Last week, Jeff Tedford spoke at the 2008 Cal Football Recruit Review at the Bancroft Hotel. I was unable to attend. But lucky for us, CBKWit went and will be giving a full report as soon as he stops adding names to his already long list of sexual conquests.
Hi, I’m number 57 on CBKWit’s list.
Anyways, there’s been a lot of great Tedford quotes floating around from the recruiting event and I want to go over a few of them because I think they are revealing. I think careful reading of Tedford’s quotes is one of the best ways to understanding the man himself without picking his brain in a face to face conversation. I’m doing this because I feel like a lot of fans just plain ol’ miss these quotes because they don’t read newspapers or suscribe to certain online recruiting websites, or they do read the quotes but just don’t understand what Tedford is truly saying.
For example, Tedford dropped a couple of huge quotes to the media regarding the whole Longshore/Riley debate last year. Those quotes were published in local newspapers. Nevertheless, those quotes actually went relatively un-noticed by most fans considering the amount of "Why is Tedford playing Longshore?" remarks I saw on various Cal sports forums many weeks after publication (if you missed those quotes, you can see my thoughts on the the quotes here).
Anyways, let’s get to the quotes. Here’s the first one:
"There are a lot of things that we had to watch out for with Rob and DeSean (over the years)," Tedford said. "It’s a big physical game out there. Lavelle was our most physical guy but [this year’s WR recruits] are going to be able to block, get balls over top of people. We went for a little bit more height than speed in wide receiver core this year."
Here’s the translation: We didn’t send Robert Jordan and Desean Jackson over the middle for fear of injuries. The incoming freshman WRs are taller, thicker, and more physical. We hope to utilize the WRs more over the middle of the field next year.
Here’s some further analysis: A lot of astute fans did notice that Tedford did not pass over the short and moderate ranged middle of the field to the WRs last year. Instead lots of passes went outside the hashes to the WRs. Many fans took this as Tedford being conservative. Conservative in his offensive ideology? Not really. Conservative in the utilization of his personnel? Yes.
Jordan and Jackson were both probably at the most, 170 pounds. I know a few years ago, during Jackson’s sophomore year, there was a lot of hooplah about him gaining 5 pounds and moving from 165 to 170 pounds. Well, it’s highly doubtful that he maintained a weight of 170 pounds throughout the year. As most of you know, these guys work hard day in and day out. They can easily gain or lose 5 pounds a day from the workout regimine. 170 pounds was probably the high end of Jackson and Jordan’s fluctating playing weight. I think I can personally attest to this myself. My job duties often required me to enter the locker rooms. Inside the locker rooms they have a huge chart on the wall to monitor the players’ weights. The players are supposed to weigh themselves throughout the day, such as prior to and after practices for example. I saw these charts regularly. I saw the weight fluctations. Jackson probably wasn’t playing at 170 pounds. Maybe after dinner and before he took a crap.
So Tedford basically is admitting in the above quote that he limited his playcalling with regard to the WR patterns and how was running them. Hawk over the middle was okay. Jackson and Jordan - not so. This definitely limits the playbook. Tedford specifically decided to address this limitation by recruiting taller recruits this year. I think all but one of the incoming WRs is 6′2" or taller. With the addition of taller WRs, I would expect to see the return of slants, and other routes taking the WRs over the middle of the field against LBs and hard hitting safeties.
And the second quote:
In response to utilizing a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3 defense - "We need to utilize our strengths better, and one of our stronger suits is our linebacking core … when the Air Force game changed is when we went to a 3-4 … It put some our better talent on the field that can run around and make plays … I think we need to mix that up - mix up the 3-man front and the 4-man front. That’s in our package and we are going to continue to do that … The pass rush is key for us. We did not have as good a pass rush as we [needed] … [we need to see if we can get a pass rush] with 4 guys, which typically is very tough to do – the only team that can consistently do that in the Pac-10 is USC – so we do have to bring pressure; we have to zone blitz and mix it up."
Okay, there’s a lot here. Too much that a mere translation won’t do. So here’s the detailed analysis.
Tedford is saying our LB core is better than the DL. That’s the easy part. Now, he also says we’re going to continue to use the 3-4 defense. Yes, I said "continue." It may come to a suprise to some people, but Cal does and has used the 3-4 defense prior to the Air Force game. Now, this quote doesn’t really say that Cal will use the 3-4 defense more often. But CBKWit might have some comments regarding this since he was there. I personally would be EXTREMELY surprised if Cal made an actual switch from a base 4-3 defense to a base 3-4. But I wouldn’t be too surprised if we used the 3-4 more in certain situations (such as 3rd and long or against spread formations or shotgun-spread formations) as opposed to last year’s frequently used 3-3-5 defense. I personally wouldn’t really get your hopes up too much about seeing the 3-4 defense that much more. Gregory is still our DC and he still likes the 4-3. And besides, there’s been talk for the past few years about seeing the 3-4 defense more often. And have we? Not really.
Now the last part of the quote where Tedford references USC and their consistent pressuring of the QB with a four-man rush.
Go ahead and call me crazy, but I like the bend but don’t break defense (BBDB). In fact, I actually think it’s the PERFECT defense out there if you have the personnel to play it. Benefits: you can only rush four and get a pass rush, you can drop 7 into coverage, you force the offense to play flawlessly for the entire length of the field, and there a lot more options for defensive coverages with dropping 7 into coverage as opposed to 6 or 5.
Let me explain a little more. When Tedford references how he wants to figure out if he can get a pass rush with only 4 men, he’s talking about his desire to only rush 4 and about dropping 7 into coverage. Blitzing leaves you more vulnerable in the secondary because you’re taking pass defenders and having them attack the QB. Thus, there are fewer defenders in the secondary leaving you prone to deep completions and touchdowns (see Cal @ ASU in 2007).
Many teams blitz because they cannot mount a pass rush with just 4 men. Tedford says USC is one of the few teams that can get away without blitzing because they get such a substantial pass rush from 4 men. He’s right. Tedford wants our defense to be just as dominant and efficient as USC’s. Why is it efficient? Because, if you can get a great pass rush with only 4 men, why send 5 or 6 and leave yourself more vulnerable to the pass? Afterall, Pac-10 offenses, coaches, and QBs are generally pretty smart. They’ll see the blitz, hit the hot routes and dump the ball off to RBs on swings or to WRs in the holes vacated by blitzers. A perfect example of an opposing QB and offense from 2007 that would have destroyed us if we had blitzed - Erik Ainge and the Tennessee offense. Aside from a few blitzes, Cal was more than perfectly willing to not sack Ainge or even get much pass pressure in order to not give up long passes.
So for those of you who don’t want to see the BBDB next year, your nightmares just might come true if Cal is able to find 4 guys on the DL that can consistently mount a substantial pass rush. If Cal is able to find 4 guys for a four man rush, we’re going to see lots of BBDB.
But what if Cal isn’t able to? Well the question of whether to blitz or not becomes a little trickier. Obviously, blitzing leaves you prone to deep passes and big plays. Not blitzing can be just as ineffective because the QB has tons of time for the zone defenses to break down and for WRs to find seams or lose their defender. But I think the real determining factor is whether you have the personnel to blitz. Meaning, do you have the secondary defenders who can cover a receiver with little to no help (while most of the other defenders blitz)? If the answer is no, then you’re really like screwed because you don’t have the pass rushers to adequately pass rush, nor the coverage men to adequately cover. If the answer is yes, then you can blitz.
I think Cal’s defense in 2006 was a good example of a defense where we could blitz because we had the secondary defenders to adequately cover WRs without help. Namely Daymeion Hughes and his uncanny ability to intercept North Korean nuclear missles. With Dante, he essentially completely took 1 WR, and sometimes half a field, away from the offense. Because of that ability, the defense could blitz more without too much added fear of deep completions. But in 2007, Cal only had Syd’Quan Thompson, Brandon Hampton, and Chris Conte. All three have their strengths and weaknesses, but unfortunately all are a little more hit-and-miss when it comes to island defending (playing defense on an island by themselves). Because of their slightly spottier coverage skills (and I mean, most people do have spottier coverage skills when compared to Daymeion Hughes), I think Gregory was less inclined to blitz. I think that Gregory felt that the risk of blitzing outweighed the benefits.
Now this whole comparison of the risk of blitzing versus the benefits of blitzing can all be bypassed if Cal is able to get a substantial pass rush with only four men. And that’s what Tedford is talking about. He doesn’t even want to get to the point where he has to decide if he should blitz or not. He wants to be able not blitz but be able to get the same results as if he did.
Tedford does mention zone-blitzing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sending more than four pass rushers. You can still zone-blitz with four guys. So I wouldn’t interpret his mention of a zone-blitz meaning that he will send more than four pass rushers.
That’s all for now. CBKWit should have his report on the recruiting event sometime. Eventually. Maybe sometime before spring ball rolls around.