Where’s the Cal Swagger

Lead Writer
Posted Oct 9, 2009


It has been six days since Cal fell completely off the college football map. And in four months, the Golden Bear coaches may see another blow from last Saturday’s 30-3 lackluster loss to USC. Emotion was a key element missing from the Cal sideline last week, and the highly touted recruits in the stands took notice…

So about that whole Kool-Aid thing…yeah, my bad.

I thought the directions were fairly simple: mix veteran leadership with a healthy dose of talent and about 37 tons of humility.

I swear it was can’t-miss goodness.

Upon further investigation, though, I understand the miscalculation.

Cal has OD’d on its modesty.

What I once understood as an enviable asset—the one thing that was going to ensure that the Bears took nothing for granted—has transformed Cal from a top-tier team into a national mystery.

The quiet, lead-by-example approach that the Bears’ stars have employed since day one has backfired and, much like its countrywide prominence, Cal’s sideline just seems silent.

Previously, I relished the notion that the Bears’ pompous, look-at-me days were behind them.

Now? I’d give anything for DeSean Jackson’s touchdown strut or Lavelle Hawkins first-down wing flap. At least you knew they were there. Alive!

While the Bears’ offense has certainly been MIA for the last two weeks, Cal’s emotion, intensity, its swagger, if you will, has gone with it.

And important people are taking notice.

“I see it as an opportunity to make an impact on the team (next year),” said highly touted linebacker commit Cecil Whiteside. “Everyone wants to be that guy that comes in and competes as a freshman.”

But P.C. answer aside, the feeling I got from Whiteside was nearly the same one that I got from Kenny Stills, one of the country’s top prep wideouts, a couple of days earlier. Both seem to be using the word “opportunity” as a veil.

For the handful of top commits and recruits on both official and unofficial visits last weekend, I guarantee that “opportunity” wasn’t the first thing that popped into their minds looking at the Bears’ sideline, which was noticeably low key from the opening kickoff.

“You’ve got to bring a swagger. If you’re going to accept the way [you’re playing], then when are you going to step up,” said Stills upon arriving back in his San Diego home.

And there in lies the problem. When IS somebody going to step up and take the reins as emotional leader?

Cal coach Jeff Tedford said following the tail end of the worst back-to-back stretch in his career that he wasn’t going to get abnormally expressive with his team.

“I’m not screaming and yelling at them,” Tedford said. “I’m going to motivate them and we’re going to work hard to get better.”

Well, somebody needs to scream. Somebody needs to yell because at this point, that sideline gives Moffitt a run for its money.

For the first time in my interactions with Cal recruits, I sensed an err of uncertainty…not about the campus, the city, the academics, but about the Bears’ football program.

And, while it didn’t help, the majority of that uneasiness had little to do with the scoreboard.

“Look at USC. During timeouts, they were dancing, trying to keep the momentum and aggression up,” Stills said. “They’re not just going to give you a quarter or two. They’re going to continue to put it on you.”

See, Bears; sometimes it’s okay to get a little rowdy.

Cal Sports Digest is the new home of lead writer Jon Doss’ award winning Daily Cal column “Who’s the Doss”. Jon will weigh in on hot topics pertaining to Cal and the Pac-10 conference throughout the season.

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