March 15, 2004
BERKELEY - Head coach Jeff Tedford and the Golden Bears began preparations for the 2004 football season Monday with the opening of spring practice. Cal will work out three times this week before taking a week off for spring break, returning to the field March 29. The Bears will play Saturday scrimmages in Memorial Stadium April 3 (1 p.m.) and 10 (11 a.m.), and the Blue & Gold Spring Game is set for Saturday, April 17 at 12 noon. Admission is free.
Below are selected quotes from Tedford from his press conference leading into the spring practice:
What is it like to come into the season with such high expectations?
We always have high expectations that we put on ourselves. Now, from the external people out there that may have greater expectations, that may be true, but we go into the season with the same expectations of ourselves.
On being ranked as high as No. 10 nationally in some preseason polls
It really doesn't matter. It helps you in recruiting. For the recruits to understand that, hopefully we have made some progress to be recognized on the national scene a little bit. But it really means nothing until we play the games.
Who will not practice during spring ball?
The offensive line comes to mind first. (Jonathan) Giesel, (Ryan) O'Callaghan, (Aaron) Merz, Marvin Philip, Garrett Cross - a tight end. The receivers should be fine. Geoff (McArthur) will be limited, but he should practice. He will take some contact before it is said and done. Aaron Rodgers will not participate in spring ball. He will throw some individual drills, but he will not do any teamwork. He had knee surgery and is ahead of schedule in his rehab. It was the right time for him to get it fixed permanently, and I think he will feel more stable now.
How will missing Rodgers effect how you go about spring practice?
One of the main objectives of spring practice is to evaluate the younger players. This is going to give Cary Dove a tremendous opportunity to get more reps. We are fortunate to have Reggie (Robertson) to provide leadership and the experience right there. Cary is going to really have a great opportunity to show what he can do, as well as the young offensive linemen because of all the injuries on the offensive line. On defense, (Donnie) McCleskey is out, (Mike) McGrath is out, Tim Mixon is still out. Lorenzo (Alexander) strained his ankle the other day so he will be out. Ray Tago is still rehabbing a tricep.
Do you see a battle for backup quarterback?
No, Reggie has a firm grip on the backup quarterback spot and will continue to compete with Aaron. But I think it is a great opportunity for Cary because he will get so much exposure playing against the first-team defense. Reggie has proven he is a quality player.
What are your priorities for spring ball?
Evaluation of the young guys. I want to see (Matt) Malele and the young offensive linemen play. I can't wait to see guys like Sam DeSa, Thomas DeCoud, the younger players that I feel like have a really bright future - Sean Young, Craig Stevens, those type of guys. There are quite a few of them there that we are anxious to see take the next step.
What new guys will we see?
Bryan Deemer, the offensive linemen from Delta, and kicker David Lonie. Lonie is another one I am anxious to see how he will fit into the scheme. Even though we will not make a decision, we will have a pretty good idea at the end of spring ball about who is the best kicker and punter.
Will you practice the same?
It will be the same except that we have to be creative and use our imagination about how we practice because the depth of the offensive line is so limited. We only have one-deep in the offensive line so we can't wear those guys out. Spring practice is normally physical so if we lose any of those guys, it turns into a half-line situation. We will have to be creative. Practice won't flow as it normally does, but we will try our best not to limit the progress of the rest of team because of lack of depth of the offensive line.
Do you have to talk to Rodgers about expectations?
I already have. I think it is important that we are up-front and honest about what the expectation is and what the future holds for him and that anything is a possibility. I don't want him to hide from it; I am here to help him. But he understands first and foremost is the team's success. He is 100 percent on the same page with that. If you don't know him well enough yet, you will, but he is all about team. He really does not like the spotlight on him and would rather share it with the team.
What do you think about Rodgers being a potential Heisman candidate down the road?
If he continues to progress, he has the potential to be as good as anyone around, but he needs to continue to grow. He has not reached his full potential yet. But as he matures and reaches that full potential, I think he has the ability to do that.
What does he need to do?
Not so much physical tools, but he knows he needs to work on more gamesman-type things, like when you are in the red zone, throw the ball away, don't take sacks. He progressed so quickly with this offense that now he can kind of focus on some other things. I think you saw that towards the end of the year with how he became a leader on the field and had control of the offensive schemes, knew what people were doing and things like that. With the experience that he has gained, he is going to get better at being the field general in all situations.
Is DB Donnie McCleskey a potential All-American candidate?
Donnie is a first team All-Pac-10 guy, so he has been a very solid player for us. Geoff (McArthur) has national numbers from last year. I think a guy who doesn't get enough attention or credit is Lorenzo (Alexander), who really is the force inside, who demands double-teams, so he really doesn't have a lot of stats to get those things, but is a team leader on that side of the ball.
You were 7-6 last year. Are you looking for a better record this year?
I don't know, we are going to play one game at a time. That is how you have to approach it. You always go in with high expectations and goals. But we have to prepare every day just like we have prepared the last two years, and hopefully the continuity and the experience that we have on this team and the leadership that has surfaced will continue to enable us to improve.
You talked during bowl time about the value of having that extra practice. Now with so many guys out and the young guys playing in spring practice, will this effect the way fall camp is run? Will you be able to hit the ground running?
I think we will. We will start at square one in fall camp, though, for the benefit of the class coming in. I think it is important that you start at square one as far as terminology and everything. But I think this is an experienced team, the guys will have had the bowl practice and spring football, so they will be more experienced just with the repetitions. That is where the benefit of the bowl game comes in.
What is the depth chart at tailback?
The depth chart is as it ended last season. J.J. (Arrington) No. 1, Marcus (O'Keith) No. 2, Terrell (Williams) No. 3, at this point. Terrell is 100 percent. He is ready to go. They are quality backs. It will be good to see Terrell back healthy and fitting into our offense again. Those backs have all had game experience. It's not like J.J. just coming in as a JC transfer when we had to see what he could do. We've seen plenty of J.J. and Marcus and Terrell. At that position, evaluation is not a key as some of the others.
Is there something you can do during spring to prevent further injuries?
You have to play. You have to play full speed. It is a contact and physical sport. Injuries are bound to happen. We just keep our fingers crossed that we stay healthy in as many places as we can. The offensive line is a place where we are really decimated right now, so hopefully we will stay healthy there or we will have to turn it into a half-line thing, and the spring game may be a seven-on-seven tournament or something.
Anything in particular you are looking forward to?
We are looking forward to increasing the learning curve of certain young people.