Pac-10 previews: Berkeley a football mecca?
California coach Jeff Tedford looked out at the Memorial Stadium Field, a place where his very inexperienced football team was beginning...
Special to The Seattle Times
BERKELEY, Calif. — California coach Jeff Tedford looked out at the Memorial Stadium Field, a place where his very inexperienced football team was beginning a day of summer camp, and then offered a synopsis of life in Berkeley in 2005.
"There's no better place to be than at Cal right now," he said.
Such a statement would have been comical if uttered by former California coaches Keith Gilbertson, Steve Mariucci and Tom Holmoe. After all, except for a couple of blips on the radar screen, Cal has been a second-division also-ran since Dwight Eisenhower was president.
The stadium has needed a major overhaul for years with a visitors' locker room the size of most stadiums' shower rooms, bleachers with splinters sharp enough to penetrate even the thickest Levi's, and coaches' offices without such supreme amenities as air conditioning.
Cal was a place that used to attract the occasional Kyle Boller or Andre Carter but more often than not had to make due with less. Making due meant losing with dignity.
Then came Tedford.
There still is no air conditioning in the stadium offices and the splinters are just as sharp. A stadium is being planned, but isn't expected to be started until the 2006 season is finished and it won't be completed until 2009. Bureaucracy hasn't changed much on campus, although current athletic director Sandy Barbour and former AD Steve Gladstone finally realized that football drives the athletic program. Paper clips are easier to come by.
2004: 10-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-10 (2nd). Lost to Texas Tech, 45-31, in the Holiday Bowl.
Coach: Jeff Tedford, 4th year, 25-13.
Playmakers: Sophomore tailback Marshawn Lynch averaged 8.8 yards a carry as a backup to senior J.J. Arrington, who gained more than 2,000 yards in 2004. On defense, senior Donnie McCleskey was a first-team All Pac-10 selection at rover in 2003 but played part-time last season because of injuries. He is healthy again and has 18 tackles for loss during his career.
But Cal is winning. There have been three straight winning seasons — the first time since Pappy Waldorf's boys had three consecutive winning seasons through 1952.
And around rolls 2005, a season in which Cal lost the nation's leading rusher in J.J. Arrington, a first-round NFL draft pick in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the university's all-time leading receiver in Geoff McArthur, one of the top tight ends in the conference in Garrett Cross, an All-American defensive end in Ryan Riddle and seven other starters on defense.
The West Coast media promptly picked Cal to finish second in the Pac-10.
"I am 100 percent confident that we have the talent on the field to get it done," he says.
So is Cal reloading the way USC and Washington used to on an annual basis?
The early returns seem to suggest the answer is yes.
Tedford replaced Arrington with sophomore Marshawn Lynch, who appears on most analysts' Heisman Trophy watch lists. Tedford plucked quarterback Joe Ayoob, a first-team JC Gridwire All-American, to follow in Rodgers' footsteps. DeSean Jackson, a Parade All-American who has looked nothing less than incredible in summer camp, is a freshman who immediately upgrades the receiving corps. Junior college transfer Lavelle Hawkins, originally an LSU signee, will move right into the starting lineup at wide receiver.
Most of the linebacking corps was wiped out, but the new ones are bigger and faster, including Worrell Williams, younger brother of D.J. Williams of the Denver Broncos.
Sophomore Thomas DeCoud, expected to be the team's starting free safety, grew up in Pinole, Calif., and watched Cal struggle for years. The solid players in the Bay Area wanted to attend USC and Florida State and Notre Dame. Not California.
That has changed, and DeCoud said he saw it coming when Tedford took over.
"I have always dreamed that I would be part of something special at Cal," DeCoud said. "But I didn't think we would be ranked No. 4 in the nation [where Cal was before losing to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl]. I'm glad I believed in coach Tedford."
Cal believes in Tedford as well, signing him to a five-year, $10 million contract (if he completes all five years and gets the $2 million bonus that Barbour called the "golden handcuffs") following the 2004 season.
|Bears should be rolling by the time they play Oregon and USC back to back in November.|
|Sept. 3||Sacramento State|
|Sept. 10||at Washingotn|
|Sept. 23||at New Mexico State|
|Oct. 8||at UCLA|
|Oct. 15||Oregon State|
|Oct. 22||Washington State|
|Nov. 5||at Oregon|
|Nov. 19||at Stanford|