After BearTerritory covered Monday's Bay Area Media Day, it was time yet again for the Bear Goggles Podcast. Contributor Jon Doss dropped by to help publisher Ryan Gorcey preview the Cal football season, talk sartorial goings-on and even get into a little bit of discussion on former Cal players in the NFL. So, sit back, relax, read the latest season preview interview below, and listen to some quality Cal sports discussion.
SAN FRANCISCO -- For seven months now, the California football team has had to let its first losing season under head coach Jeff Tedford fester and rankle. Monday, in the Montgomery Room of the Hotel Nikko, Tedford made it abundantly clear that not only has the team used that as fuel for the offseason training regimen, but that it will be a point of emphasis going forward.
"We could talk about it all we want, from then until coming up. Now, it's time to do something about it," Tedford said. "There was nothing we could do about it. We couldn't play games between then and coming up, and now, it's time to do something about it. Now, we have to prepare and get ready to compete."
That competition will start on Saturday at 5 PM, as the Bears begin 2011 fall camp in earnest with new quarterback Zach Maynard at the helm, but the real headline could wind up being the Cal defense, which is poised to be even better than last year's unit under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
"We led the conference in total defense and pass defense last year, and I think we have the ability to maybe be even better on defense this year," Tedford said. "Two reasons: one is our players are more comfortable with our system, secondly, because Clancy is more comfortable with college football. Clancy will admit that last year -- if you watch the NFL, it all looks the same every Sunday -- in college football, one week you have the spread, the next week you have the pistol, the next week you have a downhill track game, so having the variation of offenses in college football, Clancy has studied in the offseason, and I think he feels pretty comfortable on how he wants to attack that. I think our players have a great understanding and a feel for what he wants to do. Our defense did a great job in spring football, and I think they're very comfortable with what's going on."
Leading the way, of course, will be senior inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who has slid to the inside after excelling in the pass rush last season because of the wealth of young talent rising through the ranks.
"We have a lot of team speed on defense, even though we lost three great players on defense," Tedford said, referring to defensive end Cameron Jordan, Chris Conte and Mike Mohamed, who were taken in the NFL Draft. "I think we still have the ability to be a very good defense."
Tedford said that this year's incoming freshman class is perhaps the most ready-to-play bunch that he's seen on the defensive side of the ball.
"I think most of them are going to have the opportunity to contribute. There's a lot of guys in the defensive front," Tedford said. "The two corners, for sure, the two-to-three corners for sure, are, I would say -- Joel Willis, Kameron Jackson and Stefan McClure -- I think those three guys are going to be in the mix from day one. They were recruited to come and play right now. We don't have a lot of depth at the corner position, so that was the key, and we feel like we have three really good guys there."
Up front, Viliami Moala has already impressed in the weight room.
"The other guys like Moala, Moala is a guy who is physical enough to play right away, but you have to be mentally, physically and emotionally ready to play this game. Physically, the guy should be ready to play," Tedford said. "We've got to get his weight down a little bit. He came in a bit overweight, so we have to get his weight down a little bit, and besides that, he can run and he can play … Brennan Scarlett, Todd Barr, Jason Gibson, all of those, and I'm just naming a few, are guys that can compete right away."
Tedford said that all members of the 2011 class are expected to report to camp. The last lingering thread was Laney College transfer C.J. Anderson, but he has finished his coursework and will report to camp on Friday. Anderson will add some much-needed depth at the tailback position. Tedford said that, "right now," junior Isi Sofele is the No. 1 back.
"This is the first year we haven't gone into a season with a proven tailback, for a long time that I can remember," Tedford said. "We've always had a 1,000-yard rusher coming back at tailback. We have a guy [Sofele] who has some experience, but not a lot of production. With Shane leaving early, and so that is really a focus on where we're going, to find out what's the magic number -- two, three, four -- how many guys are going to be in the rotation."
One of those will likely be true freshman Brendon Bigelow, who is seeing his knee rehab proceed apace as he moves closer to his first collegiate camp.
"Bigelow is, from my understanding, the rehabilitation is coming along well," Tedford said. "We're going to have to watch him closely and it may be the type of thing where we'll limit his reps to bring him along, but from my understanding he's looking great with that, and so I think we're going to have to rely on some of the new guys to create some depth there. Who knows? We'll see as camp goes, how much playing time they're really going to get."
"Covaughn was overweight, so he needed to lose some weight, and we have to find out where he is, when he gets back, make sure he's healthy, and then Dasarte, of course, had a torn ACL. He's coming off of that. How he comes back off of that, we won't know yet," Tedford said. "Mike Manuel, if we had to set a depth chart after spring ball, it would have been Isi and Mike Manuel, who would have been the starting two tailbacks."
Yarnway is reportedly fully recovered from offseason ACL surgery, as are the majority of players who had to go under the knife. Senior offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz was on hand for the media day activities, and looked quite svelte, himself after undergoing back surgery.
"It was pretty tough sitting out, but I'm excited right now for camp, actually," Schwartz said. "It's been a while for me, and I'll get to have some live reps and full contact, so I'm looking forward to it. It'll be fun. I just had to get a little procedure to clear some junk out, but it's getting there."
Part of Schwartz's quick recovery has been thanks to new strength and conditioning coach Mike Blasquez.
"The strength and conditioning program's been great for everybody," Schwartz said. "Everybody looks better, everybody's doing well. I don't think it was a deficiency before, but this is just a little more on top. Coach Blasquez definitely brings more to the table.
"Before, I don't think we were out of shape last year, but the way he runs things, it's a lot better for the younger guys, the way he pushes us and the way we get better as a team. The older guys kind of understand the responsibility, but it helps to have the mentality of picking up the younger guys and forcing them to do the stuff they don't want to do, and that's what's really going to help."
Schwartz will man the left edge of the offensive line, and junior Matt Summers-Gavin will hold down the right to start camp. The coaching staff had fiddled with flipping the two because of the fact that Maynard slings it from the port side, but that's now gone by the wayside.
"We talked about that [flipping them]. We talked about that, but we're not going to do that," Tedford said. "The reason why we're not going to do that is because, on the defensive side of the ball, typically their best pass rusher is their right end. That's typically a right-hander's back side. We're going to keep our best tackle on their best defensive end.
"I'm not so sure the back side is the problem. I think the front side is as much of an issue as the back side. People coming from behind you, you don't see them half the time, and after you throw the ball, you get hit, but the guy that causes more errant throws is the guy who's coming in your face. He doesn't even have to hit you to do that."
Tedford also set out the top offensive line group as it currently stands, between Schwartz and Summers-Gavin.
"Matt Summers-Gavin is doing fine, as far as I know. He was injured a little bit in the spring, missed some spring ball, but he'll probably start off at tackle and then we'll see how that works. When you look at the line for the experience, he's one of the guys who has the most experience," Tedford said. "If you put Brian Schwenke at one guard and Justin Cheadle at the other, Summers-Gavin, you have Schwartz, Schwenke, Cheadle, Summers-Gavin, you've got four guys who've played a lot of football right there, and then we insert the center, being Dominic Galas, who played some last year, we'll see how that works. The nice thing about that is that you have to find your eight to nine guys who have that chemistry that can move around, a guard that can play tackle, a guard that can play center, because if injuries start getting after you, what's the chemistry, how do you move those guys around, but Matt definitely is a guy who has the experience to play a lot of different positions."
Schwartz is once again under the tutelage of the coach who recruited him in Jim Michalczik, and he couldn't be happier. Back in January, he told the father of two of his current teammates -- Craig Rigsbee -- that the boys on the line, "needed a little M back in our lives." Now, he's gotten his wish.
"It's been awesome, it's just been awesome," said Schwartz. "The attention to detail, the perfectionist attitude that he brings, it's great for us. We'll do something, and it'll end up as a good result, but we didn't do it the right way, and he gets on you for that. That's the type of thing you need for the offensive line, that attention to detail."
Schwartz isn't the least bit worried that he'll have a quarterback behind him in Maynard who can make just as many plays with his legs as he can with his left arm. All the focus so far has been on being assignment-perfect.
"It doesn't affect anything for the offensive line," Schwartz said. "We still have our jobs. Our priority is blocking for the running back. All those replays you guys see, he just reads the defensive end and it's kind of a one-man thing where he'll take off if he has a good opportunity, so we're blocking for the running back. You can't anticipate something happening. You'll anticipate one thing and then another thing happens and it'll be a bad play. It's great to have a quarterback who can escape a little if things break down in pass protection and somebody's not open, he can scramble and get down field."
While Schwartz had to be limited through much of spring, so did firecracker center Galas, who has picked up a reputation as quite a mauler in the trenches.
"It's always good when you have to pull a guy back a little," Schwartz smiled. "It's great. It sets an attitude for the whole offensive line, and I think you saw that with Alex Mack. He's in the same type of way, just punishing guys and demolishing people. It sets a great attitude for everybody to pick up your game, to get up on that leader board for knockdowns."
Mack, of course, is 6-foot-4, while Galas is about 6-foot-1 in spikes, on concrete, if you like him.
"That is true," Schwartz laughed. "But, he's got that natural leverage. He's very explosive. Being short's not the worst thing for an offensive lineman. You've got to play low, so he's got a little more leverage. He's a great athlete. He wrestled in high school, so he's really flexible. His hand strength, if he locks on to you, I've seen a few holding calls, but if he locks on to you, you're not getting out."