Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Last season, the Maryland Terrapins came
out of nowhere under a first-year coach and shocked the college football
world, winning the ACC title and earning a spot in a BCS Bowl game. Ralph
Friedgen promised a new brand of football, but few expected that new brand to
pay immediate dividends. That however, is exactly what happened, as Maryland
went 10-1 in the regular season and became the first team other than Florida
State since 1992 to capture the ACC crown outright. Although he was a handed a
loaded team, down the road in the Sunshine State, another first-year coach
completed an unprecedented season, as Larry Coker took his Hurricanes to the
pinnacle of the college football world, capturing a national title.
Two perfect examples of what can be achieved in a short period of time. Now
that the blueprint has been laid out on achieving unlimited success in the
initial season of a coach's tenure, who, if anyone, will follow that plan to
college football Nirvana in 2002?
My money is on the Jeff Tedford and the California Golden Bears.
The team from Berkeley has long been a forgotten player in the Pac-10 and for
good reason. The Golden Bears haven't posted a winning season since 1993 and
haven't won the Pac-10 title in an eon. Following one .500 season under now
San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci (6-6), it was supposed to be Tom
Holmoe that carried the torch and furthered the team's progress into the new
millennium. However, Holmoe's tenure lasted just five seasons, as he posted a
16-39 record from 1997-2001 (.291 winning percentage). A brutal 1-10 campaign
a year ago was the last nail in the coffin and Holmoe was sent packing.
Enter Jeff Tedford.
The former Oregon offensive coordinator certainly built a reputation as a
a builder of top-notch talent at the quarterback position. A former Fresno
State star at the quarterback position, Tedford has turned Fresno State
(1992-97), Oregon (1998-2001) and even the Calgary Stampeders (1989-91) into
offensive juggernauts, during his coaching career. Some of the top QB
talent that he has helped mold includes Joey Harrington, Trent Dilfer, David
Carr and Akili Smith (all high NFL Draft picks). Tedford certainly played a
big role in Oregon's continual rise to national prominence over the last few
years. From 1997-2001, the Ducks posted a Pac-10 best 38-10, including an 11-1
record a year ago. With not much more to prove as an assistant, the perfect
job opened up in Berkeley. A team that should be competitive in the
conference, as well as on the national scene, simply wasn't.
Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears are averaging 50.0 points per game thus far, while allowing just 19.0.
When asked coming into the season about the new look Bears in 2002, Tedford
was specific about what he wanted to accomplish on both sides of the football.
"We are installing a multiple, diverse offense that will utilize many
formations. We want to stay balanced in the run and the pass and we want to be
an attacking offense that will dictate to the defense."
On the new 4-3 defense, Tedford said, "We will stress to our players that
they need to understand their assignments and swarm to the football. We also
will need to limit big plays and create turnovers."
After three games this year, it is obvious that the players have bought into
Last season, the Golden Bears struggled to an 0-10 start, before registering
their first win in the season-finale against lowly Rutgers. The team averaged
just 17.6 points per game, while allowing 46.3. This season, the pendulum has
shifted and California is the team dishing out the punishment on both sides of
Tedford's team is averaging 50.0 points per game thus far, while allowing just
19.0. The Bears are getting it done on the ground (120.0 ypg) and through the
air (260.3 ypg). The same big plays that cost the team in almost every game
last season, are the ones the Bears are now executing to perfection. The team
has turned the ball over only twice in the first three games, while forcing 12
turnovers in their favor.
There is no flashy All-American type on the offensive side of the football,
but rather a unit that executes to near perfection each and every snap.
Quarterback Kyle Boller isn't a show-stopper like Joey Harrington or David
Carr, but the 6-4, 225-pound senior knows his job and gets the most out of
himself and his teammates. Boller has completed over 60 percent of his passes
this year (61.5) for 625 yards and seven TDs, with just one interceptions in
91 pass attempts. The receiving corps reflects the team's leadership. Hard
workers that run proper routes and take what the defense gives them. Geoff
McArthur leads the team with 18 receptions, for 178 yards and one TD, followed
by Jonathan Makonnen (10 catches, for 109 yards). LaShaun Ward is the player
that extends defenses when Boller goes up top. Ward has nine receptions, for
166 yards (18.4 ypc) and a team-high three TDs. Balancing out the passing game
is tailback Joe Igber on the ground. The smallish veteran (5-9, 180) makes the
most of his opportunities and leads the team in rushing (260 yards), averaging
5.0 ypc and 86.7 ypg. Igber is also a valuable option coming out of the
backfield with nine catches and two TD receptions thus far. The offensive line
does not feature a single starter over 300 pounds, but bigger is not always
better. This offensive front has done a solid job keeping pressure off of
Boller (three sacks allowed) thus far.
Tedford stressed making plays on the defensive side of the football and there
has certainly not been a shortage of those this season. The Bears have forced
12 turnovers in the first three games, with six interceptions and six fumble
recoveries. The team's +10 turnover ratio is a harsh contrast to last season's
Pac-10 worst -17. The unit has been fierce in passing situation, with 10 sacks
thus far, led by senior defensive end Tully Banta-Cain. The 6-4, 260-pound
senior is beginning to look a lot like former Cal All-American Andre Carter.
The opposition has had fits with Banta-Cain this season, as the rush
specialist has recorded an unbelievable six sacks thus far. Nine of his 11
tackles on the season have come in the opposition's backfield. Currently tied
for seventh on the school's all-time sacks list (19.5), Banta-Cain need just
11.5 more to tie Carter for the all-time career record. An aggressive
secondary makes Banta-Cain's job a lot easier, led by safeties Nnamdi Asomugha
(team-high 16 tackles) and Bert Watts (14 tackles) and cornerbacks James
Bethea (12 tackles, team-high three interceptions) and Jemeel Powell (12
tackles, two interceptions). The four all play the run well, filling the gaps
and forcing teams to have to throw the football. Thus far, California is
holding opponents to just 111.7 yards per game on the ground (2.8 ypc) and the
secondary's willingness to make tackles is a big part of that success.
Although the team destroyed both Baylor (70-22) and New Mexico State (34-13)
to start the season, few pundits gave the Bears any respect. The old saying
that "respect is earned" is something Jeff Tedford takes to heart. He got his
team fired up for its showdown with nationally-ranked Michigan State this past
week. In East Lansing, Tedford's team definitely earned its respect, with a
rout of the Spartans (46-22). The victory sent MSU tumbling out of the top-25,
while propelling the Bears into the national rankings for the first time since
With the huge win over the Spartans, the Golden Bears have gone from an enigma
to a bona fide contender. California will sneak up on absolutely no one from
this point on.
Last season, Washington State made Pac-10 stalwarts Oregon, Washington, USC
and UCLA make room at the top of the standings. This season, Jeff Tedford and
the Golden Bears are trying to do the same.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at email@example.com.