Fraternizing with the Enemy: A Q&A with California Golden Blogs

BERKELEY CA - NOVEMBER 13: A general view taken from the hill overlooking the California Memorial Stadium during the Oregon Ducks game against the California Golden Bears at on November 13 2010 in Berkeley California.

Cal Week is always a fun week because we get to catch up with our old friends and colleagues at California Golden Blogs. Kodiak, Berkelium97, Ohio Bear, and TwistNHook were kind enough to answer my questions; I answered their questions in a cocky, hubris-filled manner, and you can find that HERE.

ATQ: Zach Maynard: is he a legit talent that is just coming into his own, or is his completion percentage (52.2) about his ability level?

Kodiak:  He definitely has potential, but it's unknown whether he'll get more consistent/more accurate with further coaching.  Normally, you'd think so - I'm not sure if you'll see that developmental leap until next year.  If you take out the easy drops (not the QBs fault), I think he was completing somewhere closer to 60%.  What makes us all excited is that he seems to play his best on 3rd down and shows a mental toughness that has been sadly absent from Cal signal-callers the last several years.

Berkelium97: He is much better than his completion percentage (see his 7.8 ypa, 10-3 TD to interception ratio, and 268 yards per game).  It's fair to say he is exceeding expectations so far.  Though he demonstrated some worrisome traits in the first few games (trying too hard to make a pass out of nothing, poor footwork at times, throwing an interception in each game), these issues did not come up very much at Washington.  He has been inaccurate at times (see that 52.2 completion percentage), though.  What most stands out about him is his resilience and ability to convert plays in though situations.  He led some impressive fourth-quarter drives against Colorado and UW and has an ability to excel in situations where previous Cal QBs have folded.

ATQ: Is there a true third option in the passing game, or will it be a two-man show come Thursday?

Berkelium97: We have a talented stable of receivers, but it is probably going to be another case of the Allen and Jones show.  Our tight end Anthony Miller has tremendous potential, but has not made much of an impact.  Perpetually injured senior Michael Calvin is finally healthy, but he hasn't put together the solid season we have been expecting since he joined the program.  Speedy senior Coleman Edmond hasn't done much.  And one of our young talents, Kaelin Clay, has been dealing with academic issues.  If you shut down Allen and Jones (much easier said than done), you should win this one easily.

Kodiak: Michael Calvin has developed into a reliable option as a 3rd WR, but they don't throw to him very often.  Miller has largely underwhelmed relative to the potential he flashed earlier in his career.  He's inconsistent, but has the size and hands to be a credible target, particularly in the red zone.  We've also shown a tendency to split our backs out wide and will throw to them if we like the match-ups against slower LBs.  Considering your team speed, I'm not sure how much the backs will be part of the game plan as receivers.  Spencer Hagan is a converted WR playing TE/HBack who reportedly has great hands in practice, but we also haven't thrown to him very often.  Shut down KA/Jones and it's over for us.

ATQ: Who are the Golden Bears' playmakers on defense that Duck fans should be aware of?

Kodiak:  Mychal Kendricks is the only player who has been a consistent playmaking threat.  Our corners have been better this year, but aren't exactly lock-down or ball-hawking types.  Safety play has been pretty bad and prone to all sorts of coverage breakdowns.  And, no one has emerged on the Dline to take over for Cam Jordan.  We have some young athletes who could eventually develop into playmakers, but they might still be a year away.  OLBs McCain and Whiteside are the most likely to stop someone for a loss...then miss an assignment and give up a big gain the very next play.

ATQ: Giorgio. Nervous?

Kodiak:  We're Cal fans.  We're always nervous.  Giorgio was actually tough as nails against UW.  But, until he kicks one with the game on the line, I think we'll all still hold our breath.

TwistNHook:  I think that he's kicking better this year than last.  He has had some trouble on a few XPs, but his kick offs seem better and he is doing great on field goals.  Still, doubts linger.

If Jeff Tedford were an ice cream flavor, what flavor would he be and why?

Kodiak:  He'd be vanilla, but it would be made from beans thrice sanctified under the moonlight from the top of the holy hidden mountain and hand-churned by singing virgins.  Plain and simple from all appearances, but containing a depth of complex flavors that comes at a high price.

ATQ: Will we see more of the "Cover Zero" that worked so well in 2010, or will Clancy Pendergast have a completely new look to stymie the Oregon offense?

Berkelium97:  This is certainly something to keep an eye on this year.  We had a strong NFL talent in the D-line, among the LBs, and in the secondary last year.  They all played big roles in shutting down the Oregon offense.  I'm just not sure we have the right combination of talent and experience this year.  Players described last year's defense against Oregon as one predicated on experience and trust that each player will do his job.  With so much youth on this year's defense, I'm not sure if we can rely on players to do their jobs as consistently as they did last year.  This will be a big test of the young OLBs to stay disciplined (they have been hit or miss so far).  Whether Clancy runs the cover zero or does something to accommodate this team's strengths/weaknesses is something to keep an eye on.  Thankfully, we used the bye week to run an extra pair of practices to prep for Oregon.

The run defense has been stellar so far while the pass defense has ranged from mediocre to poor.  If Thomas goes Masoli '09 on us and passes for 800 yards, we will be in big trouble.

Kodiak:  We'll play some Cover Zero because Coach Pendergast likes that package.  Unfortunately, I don't think we have the personnel to make it work this year.  Our safeties can't match-up one on one with speedy wideouts, our inexperienced OLBs have trouble covering TEs or picking up backs, and our Dline can't generate pressure on its own.  Oddly enough, our most effective scheme has been the "bend, but don't break" rush three/drop eight into coverage look that was so vilified by fans when Bob Gregory was our defensive coordinator.  

Considering that Chip Kelly found some clever counters to Cover Zero that screened off our safeties last year, I don't expect that we'll be able to go with it exclusively even if we wanted to.  So far this year, we've run a lot of Cover One with some occasional Cover Two or Three depending on the down/distance.

On the rare occasion that I've seen the Oregon offense slowed, it's usually because the opposing Dline is able to dominate the line of scrimmage and shut down the run without having to over-commit LBs and safeties in run support.  I don't think we have the horses to do that.  But, I suspect we'll play tight press coverage on the outside, stack the box, and dare Thomas to beat us over the top.

ATQ: Is Isi Sofele still solidly the #1 running back, or has CJ Anderson made enough noise to get an increased workload?

Kodiak:  Isi knows the playbook and all the protections, so he's still the #1 back.  I'd expect CJ Anderson to get more carries as he continues to earn the coaches confidence.  Hard to say yet which one of them is the better back.  They both offer different looks to the defense and would be most effective as a thunder/lightning tandem.

ATQ: Do the rumors of another retro-inspired uniform bring back bad memories of 2009?

Berkelium97:  As long as you don't wear those hideous uniforms from the LSU game, we'll be happy.

Kodiak:  I don't remember 2009.

TwistNHook:  Why would we have bad memories of 2009?  Didn't we win that game 42-3 and then I was carried off the field by my legions of adoring fans? What kind of retro unis are the Ducks considering this year?  Are they going to do retro uniforms to 2009?  That is exactly like something Oregon would do.  "Remember when we wore these in a victory over Arizona in 2009?  Let's do that again!  So retro!"

ATQ: But seriously...come on...you guys....gonna "fake" any injuries? Are ya? Are ya?

OhioBear:  Personally, I plan to fake injury at home so my wife might let me watch the game in peace lying on the couch instead of expecting me to do household chores with the game on.

Kodiak:  I'm thinking of developing carpal tunnel before my post-game write-up is due.  Don't tell Twist.

TwistNHook:  Whatever it takes to get SBNation to pay me work disability!

Berkelium97:  You know, this is something I have been wanting to address at length.  It was not just the Bears; several other teams faked injuries including Stanford and ASU.  Even Burfict faked an injury!  While many blame the pace of the Oregon offense, a side effect (intentional or not) is that defenses do not have time to substitute players before Oregon snaps the ball.  If the Ducks try to prevent teams from substituting, are opponents justified in faking injuries to allow for substitions?  Let us consider some facts about the matter.  First...man...you guys are asking a lot of questions.  And they're all one after another with no break. Phew, I'm getting winded.  Where was I?  Right, the fake injuries were...you know what, my wrist is cramping up. I. I just can't finish this answer.  I gotta get this wrist worked on for a few minutes.  Once I'm done, I promise I'll have a good explanation for the fake injuries.

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