I went to hear Jeff Tedford speak last Wednesday on the 2008 recruiting class and the state of the program. I took more notes than during all of Poli Sci 2, so three years from now, when you’re wondering why Kamaron Yancy is starting at cornerback, you can pull up this post and read that he has "quick hips" and that he’ll "come up and hit you" (quotes are straight from the horse’s mouth. Horse = Tedford). Before I delve much deeper into our newest bears (Who spent the night wandering Telegraph? Why did Cal really recruit Dominic Galas? Which recruit has a "big ‘ol booty?" And more!) or the rest of our program (What other teams wanted our new assistant coaches? Who is banged up heading into spring ball? Why Nasty Nate wasn’t as bad as you remember.), I want make a quick comment on my Valentine’s rendezvous with Ragnarok.
Like me, many of you think ill of UCLA. Their achievements in men’s tennis and volleyball nonwithstanding, I generally have little respect or goodwill for our posing, imitating, and academically inferior relatives to the south. The one caveat of my disdain is their theatre and performing arts department, which I will grudgingly admit is superior to our own (the counter argument: who cares about theatre? I do, but I still think it’s a good argument). Cal fans, hang your heads in shame no longer. As Ragnarok and I were sarcastically yelling at the TV, who should walk in and lean on the rail next to us but Tony Taccone. Who is Tony Taccone? Only the artistic director of the Tony award winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre! Apparently Tony did his graduate work at Cal and is a big fan (you’d have to be to take time out of rehearsing Princess Leia to come watch Cal lose to Arizona again). He’s not just a casual fan, either: he knew all of the players and clearly understood basketball beyond the typical "Damn, they scored? Why didn’t we stop them!"
Take that UCLA. You may have the location and the prestige, but I doubt Carol Burnett or Detective Benson are loyal enough to follow the baby bears through lean times. And before you bring this contention to the obvious next step, let me stop you: I’ve seen Carol play ball at the RSF, and she is good, not great.
Decent handle, but no jumper outside 18 feet.
And after 300 words, on to actual content:
This is the third year I’ve attended the Tedford recruiting recap and it was a little smaller than last years crowd. I think this was due more to the last minute organizing than to the team’s decline, but you never know. What it wasn’t less of was nerdy. It is always very, very nerdy. I took solace in the fact that, at least outwardly, I was far closer to the grungy hipster end of the spectrum. I was also the only twenty-something in the room, and I realized that I was surrounded by glimpes of my future. This was less heartening.
The evening started with video interviews of a few of our higher profile recruits (Marvin Jones, Covaughn Deboskie, and Marc Anthony, among others). Marvin Jones, the prize of the five incoming receivers, visited during the OSU tragedy and committed shortly thereafter. Go figure. He liked what he saw from Riley ("He put on a show,") and put the final scramble into far better perspective than I ever could ("That last play was a bummer").
Cyberbear legend MoragaBear introduced Tedford, remarking that JT and his staff "never talk down about other programs." Recruiting is often a dirty game, so this is something we Cal fans can feel good about. Tedford graduates his players, doesn’t ingnore major NCAA violations, and refuses to trash other programs, all while winning a bunch of games. If I have a son, his name will be Theodore Ford CBKWit.
Tedford took the podium and gave a brief introduction about his perspective on recruiting. While the trend is to secure very early commitments from top players (in some cases, because you know your record last year was a fluke), JT prefers to "do the evaluations right and go through the process." He likes seeing how recruits perform at camps and in their final high school year, and does not hand out a plethora of early offers. Of course, this may lead to Cal missing the boat on a few five star prospects, but the diligence and thorough evaluation pays off when he finds players below the radar (on Alex Mack: "I don’t think he had a star").
Beyond talent, Tedford is also careful to consider the attitude and personality of his potential players. He noted the obvious but important fact that "not every kid is the right fit for Cal," and he is honest about what they should expect in Berkeley: "No smoke and mirrors, or they will end up transferring". His number one selling point, as he said it has been since he arrived, is Cal’s academic prestige.
Tedford’s looking for the right kind of player.
Tedford said he is "excited" about the incoming class because it "addressed our needs," though he cautions that it’s too early to evaluate the players: "I never really know until they get here". The most obvious need addressed was at receiver, and Cal brought in four high school players and one junior transfer. Beyond sheer numbers, the element that stands out in the group is size. JT is excited to have receivers who can "block and catch the ball over the middle," and made a clear choice not to "just go for speed - go for size and speed".
Who are these receivers? Did we sign anyone who plays a different position? (hint: yes). Stay tuned for more on our youngest bears.