Spring football Q&A: California coach Jeff Tedford

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A lot has been going on at California during the offseason.

Running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best will sit out spring practices while recovering from foot and elbow surgery, though neither injury is considered serious.

Accomplished offensive line coach Jim Michalczik left to become Washington's offensive coordinator -- and then bolted for a post with the Oakland Raiders. He was replaced by Steve Marshall.

And, finally, offensive coordinator coach Frank Cignetti, after just one season in Berkeley, was hired for the same post at Pittsburgh.

Coach Jeff Tedford then quickly replaced Cignetti with Andy Ludwig, who'd just been hired away from Utah by Kansas State.

With all the transition on the offensive coaching staff, Tedford decided to delay the start of spring practice by four days, with practices now beginning on March 14.

Still, it seemed like a good time to check in with Tedford and get his thoughts on things heading into spring.

First, tell us about new offensive line coach Steve Marshall: How might his approach be different than the man he replaced, Jim Michalczik?

Jeff Tedford: Steve brings some great experience and knowledge from some of his college stops -- Tennessee, Virginia Tech, UCLA -- and then moving into the NFL, so he brings a great deal of knowledge and experience from all different backgrounds of offense. It's a great fit for what we're doing. Being a two-back offense, he comes from that background. I think it's a natural fit for him and for us. I also think he's going to bring an added dimension to our offense. Anytime you get new guys coming in there are going to be new ideas.

Same with Andy Ludwig: What does he bring to the staff that might be different?

Tedford: Not a whole lot is different to tell you the truth because there is a lot of familiarity there in our backgrounds. He followed me [as offensive coordinator] at Fresno State; he followed me to Oregon. We've been in touch a lot over the years. And, obviously, being a guy who just went 13-0 at Utah and beating Alabama in the bowl game, there's a couple of things that he brings -- some spread concepts -- that we've dabbled in a little bit. But the familiarity of our offense to him; he's not starting from scratch. More than anything he's going to bring some stability to the offense.

Any regrets about how things went at quarterback last year between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley?

Tedford: I don't think there are regrets. I just wish one of them would have taken it over. There were plenty of opportunities for one guy to take it over, here and there. But we didn't play consistently enough at that position for that to happen. We ended up having to go back and forth through the season.

What did you tell Riley about what he needs to do to win the job this spring?

Tedford: He needs to play more consistently. Kevin does a nice job at times. But we've talked about where he needs to improve is making sure his accuracy is better and more consistent. When we have open guys, we have to be able to hit them. One of the reasons Kevin played a lot is his decision making. He doesn't force the ball and throw interceptions. He doesn't turn the ball over. But, on the flip side, when we have guys open we've got to make those plays.

Tell us about Brock Mansion? What does he bring to the table?

Tedford: Brock and [redshirt freshman] Beau Sweeney, both those guys are legitimate contenders for that spot. You're talking about guys who are very mobile and athletic. Very good arms -- they can throw the ball anywhere on the field. Smart, great leadership guys. They have a lot going for them. I'm really excited this spring to see how this plays out at quarterback.

Who's going to lead the receivers this spring?

Tedford: Some of the guys who caught on toward the end of last year. Jeremy Ross is one of them who really started to come on strong. Verran Tucker started playing really well. Nyan Boateng had his times. But some of the young guys who didn't play last year, I think have an ability to make a strong contribution. There's Michael Calvin, who was injured last year. Marvin Jones, who was a freshman last year. And Charles Satchell. Those guys right there have shown that they have some ability and should give us some depth that position -- we could go six-deep at that position. Another guy is Alex Lagemann, who was injured his first two years, but he's looking like he's recovered and should make a push this spring.

Is Calvin going to participate in spring practices [A toe and then ACL injury riddled his 2008 season]?

Tedford: Michael Calvin will not play this spring. He's not ready to go yet.

What about on defense: How do you replace those three linebackers, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder inside and Zack Follett outside?

Tedford: We have some guys, thankfully, who got a lot of playing time last year. Those guys who left us are big-time players, who were very productive for us, especial
ly when we went to a 3-4. But Eddie Young started at an outside linebacker last year. Devin Bishop moves inside and he's a guy who's ready to step up. Mike Mohamed played a lot for us last year. Mychal Kendricks, who was a true freshman, played a lot. We feel pretty good about those guys. And giving us a little bit of depth there are some of our junior college guys, Ryan Davis and Jarred Price and Jerome Meadows are three JC linebackers coming in to give us a little bit of depth, too.

Does Mohamed move inside?

Tedford: He plays both. And a guy I forgot to mention is D.J. Holt. He's inside and he played quite a bit last year as well. We're not starting from scratch. These guys have been on the field and have a lot of ability.

It's possible you guys will start with a fairly high preseason ranking and the scuttlebutt is this team could break USC's stranglehold atop the conference -- do you embrace those high expectations?

Tedford: It's not something we're new with. We've been in that position a few times. Typically, we've been Top 25 and have been top 15, top 10. I think it's become something our team expects and doesn't bat an eye at. The whole thing is to make sure we reach our potential and not so much worry about rankings.