The guys over at our Cal affiliate, The Band is out on the Field took the time out to answer some questions. You can read my answers to his questions over at TBIOOTF:
ATQ: Cal lost three all-league defensive players from last season, and the defense has looked rather porous, allowing teams such as Colorado State and Arizona to move the ball consistently. How is Cal going to stop Oregon's balanced spread attack?
TBIOOTF: Our defensive philosophy under Bob Gregory has always seemed to have been "Bend but don't break" and we regularly have been near the bottom of the conference in total defense while at or near the top in scoring defense. In the end, scoring defense is all that really matters, right?
To correct a factual error, neither Colorado State nor Arizona moved the ball with any consistency. CSU was shut down for the entire second half, before throwing two bombs that led to touchdowns in the last couple minutes against a backup corner. Arizona looked like absolute crap (remember we led 28-3 in the first quarter). Once we were firmly ahead, they looked better, but honestly the game was long over by then. Even Tennessee mounted no real rushing attack, and could only complete passes of 6 or less yards.
On the spread specifically, since facing Texas Tech in our ill-fated trip to the Holiday Bowl in 2004, we have made a concerted effort to learn to stop the spread, with pretty good results.
Honestly, at this point, I am happier facing a "balanced spread" attack than a team that would be throwing the ball in a traditional offense like Tennessee did to us.
ATQ: DeSean Jackson has looked mighty injured and mighty ordinary since the Tennessee game. Any reason to believe that will change this weekend?
TBIOOTF: Look, the argument against DeSean for Heisman is obvious - when you are a big play guy, there is a lot of random chance involved. He is kinda like a soccer forward - he often seems to lay low and be rather ordinary, until suddenly he is scoring a 80 yard touchdown out of nothing. (Which he did not just against Tennessee but on a reverse against CSU as well.)
The thumb is a major concern and clearly has been a lingering issue. He had a cast on it during the week of practice leading up to the Arizona game.
With a healthy thumb he is a much, much better receiver than people give him credit for. He actually has very good hands and is willing to take an enormous beating. With a good thumb.
ATQ: Complete the following sentence: at this time next year, Jeff Tedford will be coaching at _____. A) Michigan, B) Notre Dame, or C) LSU
TBIOOTF: C'mon, not bold enough to include (D) Oregon. I am sure he is itching to get back there as soon as you want him.
And no love for Bruins Nation. They are sure that Tedford will be headed to Pasadena. At this point, we have been through this five times already, and are pretty sure that he is here to stay.
ATQ Note: Despite the wished of some bone-headed Oregon fans, we won't be looking for a new coach this offseason. As for UCLA, I considered including them, but Bruins fans are too melodramatic, and I'm not sure that its really any better of a job than Cal. Might be a step down IMHO. I actally agree that he's probably in Berkeley for the long haul at this point. That is, if the hippies ever let the stadium remodel happen.
ATQ: Cal doesn't seem to be missing Marshawn Lynch a whole lot. Talk about the performance thus far of Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best.
TBIOOTF: Forsett has been a phenomenal leader, pretty much taking the team on his back against both Tennessee and Arizona. Tedford now has enough confidence in him that they used the "wildcat" formation, with Longshore as a receiver not once, not twice, but thrice against the Wildcats (hmmm...irony). Considering Forsett was a guy who came to Cal because he had his scholarship offer to Notre Dame revoked and we were the only school to offer him a scholarship, it is pretty hard to complain. The one concern is that he has missed part of two games with injuries. He had a stinger against CSU and a sore ankle against Arizona.
Getting me started talking about Best might be a bad idea.
First off, the guy is unquestionably the fastest player in NCAA Football. End of discussion - the fastest. He ran a 10.31 hundred meters in the Cal State Track Championship. He beat the second place guy by .17 seconds. Second and tenth were separated by only .1 seconds. DeSean best when in high school was a 10.6 something. Jahvid seems to go full speed everytime that he has the ball. Football wise, the guy ran for 3,325 yards and 48 Touchdowns as a senior. It is absolutely thrilling to watch him. If DeSean is transcendent as a punt returner, I think Best is that way as a running back.
ATQ: Give me any good reason why I should be scared of Nate Longshore.
TBIOOTF: Don't really have one. The guy hasn't put it together yet in a huge game in a hostile environment. While he is good, I wrote just last week that I didn't think that he had made any improvement from his sophomore year to his junior year.
ATQ: How is a Cal secondary without Daymeion Hughes not going to be eaten alive?
TBIOOTF: Our defensive backs are fairly good despite the wider perception. Thomas DeCoud will definitely be an NFL strong safety. True sophomore Syd'Quan Thompson will be considered one of the best corners in the nation by the time he graduates. He looked rock solid until last week when he got burned on two plays.
Hughes obviously was very good, but the unit as a whole is far more mature, healthy, and frankly better than they were at any point last season.
To be honest, we know what we are getting from our D - the more than occassional big defensive play, not too many points but giving up lots of yards. It is the offense that has people concerned.
ATQ: We all know that DeSean Jackson is someone that we probably don't want to punt to. Is there anything else we should know about your special teams?
TBIOOTF: We probably have the best overall special teams in the nation.
Best is going to break a kick return in the near future. He has been taking the ball past the 35 every time that he gets it. Not only that, Lavelle Hawkins returned the opening kickoff for a TD against Louisiana Tech.
Tom Schneider, who was probably a lock to be an All Pac-10 kicker, hurt his quad warming up against Tennessee. I don't know if he will be back this weekend. Thus far, Jordan Kay has been a more than acceptable replacement making three of four from beyond 40 yards.
Andrew Larsen is a pro quality punter.
After many years of bad special teams, it is weird to think of them as a strength.
ATQ: Here in Eugene, we are no stranger to hippies. But what's up with the tree sitters in your stadium?
TBIOOTF Let's just say, don't try to cut down trees you planted to build a new stadium over your existing one. You cannot build a World War I memorial and then rebuild it - that would be disrespectful. Especially if the site is an "ancient indian burial ground."
These people are a joke.
Our new training facility hasn't been delayed by them, but actually by a marginally more legitimate complaint from the neighbors who live above the rim of the stadium. Why you buy a house above a college football stadium only to complain that college football is being played there is beyond me.
Berkeley can really suck at times. Hopefully, Saturday is not one of those times.
Interestingly enough, as I emailed my answers back to TBIOOTF, Kevin told me that Cal fans wouldn't be happy with my answers (tell me about it) and that I needed to give their defense more respect. Again, its just that Cal's defense looks and sounds so much like our defense, and our defense just isn't very good.
Thanks to TBIOOTF for joining us. Here's to a great game on Saturday.