Aug. 3, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -
Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, preseason honorable mention All-American linebacker Mike Mohamed and tailback Shane Vereen took part in the annual Bay Area College Football Media Day hosted by the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at Hotel Nikko on Monday. Following are selected comments of what each had to say.
HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
"We're fresh off our weeklong media extravaganza from New York to L.A., which was fun to kind of spend some time with all the coaches and their wives, things like that. It was a great trip. I think the exposure it gave the Pac-10, I want to give [Pac-10 Commissioner] Larry Scott a lot of credit for stepping out there and trying to do something for our conference to gain a little bit more exposure, [which] I think has been very successful.
"I want to introduce the two players that are with us here today. Shane Vereen is our tailback. Media Studies [major], he's a junior. Had played really in a backup role to Jahvid Best last year before Jahvid got hurt, and then he took over the starting role, and we're looking forward to big things from him in his junior season.
"The other is Mike Mohamed, a senior linebacker who's a business major. He's going to graduate this fall. He led the conference in tackles last year, and both these young men, not only are they great football players, but great young men, great leaders for our team.
"I'd like to wish good luck to [Stanford's] coach Harbaugh and [San Jose State's] coach MacIntyre as we start with the season, and their players as well. Stay healthy and good luck to you as you start camp.
"Another exciting year for us. We're going into this season much like coach Harbaugh talked about - expectation is always high - but we're going to focus on one day at a time, not get too caught up in the big picture, but every single day try to get better. We need to get better in all phases of the game and that's what our goal is coming up here [in training camp]. We start this Friday, and so, very excited.
"Two new coaches on our staff - new defensive coordinator [Clancy Pendergast], new special teams coordinator [Jeff Genyk] - we're looking for special things there. But, I feel good about this group of young men. They've worked very hard over the summer and can't wait to get started. It's always the best day of the year, first day of camp ... Looking forward to a great season."
On the Pac-10's recent media tour of the East Coast
"It was fun, it was good. It was very well done - first-class. The [Pac-10] Commissioner [Larry Scott] did a very good job. It was good to get out there and be able to put some names with faces, shake hands, go through the `car wash' deal at ESPN, went to the New York Times and had a round table with them. I thought it was very productive."
On the Pac-10 outlook in 2010
"I think the outlook in the Pac-10 is very open. It's very competitive. There is a lot of parity in the conference. It's no different than any other year. You have to be on top of your game every week to be successful. It's crucial that as you go through the season you need to stay healthy. Your depth is always challenged as the season goes on with injuries, so that's always key. But, I think if we do our job and reach our potential week-in and week-out we have the potential to win any game we play, but we have to bring our `A' game every week."
On the 2010 season-opener vs. UC Davis
"I have a lot of respect for Davis. I know them fairly well. I have watched them over the years play some games, and they're very competitive ... They're a solid team, they're very well coached, they have good players. So it's going to be very important that we're 100 percent focused on that game."
On new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and what he brings to the coaching staff
"Clancy is going to bring a more aggressive defense. That's very important. We didn't play well enough last year in pass defense and that typically has to do with putting pressure on the passer. We need to disrupt the passer. Through spring football, we're much more aggressive, our players loved it. So that's really what he wants to do. There's going to be a lot of variation in the defense. I think we're going to be able to utilize our personnel very well. I'm excited about our front guys; I think we're going to better in the secondary than we were last year. There are some tools there to work with, without a doubt. Through the spring, Clancy got a real good feel for who we are. Anytime a new coach comes in, they have to evaluate us first, before they look at anyone else, to find out who our players are and determine what we do well. It was a very good fit. The players really responded well to a new challenge and I thought Clancy did a great job of teaching through progression to get them to understand what's going on. There's still going to be a lot of learning going on as we get into fall camp, but I think our players are excited about the change."
On the biggest questions to be answered during 2010 training camp
"We need to find out who are second or third-team tailback is. We've always been very fortunate to have the one-two punch at tailback. Going into the season, we pretty much have known that all along, since probably our second year here. This year, we know Shane [Vereen] is our starter, but besides that we're going to have to find out is there one guy that's going be the guy that takes the load, or is it going to be two or three guys that do it by committee? There's some young players back there, so we're going to find out what they're all about, because our tailback is key to our success. So I think that's one of the big questions right there."
On whether he has anything to prove this year as a coach
"No, I don't look at it that way. The way I look at it is, my job and the coaching staff's job is to put our players in a position to reach their potential, to make plays and be successful. I'm looking forward to doing that. It's another new challenge and I'm excited about the challenge, and we're going to stay focused on our values and our goals and our vision. I feel good about who we are as a team. I like our team chemistry. So I'm excited to coach this team."
On whether he feels each of his first eight seasons at Cal have worked out the way he wanted them to
"No. Our goal has been to get to the Rose Bowl and we haven't done that, so they have not worked out the way you want them to. This is a new year, though. Last season's behind us. I always try to evaluate and learn from the previous season, and I'm excited about this season coming up. I'm not going to dwell on anything that happened last year. You take the lessons that you learned and you move on. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about last season, or three seasons ago. It's just not worth it."
On how much he thinks about the Rose Bowl every season
"I don't think about how long it's been since we've been there. I just try to think about what we need to do this year to reach the Rose Bowl. But that's not going to be our vision, that's not going to be what we talk about all the time. What we're going to try to do is stay true to our values, stay true to the process, competitive excellence, on competing every day in practice and in every game, compete to our fullest, and whatever happens, happens. I feel great about this group of kids. I think there is great leadership on this team and we're going to take them one game at a time, and not just focus on the Rose Bowl."
On being "off the radar" with lower expectations from the media
"I think we can use that as a little bit of motivation ... I feel like this team is going in very hungry. To make sure that we never get satisfied with what's going on or too full of ourselves, where we are right now as far as that's [preseason ranking] concerned, it's a good place to be."
On the Pac-10 and the upcoming addition of Colorado and Utah to the conference
"I have to see how the divisions play out, see what the scheduling is all about, before I can really comment on how it's going to work, but I think obviously it's leaning toward a conference championship game. I think that model has worked well for other conferences. Bringing Colorado and Utah into the mix, I think those are two quality programs, very competitive on the field, good academic institutions. I think they are great fits for our conference."
On his dream scenario for the future alignment of divisions within the Pac-10
"I'd like to keep the Southern California schools in there. I'd like to be able to play USC and UCLA every year, but I don't know if that's going to be possible. I know there are a lot of different formulas out there. Everyone wants to do that, everyone wants the Southern California teams on their schedule for recruiting purposes mainly. That's the hub for a lot of the Pac-10's recruiting, and it's always nice to be able to take the kids home to play in front in their families and friends. I would like to keep that as part of it, but I'm not sure if that's the way it's going to shake down."
On quarterback Kevin Riley
"Kevin is the active leader in games won in the Pac-10, games played and touchdown passes. He's 15-8 as a starter so he's done some good things. But to play at the level consistently that we need to meet the expectations that have been there, I think that's where a lot of the criticism has come. But going into this, Kevin will be our starter unless something happens that he gets beaten out through camp or through game time. But you know, he's a senior now, and a lot of the ups and downs that he has gone through over the years, I think that is going to make him better. I think we're going to see that all that experience is going to prove to be a positive for him. He has been up and down, but he's always stayed very focused on what he's doing. The growth and development with him as a person, as a leader and as a quarterback has been great. He had a very solid spring, so I'm looking forward to seeing his second year with [offensive coordinator Andy] Ludwig, some familiarity there. He understands the offense very well, so that's got to pay dividends as we go into this season."
On what changes in the coaching staff mean for 2010
"What coaching changes do sometimes is give a lot of kids a breath of fresh air. It's not stagnant anymore. If they had done something wrong two years ago, they have a new start. They get re-evaluated. I think a lot of guys feel really fired up about a change, that they get a chance to prove themselves. It's the same thing with special teams, there's a different philosophy with special teams [than the past]. There's a lot of enthusiasm there. That's an area where we need to improve. We need to improve our kicking game because field position is such a major part of the game, and we didn't play well enough on our kicking teams last year, especially our kickoff team. That's something that we've tried to express over the spring, both with our kickers and with our coverage teams. I think both coach [special teams coordinator Jeff] Genyk and coach [defensive coordinator Clancy] Pendergast have brought a new feeling of enthusiasm to the kids where they're really excited about what they're doing."
On the prospects of the return game
"We'll have to see. There are a lot of new guys on our team, a lot of young guys who have a lot of ability to do that. If you look at our recruiting class at the skill guys, there's a lot of speed. We have to see how those guys fit into that. We already have some guys here that can do it, but we're going to evaluate that part of our game ... We feel like there's a lot of speed when you look at Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery, Tevin Carter, Coleman Edmonds - those guys are burners and they're all brand new, not to mention some of the defensive backs that we've brought in. That has to be evaluated still."
On changes in the offseason
"There is a new defensive coordinator for the first time in nine years and our special teams coach had been here for seven years, so both are changes. I think the change has been good, it's been positive, yes. Not just schematically or anything with philosophy, but I think the kids really feel a breath of fresh of air and a newness to be re-evaluated, some excitement in maybe hearing a different voice in there for them. I really felt in the springtime that there was a little hop in their step because of that."
On whether the changes in the offseason are a breath of fresh air for him
"It is because anytime there's a change you really try to draw out a lot of information from people, not just about defense or conditioning, recruiting, motivation, leadership, everything. I think the two guys that we brought in are very good fits for that. Coach Genyk has a background of being a head coach, he's an offensive guy, he's a special teams guy. He has a lot of input there. Clancy [Pendergast] has some input from being in the NFL for a long time - and he was about a minute-and-a-half away from winning the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. That brought some credibility with him as far as the players are concerned. One of the things that kind of brings that fresh air is that Clancy doesn't know any of those kids [on defense]. He doesn't know their backgrounds, he doesn't know where they are from, he doesn't know their story - he's just out there to see what they're doing now, right now, today, and I think the players enjoyed that. A little bit of newness has brought a little bit of energy."
On whether the changes in the offseason have made him different
"We've had some changes here and there so that's not that different, but I learn something every year. I really do. Each year, there's a new challenge. Going into year nine now, I can look back on our challenges over all the years and the first place I look is in the mirror to find out how I can improve as a head coach to put us in a position to be successful - be it with coaches, be it with players, be it with whatever it may be. I've changed to try to improve as a head coach over the years. If I feel that something we did last year wasn't good enough, then I'm going to try to address that. I address everything we do - was something good enough or wasn't it, and what do we need to do? Each team is different as well, the chemistry of each team is different, nothing stays the same. Our competition is different, the recruiting is different. We're in constant evaluation with what is going on."
On the chemistry and hunger of the 2010 team
"The chemistry and the hunger of our team right now is where we want it to be. There's a sense on our team of `we need to get better.'"
On the team not being ranked in the 2010 preseason national top-25 polls
"... We don't rank ourselves, everyone else ranks us - and so this year going into this thing I think we all understand that we didn't finish the season well last year. When we were 8-3, we had a chance to end with a 10-win season and we didn't do it. We need to go back and not really focus on the big picture. I think we got caught up in that last year. I think that's a lesson I learned last year. I'm not going to get caught up in the big picture, I'm not going to talk about the big picture every week. We're going to talk about what we do day-to-day, and that's it. Then when it unfolds, we'll find out where we are. Last year when we lost to USC and Oregon, it took a lot of air out of the balloon. We bounced back to beat Arizona and Stanford but our values weren't solid enough to overcome some of the air that had gone out of that balloon because of some of the high expectations. This year is really about focusing about one day at a time."
"Values are something you live by every day. They are who you are, they don't change. We can't go up and down if we win a game, or if we lose a game. We can't ride that rollercoaster. It's about who we are and what our purpose is every day for being here and doing what we're doing, and to play our best. We can only think about the situations we can control. We have to put everything else out of our mind. That's what's key in my opinion going into this year, that we don't get caught up on everyone else's opinions. Everything is internal and we want to stay focused on day-to-day preparation."
On whether being in one place for so long takes a toll on creativity
"Is it challenging to coach at the same place for nine years and try to keep everybody happy and try to stay at a level of success ... to continue it over eight or nine years? Until you're in that position you don't really understand the challenge that is ... it does take a toll on you. For me to sit here and say that it doesn't take a toll on you would be very naïve for me to say, because it has. But, I have to re-evaluate who I am and why I'm doing this, and what are the goals, and how do I handle all the things that come along with the high expectations."
On whether there is a different vibe at the start of 2010 training camp compared to past years
"Not really, only that each year brings new challenges and you can approach each year a little bit different depending upon what team you have. Last year, there were really high expectations. A lot of the talk was that we welcome them, that's we were going to do this or we were going to do that, that's changed. We're not going into it with that mindset anymore, because I do not want to get in a situation where if we do stub our toe, then the whole world caves in. That's not how we need to live. That's not how we need to prepare every day. The mindset is that we're going to go out to win every game we play, but it's going to be through our focus and concentration on the day-to-day process and preparation."
On the 2010 offense
"We have to stay balanced. We're never going to overpower everybody by one phase of the game. We have to stay balanced. I think offensively we're going to count on some young guys to play - at the receiver position, we have to find out who our backup tailbacks are, who our backup tight end is. There are still some questions out there. I think we have a lot of potential with the new receivers coming in, but that learning curve is going to be pretty quick for these guys. On the offensive line, we have enough experience that if we can stay healthy there - the goal is going to be to create eight or nine guys that can rotate in. Donovan Edwards being able to play center now creates some more combinations in the offensive line. Matt Summers-Gavin, Chris Guarnero, Mitchell Schwartz - those guys have played games. I feel pretty good there. The other thing is that this is [offensive coordinator Andy] Ludwig and [offensive line coach Steve] Marshall's second year together. When you went into last season, you had a new offensive line coach and a new offensive coordinator, which are two key spots on the offensive side of the ball. I think the familiarity of being together for one more year is going to help that, as well as the players with them for a second year. As far as that's concerned, I think the offense will be a little bit more cohesive early on because of the experience of the two coaches."
More on quarterback Kevin Riley
"I think Kevin's doing a fine job. Kevin is the active leader in games played, wins and touchdowns in our conference. That experience should pay dividends going into his senior season. He understands the game, he understands the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster that can be the quarterback position. I think he understands our offense very well. I'm hoping that pays dividends his senior year. The way he's worked on his mechanics, his fundamentals, his feet, I think he will be better for it ... I think you're going to see a confident Kevin come out and play. I think he feels like it's his team and he's ready for that. It's his senior year. Kevin's not stupid, he sees what's been out there. Even though I'm sure he feels like he's got a lot to prove, I don't want him thinking that he's got a lot to prove. I want him just to play his game, just to do his best and have a little bit of fun with it, and not put so much stress on himself."
On incoming five-star recruit Keenan Allen and where he's going to play
"He's going to play receiver and as it moves along maybe a little bit of nickel back on defense. We'll see how he handles it all. If he ends up earning a starting spot at receiver and he's playing 70 plays a game, then I don't know how big the nickel the thing will be. If he's a guy who's playing 40 plays a game [at receiver], then maybe it will be a little bit more."
On whom Keenan Allen is comparable to
"I'm not sure we've had anybody like him. It would have to be one of the taller receivers. He's 6-3 and has great range and leaping ability. He and [current receiver] Marvin [Jones] are really becoming close. Both of those guys are highly competitive."
On Kevin Riley as the starting quarterback
"Kevin is the starter unless he gets beat out. Now I don't have to answer that every day - who's starting? Kevin is the starter, you can write that down. I did not say until, I said unless. See how it works with you guys [media] ... `it starts with a u' [laughter]. From the beginning the top three [quarterbacks] will get very equal reps. Then as camp moves down it will whittle down where the `ones' will get more of the reps."
More on expectations
"I think our guys understand that we want to play at a high level, but last year I felt like it really, really got carried away for the first time. When I look at it these days the way technology is, everybody's opinion is out there no matter how you try to shelter yourself from it. When we were 8-3 last year, it felt like we were 3-8 at one point. There was a lot of negativity out there. We need to do our best to make sure that we're not thinking about that, that we're focused on what our purpose is every day to play every game to the fullest of our abilities and then let it go from there. That's really the message. It's about the process. It's not about the outcome on any given play, or any given anything. It's no different than a play. If I lose a play, it's about the process. It's about the next play. That's our direction going into this season."
On his approach this year
"We're going to talk about this year, having some fun. I need to change my attitude a little bit, too, about making sure we're having fun and we're not stressed out every day. I have a tendency to get a little stressed out from time to time. I need to loosen up for this team's sake as well. I'm going to make it a priority to make sure that I keep that in mind."
On expectations from the Cal alumni
"I welcome it and I understand it, but I can't be consumed with it. I understand where they're coming from. There's no one that wants to get to the Rose Bowl worse than the coaching staff, myself and the players."
On what the USC situation means
"I think the only thing it really does is it takes a team away from a bowl opportunity. I don't know about their lack of competitiveness. They're still going to play very well; they have great players, great coaches. They're going to be their typical solid program, but it's just one more team out of the bowl hunt is the only thing it does."'
On Cecil Whiteside
"Cecil Whiteside is going to grayshirt. It's more definite now. We still haven't got a final ruling from the NCAA, but he's missed Summer Bridge, and in order for him to be admitted this summer, he needed to go to Summer Bridge. Summer Bridge is over this week."
On how much was expected in 2010 from Cecil Whiteside and Chris Martin [transferred to Florida]
"We wanted to see how they were going to fit into the mix. They weren't penciled in as starters, that's for sure. They were coming with the idea that they were going to compete."
More on the quarterback situation heading into training camp
"Here's the deal. Competition is very good. There's still going to be competition. Kevin [Riley] is our starter. He will be our starter, but there will still be competition with other people. He'll be our starter unless something happens and someone plays better than him."
On quarterback Beau Sweeney's qualities
"Beau has an escape dimension, he's very competitive, he's very smart. He has arm strength. He can make all the throws down the field. He's very solid. But what he doesn't have is game experience."
On the tailback rotation
"It's really key for us to develop a plan to be able to spell Shane [Vereen]. Whether that's one back or two backs that come in to spell him ... last year after he carried the ball 42 times against Stanford he was not the same guy his last two games. We have to be smart about that."
On the Summer Bridge program for first-year students at Cal
"Summer Bridge has been very helpful. It used to be that Summer Bridge was only for mandated kids and then they passed a rule that you could bring everyone. I wrestled with that for a while, because I didn't know with a shorter summer and that sort of thing, but the first year that we did it we had an event where we had a barbeque, and to see how those guys interacted with one another. I think that the familiarity with the guys, the team, their class .... We're 969 and second in the conference in APR, and I think Summer Bridge has been helpful to us. That's the purpose - to help make the transition going into their first year [at Cal]."
On why he decided to determine that Kevin Riley is currently the starting quarterback
"He was the starter last year. You go back and you look at the tape, you look at things that he's done, you evaluate a whole season, and he did a lot of really good things. You take a look at that experience and the dividends that should pay this year. He's had a solid spring, and he's done enough to do that but it's still going to be competitive. That's not going to change."
SENIOR LINEBACKER MIKE MOHAMED
On whether he senses calm and confidence in quarterback and roommate Kevin Riley going into training camp
"Definitely. Just being a senior, being the fifth year. He knows that he just needs to be calm. He's pretty much seen it all, done it all. He knows: `I just need to focus. I just need to go out and play and have fun, and the little things will take care of themselves.' And with that, he's really stepped up as a leader towards the team. He's been a lot more vocal and he's just doing his best to ensure we have a good season. It seems like he's not stressing about it."
On whether Riley spoke with Mohamed during tough times during the 2009 season
"Yeah, definitely, I think especially during those big blowout losses. Obviously the defense didn't play well, but then the offense didn't play as well as they should have either, and he recognized that, basically came up and said, `I'm sorry we didn't do our part' ... But it's not all on him. The defense has to do a better job, too."
On how Mohamed's demeanor fits with being one of the main leaders of the team in 2010
"I'm fine with it. While I'm aware of all the preseason awards and stuff like that, that's kind of something that I put in the back of my mind. Worrying about all that stuff right now isn't going to help me, isn't going to help the team. The only thing for me to do is just to focus on the season and give it my all. And with that, and just being a senior, the one thing I've kind of struggled with and been working on is being more vocal. That's something that hasn't come easily but it's something that I've come to accept, and I'm really trying to work myself into being more comfortable with that, because I know the guys do look up to me and they will listen."
On his reaction to the lowest preseason expectations from the media in his five years at Cal
"I'd say we're hungry and want to prove people wrong. But at the same time, just because we're expected and picked to finish seventh, doesn't mean we have to. We've kind of been on the opposite side of all this in years past. We've gotten to No. 2 and No. 6 in the nation and just fallen flat on our face, basically, and nothing came out of it. We know that the expectations don't really matter. We've just got to go out and play ball, and prove people wrong one week at a time."
On whether lower expectations from the media may benefit the Bears
"I sure hope so. The goal is to win the Pac-10. Hopefully I'm right and we end up doing a lot better than the [media's] expectations."
JUNIOR TAILBACK SHANE VEREEN
On fullback Will Kapp
"He's doing great. He's helping out all the younger fullbacks, helping them come along as well as helping me with the tailbacks. He's been getting stronger, faster, everything that he needs to do to be an effective fullback. I think he learned a lot playing behind not only Brian Holley last year but also Will Ta'ufo'ou the year before. I don't see any dropoff [comparing Kapp to them], I really don't. He can catch the ball great out of the backfield, I trust him in front of me, leading the way. He's not as big as Holley or Ta'ufo'ou was, but I think he has just as big a heart, or bigger."
On the offensive line and their improvement over the spring
"I've seen improvement in many ways. One thing I've noticed is we do have depth there. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of experience and they've been switching a lot of positions. Once we find the right combination, once we get guys in the right spot, it will be a very effective O-line. I have no problem and feel very confident."
On preparations he is making to have the endurance and fortitude to take the pounding as the No. 1 tailback on the depth chart
"A lot of it goes to the way I run, being the hammer or the nail. There were a couple of times when I did get injured [last year], it was me not picking my feet up or me not running as hard as I could have. So that's a big part of it, is running more aggressive, running stronger, which is a big part of what I've been working on during the offseason."
On whether he is considering his NFL prospects yet
"The most important thing is the 2010 season, making it to a bowl game, achieving our team goals. Anything other than that, I don't have time to think about right now."
On whether he approaches his starting role as if he is filling the shoes of departed first-round NFL Draft pick Jahvid Best
"Yes and no. I never really felt that I was filling his shoes because I felt like me and Jahvid have always been two different people. I respect Jahvid and I've learned numerous things from him. We worked great together and I miss him as a teammate, but I don't really feel like I'm filling his shoes. This is a new team, a new backfield as far as tailback and fullback, and we're just trying to set our own goals and raise the bar for ourselves."
On his reaction to low media expectations for this season
"I love it. I love that we're not picked this high, that we're not expected to do very well. I think that's the best motivation this team could have had. I think that's just going to force us to work harder. It's definitely fueled our offseason workouts, it's definitely fueled our offseason training, and it's kind of the respect that we need to earn. Respect is earned, not given. I like where we're sitting and I like the odds that we're facing."
On the makeup and chemistry of this year's backfield personnel
"I'm very excited. Besides me it's kind of a younger group. All the guys haven't had as much experience in games besides Isi [Sofele], Covaughn [DeBoskie-Johnson] here and there. I'm excited to see what we can do. It's kind of a young ignorance, I guess you could say, but it works. It's going to help them become great players. We're best of friends. We get along well. It's a good group of guys. Camp is going to be the deciding factor for a lot of guys, myself included."