NCAA

Tedford in tough spot with Cal's QB dilemma

552832.jpg

Tedford in tough spot with Cal's QB dilemma

Programming note: Watch Cal take on Washington State live from AT&T Park, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. only on Comcast SportsNet California.
What ever will the Cal Bears donow? Let me take you back to thoseinglorious years when Nate Longshore was the designated flinger for your sturdyGolden Bears. Accurate but not mobilewas the hew and cry from the old Blues.So, along comes Kevin Riley a little bit more mobile, but not asaccurate. Now comes the dilemma inBerkeley. Rileys gone and there are twocandidates for the job: Allan Bridgford accurate not mobile, and Zach Maynard mobile not accurate. This was a no-brainer for the coachingstaff: Give me mobile. Well, it turns out that mobileis a good thing but being mobile and unable to hit a moving target is not sucha good thing. Thus the dilemma.

I admit that for me this is adifficult yarn to weave. I like JeffTedford both personally and professionally and I have found Zach Maynard to bea bright, personable, and very athletic quarterback. The problem lies in the fact that sometimesthe right decision reaps the wrong results.Jeff Tedford made the decisionthat Zach Maynard was going to be his quarterback back in the spring. And he did it for all the right reasons. The day of the straight drop back passer isfast becoming only a memory. A cannonarm is not enough. A quarterback has tohave that great intangible escapability.Right choice, but perhaps the wrong guy.Maynard had some success at the University of Buffalobefore transferring to Calto join his brother Keenan Allen arguably the Bears best player. The cold reality is that what might work justswell in the MAC doesnt work so well in the Pac 12, and quite simply put,Maynard is overmatched at this level. Itall worked OK against Fresno St., Colorado, Utah and Presbyterian, but againstUSC, Washington, Oregon, and even UCLA, its just not good enough.Unfortunately this year Tedfordwas put in a position where he had to count on his quarterback to win gamesinstead of just manage them.Historically the Bears have been able to run the ball (witness thenumber of Cal running backs currently in the NFL), but with the early departureof Shane Vereen to the draft, suddenly the cupboard was left bereft of thecaliber of back the Bears had grown accustomed to. So defenses simply took the run away anddared Cal to beat them with the quarterback.Now weve come to that Its nottoo late portion of the season where the coach has to make a decision. One hes had to make before: Mobile but not accurate vs. accurate but notmobile. And just to compound the coachsdecision hes got the delicate balance of the team to deal with. Maynard is a good guy and well liked. And, his brother is the teams lynchpin. If you sit him, do you lose the team? If you dont sit him, do you lose more games?I dont know if Allan Bridgfordis the answer. Hes never faced livebullets as a Division I player. Jeff Tedfordhas faced this issue before when he replaced his starting quarterback inmid-game with a player whod not thrown a pass at a four-year college. The Bears lost that game at Kansas State, but thedecision was a good one.The quarterback was AaronRodgers. I cant help but wonder if thatthought isnt dancing in the head of the coach as he prepares for a game thatcould throw this season one way or another?

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

harrison-phillips-drive.jpg

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

stanford-usc.jpg
USASTI

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

LOS ANGELES  — Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett caught two touchdown passes apiece from Sam Darnold, and No. 6 Southern California extended its winning streak to 11 games with a bruising 42-24 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

Darnold went 21 of 26 with 316 yards passing for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who snapped their three-game losing streak in this California private-school rivalry. USC racked up 623 total yards and won the first Pac-12 game of the new season by beating the hard-nosed Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) at their own physical game.

Ronald Jones II rushed for 116 yards and scored a touchdown in his ninth consecutive game as USC excelled at Stanford's traditional strengths, running the ball for 307 yards and controlling both lines of scrimmage. Turnovers and penalties by the Trojans kept it fairly close, but freshman Stephen Carr added 119 yards rushing, and Jones cartwheeled into the end zone with a clinching 23-yard TD run with 4:15 to play.

Keller Chryst passed for 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Bryce Love had a 75-yard TD run among his 160 yards rushing for the Cardinal, who hadn't played since their season-opening win over Rice in Australia last month.

After a scoreless third quarter, USC made a 90-yard scoring drive capped by Mitchell's second TD on a feathery 11-yard TD pass by Darnold with 9:42 to play. Stanford stayed close with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside's TD catch with 6:41 to play, but Jones' incredible second TD run capped a smooth 75-yard drive in USC's 11th consecutive win at the Coliseum.

Stanford had won eight of its last 11 meetings with USC in a dominant stretch that began with its historic 2007 upset victory at the Coliseum.

After USC scored 49 points in its season opener, Darnold's offense again was in fine form from the start. USC scored four touchdowns on five lengthy drives in the first half, with Darnold hitting Burnett for two of his three TD passes.

USC moved 74 yards on two plays late in the half to take a 28-17 lead on Burnett's leaping 25-yard TD grab.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: That 62-point performance in the season opener Down Under was impossible to replicate against a top Pac-12 defense, and the Cardinal's offense will know it must add versatility to the attack. Stanford's defense also had big problems at the line of scrimmage, and that isn't a problem with which the Cardinal have much experience.

USC: This talent-laden offense has appeared to have the makings of a juggernaut so far. Darnold returned to 2016 form with a smooth, poised performance against a vaunted conference opponent, while the Trojans' receivers appear to be much more reliable than coach Clay Helton feared. USC's defense also stepped up after halftime and shut down one of the Pac-12's best.

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal's three-game stretch away from home to open the season concludes at San Diego State.

USC: The Trojans welcome Texas to the Coliseum for a meeting of two powerhouse programs.