Oct. 2, 2012
By Tim Miguel
Cal's new defensive line coach Todd Howard simply got tired of losing to Cal. As a player at Texas A&M, his first collegiate game against Cal was a loss. In games played against Cal as a player and a coach, Howard owns a record of 1-6.
If you can't beat `em, join `em.
This past offseason Jeff Tedford added two new assistant coaches - Howard and wide receivers coach Wes Chandler. Howard and Chandler come to Berkeley with tremendous experience coaching, not only at the collegiate level, but also in the National Football League.
Chandler said a major reason why he decided to join Tedford's staff was because the dedication of Cal's head coach to his players on and off the field.
"The things he's done for this program, and more importantly, his passion and direction for where he wants to take this program, were very important to me," Chandler said. "He wants these kids to have something other than football. He wants these kids to be able to go into life and be productive members of society. That's where the education comes into play for these young men. Being a two-academic All-American, I understand the importance of academics and athletics. What he stands for was huge for me."
Chandler has spent 25 seasons in professional football, including stints as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Some of the NFL players he has mentored include Antonio Bryant, Braylon Edwards, Joey Galloway, Rocket Ismail and James McKnight.
A new name that Chandler can add to that list is Cal's standout junior wide receiver Keenan Allen. Chandler said he has been impressed with not only Allen's talent on the field, but also the way he carries himself off the field.
"Here's a young man who the good Lord has really blessed," Chandler said. "He's a humble young man. He's hungry, eager to learn and eager to get better. I thought he was very well-balanced. He has tremendous talent. My job is to help him be better tomorrow than he is today with the basic fundamentals of the game. We can all get better, and that's at every level. I know he wants to get better, and I'm here to help him - with releases, different looks, understanding the game and being a student of the game. These guys have a great mentor to look up to in Keenan, and I hope his work ethic and drive rubs off on our younger guys."
While Chandler hopes to help Allen take his game to the NFL one day, Howard acknowledges the transition from coaching in the NFL to college football can be challenging. College football players are looking for mentors, while professional players consider their coaches to be their equals.
"It differs with regards to the kind of relationship that you have with them," Howard said. "One of the things that I like about college football is you have the ability to mentor the young men, show them how it's done and just be a positive influence in their lives. At the pro level, the relationship is a little bit different. A lot of these guys are married with kids. I'm not saying you don't mentor professional players, but it's more of a business relationship. In fact in the pros, the players don't even call you coach. You're all on a first-name basis."
In addition to coaching in the NFL, Howard has had stints coaching the defensive line at UCLA and Washington State. He is already very familiar with the talent in the Pac-12 that Cal will face in 2012.
Despite not having recruited any of his new defensive linemen, in his first year at UCLA, he guided two of his pupils to All-American honors. He's looking forward to the depth of talent he has at his position, as well.
"We've got some great young prospects coming back this season," Howard said. "I expect Deandre Coleman to have a breakout year. Kendrick Payne was very solid last year, and I expect him to have a great senior season, same thing Aaron Tipoti. We have some great young talent. We have the chance to be solid on the line for years to come."
Cal's wide receivers and defensive linemen are in good hands with coaches who have a wealth of knowledge to give.