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Archive for April, 2009

Post spring depth chart

Cal released its post-spring depth chart and I can’t help but wonder if it was done while all the eyes were on the NFL draft on purpose… but that could just be my conspiracy theory side talking.

In any case, you can view it here.

Some thoughts:

  • I think far too much is being made of the lack of any depth for the QB. Some think that putting “OR” next to each guy is a big deal, but I don’t think so. They’re still in the same order they’ve been in all along and I just view the “OR” as a sign that Tedford is reserving the right to change the order in fall. And why shouldn’t he? None of the three is really separating themselves right now. Perhaps if Riley had finished the spring the way he started it, but he didn’t and he needs to know that he needs to get back what he had at the beginning of spring if he expects to be safe at the starting position.
  • The fact that Darian Hagan still got the starting spot over Conte despite the fact that he didn’t play all spring is significant to me. The coaches must have a lot of confidence in Hagan. Conte did a pretty good job during the spring and seems to have improved a bit. Don’t be surprised to see more of him on the field, perhaps in nickle packages, perhaps substituting for a safety because of his progress.
  • For the opposite case, Verran Tucker lost his starting spot while being out this spring to Marvin Jones. Jones has come a long way, so it may have been the case that was the real reason for the swap. But I also think it is clear Tucker doesn’t have the confidence of the staff that Hagan does.
  • Also note that there are 7 WR’s on this “two-deep” depth chart. Between putting in a slot receiver as a third WR position, Michael Calvin got listed as 3rd on the depth chart for one of the three positions. Besides Tucker, the other player seeing his stock fall is Ross, who didn’t get the slot position which instead went to Lagemann, who was perhaps the spring’s best WR.
  • Look at how big this offensive line is. With the exception of Guarnero at center at 275, everone is over 300 for an average of 312.4 (or 321.8 without the center). That’s one big line.
  • The biggest surprise to me on the O-Line is that Cheadle drops to 3rd string at right-guard. Everyone else is about what I expected. The one with the biggest upside this spring was Summers-Gavin who is beginning to live up to his promise when he was recruited (and as a redshirt freshman is doing it pretty quick).
  • If there’s a weak spot on the roster it is fullback. Brian Holley looked pretty sharp early in spring ball but has looked less impressive as practice wore on. Both Tyndall who seems green despite being a redshirt sophomore and Will Kapp who is small and light to be a fullback at 5-10, 210 don’t quite seem poised to challenge Holley for the spot. Hopefully one of them can step up.

Overall, I think this is one solid and deep depth chart. Generally speaking when I look at each position I look at who is 2nd string and think “tough break for that guy” instead of looking at the first team guy thinking “this is the best they can do?” Between guys like Cattouse who I’m not sure what they have to do to prove their capable to be 1st string to Ross, Payne and Conte who seem to all be in the same boat, this is a pretty deep depth chart.

Other thoughts?

Drafted Bears

Well, three Bears were drafted: Mack, Follet and Morrah.

UPDATE on free-agents as of 1:00 PM PDT Monday:

  • Rulon Davis signed with Denver.
  • Will To’ufo’ou signed with Chicago.
  • Anthony Felder signed with San Diego.
  • Nick Sundberg signed with Carolina.
  • Longshore has been invited to tryout at Miami

Some quick thoughts:

  • Mack at #21 overall… that says something about his play and potential at center. He’s getting the reward for all his years of hard preparation and hard play. From what I understand it’s been a full decade since a center went as high as Mack.
  • Morrah as one of the last players drafted… what was he thinking by going pro? I think he would have done a lot better in the draft with another year under his belt. He would never have been a 1st rounder, but he could have been a 3rd rounder and there’s an amazingly big difference in your long term prospects (team made bigger investment in you, thereby ensuring they’re not going to dump you for no reason) when you’re a middle rounder than one of the last picks. Morrah was just a 5 minute conversation from going undrafted. I wish the best for him and hope that he recovers from what appears to have been a bad decision. He always struck me as a very nice guy when interviewing him.
  • Follett in the 7th round… personally I think the Lions got a good deal on Follett. He’s got both the determination and the raw athletic skill to be a servicable NFL linebacker.
  • Personally I think Rulon Davis is the player who most deserved to get drafted but didn’t. I know it’s all about his injury prone history, but it’s also good to hear he was picked up by the Denver Broncos as a free-agent today.
  • One of my personal favorite players on the Cal team the last few years was Will To’ufo’ou so I hate to say this, but I think yesterday was proof that college was the end of the road for both him and Worrell Williams. They’re players who played with a lot of heart and were very good college players but just don’t have the tools (Williams lacks speed, To’ufo’ou lacks size) to play at the pro level. I suspect both will get a shot with a free agent contract, but I fear particularly for To’ufo’ou that it won’t last long.
  • Finally, Longshore. People keep telling me that he’s going to get picked up as a free-agent but I just don’t see it, and I’m saying this as a guy who was supportive of him when the walls came crumbling down in 2007. He’s just got too many question marks in my mind. But I of course could be wrong.

So, there you have it. There’s also Felder and Sundberg out there who could get picked up by someone.

Overall, what this says to me is that last years team was a lot less “talent rich” than it appeared. Anyone know when the last time Cal had only three drafted guys? (I don’t feel like spending the time to figure out how to figure it out.) Last year clearly was not the most talented Cal team out there. With that in mind, it seems to me that expectations last year were a bit high and since the team met those expectations I’ve got to feel like the team over-achieved a bit. I still would have liked to walk away from both Maryland and Arizona without that bad taste in my mouth to really feel like they fully achieved everything the team was capable of, but at the same time, I don’t feel so bad about walking away from Corvalis knowing we lost to a team with 4 defensive draft picks and 6 overall.

UPDATE on how weak draft effects recruiting:

Some have mentioned that they see the biggest impact of the weak draft being on recruiting. The thought is that the potential recruits are looking at how much respect the program gets with NFL teams. They’re looking to get drafted themselves someday and they would hope that they’d get the benefit of the doubt. Some teams get it (USC) some teams don’t (Washington State). Where does Cal fit in?

Well, I think it is a reasonable perspective, but I think it’s not a very big deal to have one weak year. Cal has had a lot of strong years of late, and this is just one setback. When one couples all the other positives with the Bears including the press that guys like Jahvid Best is getting now and DeSean, Marshawn and Rodgers have gotten in the past. Everyone besides USC on the west coast has had a bad year in the last few years, Cal would not be alone here. Add in that Cal has a lot going for it with the SAHPC, a team with a 4 season bowl winning streak and a number of other upsides and I think recruits will be plenty satisfied that one weak draft year is not indicative of the program.

My family

We’ve started a new tradition at the Spring Scrimmage, take a picture of the entire family!

family at stadium - 2009.3

(You’d be surprised how much photoshop is in that picture)

What to expect from here

OK, we’re in for the longest, most painful stretch of the year. No college basketball to distract us. No recruiting signing day to wet our appetite. Heck, spring practice, even for those who couldn’t attend was like heaven compared to what we’re about to endure.

FEAR NOT! I’ve got you covered. Here’s what you can expect from me this off-season:

  • Looking back series from the 2nd half of 2007
  • Looking back series for all of 2008
  • An early prediction for each game of the season (after the rest of the Pac-10 spring ball’s wrap up)

So, you’ll be seeing posts from me every week between now and fall practice (only 14 weeks away!) Those 2007 looking back posts will start by next week with the Oregon State game.

UPDATE: A request for my readers… does anyone know where I can get video of some of our older Tedford games? I have every game since 2005 (my own copies that I recorded) but in particular I would like to add the following games to my collection:

2002 Big Game
2002 USC Game
2003 Big Game
2003 USC Game
2003 Oregon Game
2004 Big Game
2004 USC Game
2004 Oregon Game
Other’s I’m looking for:
1982 Big Game (not abreviated version, I’ve got that one)
1991 Big Game

More pictures of SAHPC construction

As promised, I took more pictures of the SAHPC construction at the final spring practice. For the most part, not much had changed. The two notable things were…

Actual excavation on the south end by the I-House:
Construction toward the I-House, the only place where excavation has really begun

And a newly brought in pile-driver:
Recently brought in pile-driver
(Assumably to drive all those retaining steel beams into the ground)

Other than that, not much had changed:
Construction from top of pressbox

You can see the rest of the collection here:

Thoughts on the final spring scrimmage

(Note, I was going to have a separate post on spring practice overall, but it seemed wiser to combine them.)

Well, it’s a few days late, but since nobody pays me to write on this blog, I can safely say it is not a few dollars short… that said, here are my thoughts:

It’s been interesting to read other commentors thoughts on the scrimmage because some of them were really similar to mine and others were widely different. Perhaps it was because I was very focused on keeping stats as opposed to just observing, but I’m in disagreement with those like Hydro who believe Sweeney had the best day. It was most definitely Mansion.

Mansion hit everything and had a couple of good medium length passes. Until that interception on his final drive, he was perfect. Not just 7-for-7 perfect, making the right reads at the right time perfect… every. single. play. He looked aweome to me. He looks like a completely different quarterback than he did a week ago. The lightbulb seems to have turned on for him.

Sweeney on the other hand, while I agree his statistics were worse than his perfomance, looked pretty mediocre and too quick to tuck the ball and run. Said another way, if you thought he looked good at that practice, you should have seen him in the last couple weeks. This was a somewhat off day for him.

Riley, well, everyone was a bit disappointed with him. It wasn’t a horrible day, but it wasn’t great and ensured that the last week or so of practice didn’t send him out on the right note. He’s still the starter at this point, but he’s not distancing himself like he was for the first few weeks.

One thing people forget is that during spring, the defense traditionally dominates. The offenses tend to come into their own later and require more teamwork to be successful. This is particularly true on the offensive line.

I got thinking about that because I was pretty hard on them in my podcast. But the one thing the O-Line didn’t have going for them this spring is that they did more rotations and experimentation with positions than any unit on the field. They substituted in guys left and right, all throughout the spring. So they didn’t have those 5 guys who had 4 weeks getting comfortable with one another.

Overall, that’s a good thing. The coaching staff knows it doesn’t matter if the O-Line is good in April, only that it is good in September. Spending the time and effort to evaluate lots of different linemen in lots of different positions both helps them setup a strong depth-chart for the fall but also ensures that the players get lots of experience, particularly those who will have to come in when the injuries come (and they always do).

So, don’t be too hard on the offense and particularly the offensive line just yet.

That said, this defense had the potential to be something special. It’s getting to the point where Syd no longer stands out as exceptional because everyone is starting to play at his level. Cameron Jordan, announcers should spend more time making sure they can pronouce his name that Alualu’s because he’s going to be getting in the backfield a lot next year.

I’m just not going to go through it position by position because I don’t want to get that excited. This defense will be good at every position and has the potential to be exceptional at at least 7 positions. I’ll go out on a limb and say that unless USC repeats last year’s incredible defensive performance, which is unlikely with the losses they sustained, Cal will have the conference’s best defense.

Minus the concerns at O-Line, I think the position to be most worried about is fullback. While I think Brian Holley will be servicable, I don’t get the feel he’s going to fill the shoes of his predicessors. I’m hopeful that some of the youth behind him will come a long way in the off-season, particularly if Will Kapp can bulk up some, but Holley is the guy with the most experience and I think it will be important that he step up a little bit from where he is now.

Finally for the offense, because I’m not going to talk about the plethora of wide-receivers who obviously are making strides and at least 3 of them are going to be more than capable next year, I think the tight-end position will be just fine. Tad Smith was out with an injury for the last week and Anthony Miller filled in great. That’s two better than servicable tight-ends which is plenty considering the youth behind them. It’s too bad the fans didn’t get to see Tad in action. He’s pretty good.

Overall, I don’t yet see a team that is poised to make a run at the Rose Bowl, but I do see one that with some modest improvement in key areas, particularly QB, FB and O-Line, could be in position to do that. They’ve got to be ready to make that run right out of the gates because Maryland would love to prove that last year’s game was not an aboration and the first two conference games are the likely challengers for the Pac-10 crown.


Spring Practice 4/18 Podcast

My final Spring Practice Podast is up at

As always, the podcast is free for all to listen to.

Spring wrap-up article

My spring wrap-up article has been posted at

The podcast should be posted there soon and I’ll post a link when it does.

Also expect a few posts in the next couple days summing up my thoughts on Spring Ball.

Saturday Scrimmage

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m PUMPED about Saturday’s open scrimmage. I know that seems counter-intuitive, I mean, I get to go to the closed practices, so why would I be excited about the open one?

Well for one, I’m excited for everyone else having the chance to watch the team. Another thing is the scrimage tends to be more “true to a game” on the last/open one. Also, I’m planning on bringing my boys and they love going to the games. Additionally, I get to sit on the 50 yard line. Finally, who can say no to a free hotdog that costs $4 in the fall!?!

Personally of the two off-season fan opportunities to come to Memorial for a football event, I think the spring scrimmage is far more enjoyable than fan day in the fall. Part of that is that I’m not a big fan of autographs which is mostly what fan day is about. But moreso it is that I love watching football and there’s no football on fan day. The only time for regular fans to watch the Bears play outside of a game is the spring scrimmage.

Here’s the link to the article on the official Cal website. Make sure to observe the note about only using the North entrance.

So hopefully I’ll see everyone there. Feel free to come say hi and introduce yourself. I’ll be the heavy-set guy with 3 boys ages 5, 4 and 1 plus his beautiful wife all dressed in matching blue script Cal hats (and not matching blue Cal shirts) sitting on the 50 yard line around row 45 or so. All I ask is that if my wife gets that “Here Ken goes again, blabbering away about Cal football” look on her face that you understand when I say “Well it was nice to meet you. Enjoy the practice.”

A final note, in the past, they’ve said nothing about taking pictures but have dealt very harshly with anyone who published pictures after the fact. Just ask the guys at CGB. I wouldn’t recommend taking any pictures for the purpose of publishing/distributing.

Spring Practice 4/14 Podcast

My podcast from the 4/14 practice, including interviews with Boateng and Tedford is up over at

As always it is free for all to view and download.

Spring Ball notes article

I had double duty at Tuesday’s practice, being responsible for both writing the notes article and producing my regular podcast. Here’s the article:

(It is a subscription article)

I’ll be finishing editing together the podcast tonight and it should be posted by mid-day Thursday. I’ll link to it when it is posted.

Bruce Snyder has died

I did not know that Bruce Snyder was ill, but apparently he’s had an aggressive form of Cancer for the last year or so. He died today (Hat tip to CGB).

Being born in 1975, minus the 1982 Big Game there wasn’t much for me to cheer for as the son of a Cal Engineeing alumni on the football field until Snyder came along. I remember with fondness the 1991 game versus UW (despite being a loss) because it was a HUGE game between ranked teams. Something unheard of in Berkeley.

You could go so far to say that I earned my Cal football stripes through Snyder. It was his teams that got me hooked and his departure that ensured that I knew what it meant to be a Bears fan (learning to live with disappointment).

Coach Snyder, may you, God willing, be brought into the light of Heaven and the peace and joy that lasts for all eternity.

Why lump it all on the head coach?

Ragnarok over at CGB has a great post about how we place so much emphasis on the head coach to the exclusion of everything else and what the consequences of doing that is: Read it here.

I generally agree on the implications of this reality, but I don’t think the solutions provided are very workable. Basically he suggests that the solution is to emphasize the rest of the program so that no one guy can take it down. I mostly agree with his list of what makes up the rest of the program, but I think each of them are difficult to promote/maintain outside of the coach.

I’ll run through each one of them he listed:

  • Assistant coaches: The big problem here is that all head coaches demand that they bring in their own coordinators. And why shouldn’t they in today’s environment where they’ll reap all the success (or failure) of the program? Rag mentions the idea of bringin in assistants to groom for the head coaching spot down the road and while this idea has some merit it has a lot of pratical problems. For one, the list of head coaches who were internal promotions that were a failure is a long one including both of Cal’s most recent internal hires: Gilbertson (who also failed as an internal promotion at UW) and Holmoe. The jump from coordinator to head coach is a difficult one. Even Tedford, who has done really well, has had some bumps in the road as he’s had to learn how to stop being the offensive coordinator and focus just on being the head coach.
  • Academics: This is great as far as it goes, but it has two problems: One, the biggest and best recruits are thinking NFL not their fallback job in the real world. Two, only certain schools have this and it’s very hard for the school to turn it around based on athletic desires to make it better. (not that it wouldn’t be noble if it could be done)
  • Facilities: This has the chicken and the egg problem. When the program isn’t successful it’s very hard to get donors to contribute money. Cal is the perfect example. We needed Tedford to turn the program around before the SAHPC could be built. And of course once you find that coach, they’re going to get “god status”, just like at Cal.
  • Location: This has the same problems as Academics as you’ve either got it or you don’t and it’s almost impossible to change it substantially. Plus it also suffers from the NFL problem of not being a big factor for top athletes who see this as a stepping stone.
  • Other things that don’t change with head coach: There’s just not much here to rely on. Big donors (like Nike for Oregon)? Well that risks a different sort of problem that’ll get you in trouble with the NCAA if it’s not sold right. Strong set of young players (or good recruiting classes)? Yup, that can most definitely be used, but it’s not a headliner sort of thing. About the only thing I can think of that can be used is success of the program with proof that it transcends multiple head coaches. Boise State can do that as can the big programs like USC and Florida. But even at those schools, they’ve had down times and for recruits since they’re only going to be there for 4-5 years, hearing that the program will be good in the long run doesn’t give them much confidence if the program looks to be entering a dry spell.

Overall, I think it is because of the difficulty of selling these other items that the head coach, the singular place a program can put all of their marbles, has become the focal point. It’s similar to politics where the president gets all the glory (or blame) for whatever happens in the country no matter how much or little it was their doing.

The same is going to be true for head coaches.

Update on Tad Smith

Most of you who read the spring practice reports from all the other forums already know this, but Tad Smith’s injury looks to be on the short side of the initial estimates. They expect him to be back before fall practice.

That’s very good news. While Anthony Miller looks to have what it takes to make the jump to starter, I don’t get the feeling Curran or Ladner (yet) would be a very satisfying replacement for Morrah. Particularly since I get the feeling we’ll be seeing more two tight-end sets in 2009 (with less strength at fullback, it’s a different way to get an extra blocker in there), it’s important we have two guys (Tad and Anthony) who can fill that role.

2009 Cal Football Promo Video

Wow, what a promo video this year:


It’s almost cruel that they leash that on us with nearly 5 months until the season starts. Aren’t you excited after watching that?

I’ll echo others who have said this is their best promo video ever, except for one aspect. I don’t go for the whole “attach the stats to the player” ala Nascar. It makes it very difficult to read. They should have made them more static on the screen.

But that’s a very minimal issue with what is otherwise an awesome video.

Spring Practice/Scrimage 4/4 Podcast

In my latest installment of the podcast I review the first scrimmage from last Saturday and talk with Marvin Jones and Beau Sweeney who was looking pretty sharp in the scrimmage:

It is free for all to view and download.

“Focusing on academics”

The word on why Darian Hagan and Verran Tucker have not been at Spring Practice has been stated as, by me and others as “focusing on academics”. It’s what the coaching staff has been saying for why they’ve not been there.

To me, I internalized that as meaning it was a cooperative decision between the player and the coaches, perhaps even initiated by the player. I imagined a conversation that went something like this:

Coach: How are things going academically?
Player: I’ve been struggling with my (insert difficult class) class
Coach: How can I help
Player: I’m not sure, I’m just not finding time to do all of my work
Coach: Is your weight-lifting and practice taking too much time
Player: Well… I love going, but yeah, it takes a lot of time
Coach: Tell you what, you’re a strong player who’s going to start. Why don’t you take spring practice off to focus on academics
Player: Thanks coach

But Tedford when asked about it after Saturday’s scrimage (I think some were anticipating that Tucker and Hagan would at least participate in the weekend practices or perhaps even just the scrimages) Tedford’s wording of their status was a bit less chartable than the above theoretical conversation:

Yeah, they do academics when we’re at practice and then they come out at the end of practice and get their conditioning in.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a mutually agreed upon decision to help the player. That sounds a lot more like a disciplinary action to punish them for not being successful enough for the coaching staff to approve of. I’m most definitely reading between the lines here, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s a helping thing to me. It sounds more like they’re in trouble.

Hopefully it is not so much trouble that they might be academically ineligible at any point.

Spring Practice 3/31 Podcast

It took a couple days for me to put together and another 1/2 day for to post it, but my podcast got published last night:

It is free for all to view and download.

SAHPC construction update

Yesterday before practice I took the time to take some pictures of the construction progress of the SAHPC next to the stadium:

Construction from the top of the Press-Box towards the widest part of what will become the SAHPC

As you can see from the above picture, not much of a hole has been dug yet. I was expecting there to have been more progress there. It’s important to remember that this is a 4 story structure that’s roof will be at the same level as the bottom of the stadium. As such, they’ve got to dig a pretty big hole.

But what you can see is that a bunch of steel beams have been delivered to the site. In fact, they ring the entire western side of the stadium as can be seen from this picture taken from on top of section E:

Construction from the top of section E

What’s also impressive is how far construction extends. I didn’t get a picture of this far around the stadium, but most of the south entrance to the stadium is blocked off. The furthest South picture I took was pointed at the I-House:

Construction from the Southwest corner of the stadium looking towards the I-House

At the other end, you can see that it wraps all the way around to just short of the north tunnel (sorry for the camera angle):

The northern most portion of the construction (sorry for the odd camera angle)

My guess/understanding is that those steel beams are for the retaining wall that will be used to keep the big hole intact after excavation. So I suspect the next step is to either drive those steel beams into the ground or dig a trench and install them into it. I don’t really know how they’re going to do it.

I’ll take some more pictures at the final spring practice to show what progress has been made in the next few weeks.

(Note that you can click on the images to get a larger image)