Aug. 22, 2000
TURLOCK - Jacob Waasdorp doesn't care much for doubters.
In 1997, he arrived at Cal as an undersized freshmen noseguard. Yet through determination and a relentless work ethic, he transformed himself into a ferocious 275-pounder and earned Pac-10 honors. One of only five juniors named first team all-league last year, he recorded 15 tackles for loss, including seven quarterback sacks, in '99.
Now, as he heads into his senior season, Waasdorp scoffs at those who predict the Bears to finish at or near the bottom of the Pac-10. Despite the fact that Cal lost six defensive starters from 1999, he sees no reason why the Bears can't rank among the conference's best defenses once again. Cal had the third-best defense in the Pac-10 in 1998 and rated first in the league last season.
"We're shooting for the Pac-10's best," said Waasdorp, who has been picked as a preseason third team All-American by Athlon. "That's our goal every year. I know other teams may have better athletes than we do, but we're more focussed and more determined to do everything right. We're a more disciplined team. In the end, that's going to pay off."
To accomplish that feat, Waasdorp and fellow All-American defensive end Andre Carter have taken it upon themselves to become coaches on the field, a trait defensive line coach Bill Dutton not only appreciates, but admires.
"When I coach, I set an example, saying that a picture is worth a thousand words," said Dutton. "Andre and Jacob both demonstrate the picture of what we want. That's helped the young players grow."
Outside of Waasdorp and Carter, the remainder of Cal's defensive front is thin on experience. Sophomores Daniel Nwangwu and Tully Banta-Cain mostly played as backups last year, with the majority of the others vying for spots in the rotation seeing even less action. Among those running with the top two units are true freshmen Tosh Lupoi and Jonathan Giesel, redshirt-freshman Josh Beckham and senior Shaun Paga, a special teams player in 1997 who spent the last two years on Cal's national champion rugby squads.
"Basically, we've got a long of young freshmen coming in and we have only one coach," said Waasdorp. "Since Andre and I have been here the longest, it's our job to help the other kids out, to let them know what's right and what's wrong."
In addition to showing the youngsters the ropes, Waasdorp is also trying to get himself back to full strength. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on a knee and a shoulder last December, and has spent the past eight months getting ready for his final campaign.
"I had a lot of nicks and stuff throughout the year, and I was trying to take care of them," Waasdorp said of his preparations for 2000. "I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm hoping to get there before the first game."
Given his internal drive to be the very best, expect him to be at the head of the pack when the season gets underway Sept. 9. It's never a good idea to doubt Jacob Waasdorp.