Cal football coach Jeff Tedford likened Zach Maynard to Akili Smith, whom he coached at Oregon and was eventually the No. 3 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft, as he talked during a media gathering at Candlestick Park on Monday to promote the Sept. 3 opener with Fresno State.
“He has that ability to escape pressure that we haven’t seen for a while,” Tedford said. “We aren’t going to use him anything like Cam Newton, who was basically in an option offense, but it’s nice to know that he can take the ball down and run if he has to.”
Tedford declared Maynard the winner of the spring competition with Brock Mansion and sophomore Allan Bridgford and, though he said the competition will continue this fall, Maynard will get most of the snaps in the August camp. It’s highly unlikely he’ll lose his spot.
“I was really impressed with how quickly he picked up the offense,” Tedford said. “It helped that his half-brother [Keenan Allen] was there. One time, he threw to Keenan when he wasn’t even supposed to be in the play. I said, ‘Well, there’s the progression tree and then there’s the family tree.’”
It seemed almost like a family gathering as Fresno State’s Pat Hill and Tedford talked about their relationship.
Hill coached Tedford as a quarterback for Cerritos College, a junior college, then had him on his staff for a year at Fresno State after Tedford’s graduation. “Our families get together in the offseason,” he said.
For his part, Tedford said, “It isn’t easy following a legend like coach [Jim] Sweeney, but Pat’s done a great job.”
And the Bulldogs’ quarterback this year will be sophomore Derek Carr, whom Tedford remembers on the practice field at 5, when his older brother, David, was the Fresno State quarterback.
Both teams have much at stake in this game. For Fresno State, beating Cal would be prestigious. The Bears will be trying to avoid another embarrassment; they’ve lost the only two previous games in this rivalry, 25-24 at Berkeley in 1995 and 17-3 at Fresno in 2000.
Hill is known for putting together tough schedules, so he snapped at a questioner who said it was normal to start with a “cream puff” in the first game.
“We don’t schedule cream puffs,” Hill shot back. “We go to Nebraska the week after this game and then come home to play Boise State.”
Noting that he liked games where teams can take a bus to the game instead of a plane, Hill said he’d like to see more games with Cal and other state opponents. The Bulldogs have played UCLA recently and have restarted their rivalry with San Diego State.
Tedford and Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour were mum on the subject of having more games with Fresno State. It’s always more difficult for the team from the more prestigious conference because it has little to gain from a win in a game like this and much to lose.
This game was transferred from AT&T Park because the Giants are home that weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it’s probably a good thing. The extra capacity at Candlestick will be needed because thousands of Bulldogs fans will be coming up from the valley.
“There will be plenty of red there,” Hill promised.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.