Aug. 3, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO - California head coach Jeff Tedford, Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best and Lott Trophy watch list honoree Syd'Quan Thompson spoke to the media and luncheon attendees at the second annual Bay Area College Football Media Session and Luncheon held at Hotel Nikko on Monday. Following are selected comments of what the trio had to say during the day.
"It's great to see you all again. I hope you had a great summer and are ready to get on to football season. I know we are. Our players have been working very hard throughout the summer, and I'm very excited about the prospects of this season. I would like to wish coach (Jim) Harbaugh and coach (Dick) Tomey (at Stanford and San Jose State, respectively) the best of success and to stay healthy during camp. That's always a challenge as we get together and try to get prepared for the season."
On Syd'Quan Thompson
"He's been a mainstay in our program for a long time. He's a preseason All-American and has been first-team all-conference. We really depend on his leadership on defense."
On Jahvid Best
"He's a guy that's worth the price of admission and one of the most talented players in the country. Jahvid also provides a lot of leadership capabilities besides the big-play capabilities. For all that he does for us on the football field; he does even more off the football field. We're excited about his (Heisman) campaign coming up. One of the things about Jahvid is that there is a lot of talk about him with the Heisman Trophy and so on, and so forth. That's all well and good, but make no mistake about it that Jahvid is a team above self guy all the way. First and foremost, he has a great amount of respect for his teammates as do his teammates for him. I know he's focused on our team goals this year."
On expectations for the upcoming season
"One of the questions we have is about the expectations on us going into the season. We welcome the high expectations. I don't think we've ever gone into a season with low expectations. Sometimes the media expectations have kind of gone up-and-down, but the internal expectations that we have for ourselves have never changed. We're very excited."
On opening training camp
"I'm looking forward to reporting to camp on Thursday and then Friday will be our first day on the field. We're excited. It's one of the best days of the year for me. I can't wait to get back and reconvene with all of these guys and get back to talk and plan about what we're going to do, and then get out there on the field and do it. I love the kids and getting back together with them again. I feel very privileged to be associated with the University of California and am looking forward to an exciting year."
On the 2009 Golden Bears
"We feel like we have experience and leadership on both sides of the football. Pretty much our whole defense comes back. We lost three good linebackers from last year, but there were a whole lot of guys that played a year ago. We have a lot of talent, maybe even more talent than we had last year. It's pretty exciting on the defensive side of the ball, and then offensively the line is very solid, we have two great tailbacks, our receiving core is much more mature and experienced now, and our quarterback situation ... we feel like Kevin (Riley) has to step up right now, because we feel that his experience on game day in our offense puts him a step ahead. But, we will have great competition there with Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney. I'm looking forward to it and can't wait to get there on Thursday and let these guys loose."
On talking to Jahvid Best about the Heisman Trophy hype
"I think that's part of our duty to as an institution that we give Jahvid the publicity he deserves, but also provide the management of it for him. Because he is still a young man and sometimes the media can be overwhelming. We need to make sure we manage it properly and educate him about all the ups and downs as you go through it. Sincerely, Jahvid could care less about all that stuff. He just wants to play football and be with his teammates. But there's a part of it that he's got to do, and it's our job to manage that for him."
On playing USC in 2009
"That's going to be an exciting event, I can tell you that. I know everyone will be pumped. I know Memorial Stadium will be packed and ready to go. There's obviously a lot of work to go before we get to USC, but we don't have to work on getting up for USC. We know what that's all about."
On coaching at Cal
"There's so much invested at Cal. When we got there our first year, everyone said Cal will grow on you. The first event we had like this, they said do you bleed blue and gold, and I said `I've been here a week, no I don't bleed blue and gold." But since then, we've worked very hard and invested a lot of time and energy there. We've made great relationships, built great relationships with the alumni and with our fans. Our players are awesome. I love our players and our coaching staff. The Bay Area does grow on you and Cal grows on you, and I would like to stay here forever."
On getting so much attention heading into the season
"I feel honored. Just to hear my name mentioned in all those reviews is an honor. But that's not what I'm focusing on right now. I'm focusing on getting better as a player and looking forward to a great season."
On coach Tedford calling him a "team" guy, not an "I" guy
"I think that's the most important thing about being on the team. If you've got a guy going around saying he's the best man on the team, then you can't build trust with your teammates. So, that's not what I want to do. I'm just going to make sure I do what I can to be the best for the team. The biggest thing is winning. Nobody really wins the highest honor on the team. But if we win, my chances will go up, so I will do the best I can."
On the transformations in the expectations at Cal
"When I came to Cal, there was already a tradition of winning. Our expectation is winning the Pac-10 championship every year. We go into the season aiming for that. That's always the way it's been since I got there."
On playing a big game early in the season
"I personally like playing a big game early on because it really sets the tone for the season and gets the ball rolling. So, hopefully we get rolling and the momentum will carry us through five more games. If you start out slow, playing easier teams, you really don't know how good you are as a team. I want to know how good we are as a team from the beginning of the season and know what we have to work on."
On staying healthy
"Over the summer, I put on a lot more pounds, so I'm going into the season a lot bigger. But it's just about playing smart because sometimes you have no control over yourself."
On all the attention USC receives
"At Cal, we have a lot of respect for USC. They do some great things down there. But we feel like we are a big team, too. So, on any given Saturday, any team can knock off any other team. We just have to stay strong."
On looking forward to the USC game
"Well, yes and no. Even if we do knock them off, we still have to win every other game because they will probably win every other game. We don't put too much focus on that."
On whether there any is any added attention to game one after losing at Maryland last year
"Definitely. We don't like to say it, but it does add a little bit more excitement to this game, taken what happened down there. Now we have them at home, we will try to return the favor."
On playing in the 2008 Emerald Bowl
"It was a great experience. Most of us are from around the area, but we've never really had time to spend in San Francisco like this. The Emerald Bowl really took care of us. It was also another home game, and we were undefeated at home."
On rehabbing from off-season elbow and foot surgeries
"There were a lot of extra hours put in. Rehab is something I had to do, so I put a lot of extra hours in just rehabbing to make sure my body felt good, and that I would be ready to roll."
On his personal goals and some of the things he is looking to accomplish given the fact that he didn't make the jump to the NFL after last year and decided to come back to Cal for one final year?
"This off-season I wanted to focus on the little things in my game. Last year, I had a good season, but I felt like I could have done a lot better. I have worked on the technical part of my game. There's a lot of technique work that I can get better at, and that I could have been better at last year and put myself in a better position to make plays. This season, it's just been really technical for me to be able to elevate my game, and come August 6 to be able to put all the hard work I've put in together with the defensive scheme."
On what he can do better in 2009
"Getting hands on receivers more, working on my footwork, using my eyes better, reading my run pass keys a little better, being able to show up on run support and not only on pass. Just little things I can always get better at. I'm never satisfied with my game, even if I have an outstanding game and people tell me it's good, I always think it's not good enough. I go back to the film room the next day after game day and I always see a couple of things I could have done a little better, or run a little harder to make a play."
On the depth in the defensive backfield
"We feel good about that, because the young guys have really stepped it up and proved that they can compete on the D-I level. Anyone that we throw on the fire, we think we can pretty much win downs and win games with anybody."
On the defense
"I think we will be really good. We lost three good linebackers, but I don't think we took a step back going through the off-season, spring and summer workouts. Our linebackers hear a lot about that, like `how are you going to replace the linebackers that left, you know you have some big shoes to fill.' I think there's a motivation for them that make them want to come out and work a little harder. The defense is going to be pretty solid. We have a veteran d-line and a veteran secondary. With us surrounding the linebackers, we should be alright."
On his career growth from a tumultuous start in his first collegiate game at Tennessee to now being a preseason All-American in 2009
"It just shows my maturity as a player and how much I've matured from my first game until now. Being nominated as a preseason All-American is a big accomplishment, but I don't really look back on the past. I just want to get something out of every day. That's what I look towards to wake up every morning and ask myself, `How can I make myself better today? That's what I go by, just trying to get something out of each and every day."
On being in a 3-4 defensive for the second year
"We're able to add more to the 3-4. There's so much stuff you can do with the 3-4. Last year, we were kind of limited. It's a different feel for a linebacker; it's a different feel for the d-line; a different feel for the defensive backs. Just transferring from the 4-3 to the 3-4, you have a whole different gap to cover. You have to learn a whole new assignment and I think over the spring everybody seemed to have a whole season to work on it, that now it's clicking. We are adding plays in and just running with it. We're playing a lot bigger and faster with it. Everybody's just flying around the field and having fun."
On returning punts
"That's my thing. In high school, I had a lot of success in returning punts. Now that I've had the opportunity to return punts last year, it felt good being able to get back there and control the ball again. Playing defensive back, you don't get the ball unless you earn the ball, and go get the ball. In returning punts, the ball is kicked and given to me. It's all about what I can do with it. I'm a guy that likes to run around and make everybody tired and get positive yards. It's fun back there being able to field balls and put our offensive in field position."
On team goals
"The team goal is to win the Pac-10. However nice it is, or however messy it is. It's just to win the Pac-10 and be the conference champions. That's the team goal. It's only going to happen if we can handle each team in front of us that week. You can't look too far ahead. Every team is a competition. You've got to be handle what's in front of you before you can move to the next week."
On the attention Cal football receives
"Everybody's going to come out and give us their best game. That's what we are looking for week in and week out. We are looking for competition and everybody coming out and giving us their best. We just want to come out and prove to everybody that we can come out and compete with any team and have a positive outcome in each game."
On working hard
"My competition, the receiver that I'm lining up against every game, is working right now. That means I've got to work ten times as hard as he's working."
On whether there any is any added attention to game one after losing at Maryland last year
"That was a game we beat ourselves. It was a game that we feel like got away from us real early, and we ran out of time to make a comeback and change the game around. Having the opportunity to play them for a second time at our house, we like our chances. We can't wait until this game kicks off."
On becoming a more vocal leader
"I'm trying to move into a more vocal role, but I don't want to go outside of my boundaries or outside of my character to where the stuff that's coming out of my mouth doesn't sound true or convincible. I pretty much know my time and place where I should step up. I'm going to try to be more vocal, but I'm more of a `by example guy.' But whatever our team needs, I'm here to step up and play that role for us."
On guys who are becoming vocal leaders
"I think Eddie Young has stepped up - Kevin Riley, Mike Tepper, Jeremy Ross. Everybody's trying to contribute and keep everybody hungry, humble and ready to compete this season."