I’m bad at intros. I never know how to start things. I always try to think of some nice smooth way to start a post without it being awkward but I never am successful. So I’ll just jump right in and tell you what this post is about.
This is the first of four posts that will chronicle how Tedford’s offense has changed since he’s been here.
Many of you have probably been following Cal Football long before I. I came to Cal in 2002. Lucky me. I came in with Tedford. I’ll be honest. Back then I didn’t follow the Cal Football team to the extent that I do now. In 2002 I merely watched. In 2003 I watched with an deep interest. In 2004 I watched with a purpose. It was in 2004 that I really started to take note of the Cal offense. Maybe it was because I had watched Tedford’s offense for 3 years. Maybe it’s because that’s when I realized I wanted to document what one of the greatest offensive minds in college football was doing and how he was changing things from year to year. So from that point on I’ve been sort of following the Cal Football offense. I guess it’s my hobby. When I’m in class and the professor is blabbering about something called caveat emptor, I’m thinking about Tedford’s personnel and formational tendencies. Xs and Os run through my mind. I draw up how Cal’s run blocking might take on a 3-4 defense, or a 4-3 Under, or a 5-2. I ponder why Tedford doesn’t do a certain type of run from shotgun any more. Or why Tedford likes to run a strong-I now instead of a regular I-formation. My friends at school make fun of me. They can tell when I’m thinking about football. I stare into space looking at the walls the ceilings pondering things. My female friend will whisper to me, "HydroTech, are you footballing?" I won’t respond. Often my friends will have to snap their fingers in front of me to get my attention. "Uh yeah, I was footballing. Is it that obvious?" They’ll nod.
So I hope to show in this post and the following three how our offense has changed. I hope to show what additions I’ve seen to the offense over the years. Most of what I will show are just new formations which have popped up over the years but there will be a few new blocking schemes which I’ve noticed too. What I show certainly isn’t all-inclusive. Afterall, I am lacking a lot from the 2002 and 2003 seasons. But I’ve definitely noticed a lot of changes, as I’m sure many of you readers have too. Cal has been through quite an offensive evolution in the past few years. We went from the Tedford/Cortez years, to the Dunbar year, to the Tedford year, and now to the Cignetti year(s).
This first post is about the Tedford/Cortez years - that’s 2002-2005.
[EDIT: The following photos are from screen captures of TV broadcasts.]
So I guess the first thing I need to do in order to show how the offense has changed is to show how it started out. It started out with a very traditional pro style offense. Lots of the same stuff you’d see on TV when watching NFL games. Lots of 2 back formations, lots of 2 TE formations, lots of 2 back and 2 TE formations.
Below is an example of the Strong-I formation. This formation features 2 WRs, 1 RB, 1 FB and 1 TE. The FB lines up behind the guard on the side of the TE. This formation has been used a lot more frequently lately but I believe we did use it back in the Cortez days. This is a popular formation to run out of since it features strength on one side of the offense. The strength of the offense is formed by putting the TE and the FB to the same side. In the picture below the strength is to the offense’s right.
Below is a photo of an Ace formation. This formation uses 2 WRs, 2 TEs, and 1 RB. Tedford has always used personnel sets with 2 TEs in it. Sometimes the TEs will both be to the same side of the offense. Other times they won’t. Some times the TEs will both be on the line of scrimmage (LOS) and sometimes one won’t. In the picture below the second TE is off the LOS. This formation gives the offense balance when it places a TE on the LOS on both sides of the offensive line (OL). The offense can run in either direction. In the picture below, the second TE is off the LOS probably for motion or blocking purposes. Because the offense has traded a second TE for the fullback, the offense does not have a lead blocker on running plays (unless they pull a guard or something).
In the picture below, we again see the Ace formation. But this time both TEs are on the LOS. This brings about that balance I was talking about. The offense is equally distributed to both sides of center and are just as much of a threat to run right or left.
In the picture below, the offense is in a Weak-I formation. This formation is "weak" because it places the fullback behind the guard on the opposite side of the TE. In this case, the TE is to the QB’s left and the fullback is to the QB’s right behind the right guard. Additionally, the offense has put both WRs to one side as "twins." In this photo they are to the same side of the TE.
In the picture below, the offense is in a Strong-I formation but unlike the previous Strong-I photo (the first photo) this time the offense has twin WRs to the opposite side of the TE instead of 1 WR on each side of the offense. So the TE and fullback are to the QB’s right, and both WRs are to the QB’s left.
Below is a photo from this year’s spring game of a 3 WR set. The QB is in shotgun, which is something Tedford and Cortez rarely did pre-Dunbar. So just imagine the QB under center and the RB 7 yards behind the QB.
Here is an actual screen capture from 2003 of a 3 WR set from under center (shown below). Note there are two WRs to the QB’s right and 1 TE and 1 WR to the QB’s left. This is more or less just an Ace formation with the offense subbing that 2nd TE for a 3rd WR. The offense is probably hoping to get that slot WR (the one standing directly on the hash marks) to be covered by a slower safety or linebacker.
On occasion, Tedford and Cortez liked to move around the runningback in the backfield too. Below is a picture of a 3 WR set with the RB not directly behind the QB. In this picture, the RB is in a "strong" position because he’s to the side of the strength (the side with the TE).
And Tedford and Cortez even occasionally went with 4 WR sets from under center. Of course, the big threat here is that you have 4 really fast guys on the field all of whom are catch specialists. This is mostly a passing formation since you have so few blockers but Tedford and Cortez would get tricky and sometimes run out of this personnel set and formation. In the picture below, notice how there are 2 WRs on each side of the OL. I cannot remember, but it’s possible that Tedford and Cortez put 3 WRs to one side and only 1 WR to the other - that’s just another way to vary the formation but keeping the same personnel set.
Finally, Tedford and Cortez also used very strong running formations with 2 backs and 2 TEs. In the picture below, there are TEs on both sides of the OL along with 1 FB and 1 RB in the backfield. Obviously, this is a pretty threatening run formation with all those blockers instead of WRs.
Anyways, that’s how things started off under Tedford/Cortez - as a pro-style offense. All those TV color commentators always used the words "pro-style" when describing Tedford’s offense, and well, it’s a pretty honest description. There’s nothing too radical or "gimmicky" here (although, nothing in football is really "gimmicky." Often, the term "gimmick" is used to denigrate an unconventional offense that is very successful in its unconventional ways but as long as the offense is legal then ’sall good). The Tedford/Cortez offense had no shotgun zone reads, no Air Force-like triple options, no wishbone formations, no bunch or stack formations. I wouldn’t say the offense was vanilla since there was plenty of variety, but it certainly wasn’t Rocky Road.
But then in 2006 things really changed. That year Tedford brought in spread offense genius Mike Dunbar and the Cal offense definitively made a move from the pro-style to the spread end of the spectrum.
Part II to be continued in a few days…