California head football coach Jeff Tedford will communicate directly with Golden Bear fans via an online blog at www.CalBears.com during the 2008 season. Tedford plans on giving updates to fans via the blog as often as possible, continuing into 2009. Cal has done multiple online diaries and blogs, but this is Tedford's first jump into the cyber-communication world.
December 4, 2008
As we prepare for our final game of the season, this is a good time for us to remember our seniors who have given so much of their time and effort to the program during their careers at Cal. We certainly hope that our fans come out and show their support and appreciation for their hard work and dedication in their last appearance in Memorial Stadium.
This group of seniors has earned the right to go to a bowl for four straight seasons, and some, who redshirted as freshman, were around for our first Holiday Bowl berth in 2004. Many players around the country never make it to even one bowl game their entire careers, so to do it four (or five) years in a row is quite special. Each of our seniors has been instrumental in our success. Whether they've been a starter or a scout-team player, they have worked their tails off for this program and I couldn't be more proud of them.
Every year, we talk a lot about our house - Memorial Stadium. Our house is for the players and our fans. When all of us are doing our part - whether that's cheering from the stands or performing on the field - everyone benefits. Now, we have a chance to be undefeated at home with a win over Washington. If we go 7-0, it would not only tie for the best home record in Memorial Stadium history, but give us our third perfect home record in the last five years.
Earlier this week, the Pac-10 announced the conference academic awards, and I am very proud to say that four of our players were named to the first team - Alex Mack, Zach Smith, Mark Boskovich and Mike Mohamed - and Will Ta'ufo'ou and Mitchell Schwartz were chosen honorable mention. No other team in the league had more first-team selections than we did.
As much success as we've had on the field, it is important to remember that our team's mission statement reads: "To EDUCATE and GRADUATE all football student-athletes with a meaningful degree that will support their future successes in whatever field they choose." At the No. 1 public university in the country, education has be a priority for all of use all year long.
In addition to his Pac-10 recognition, Alex is also up for a very special honor next week. As a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, he is a finalist for the Draddy Award - also known as the Academic Heisman - which will be presented during a banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York on Tuesday. As part of the black-tie ceremony, the new College Football Hall of Fame class will be inducted. It is very special evening for all of college football.
But before we can look too far ahead, we have business to attend to on Saturday. I hope to see you out at Memorial Stadium one last time in 2008 and help us send our seniors out with a win.
October 30, 2008
Now that we are in late October, we've reached the time of year when many of the national awards committees begin narrowing their fields of candidates. And I'm proud to say that several of our players are receiving some nicely deserved recognition.
I'm especially happy for our senior center Alex Mack, who was named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and a finalist for the Draddy Award, which is also known as the "Academic Heisman." Alex truly embodies what it means to be a student-athlete here at Cal. This is one of the most prestigious honors a player can receive, as it is given for both academic and athletic achievement. In our history, only two other players have earned an NFF scholarship, the last being Je'Rod Cherry in 1995.
Not only has Alex excelled in the classroom, finishing his degree with honors last spring and competing this year as a graduate student, but he has also been recognized as an All-American and was voted the best offensive lineman in the Pac-10 on the field.
In addition, Alex has been named a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award, which is given to the nation's best lineman, and a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for athletic and academic accomplishments. He's also a candidate for the Rimington Trophy as the country's top center, the Outland Trophy for interior line play and the Weurffel Award for athletics, academics and community service.
Alex, though, is not the only player on our team up for postseason awards. Senior linebacker Zack Follett is a quarterfinalist for the Lott IMPACT Award, which was won by our own Daymeion Hughes a couple of years ago. Bryan Anger, who is just seven games into his career, is one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the nation's best punter - quite an achievement for a freshman.
Syd'Quan Thompson, who has been one of our key defenders all season, also got some well-earned notice when College Football News and Sports Illustrated put him on their second-team midseason All-America teams.
On a more local level, Mike Mohamed was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after having nine solo tackles, including two for loss, and returning an interception against UCLA last Saturday. Although he doesn't start for us, he is one of those players who makes plays all over the field. With that versatility, he can play any of our linebacker spots.
Mike and Tyson Alualu, who had six tackles, a pair of sacks and batted down a couple of passes, were our team defensive players of the week for the UCLA game. Jahvid Best was our offensive player of the week, and Georgio Tavecchio received the special teams award.
Regardless of these individual honors, it takes a total team effort for us to succeed, and this week, we'll need our fans' help as much as ever, as well. What I remember most about our win over Oregon the last time the Ducks came here was the tremendous roar from our crowd. It may have been the loudest I've ever heard Memorial Stadium.
For this week's game, we'll need you to match that intensity. As I said to the media at my regular press conference on Tuesday, I would encourage our fans to bring their "A" game on Saturday. It's really important for our fans to get into the game and make a lot of noise because of the no-huddle offense that Oregon runs. You can help make a difference. We need all the help we can get and our fans create a major impact when we play here.
October 24, 2008
Golden Bear fans:
This week, we have been hard at work preparing for a talented UCLA team. Although we are all disappointed in our result at Arizona, the morale on the team is strong and the team is concentrating on our next opponent. As I told them, we are still right in the hunt for a Pac-10 championship and we can control our own destiny. It's just that no one is undefeated in the conference anymore. There are five of us with one loss each, and there's long way to go before anything will be settled.
Before I write any further, I'd like to address the arrests earlier this week of two suspects, who had been affiliated with the Cal football team, in a robbery that occurred in one of our campus dorms last month. One is a former player, who was dismissed from the team this past summer for a violation of team rules, and the other was dismissed from the team this week immediately following his arrest. While it appears that they acted in retaliation for offensive comments, there is nothing that can excuse this sort of illegal behavior.
While this was an extremely unfortunate situation, it must not be seen as reflective of the great kids we have on this Cal team. As I've said before, the camaraderie on the football squad has never been better. I have confidence that our team will remain focused on what it needs to do to get the job done on the field and in the classroom. I also have the same degree of confidence that they will continue to represent and exemplify the best Cal has to offer when they are off the field.
In practice and in meetings, we've talked about what we need to do to get better in all phases of the game. You have to give Arizona credit. They made plays and we didn't, especially in the third quarter. We need to sustain our effort and execution through all four quarters. I felt we played very well at the end of the first half, scoring 17 straight points to take a 10-point lead. But we have to be able to respond to the opponent's best shot, whether that means making better tackles on defense or keeping drives alive on offense.
The good news is that we came out of the game fairly healthy. Jahvid Best's elbow was sore, which is why he didn't play in the fourth quarter, but he's been back at practice this week and will be in the lineup again Saturday.
It's nice to see that some of our players are getting individual recognition for their efforts. Syd'Quan Thompson and Alex Mack have both been named to some midseason All-America teams. Alex was also chosen a semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which is given to the nation's best interior lineman, and a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, an honor that combines on-field and off-field achievements. Starting today, fans can vote for Alex for the Senior CLASS Award by visiting seniorclassaward.com.
I'd also like to congratulate David Ortega on his induction into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend. David, who played linebacker in the 1980s, is still our all-time leading tackler with over 500 stops. Along with all the other deserving new members, he will be will introduced to the crowd at halftime of the UCLA game.
We're also honoring our 1959 Rose Bowl team on the 50th anniversary of its tremendous accomplishment Saturday. Coach Pete Elliott, quarterback Joe Kapp, running back Jack Hart and many other members of the team are all coming back for a reunion.
As always, the home weekend against either UCLA or USC is our annual Joe Roth Memorial Game, giving us the change to remember the former Cal All-American quarterback who led the Bears to a share of the 1975 Pac-8 title but passed away from cancer less than two years later. His number 12 is the only jersey we've ever retired. We also have a locker in our locker room dedicated to his memory.
Out on the field, UCLA presents another big challenge for us. They have two receivers in Terrence Austin and Taylor Embree, who have big-play potential. Quarterback Kevin Craft seems to be getting better every game and is an athletic player who can make the big throws. Defensively, the Bruins have a couple of tackles in Brigham Harwell and Brian Price who are very physical and can really plug up the middle. They're coming off a big win over Stanford and should have a lot of confidence.
Which is all the more reason that fan support becomes even more important, especially now that we are moving into the second half of the season. We've been able to post a great record at home over the years - 25-4 going back to 2003 - and much of the credit can be given to the great environment in Memorial Stadium. Let's show UCLA how tough it is for opponents to play here.
October 9, 2008
With our second bye week of the season, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to work on fundamentals in practice, give our younger guys a chance to get in some extra work and allow some of our bumps and bruises to heal. Although we don't have a game this Saturday, we are focused on making this a productive week. The work we put in during the first bye after the Maryland game really helped us in our next two games vs. Colorado State and Arizona State, and we are taking the same attitude this time, as well.
I was really proud of the way our team battled against a veteran Arizona State team. One of our keys was to get out to a quick start and we scored on our first two possessions to open a 10-0 lead. Our defense played very well, picking off two passes, recovering a fumble and forcing three others. Two of those turnovers led directly to scores for us and were clearly keys to our victory. We also held one of the top quarterbacks in the country to 165 yards and seemed to put pressure on him throughout the day. I thought we rallied to the ball, wrapped up our tackles and got our hands on a lot balls in the secondary.
Of course, we can't overlook the play of punter Bryan Anger. It does a lot for you when you have a weapon like that. His punts were critical and affected the way Arizona State had to play, especially that 72-yarder that pinned ASU back on its 4-yard-line in the fourth quarter. It's no wonder he was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week.
Cameron Jordan also picked up a Pac-10 honor for his play on defense. Not only did he register eight tackles on the day, but he had two sacks, three tackles for loss and forced fumble.
Offensively, Shane Vereen earned our offensive player of the game award. Having to carry a larger load with Jahvid Best out, he had 93 yards on 27 rushes and caught five passes for 51 yards - both team highs. Given the injuries that can occur at any position, it really helps to have depth throughout the roster and Shane proved that he can handle it when necessary.
I also thought Nate Longshore showed good control of the offense and managed the game well. He threw for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. As I've said all along, we will need both quarterbacks this season, and we are fortunate to have both Nate and Kevin Riley. Both of them have been supportive of each other all along.
Our scout team players of the week for the Arizona State game were Beau Sweeney and Eric Levy on offense, Solomona Aigamaua and Mark Anthony on defense and Nick Rostato on special teams. The big hit honor when to Tracy Slocum.
Looking ahead to the Arizona game, we are optimistic that we will get Jahvid Best back from his elbow injury. However, I don't want to rush him into anything and want to make sure he's healthy before having him back on the field. He needs to get his strength back and be able to protect himself when he gets hit. We'll see how he responds in practice next week. We don't want to risk him having a setback.
It's no surprise to me that Arizona is doing so well this year. They have a senior leader at quarterback and a physical offensive line. Their defense has always been solid and is statistically the best in the Pac-10 this year. We will have to be at our best when we take the field. Every week in the Pac-10 presents another challenge, and we are looking forward to another one Saturday night.
October 2, 2008
The number one thing I want to get out via my blog this week is that we need ALL of our fans this Saturday for Arizona State. Our fans have been great all season, and we really need you to step up again this week against a very good Sun Devil team. When we went to Tempe last year, they had a great environment - a very hostile and tough place for us to play. We NEED to repay that favor to them. Let's have everyone put on their blue and gold and get out to the stadium early and ready to scream. We need noise; we need to do everything we can to make it tough for them to focus and communicate and to pump up our players.
It was great to be back home last Saturday; having the home crowd was definitely an asset against Colorado State and that support helps our guys make plays like the blocked punt, the interception return and Syd'Quan's punt return touchdown. When a team starts making big plays like that, every guy on the team starts to realize that if he does his part, makes the perfect block - like Sean Cattouse on Syd's run - then something good can happen.
Everybody has heard that we're evaluating our quarterbacks, but that position is not the only one. We always look at every position, whether it be quarterback or safety or punter, and we want to put our best options on the field. All along I have said that we may need both Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore to contribute for us to reach our goals. We are in a great position in that we have two very talented players at that position, but we need to figure out which one will put us in a position to start faster offensively.
The other big news of the week is the injury to Jahvid Best. We have had excellent news so far on Jahvid. First of all, he did not break anything, as we were worried about during the game. Then we received the results of his MRI and there was no serious damage that would require surgery. It's still early, but we're cautiously optimistic that Jahvid could be back for the Arizona game. Having said that, we still feel very good about our tailback situation. Shane Vereen is a very talented player who can do everything you need from a tailback - he runs between tackles, he uses his speed and he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Tracy Slocum is a guy who is capable of filling in, as well, with no drop-off. We have always prided ourselves in having a stable of strong running backs and this year is no exception with Jahvid, Shane, Tracy, Peter Geurts and Covaughn DeBoskie.
Our kickoff team needs work, and that all starts with the kicker. It's imperative that we keep the ball in the field of play and give everybody a chance to make plays. We're going to continue to work hard with our kickers so that they improve.
From the Colorado State game, we had a lot of guys play solidly. Our offensive players of the game were fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou and center Alex Mack. These guys did an awesome job blocking for our run game which averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Everything starts by establishing the run and these guys are invaluable in their roles.
Defensively, Rulon Davis made a huge impact with a lot of pressure on the quarterback and Syd'Quan Thompson had nine tackles and a big sack on third down. Syd'Quan was also one of our special teams players of the game - not only did he have the punt return for the touchdown, but he was also solid on his other four returns, finishing with 131 yards. And true freshman Mychal Kendricks continues to stand out for us. He had a pair of tackles in kick coverage and his rush forced the blocked punt that we returned for a touchdown.
We had some great practices through our bye week and leading up to Colorado State, and it was great to see that effort carry over into the game. We've started well this week and we need to keep this attitude and focus going into the ASU game. They have a very talented quarterback, some tough defensive ends and a lot of good players all over the roster. It's Pac-10 play now so we need to leave everything on the field and we want you, our fans, to leave everything you have at the stadium.
See you all Saturday at 12:30 and don't forget, we need you loud, very loud! Go Bears!
September 19, 2008
Before I head out on the road for recruiting, here is a brief update for everyone. We have had a good bye week; the players have been working hard and have been very focused on getting better every day. The bye week is always a great opportunity to get the younger guys some more reps and see what they can do, and it gives some of our bumps and bruises a little time to heal. That being said, we have been more physical, have gone live more this week than any other bye week.
Last weekend at Maryland was very disappointing for us, but what you need to do after a loss is study it, learn from it, and move on. Football's football. If you don't win the red zone; if you score only six points when you're on the 10, the eight and the four; when you have more penalties than the other team; and when your third-down conversions are not very good, then you won't be successful in the game. Those are areas to improve on. I feel very confident that the team is focused on moving forward. While there has been a lot of talk about the time difference, I'm not sure that had as much of an effect on us as the humidity did. That's something very hard to simulate and to get used to. But we're not making excuses, we need to take advantage of our opportunities, and we didn't do that last week. On a positive note, it gave us a great opportunity to get a lot of experience in our passing game, get all of our receivers involved and get Kevin a lot of reps throwing the football. That will be beneficial for us down the road.
I have had many inquiries about the play on the goal line from the Maryland game. I am in total agreement that the play should have been called a safety. It concerns me that it wasn't handled properly, but we have to put that behind us. That was just one play in the game and not the complete reason we weren't successful.
We get the chance to get back out on the field next Saturday and try to erase this taste from our mouths. I'm looking forward to another strong week of practice and I think our guys are also ready to go. The important thing we need to remember is that it's more about us; all of the things that it takes to be successful are in our control. It's not so much about the opponent, it's about us taking care of our business. We need to do a better job of that.
We've been on the road for a couple of weeks and it's going to be great to get back to our house. All the coaches and players can't wait to run through the tunnel and see all of that blue and gold from our own loyal fans. Again, we hope to have a great crowd packing Memorial Stadium next Saturday, we need every one of you to give us that home field advantage that has pushed us over the top so many times. Tickets are available by calling (800) GO BEARS or online at CalBears.com. Thanks for all of your support and Go Bears!
September 11, 2008
Here's a quick update for everyone as we get ready to head to Maryland for another big game this weekend. We had quite a challenge last weekend, opening Pac-10 play as early as we did, and we're happy we came out with a victory. While the victory is the key, there are still many things that we can work on as a team, despite the final score. We need to get more efficient in the passing game, we can't have any missed tackles and we need to be better on special teams. And we will continue to work very hard on those aspects of the game as we do every week.
Traveling to Maryland presents some different challenges as far as adjusting to playing an early game and also playing on natural grass. We will work with the guys to get on an earlier schedule here through the week and we're also practicing on grass this week to get a better feel for the different surface. It's interesting that with the advances in artificial turf, it seems that it is now the norm and playing on natural grass is the less familiar surface.
Maryland presents many challenges as a team as well. They have big time players at running back and at receiver and they have an experienced and physical offensive line. Their defense has changed up a bit to more of a three-man front which is different for them, but they have a good defensive line and some very good players at linebacker. I know they will be ready to go this weekend, especially after stubbing their toe last week. We won't underestimate them, they are a good football team, very well-coached and will be very motivated.
From last week, we had quite a few players of the week. Jahvid Best is a guy who stood out to everyone, rushing for 200 yards with the two very long runs. But a couple of other guys on offense shared our team honors: Chris Guarnero and Will Ta'ufo'ou. These are guys who never get the credit they deserve. Will has been working hard since he arrived and I believe he has developed into one of the top fullbacks in the country. And Chris is a guy who was our backup center, but has shown so much ability, we re-arranged some things to get him on the field and he has really played well at guard.
Defensively, for the second week in a row, these two guys have earned our team honors. Tyson Alualu on the line and Syd'Quan at corner. It's no surprise the success these two have been having. Both of them are among the hardest-working guys on the team and they are both in their third years seeing a lot of playing time.
Our special teams players of the week were Robert Mullins and David Seawright. Robert had three tackles on kickoffs, which is so important to help us control field position; and David was perfect on his PATs and also hit a 37-yard field goal.
For the scout team players of the week, we had a couple of offensive linemen in Dominic Galas and Eric Levy for offense. Both of those guys are legacy guys - Dominic's father, Tim, played for the Bears, and Eric is the younger brother of Steve Levy. Defensively, we recognized lineman Aaron Tipoti and linebacker Eric Stevens - another family connection as Eric is the younger brother of Craig Stevens, who's playing in the NFL now after his great career here. Our special teams player of the week from the scout team was Chris Little, a hard-hitting safety.
It's a short week for us as we leave early on Friday morning. The game is on ESPN on Saturday and I understand that it's a national broadcast, so most everyone should be able to tune in if you can't make it out to the East Coast. Thanks again for all the support and Go Bears!
September 4, 2008
I wanted to give everyone another update as we get ready to go to Pullman this weekend. This past weekend was a very successful one for us because we came out with a win over Michigan State; it was a total team victory and we learned many lessons which will help us down the road. We reaffirmed what a fine line it is between being successful and not. We're very fortunate to be 1-0, but we have much more work to do and more development is needed. The important thing was that we responded to adversity, the team played together and worked together and trusted in each other that we could get it done. Nobody is ever going to play a perfect game and everyone is going to make mistakes. The mark of a successful team is the one that minimizes and overcomes the damage from those mistakes and remains focused on the ultimate goal, which is winning the game.
I really have to thank our fans for their own performance on Saturday. It was another great atmosphere and exactly what we need for every home game. We are really showing that Memorial Stadium is Bear Territory and giving opposing teams another factor to think about when coming here. With a loud environment, it makes it very difficult for the players on the field to communicate, and I hope we have the same type of enthusiasm for our next home game against Colorado State.
One thing I wanted to do was recognize our team Players of the Week. These guys don't always get the recognition, but the entire coaching staff comes together after reviewing the film and we decide who deserves weekly game balls. On offense, Alex Mack, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen - Alex did his usual job out there; I can't say enough about how important he is to our team. Jahvid and Shane both ran for over 100 yards and both had very important plays. It's a tremendous luxury to have talented and versatile backs like those two. Defensively, we selected Tyson Alualu, Anthony Felder and Syd'Quan Thompson. Tyson was very solid on the line, Tony kept up the performance he turned in throughout camp and Syd had an outstanding game - he had been battling a shoulder injury for a bit, but he went out and played all out and made some tremendous plays for us. On special teams, Brett Johnson and Mike Mohamed gave the effort and stayed focused, two very important things on special teams. Brett's blocked punt was a huge play for us, and we need continued effort like that.
Every week, we also recognize our Scout Team Players of the Week. These are guys who are redshirting or haven't cracked the travels squads, but they are invaluable to our team. Every week, they come out and run our upcoming opponent's offense and defense. Each week, they need to learn a new set of skills, new sets of formations, really an entire new playbook. How well they simulate our opponent is a major factor in how prepared our team is for that opponent come Saturday. I can't say enough about the importance of our scout team guys. This week's Scout Team Players of the Week were Dominic Galas on offense, Nick Rosato and Cameron Jordan on defense and Charles Satchell on special teams.
Going back to loud crowds, this weekend, we will have our hands full on the road. Washington State is one of the toughest places in the league to play. Their fans are right on top of you and don't hold back anything during the games. We have heard some interesting comments throughout games up in Pullman, and I'm sure it will be more of the same this Saturday. Paul Wulff, the Cougars' new coach, is going to have his team prepared for us. It's a bit of a challenge because we don't have a lot of tape to watch. We can look at what he did at Eastern Washington where he was very successful, but it's definitely not the same and there is quite a difference in personnel.
Road games are always challenging and having a conference road game this early is difficult because of the 64-man roster. We are still in game evaluation process and it's earlier than we would like to have to make some of these decisions. But our guys have always done a good job of looking at road games as business trips. We need to go in and stay focused and worry about ourselves and what we can control.
Kevin Riley had a very good game at quarterback for us against Michigan State, and he is our quarterback for this weekend in Pullman. He did a great job of limiting mistakes and running our offense. I have read some things which have stated that this is Kevin's team now. While he is our quarterback for this weekend, a big focus for us is that it is no one player's team. This is everybody's TEAM. Every player on this team, whether it is Kevin or Nate or Brock or any of the quarterbacks, right down to our scout team guys, our injured guys, our walk-ons, every player on this team and every coach, is integral to us reaching our goals. And the fans come into play, as well. It may be sounding cliché, but our motto of Every Game Counts is true, as well as Every Fan Counts, Every Player Counts and so forth.
Hopefully you can watch or listen to our game this weekend if you can't make it up to Pullman. So please keep up the great support and Go Bears!
August 28, 2008
I have been trying to give everybody an update from training camp, but it's been a whirlwind of activity to get ready for our first game so I am going to combine my thoughts on camp as well as our opener here.
The biggest thing I want to say to everybody though is: We need you at this Saturday's game against Michigan State. They are a very good team and very well coached in all three aspects of the game. Their running back is one of the best in the country. He reminds us a lot of Justin Forsett, only a little bigger. We know that will be a challenge for us, but they have a lot of other good players and we'll have our work cut out for us, so we need every fan to give us full support. It would be great if we could get an atmosphere like we had for last year's Tennessee game, only better. Don't forget, when we have the ball, the Bears are at work, so stay quiet so we can communicate well, but when they have the ball, get loud! Create a hostile environment which other teams will learn to dread.
Preseason camp is always a special time for me. We see a lot of the guys throughout the summer, but it's not the same as having everybody together and getting back to playing football, rather than just talking about it and planning for it. It's fun to see the young guys, who are a year older, and how much they have matured as well as seeing the new freshman coming in, all of them a little wide-eyed, not knowing what to expect. I think our veterans do an excellent job of helping the young guys adjust to the system and what they need to do. Speaking of the veterans, it always amazes me how fast time goes by. Looking at all of our seniors, it's hard to believe this will be their final year with us. They have invested so much in this program and done so much for us, I will always appreciate the efforts of the guys who go through our program.
But even once these guys are done going to school here and playing football for us, they will always be Bears. With our own camp going on, I haven't been able to watch our former guys in the NFL too much, but I try to get as much news as possible on them. We have a bunch of guys from just last year doing very well on the next level - Justin Forsett has had a great camp and surprised a lot of people in Seattle, but not any of us down here. Our coaches and fans know what Justin can do. I am very proud to see our guys doing well on the next level.
This year's camp was a very good camp. We had a lot of energy right from the start and the players have had great attitudes. There is definitely a renewed sense of "team" amongst all of the guys. We have had great leadership from guys like Alex, Zack Follett, Anthony Felder and Will Ta'ufo'ou - who were selected as captains for this week's game - as well as all of our older players. Everybody is very focused on this season and doing everything we ask to put ourselves in a position to win on Saturday.
We have had a lot of competition at many positions throughout the lineup, but I know the one that most everybody has focused on has been the quarterback. Coach Cignetti and I were very pleased with the play of both Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore - not to mention Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney, who I think will both be excellent quarterbacks. Both Kevin and Nate had great camps, but we made the decision to start Kevin Saturday. He is a tremendous playmaker and showed us a lot in the bowl last year and throughout camp. A decision like this is always difficult. Obviously when we told Nate, it was very disappointing for him. But we're so fortunate to have a guy like Nate, who is a true team player and has always had a team-above-self attitude. I am so impressed by how he has handled this. We're going to get Nate some time Saturday as well. The competition is so tight, game action can show us different aspects of the guys, so we want both of them to get some time - this is true at many positions as we try to get the best out of everybody. I have said all along that I think we will need contributions from both guys to help this team reach its goals.
Another change in our program this year has been with some of the coaches on the staff. I have been very fortunate during my time here to have excellent, hard-working assistant coaches who help the players get better and grow as players and as people. This year's staff is no different. The addition of Coach Cignetti and Coach Simmons as well as Coach Lupoi moving into a full-time position, have been great for our team. They all bring a lot of energy and excitement, and I can see the players listening and responding very well. With Frank as our offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, it has freed me up to be more involved with all aspects of our team.
I'd like to wrap up by mentioning something we did last weekend. We had our usual Fan Appreciation Day, which is always a fun event for our guys. We all get a chance to meet the people who really give our program life every Saturday. I can't stress enough the importance of having great fans at every game. It gives the guys that extra push on the field and it has also opened the eyes of a lot of recruits that there is something special here at Memorial Stadium. But something different this year was Michelle Maykin. Michelle is a Cal grad and one of our biggest fans and she was diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2007 and now needs a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. I had a chance to meet her and to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry last Saturday, along with a lot of our players and staff. Something like this really puts things in perspective for all of us. We all put tremendous importance on the things that we do day-to-day, but it helps to step back and realize what is really important about life. If anyone didn't get the chance to register last weekend, go to ProjectMichelle.com to find out more.
I look forward to seeing you all Saturday at Memorial Stadium. This should be a great game with two very evenly-matched teams. We still have tickets available and you can buy at the gate or by calling (800) GO BEARS, so come support us as we play Michigan State this weekend. Thanks for all of your support and Go Bears!
NOTE: Through new technology, fans can purchase tickets at CalBears.com and print them at home anytime and not have to wait in line at the stadium. Season ticket holders can also transfer their unused tickets to friends and family through the new Digital Ticketing System.
July 29, 2008
Welcome back to my blog; I apologize for taking some time to make an update since I last wrote in June. However, it has been a good summer that has given me a chance to recharge and get ready to go for an exciting 2008 season.
While I never strayed far from football, the highlight of my summer was my first trip to Europe with my family. We took a 10-day cruise to many different places and in addition to it being a very relaxing trip, it was very educational. I think a cruise is definitely the way to go. My wife, Donna, sons, Taylor and Quinn, and I flew from here to New York and then on to Barcelona. From there, we were on a cruise ship, visiting different cities every day. We took a tour with an excellent and knowledgeable guide during the day, re-boarded the ship, and when we woke up in the morning, we were in the next city. We spent time in Barcelona, France and Italy. We saw the Roman Colosseum, the Vatican, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and so many other amazing sites. The guide was able to inform us and give us of all the information about the history of these places. The Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were probably the most memorable stops for me, but the best thing was being able to spend time with my family.
Before and after my trip, I have spent plenty of time here in the office, working with my staff to get ready for this season as well as talking with our players. From all indications, as they wind down the summer program, there has been a strong investment through quality work and building camaraderie. Each season brings new challenges and new opportunities, and everyone is very excited about the upcoming season. I'm really looking forward to the team reporting to camp - the guys come back on Sunday, Aug. 3, and we have our first practice on Monday. Everybody associated with this program is looking forward to returning to the field and back to football. This is my favorite time of year; the time when I can get reacquainted with the players and get back to coaching football.
The event that really seems to kick off the new football season every year is Pac-10 Media Day, which was last week in Los Angeles. It's the event that gets the excitement and the anxiety flowing as everybody comes together to talk about the upcoming season. All of the coaches from the league gather to talk about new rules and to conduct interviews with reporters from around the country, including print, radio and television reporters. Alex Mack was our representative and did a great job with everything. Most people don't understand what a grueling event this can be for a young man - Alex handled over four hours of non-stop interviews, talking on the phone live to radio shows, meeting with newspaper reporters, doing interviews with ESPN and Versus for this year's TV broadcasts and on and on. He was a tremendous representative of not just his teammates and Cal Football but the entire University of California.
After Pac-10 Media Day, we were off to the Bay Area Media Luncheon this week in San Francisco. The event was a little different this year with the Emerald Bowl putting on a luncheon in addition to the media interviews, which added to the excitement. We took Worrell Williams, Zack Follett and Alex to that event and again, all three did a great job representing our program.
It's been interesting this year as I could predict the three main questions from nearly every reporter: What happened last year? Who's going to be our quarterback? And what's happening with the people in the trees?
We are in great shape at quarterback; we feel very fortunate to have two very quality guys in Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley who have both proven they can win. And Brock Mansion is a freshman who gives us depth as good as anyone's in the country. It will be very competitive throughout camp and we feel very good about the situation, but who will take the first step is still undetermined. One reporter at media day pointed out that only two quarterbacks in the Pac-10 started every game last year, so you can see how valuable depth is at that position.
As far as the people in the trees, we are very encouraged by the recent news and recent rulings. I am really looking forward to a new facility that will benefit our entire athletic department and the student-athletes, both men and women, in the program. The light at the end of the tunnel has become brighter as we move forward, and it will be great to get past the distraction and nuisance that as been caused by the people in the trees.
Our staff and players have all analyzed last year over and over, and I know everybody has searched to put their arms around the disappointment of 2007. But it's time to focus on 2008 so this is the last time I'm going to touch on last year's experience; our focus is this year's team. There is no definitive answer for what happened. Football is a team game and everybody that is part of this program, coaches and players, has shouldered responsibility. There are so many variables involved, they can be statistical, mental, emotional or physical, but the fact is, lessons are learned from each one of those factors. We are very excited to use these lessons to move forward and we feel great about our progress, our vision and the new season which is upon us.
I want all of our fans to be part of this new season and I hope we create the same environment for Michigan State that we had last year against Tennessee. So make your plans now to come to Berkeley on Aug. 30 and support the Bears. And don't forget the entire schedule; we have three of the top four teams in the Pac-10 preseason poll coming to town along with Michigan State, Colorado State and a couple of teams against whom we'll be looking for revenge - Stanford and Washington. So call (800) GO BEARS or visit CalBears.com and buy your season tickets now. Don't forget, Every Game Counts! See you on Aug. 30 and Go Bears!
June 5, 2008
Over the last few years, I have been teased by my players for not being up-to-date with the latest internet developments like youtube, facebook and itunes, but I realize it's a reality and want to use it productively to communicate with you, the fan. I am hoping to provide the Cal fans with glimpses of the Golden Bear football program from the inside, giving you all some of my thoughts and feelings on various subjects relating to the team. The purpose of this is to give insight, not to get caught in debates - I don't have time for debates with everyone. I know everyone is not always going to agree with everything - run/pass, pass/run, run inside or outside, throw short or deep, you get the drift. That's a fan's prerogative as interested supporters who care. I hope to give regular updates as time allows, but as you know, the season gets very hectic.
Fans are so important to any football program and I can't say enough about what it was like last year on September 1 to come into Memorial Stadium and see all that blue and gold for the Tennessee game. I know that last season did not go the way everybody was hoping - believe me, I know! We need to erase those thoughts and play with a new vision and supreme confidence, and you, the fan, can help by providing a positive environment. Over the last four years we are 20-4 in Memorial Stadium - and every one of our fans played a significant role in those wins. We need to come out on Aug. 30 and see 72,000 fans waving their blue and gold and being fired up for our team. Nothing gives our Bears a better lift than our home fans rooting us on. Michigan State is going to be a very tough opponent - you know they will be looking for revenge for 2002 when we went out there and were victorious - but we'll be ready to go and we want all the fans ready to go as well.
We had a very good spring and developed great team chemistry. This summer, the players are working their tails off to be ready for Aug. 4 when they report for camp. I expect tremendous competition in camp - and that competition will only make us better. We will work hard every day to reach our full potential in 2008.
Keep checking back here throughout the summer for updates. Every player, every practice, every play, every game, every fan counts. Let's work together, fans, players and coaches and show the country that the Bear will not quit, the Bear will not die! Go Bears!