Cal Football: Is This a Make-or-Break Year for Jeff Tedford?

Daniel Mano Herberholz@danielmanoherbCorrespondent IMay 19, 2012

Cal Football: Is This a Make-or-Break Year for Jeff Tedford?

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    Jeff Tedford will one day be part of California football lore, but for now the coach seems to be close to the hotseat.

    He certainly deserves the questioning because of how the Golden Bears have performed lately. This season will determine a great deal about his future.

    Make or break usually means a decision quickly follows. But in the case of Tedford, this year is make or break in a longer-term sense.

    Since his current contract doesn't finish up until 2015, he won't be leaving until then.

    But how he steers the program after recent faltering will help Sandy Barbour and Co. figure out if he'll stick around for years to come.

    This slideshow will first chronicle the rise of Tedford, which is important to understand when considering his future. Then it will delve into the recent trouble and finish with why this year will be different.

Starting off with a Bang

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    At first, Jeff Tedford was seen as a savior of Cal football.

    In his rookie year at the helm he flipped around a team that went 1-10 the season before.

    Using largely the same squad, including quarterback Kyle Boller and running back Joe Igber, Tedford guided them to a modest 7-5 record.

    That season Igber started a tradition, which has occurred every year but one since, of a Cal back rushing for 1,000-plus yards.

    Boller also turned in his best performance (2,815 yards, 28 touchdowns) under the tutelage of Tedford, known for his quarterback coaching.

    Long an unnoticed program, the coach was beginning to move the Golden Bears in the right direction.

Success Sets Jeff Tedford Up

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    After a stellar start, things only got better for Jeff Tedford in Berkeley.

    His first recruited quarterback, by the name of Aaron Rodgers, jolted the program into it's first 8-win season in 10 years after replacing Reggie Robertson early on.

    The Golden Bears also defeated then-No. 3 USC that year with the help of Robertson and a monster game by tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu. The senior continued what Joe Igber started by gaining 1,195 yards.

    The next year, the Bears barely missed the Rose Bowl.

    Overall, Tedford brought the Bears back into the national spotlight. So what happens when the team doesn't do as well?

Recent Shortcomings Spell Trouble

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    Two 10-win seasons in three years marked the high point for Jeff Tedford, but since then Cal football hasn't been as great.

    The Golden Bears are 36-28 in the last five years, far below the 43-20 standard the head coach set for himself in his first five seasons.

    Most troubling was a losing record in 2010, though Cal lost three games by a total of six points.

    The entire year was marred by a quarterback dilemma after controversially up-and-down starter Kevin Riley went down with a knee injury.

    That season marked the only time since Tedford's rookie campaign that Cal wasn't invited to a bowl game.

Offense Will Improve

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    A huge part of how Jeff Tedford's team will perform this year will be decided by quarterback Zach Maynard.

    In Maynard's first year with the Golden Bears after transferring from Buffalo, he struggled at times.

    Even still, he began developing an on-field chemistry with receiver Keenan Allen, his half-brother.

    Furthermore, 1,000-yard rusher Isi Sofele will only get better in his senior season.

    Also, losing December's Holiday Bowl to Texas may actually help.

    Tedford knows how to spur his team on after such a defeat. Cal last lost that bowl in 2004, and the next four seasons ended in bowl victories.

Defense Wins Games

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    Known for his offensive prowess, Jeff Tedford has showed his worth on defense, one reason why he could stick around.

    California is coming off a conference-best year on defense, allowing the fewest yards per game in the Pac-12.

    However, the team lost five of its starters—including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks.

    The remaining six starters will have to fuse well with the youngsters.

    Half of the Golden Bears top two strings are freshmen or sophomores, but they are the most promising young players in the conference.

    Tedford has infused Cal with defensive talent in his recent recruiting.

Recruiting Like a Champ

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    Jeff Tedford has landed some strong classes for California recently.

    ESPN has the Golden Bears' recruiting hauls in the top 25 each of the last three years.

    Unfortunately, this past signing day would have been even better if not for the reneging of recruiting ace Tosh Lupoi to Washington.

    But Tedford still kept the nation's second-rated quarterback in Zach Kline.

    Also, three top 50 receivers, two four-star offensive tackles, and De La Salle linebacker Michael Barton, among others, signed with Cal.

    A year ago the majority of incoming freshman were defensive studs, including five four-star recruits.

Where Do We Go from Here?

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    The big guns in Cal Athletics will begin to determine Jeff Tedford's future based on the football team's performance this year.

    The newly-renovated Memorial Stadium opens in the fall, and Golden Bears alumni will be looking for a successful year after the university spent upwards of $300 million on the project.

    Tedford won't immediately lose his job if the team doesn't do well. But if he's able to near the success he did in the middle of last decade, he'll certainly secure himself a longer tenure in Berkeley.