Aug. 28, 2007
BERKELEY - As the University of California football team continues preparation for its season opener this Saturday against Tennessee, the Golden Bears hosted their first weekly press conference on Tuesday at the Hall of Fame Room at historic Memorial Stadium. Saturday's season-opener will be televised live by ABC beginning at 5 p.m. (PST).
Head coach Jeff Tedford and numerous players attended to speak with the press. Here are Tedford's comments:
On [Tennessee quarterback] Erik Ainge:
No question he's a big, physical guy, 6-6, 230, very accurate, all the experience. When you have as much experience as he does, you've pretty much seen it all. With that much experience, it's a nice position to be so he's done a great job for them; he played well against us last year, so he's a guy you definitely have to be concerned about.
The feeling going into the Tennessee game:
It's not really revenge, I think, if anything, it's redemption. But it's more about us, it's not so much about Tennessee. We didn't play very well last year when we went there and probably got caught a little too much focusing on them and the environment and that type of thing. So at practice this year, we're really just focusing on ourselves if we go out and play to our potential then we'll have a chance to be successful. Last year we didn't come close to our potential so we had no chance. Of course it's a big game like it was last year, two ranked teams, so there's a lot of people watching it to see what's going on. It wasn't that we lost the game last year, I think it was the way we lost the game last year that was the devastating part of it, that hung with us so long.
Concerns this week:
Well I don't really have one, if we can stay healthy through the week of practice here, that's always a concern in preparation because, you know, we have to simulate full-speed stuff and things like that, that we need to stay healthy through the week that everybody's ready to play come Saturday. Besides that, I don't really have any concerns.
On home-field advantage:
I think it plays a huge part in it, and I'd like to challenge our fans right now to make it the same environment that we faced last year in Tennessee and our fans have done that and they've always answered the bell when you ask them to step up. Last year's Oregon game, they stepped up big and really have turned this into a home-field advantage here as far as the crowd's concerned. We need that this year. We need to make it difficult on them when they're on offense, and when we're on offense to tone it to where we can understand and hear what we're doing but that's all part of it. For the players to not have to travel, for the comfort of their own home and locker room and all that type of thing, I think that's huge to have a home-field advantage.
On gauging the team's performance from the way they practice going into the game:
It's really hard, you know, sometimes you think, "Wow these guys are really ready to play," and you come out flat and other times you think "Man, we're flat," and they come out on fire so you really can't tell. I have a lot of confidence though that our team's been practicing really well, I think they're very focused, and I think they understand what needs to be done. Like I said, there hasn't been a whole lot of emphasis put on the whole thing of last year, it's been all about us and I have a lot of confidence in the leadership of this team, so I feel very confident that we'll be able to play.
On DeSean Jackson's handling the attention:
Actually I think he's done a really good job with it, I think he's matured quite a bit and I think because of the attention, it's forced him to do that. He's been good through camp and understands his role on the offense and understands the offense better and knows the ball's going to go different places and things like that so I think he's really matured a lot, the whole receiving corps has.
On the receiving corps:
We're very fortunate to have three guys there that all can run. If you leave them one-on-one, they can make big plays. Those guys have done a nice job and so, yes, I would put the receiver corps up there, they have to be one of the finest in the country.
On the secondary:
I thought our secondary played fairly well last year except two plays where [Syd'Quan Thompson] made some...he was aggressive and went after the ball, which you don't second guess him for, but we do have four guys in the secondary who have played and have big-game experience, so yes, that's comforting to know. Better than having somebody's who's untested out there.
On Nate Longshore:
I think right now, from where he started last year to now, is night and day only because he's got a full season under his belt, he's seen it all. He understands the offense very, very well. I think it's not even close to where was last year 'til now and I thought he progressed very nicely through last year as he was Pac-10 Player of the Week three out of five weeks or something like that there midseason. I thought he had a real solid year last year and I'm very comfortable with what he's doing right now so I think he's poised to have a really good year.
On the risk of playing a tough opponent like Tennessee first versus the reward:
Well yes, it's high risk and I don't know that there's that much of a reward because I think the risk probably outweighs it because it's still a long season there ahead of you. You have to bring your A-game each week to be successful, but yes, it's a definitely a different approach in playing a top-20 team like Tennessee who is a traditional top-10 team; it really tests you right out of the gate. It's a very physical football game, that's for sure, the speed and the "physicalness" that they bring is about as good as it's going to get.
On maturity of the team after last year's UT game:
I think it was great learning experience for us, no doubt about it. I think it brought us back down to Earth a lot last year, we went in feeling pretty good about ourselves and went into a hostile environment. But any time you do that, you gain experience from it and so I thought we took a lot of lessons away from there, which is why we're approaching this year, I took lessons away from there and I'm sure our team did and I know I did as a coach of not getting our guys so wound up to go play a team or an environment or whatever but just mostly focus on yourself.
On difference in preparation for a national game with so much attention:
No, every game's the same, I'm a wreck no matter what it is, it's the same. You get a knot in your stomach, starting yesterday, and it stays with you until the kick-off. It doesn't matter, if it's on TV or national or whatever, you always want to play your best, and my approach is always the same no matter who we play.
On Tennessee being physical:
I think there are teams that are as physical but they're very physical. The opening kick-off last year, it was a train wreck, there was a bunch of big, fast people running at each other and there were a lot of collisions happening out there so there was a lot of emotion and intensity on the opening kick-off last year. It's fast, big-time football, which is what we play each week.
On biggest impact on the new kick-off rules:
I think where the biggest impact is, is you really have to be disciplined on the kick-off team and after you score a touchdown. If you were to get a personal foul penalty or something, a celebration penalty or something after a kick-off. A 15-yard penalty and you're kicking off on the 15 and you're lining up from the 5 to cover a kick, that doesn't look too good, there's a lot of field there. So, I think it's really important to keep the ball in the field of play so that you don't get penalized so that's the biggest thing. The balls are going to come up, there's not question about it, you're going to have more balls that are getting returned so field position may change. It'd be interesting to see what happens throughout the season, if the average per game goes up with points because of field position.
On the players being "wound up" last year against UT:
I kind of look at myself, and kind of say what did I emphasize the most. I emphasized who we're playing, the environment - things like that, it's going to be loud, and as I look back on it, it's more about us [this year]. Let's not worry about going to Tennessee and worrying about the guys in the orange jerseys, it's more about how we play. As I try to find things on why we didn't play our best, the first place I need to look is in the mirror to find out where I could maybe have done a better job on motivating the team or what have you. I don't know that's the case for sure but as I look, that's what I come up with, that's what we went into the game with: that's who we're facing, that's Tennessee, a great tradition, loud, they're going to be playing "Rocky Top" all the time and all that kind of thing. The focus needs to be on us doing our job and executing our stuff.
On last year's lasting scrutiny from the loss to UT:
It lasted the whole season. We won 10 games last year and I think the question that gets asked the most is Tennessee and maybe you might get a little bit, oh, by the way, good job in the bowl game. That what comes out of last year, but that's the worst we've ever played, I think. I don't think in five years, I don't ever remember looking up and being down 35-0. So it was, we deserved it, we didn't play very well.
On other ranked teams playing lesser opponents opening week:
I think that if you win and you're successful and you weren't successful next week, they'd forget about that. I think that if you don't win, then that stays with you for a long time, at least it did last year, I'm just going off of last year's experience so that's why I say that. Even if you win this game, you still have to win next week because if you don't win this week, they're going to forget about last week.
On the effect of an early ranked game on practice:
We've simulated as much as we can, you try to practice that way but you're always at risk of injury if you're going live in practice. We went high-tempo yesterday and we'll go high-tempo again today, No. 1 offense versus No. 1 defense yesterday for a period and today. Then tomorrow, we won't do that anymore. We practice physical through camp, we've gone off each other pretty well, but it's just not the same.