Oct. 9, 2002
BERKELEY - Below are selected quotes from head coach Jeff Tedford from his press conference heading into the Bears' next game against USC. Cal will travel to Los Angeles to face the Trojans at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Where does your change in defense come from?
I think each week the game plan will be different. Moving Nnamdi (Asomugha) to corner was a situation that allowed for a bigger defender on a big receiver. We were able to do that because of the play of Donnie McCleskey. He played well the week before, and this last week he played very well in practice. So we don't drop off at the rover position when Nnamdi moves to corner, that was the situation. We wanted to get a better match up with Reggie Williams. We are going to mix it up in the secondary and give them different looks in the secondary. From time to time there were close calls ... where we got calls for pass interference, but they are going to be aggressive, take chances and not worry about making mistakes. The other part of that is our defensive front. With the rotation of our defensive front, we are very fortunate to have the ability to do that with the depth that we have there. I really believe that coming down to the end of the game it was critical in helping us win that game and that our defensive line was staying fresh. There was one drive that was listed as a 19-play drive, but was really a 23-play drive because there were four penalties involved in it. When you are talking about guys who are rushing the passer every single down and you have the flexibility and the depth to be able to rotate the platoon like we did, it really gave us an advantage. We were able to get to the quarterback a few times as a result.
On the secondary play
They were trying. If you recall the Washington State game, there where quite a few pass interference calls in that game too. We were trying to get up in their face - you just can't keep a steady diet of something. You are going to have to try and mix it up with the quality of receivers that we are playing against. So you will see them be aggressive and try to reroute receivers and try to break down the timing of routes, but you can't live playing bumper dilemma. We are going to have to mix it up, going back and forth.
If you had another Nnamdi on the team, would he make a good cornerback on a game by game basis?
A good corner, oh yeah with out a doubt. Nnamdi can run as well as anyone on our team. He's got great cover skills and he's got the range to be able to play those big receivers. He is physically big enough to be able to get his hands on them. You're talking about receivers that are 6-4, 220 pounds that can run. So you need some guys that are a little larger physically to be able to challenge them.
What did you see from Donnie McCleskey that makes him fit into the role position that is one of the hardest positions on the defense to play?
He had played real well against Washington State. He made two or three pass break ups and he was covering some of their best receivers. He is going to be an excellent player, he is going to give you 100% every single snap and he is very competitive. He is really doing a nice job and it is allowing us some flexibility to move people around because he is stepping up.
McCleskey must be very smart to be able to pick this up so quickly as a freshman?
The other thing is that there are some of the more veteran guys, like Bert Watts and Nnamdi - those guys are able to help communicate with him. He knows what he's doing, but if he is ever confused, he has guys that are sitting the secondary that will communicate with him to help him out a little bit
On USC's Carlson Palmer
He's a threat anytime to beat you. He has such great weapons and tools around him and he has great speed. He's doing a great job by playing very efficiently. He's a tremendous athlete that can break out and run at anytime and he throws the ball very well. He's a very talented guy.
Can you talk about how you are going to attack the Trojan defense?
We're working on that as we speak. It's going to be a test, because you are never going to roll through that defense. They're going to make plays and we're just hoping to make our share. Coach Carroll does an excellent job with their defense. They are very multiple, they have great schemes and are probably the best tackling team that I have seen. They have guys who can fly to the ball and they are very sure tacklers. Their defensive line is talented. They are great pass rushers as well. They can put pressure on you with just four men, but then they also have the capabilities of mixing a lot more packages in there. They're an excellent defense. Troy Polamalu is an excellent player, probably the best player so far in our conference. He flies around and they put him all over the place. He is a great player and anytime you lose somebody like that, if he doesn't play, it probably won't hurt them that bad. They have tremendous depth in their defense.
Is your team speed better than you thought it would be or have you been able to make up for the lack of speed in other ways?
I think we have some guys that are understanding their assignments and getting to their assignments when they need to get there. I think that's the key - putting them in the position that they can be successful and not leaving them on an island by themselves. LaShuan Ward has done an excellent job. He has made some big plays both in the kicking game and route running. He's really a threat to be a big play guy. More than just team speed, it's all 11 guys hustling. When you get them all playing snap to whistle, it makes it look like the team speed is there because our guys are playing very very hard.
On making the big plays
You always talk about making the big play when you are in the position to make the big play. We talk about turnovers and the team that makes the most mistakes or the least amount of mistakes. Fortunately, last week they turned the ball over twice in our territory and we didn't turn the ball over until the very end. We've been very opportunistic with turnovers. Our defense has created turnovers, our special teams have created turnovers and the offense has been fortunate enough, for the most part, to capitalize on them. Even though the passing yards were there for Washington last week, our defense didn't allow a passing touchdown. If we are keeping people out of the endzone, that's what matters.
On the 72,000 fans in Husky Stadium. Is there an energy on the road that has been absent at Memorial Stadium?
Possibly. When you go into those stadiums, I don't think there is any way that you can't feel electricity. I will tell you that our last home game against Washington State, I felt that a little bit in our stadium towards the end of the game. Our crowd really got behind us and I thought they did a really nice job. Hopefully one day it grows and becomes an atmosphere a lot like those other places that we've been playing.
On OLB Wendell Hunter
Wendell has stepped up ... he's a very good player. He provides speed and he's a very good tackler also. He has made some great open field tackles one-on-one. Its key because going into the seventh game, you are going to start getting banged up a little bit and people are going to have to step up and play. Wendell, Marcus Daniels and Brian Tremblay have all stepped up and played well for us.
On the receiving core
They've done a pretty good job of stepping up. Vinny (Strang) came in last week and made two really nice plays for us. Hopefully we will get Chase Lyman back soon. We are thin as far as depth is concerned, so we need to get some of those guys back and healthy. I think they've been playing well. I've been pleased with their production. Chase is pretty close to coming back and Junior Brignac is still hobbling on his ankle, but it looks like Chase maybe back next week. Redshirting Brignac is a possibility. We originally thought we were going to have him back within a week, but now we are at the halfway point of the season. The question becomes, is it worth it? It still depends on what happens to our receivers.
On TB Joe Igber
He's done a nice job. He's been very dependable and productive for us ... catching the ball and running it. He's done a nice job with his blocking and he's staying healthy. He's getting the yards that he can get. While we haven't broken the really big run, he's made a couple of pretty good runs. He's a solid player for us and doing a good job.
Kyle Boller said after last week's game that it was the best game that he's ever played. Was that the best game that you've seen him play?
I would imagine. He missed a couple of throws that I would expect him to make. Until he hits those guys that are wide open, then I'll tell him that he's played the way that he should play. He missed a long ball to LaShaun running deep. He had one to Jonathan Makonnen, if he had made a better throw we probably would've scored. The thing that is impressive about Kyle right now is that he is not making bad decisions. He's not turning the ball over, he's pulling it down and running with it and then he's being smart when he's in the secondary. He's getting down and he's not taking shots. I am very happy for Kyle to be able to go up there, win the game and have the type of game that he had. He was Pac-10 player of the week for the second time. He's getting better every week and I think he will just continue to improve. He understands the offense a little bit more and that has helped him. He is very efficient and he is pretty close to leading the conference in touchdown passes. To see the look in his eyes when he knew that he wouldn't have to snap again, the excitement on his face was unreal. He was running around and jumping up and down. More than anything, it was probably the biggest victory he has ever had and maybe that's what he was talking about. He was very fired up for that game and to win it in his senior year, he was very excited.