tedford done lately with quarterbacks, with an incriminating finger-pointing at the less-than-stellar production from Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley.

Tedford will call plays this fall and he has been heavily involved with the quarterbacks this spring. He attends all position meetings and spends plenty of practice time with the QBs and new assistant Marcus Arroyo.

Tedford is as aware as anyone that bouncing back from a down campaign -- his first losing season in nine years in Berkeley -- will require at least solid play at quarterback.

"For us to get back to 10- or 11-win seasons, we have to have better play at the quarterback position," he said.

So far, no quarterback has asserted himself.

Mansion, due to experience, would in most situations be considered the front-runner. But he didn't do well in four starts after replacing Riley. His efficiency rating ranked last in the Pac-10 by a wide margin, and he threw five interceptions with just two TDs.

Said Tedford: "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."

More than a few folks believe Maynard, the best athlete of the three and half-brother to standout receiver Keenan Allen, to be the front-runner. As a sophomore starter at Buffalo in 2009, he completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 2,694 yards and 18 touchdowns with 15 interceptions and added 455 yards rushing and one TD.

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."

Tedford also said that the Bears' offense has some spread-option elements it could adapt for Maynard.

Bridgford is reputed to be a strong pure passer, but he's coming back from shoulder surgery and his mobility also is an issue. The scuttlebutt is he's presently in third place and could be challenged by redshirt freshman Austin Hinder, who Tedford said was a strong No. 4.

Said Tedford of Bridgford: "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 lead foot by any means."

Trying to figure out where things stand isn't easy. Even Allen clings to neutrality, at least publicly. And players appear to be as in the dark as fans about who will prevail.

"I know you guys all want to know that -- we all want to know as well," offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "I have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff. They are going to put the right guy on the field."

It's been a while since Tedford and Cal found the "right" guy to put behind center. The Bears' success in 2011 probably hangs on Tedford rediscovering his inner QB Yoda.

California spring notes

April, 11, 2011
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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.
BERKELEY, Calif. -- California lost a receiver and cut its quarterback competition from five candidates to three Thursday.

Tedford
Tedford
Coach Jeff Tedford said that that senior Brock Mansion, junior Zach Maynard and sophomore Allan Bridgford are the finalist for the starting job. He said redshirt freshman Austin Hinder was fourth and had impressed him but his chances were hurt by his youth. Junior Beau Sweeney, who was Kevin Riley's backup over the early portion of the 2010 season, ended up No. 5.

"We're really going to find with those practice reps if somebody can separate themselves," Tedford said.

Tedford, however, said the competition figures to continue well into preseason camp.

Whoever wins the job will have one less speedy receiver. Tevin Carter, a redshirt freshman from Los Angeles, has quit the team. Carter didn't ask for a release so he could transfer.

"He's finished here, which is unfortunate," Tedford said. "I don't know if he had a passion to play football anymore... he doesn't know if he wants to play football."

Will have a lot more from my visits to to Stanford and Cal over the next week. So stay tuned.

What's your quarterback's 'score'?

February, 25, 2011
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An interesting post here from the California Golden Blogs on a different way to calculate quarterback efficiency.

It's worth it to read the whole story because it breaks down every FBS conference and has a bunch of cool graphics, but I'm just going to steal borrow the part that focuses on the Pac-12.

The writer, Berkelium97 (is he a Klingon?), feeds numbers into Utah State sports economist David Berri's "more intuitive formula that addresses some of the common criticisms lobbed at the passer efficiency rating." Berri calls his formula the "QB Score" and it looks like this: QB Score = Total Yards - (3 x Plays) - (50 x Turnovers).

The difference in QB Score and college efficiency rating is this:
The traditional passer efficiency rating tends to take on a "more is better" approach: if players throw a bunch of TDs and hundreds of yards, they can get away with a fairly high turnover rate. Berri's measure has a different philosophy: if you generate yards and avoid turnovers, you will be rewarded.

So here's the list of Pac-12 quarterbacks, ranked by their "QB score," which you can compare to their efficiency rating.


You can see one reason folks at Arizona State believed that Osweiler would have beaten Threet out this spring, even before Threet opted to retire due to recurrent concussions.

No surprises with Mansion and Prince ranking toward the bottom -- they also did for efficiency rating. No surprise at the very top either, with Luck and Thomas. And the Locker critics probably will enjoy his mediocre tally.

It's surprising that Scott is ahead of Foles and that Cain is ahead of Wynn, though both the Arizona and Utah backups put their numbers up with a far smaller sample size. Further, guess here is that Colorado fans probably didn't expect Hawkins to rate so highly -- ahead of Locker and Barkley!

Barkley's number is surprising, particularly considering he ranked third in the conference in passing efficiency and threw 26 TD passes, but the Golden Blogs' analysis says this: "he finished in the bottom half because he does not generate that much yardage and he throws a fair number of interceptions. He's much improved over last year, but he still has work to do."

Pac-12 QBs: Who's set and who's not?

February, 15, 2011
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Though there are notable exceptions -- Oregon last year, for one -- it's typically better to have a returning starter at quarterback than to have questions at the position heading into spring practices.

The Pac-12 will boast the best collection of quarterbacks in the country next fall. In fact, no other conference is even remotely close. Seven teams welcome back quality starters, and four of them -- Stanford's Andrew Luck, Oregon's Darron Thomas, USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles -- are legitimate All-American candidates.

On the flip side, five teams have questions at the position, though just three competitions appear wide open: California, UCLA and Washington.

Here's a quick look at where each team stands.

Who's set?

Arizona: While Nick Foles had some downs in 2010, he's still one of the premier quarterbacks in the country. The more interesting story is the Wildcats would like to redshirt capable backup Matt Scott so he can take over in 2012.

Oregon: Darron Thomas greatly exceeded expectations as a sophomore starter in 2010. What will he do for an encore?

Oregon State: Ryan Katz had his ups and downs last fall but his ups suggested tremendous upside. He might have the best arm in the conference. And history shows Beavers quarterbacks get better with age.

Stanford: Andrew Luck likely would have been the top pick in this spring's NFL draft. Suffice it to say, the Cardinal are set at the position.

USC: Junior Matt Barkley has been a starter since his true freshman season and he made a significant jump forward in 2010. He's expected to do so again this fall and then jump into the NFL draft.

Utah: Jordan Wynn will sit out spring practices after shoulder surgery, but there is no question he's the Utes starter.

Washington State: Jeff Tuel started as a true freshman in 2009 and took some knocks. He made a huge leap forward with a better supporting cast in 2010. And if he duplicates that improvement as a junior, the Cougars will start to win a few games.

Who's not set (working down to most uncertain)

Arizona State: The biggest uncertainty here is Steven Threet's status after suffering three concussions in 2010. He has not been cleared to participate in spring practices. But the expectation around the program is that Brock Osweiler will be the starter this fall.

Colorado: Experienced senior Tyler Hansen is the decided frontrunner, but there's a new scheme and coaching staff and he's coming back from a ruptured spleen. JC transfer Brent Burnette and redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman are the competition.

Washington: The Huskies competition to replace Jake Locker is fairly straight-forward: sophomore Keith Price vs. redshirt freshman Nick Montana. Though Price, the 2010 backup, has a slight edge, in large part due to a solid start at Oregon last year, expect the battle to last into preseason camp.

UCLA: Kevin Prince would be the slight favorite due to experience, but he's coming back from a knee injury and it is questionable how much he'll be able to do this spring. Where does Richard Brehaut stand, seeing he's playing baseball? And might Rick Neuheisel and new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson decide to go with touted true freshman Brett Hundley?

California: This one is completely up in the air, though Brock Mansion likely takes the first snaps since he started the final four games of 2010 after Kevin Riley went down. The candidates after him include: sophomore Allen Bridgford, redshirt freshman Austin Hinder, junior Zach Maynard and junior Beau Sweeney. Spring figures to winnow the field to two, maybe three, candidates.

Pac-10 top 25 from 2010: No. 25

February, 14, 2011
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We begin our countdown of the Pac-10's -- this is looking back, so it's not yet Pac-12 -- 25 best players from 2010.

Here are the preseason rankings (click each name to read his blurb).

[+] EnlargeShane Vereen
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezShane Vereen eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for this first time in his career this past season.
This was a challenging list to make. Many good players were left off. In fact, our No. 25 player will show you just how good this list is.

No. 25 California RB Shane Vereen

2010 numbers: Vereen rushed for 1,167 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and his 97.2 yards rushing per game ranked fourth in the Pac-10 and 23rd in the nation. He also caught 22 passes for 209 yards with three touchdowns.

Preseason ranking: Unranked.

Making the case for Vereen: Vereen, whose 35 career TDs ranks tied for fourth on the Bears' all-time list, is a multipurpose threat whose numbers probably weren't as good as they would have been had quarterback Kevin Riley stayed healthy. When Riley went down in Game 8, Cal's passing game disappeared and defenses ganged up on Vereen. Nonetheless, he still went over 100 yards rushing in three of the final four games. Vereen has good speed -- he posted long runs of 59 yards (2010), 61 (2009) and 81 (2008) over the past three seasons -- but also can run physically between the tackles. He opted to enter the NFL draft after his junior season, and most projections rate him a third- or fourth-round pick.

Opening the mailbag: Tedford's hotseat?

January, 28, 2011
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Welcome to the mailbag.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes.

Nathan from Boston writes: You mentioned that Jeff Tedford's not quite on the hot seat, and it coincides with Aaron Rodgers' rise to the Super Bowl. Clearly, Rodgers should have gotten more credit for what the did at Cal and gotten drafted higher. Perhaps, it was Rodgers giving to Tedford rather than the other way around, as was the perception. Furthermore, Tedford is in a perfect area for recruiting. So, I think he's very overrated, and question why he's not "firmly" on the hot seat.

Ted Miller: The Bay Area is the "perfect" area for recruiting? Neh. It's decent, probably underrated, in fact, but there are parts of Florida, Texas, Southern California, Louisiana and Georgia I'd rate as just a bit more perfect.

And Tedford's reputation wasn't built just on Rodgers, who is one of six quarterbacks he coached who became first-round NFL draft picks, the others being Kyle Boller, David Carr, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith. And those guys' fair-to-lousy levels of success in the NFL suggests, in fact, that Tedford might be "giving" more than he is "receiving."

That said, Tedford's run of quarterbacks has dried up of late, consider Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley and the late-season performance of Brock Mansion in 2010 (though let's recall that at one point Longshore looked like a future first-round draft pick before he lost his mojo).

As for Rodgers, his extended marinating on the Green Bay bench probably served him well. Instead of being thrust into service as a rookie or first-year player, Rodgers was able to learn the nuances of the NFL game over three seasons before becoming the starter.

While I don't see Tedford as being on the "hot seat" -- barring an absolute disaster, I think he'll be back as the Bears coach in 2012 -- he does deserve increased scrutiny. His transformation of the program, which was 1-10 the season before he arrived in 2002, was impressive. Cal, however, now has higher expectations -- expectations beyond seven or eight wins and certainly beyond the 5-7 finish in 2010. And a quick glance at the Bears' depth chart and their schedule in 2011 doesn't suggest a bounce back to nine or so wins.

On the other hand, the defense perked up under Clancy Pendergast last year, recruiting is going extremely well, and the return of offensive line coach Jim Michalczik (not official yet) and receivers coach Eric Kiesau feels like Tedford is reconnecting to his glory days. If the Bears find the right quarterback, they will be formidable again going forward.

But, yes, it is fair to say that Tedford is no longer untouchable.


Justin from Omaha writes: What would be a successful first year in the Pac-12 for the Buffaloes? I am excited for the 2011 season but, I have know idea what to expect. I don't think they are South contenders but, is being maybe 3 or 4 a possibility?

Ted Miller: Would you think less of me if I said I'm with you: I don't know what to expect.

The only Colorado game I watched in its entirety last season was the 52-7 beatdown defeat at California. Justin from Butte, Mont., wrote last week that I might be weighing that game too heavily, and I agree with him. But I also noted that the Buffaloes have a new coach, new staff, a questionable defense and a bit of uncertainty at quarterback.

Colorado is not a "Little Sisters of the Poor" program, and old Pac-10 fans who think the Buffaloes aren't going to be competitive from the get-go are probably going to be surprised. They were competitive last year in the Big 12 and beat Georgia. While my initial feeling is the Buffs won't end up bowl-eligible and will fall toward the bottom of the South Division in 2011, I also wouldn't be shocked if they scrapped their way to around .500.


George from Phoenix writes: Please put out the wildfire of ASU hype and stellar predictions for next year! I'm already seeing reports of us taking the South and potentially more. I'm having flashbacks of DE yr 2 pre season. "We went 10-3 in DE's first year, will be roses the next", etc, etc, etc...thud!Don't most teams have a build up / ok year before hitting it big? Ore had a good year, then roses, then NC. Isn't that how it usually happens?

Ted Miller: No. Sorry. I am hyping.

I like the Sun Devils' offensive line (imagine that!). I like the skill positions and speed on both sides of the ball. I think either quarterback, Brock Osweiler or Steven Threet, can win games. I have a feeling linebacker Vontaze Burfict grows up next fall and becomes an All-American and NFL first-round pick. I like Omar Bolden as a shut-down cornerback with leadership skills. I like Junior Onyeali as a super young talent at end.

I worry a little about depth at defensive tackle with the departure of Lawrence Guy, but not that much.

This team is nothing like 2008, a team with HUGE questions on the offensive line. The Sun Devils should win the South and end up ranked in the top-25.

Again, sorry for the hype.


Shane from Corvallis, Ore., writes: I know quiz was a great teammate and player. and maybe it's just me trying to be optimistic, but any chance that quiz leaving might be addition by subtraction..., i was thinking that maybe quiz leaving will force Riley and company to modify their game style for the better.

Ted Miller: Shane, I like the effort but you, my friend, are reeeeaaaaching!

Jacquizz Rodgers is a dynamic weapon because he's such a complete player: He runs, he catches, he blocks and he's a great locker room guy. The Beavers will not be better because he's gone. Not saying they are going to stink without him, only that if Rodgers was coming back, expectations for 2011 would be much higher.

The problems in 2010 had nothing to do with Jacquizz.
  • Breaking in a new quarterback. Even though Ryan Katz has notable talent, the Beavers offense has, historically, been hard on first-year starters.
  • Bad-to-mediocre offensive line play. The Beavers' line took a step back last year. It must improve for 2011 to turn out better.
  • James Rodgers gets hurt in he fifth game. Recall that the Beavers were 3-2 -- with road losses to TCU and Boise State -- and won at Arizona with Rodgers. No way the Beavers fail to reach a bowl game if he never got hurt.
  • Defensive inconsistency. It seemed like the Beavers lacked a dynamic guy in their front seven, other than defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

Finally, the depth chart behind Rodgers is unproven. The Beavers always seem to find a running back. But, at present, we really don't know who that will be.


Aaron from Flagstaff, Ariz., writes: Just wondering how you would figure out how many recruits your college can get each year. I thought ASU was very limited, and now we are at 17 recruits.

Ted Miller: Two rules: 85 total players on scholarship, 25 per recruiting class.

(And if you want to read a great story about how coaches fiddle with these rules by "oversigning," check out Andy Staples' story here).

Arizona State had a very small senior class, which was why the 2011 recruiting class was -- and still is, really -- expected to be small. At the end of the process, you still can only give out 85 scholarships per team, per year.

But there's been some roster attrition -- quarterback Samson Szakacsy, defensive tackle Lee Adams, cornerback Josh Jordan and tight end Steven Figueroa have left the program -- and two players listed with this year's class, quarterback Mike Bercovici and punter Josh Hubner, are already enrolled.

Doing roster math from the outside isn't easy because there are always things going on "inside." But, unless you want to get highly detailed, just understand the numbers 85 and 25.


Greg from Seattle writes: Hey Ted, did you ever see this?

Ted Miller: Pretty darn polished by Washington running back Johri Fogerson.

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